A heart-wrenching letter written by a Royal Air Force Lancaster Flight Officer (FO) during the Second World War informing a mother her son had died in action is up for auction.
FO Paul Bunn's handwritten letter to the mother of Sergeant Douglas Timms is being sold along with Sgt Timms' RAF jacket, logbook, medals, photographs and a telegram to his family informing them their loved one was missing in action.
In the moving letter, FO Bunn expresses his regret at not contacting Mrs Hilda Timms sooner and describes her son's last moments before his untimely death while flying in a Lancaster over Germany on 2 January 1945, saying: "Your son was sitting next to me and when we got the burst from the fighter he collapsed and slid into the nose of the [aircraft] and that was the last I saw of him.
"I did my best to find out from the Germans exactly what happened to them and they told me definitely that four of the boys were killed."
FO Bunns goes on to explain that the Germans, who captured him and the others who survived the aircraft's explosion, promised the dead men would be given a "decent funeral like their own people".
Perhaps to ease Mrs Timms' anguish over her son's violent death, FO Bunns consoles her by promising he wouldn't have been in pain, saying: "None of the boys could possibly have suffered in any way and were killed outright."
Sgt Timms, a Flight Engineer from 100 Squadron, was just 26 when the Lancaster he and his comrades were flying in was shot down near Göppingen, about 20 miles southeast of Stuttgart, Germany.
FO Bunns describes the dramatic moment in the letter, saying: "On the night of Jan 2nd we were caught by fighters and were hit in the petrol tanks which immediately caught on fire.
"Within a few seconds, the aircraft just blew up in mid-air and myself, navigator and bomb aimer were blown clean out of the aeroplane."
Sgt Timms is buried in the Commonwealth War Graves' Durnbach War Cemetery, about 45 km south of Munich, Germany.
On his grave reads the personal inscription: "Our dear son.
"Until the day break, and the shadows flee away. R.I.P.
FO Bunns offers his most sincere sympathy and offers to be of assistance to Mrs Timms in the future if she needs any help, saying: "I would be only too glad to do anything for you.
"Yours faithfully, Paul Bunn, F/O."
Richard Bromell of Charterhouse Auctioneers & Valuers – the family run auction house holding the auction of the Second World War items – expects Sgt Timm's personal belongings to achieve between £400 and £600.
Viewing for the two-day auction, being held at Charterhouse Auctioneers & Valuers in The Long Street Salerooms in Sherborne, starts on Tuesday 29 August or you can see all the lots and follow the auction live on charterhouse-auction.com.