Flight Lieutenant William Gregory, who took part in the Dunkirk and D-Day operations, destroyed 23 German aircraft during World War Two and was nearly killed
The remarkable story of a Battle of Britain hero who cheated death when his cigarette case stopped a bullet aimed for his chest can be told after his stunning bravery medals emerged on the Antiques Roadshow.
Flight Lieutenant William Gregory, who took part in the Dunkirk and D-Day operations, destroyed 23 German aircraft during World War Two.
During the evacuation of Dunkirk and was nearly killed protecting the Allied troops on the beaches in May 1940.
He was attacked by the Luftwaffe but miraculously a bullet hit his cigarette case, preventing a fatal entry.
His gallantry medals – that are worth £100,000 – logbooks and other prized possessions, including the bullet-ridden silver cigarette case, were brought along to the BBC show by his granddaughter.
The fearless air gunner and wireless operator also had two Caterpillar Club badges, awarded for successfully bailing out of shot-down aircraft.
His granddaughter, who wished to remain anonymous, was shocked when expert Mark Smith told her what the ‘spectacular’ archive was worth on the market.
She said on the show, filmed at Portchester Castle near Portsmouth, Hants:
“He was my grandfather Billy and my mother recently passed away.
“They were her most prized possessions. He (her grandfather of her) was a lovely man who was proud that he joined up to the war effort.
“He was brilliant.”
When told by Mr Smith that the medals were worth £100,000, the granddaughter said: “I was not expecting that!”
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Flt Lt Gregory, who was married to Jean Atkinson with one daughter, worked as a plasterer before joining the RAF Volunteer Reserve in 1939.
He finished the war doing desk duties and was granted a permanent commission in 1947.
He held a number of home and overseas appointments, including commanding RAF Wartling, East Sussex, before his retirement in 1964.
In later life, he worked as an estate agent in Eastbourne, East Sussex and was a member of Cooden Beach golf club.
He died aged 87 in 2001.
The incredible valuation of Flt Lt Gregory’s medals comes less than a year after the honors of a master bomber fetched £70,000 at auction.
Wing Commander Sidney “Tubby” Baker – who got his nickname for his love of food, cigarettes and beer – was revered as one of Britain’s best bombers during the Second World War.
Wg Cmdr Baker’s six medals, including the Distinguished Service Order and Distinguished Flying Cross, logbooks and cigarette cases – plus his beer tankards – sold for more than twice the £32,000 asking price.