Dress sword belonging to war ace who flew secret missions being sold at auction
- Credit: Sworders auctioneers
A sword which once belonged to a Second World War ace who flew secret wartime missions into continental Europe is going under a Stansted auctioneer’s hammer.
Wing Commander Leonard Ratcliff of Great Chesterford (1919-2016), who later in life was a grain merchant for Spillers, was the recipient of a DSO, a DFC and Bar, the Croix de Guerre Alec Palme and the Lêgion d’honneur.
His 161 Special Duties Squadron had around 200 men and craft. They were based at the secret RAF airfield at Kempsford in Bedfordshire, and wereresponsible for dropping secret agents and equipment to aid resistance movements into Nazi occupied Europe.
The missions were extraordinarily dangerous.
During its wartime activities, there were 600 casualties - effectively meaning the whole of 161 squadron was wiped out three times.
Wing Commander Ratcliff took part in 70 moonlight missions, flying Halifax Havocs, Hudsons and Lysanders.
Most famously, his cargo included Yvonne Cormeau (1909-1997), codename Annette, whose work as a wireless operator with the French Resistance was immortalised in the best selling book Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks.
The dress sword, scabbard and ribbon with a gilt brass guard bearing the RAF insignia has a guide price of £800 to £1,200 in the Sworders online auction on December 8-9.