Worcestershire farmer’s amazing aviation and militaria collection sells for £80,000
A fascinating collection of militaria and aviation items, including the cockpit of a Canberra TT18 bomber, raised around £80,000 when it went under the hammer on a Worcestershire farm this week.
Bidders from around the globe were attracted to the auction at Rowley Farm, Holt Heath, near Worcester as John Hancocks, 85, and his wife Pat, 83, said goodbye to his beloved collection, which he had amassed over 30 years.
It was a fascination with militaria and aeroplanes, which began as a child in Birmingham during the Second World War when the city was targeted by German bombers, that fuelled John’s amazing private collection, which he kept in the barns on his former dairy farm. As the collection had been viewed by invitation only, few people were aware of its existence until the auction.
John assembled thousands of items including his pride and joy, the Canberra TT18 bomber cockpit, which was in remarkable condition complete with flying log books. The cockpit was purchased in the auction for £8,600 by the trustees of the Avro Heritage Museum at Woodford, near Manchester and will now take pride of place in the museum.
Top selling lot was a Rolls Royce Griffon Mark 58 V12 engine from an Avro Shackleton surveillance aircraft, which sold for £14,500 to Julian and Roy Millington from Millington Racing Engines, Bridgnorth, who now plan to restore it to working condition.
Two Rolls Royce Pegasus 103 engines from a Harrier GR3 jump jet – one complete and the other in 2,200 carefully listed pieces, sold for £2,400 and £700 respectively while an Alvis Leonides 127 engine made £1,300, a Rolls Royce Viper engine made £950 and a Rolls Royce Derwent engine sold for £800.
Other leading prices were £2,000 for a Harrier ejection seat, £1,550 for a World War Two Airborne paratroopers bicycle, £1,650 for an Avro Vulcan ejector seat, £1,200 for a Hawker P1127 ejection seat, £1,100 for a World War Two aerial supply/weapons container, £1,050 each for a Canberra ejector seat and a mannequin wearing the 1944-’46 Airborne Division uniform.
An unarmed de Havilland Firestreak first generation air to air missile sold for £1,850 and a Pheonix unmanned spy plane flew away to a new home for £750, while an original Anderson shelter from the Black Country sold for £190.
In a separate building, formerly the farm’s milking parlour, there was a comprehensive collection of Second World War items, ranging from manikins wearing full uniforms and a collection of radio equipment munitions and real and reproduction of parachute containers with fuel drums, the latter used in the epic war film ‘A Bridge too Far’ based on Operation Market Garden in Arnhem, Holland.
Adorning one of the walls, from the time when cattle were still being milked there, was a 1939 Watts fixed-pitch two blade propeller from an early Hurricane aircraft, which sold for £1,550. John once joked with a dairy inspector that the propeller was there for ventilation.
Another building housed a collection of ‘home front antiques’, comprising kitchen and household items used during wartime, including an original radio and a Morrison table shelter, which John vividly remembers using during air raids.
Over the past 20 years, John and Pat welcomed a variety of clubs to view the collection and raised £4,000 for the West Midlands Air Ambulance in donations. They are now in the process of selling their farm to enjoy their retirement in a neighbouring village.
John said he was very happy with the way the auction had been conducted by Halls and was thrilled by the high prices achieved for many of the lots. He was happy that his collection would be enjoyed by other collectors across the country.
“The collection has given me enormous enjoyment and now and it’s time for it to be shared with other people,” he said. “I now just want to sell the farm so that we can make a new start in our retirement and I my collecting days have ended.”
Andrew Beeston, senior auctioneer and valuer, said: “We couldn’t have asked for more from the auction which was held in an improvised saleroom in a building on a Worcestershire farm which had satellite Internet connection and attracted worldwide bidding.
“This was a sale four months in the making and concluded with a very happy vendor and buyers who were as passionate about their purchases as Mr Hancocks was about his collection. The collection lives on with other collectors.”
Pat says she’s looking forward to spending more time with her husband, whom she has had to share with the collection.
Having been brought up in Birmingham during the Second World War, John and his family moved to Worcestershire, where his grandparents lived, when their garage business and home suffered bomb damage.
John’s parents bought the farm in Holt Heath in 1953 and he married Pat the following year and took on the role of farmer.
During his National Service from the age of 18 to 20 years, which he describes as one of the happiest times of his life, he served with the RAF crash party, which visited aeroplane crash sites to salvage what they could. He served at the RAF bases in Padgate, near Manchester, Cosford, Collerne, near Bristol and Little Rissington in the Cotswolds.
He attributes his time with the crash party as sparking his great interest in aviation and militaria.