Revealed: The Luftwaffe-issued watch German navigator tried to hide in his PANTS after being captured in the aftermath of D-Day
Timepiece is one of four 'liberated' by officer who interrogated POWs
POWs often tried to conceal valuable items on themselves when caught
One airman stuffed watch in underpants, hoping captors would not look
Four watches being sold at Dorset auction with total estimate of £8,000
By MARK DUELL
PUBLISHED: 13:28, 7 April 2014 | UPDATED: 13:33, 7 April 2014
A rare navigator’s watch recovered by a Royal Air Force officer from the underpants of a captured German who had tried to hide it is up for auction.
The timepiece is one of four ‘liberated’ by the officer whose job it was to interrogate German prisoners of war, who often tried to conceal valuable items about their person when first caught.
One airman stuffed his watch in his underpants, hoping his captors would not look there - but the unnamed British officer performed a thorough search and soon recovered the item.
Two of the watches are made by German watchmaker Glashutte
Up for auction: Two of the four watches which were 'liberated' by the officer whose job it was to interrogate German prisoners of war, who often tried to conceal valuable items about their person when first caught
Valuable: Two of the timepieces going under the hammer at auctioneers at Charterhouse in Sherborne, Dorset, are Hanhart pilot’s chronograph watches, made by the famous Swiss watchmaker Johann A. Hanhart
It went along with three other Luftwaffe-issue timepieces he acquired during the Second World War. The four watches are now being sold at an auction on May 8 with a total pre-sale estimate of £8,000.
They belong to the son of the late serviceman who inherited them. He said: ‘My father was an RAF intelligence officer and his job was to interrogate German airmen who had been captured.
‘He spoke German and pressed the men for worthwhile information such as the equipment the Luftwaffe were using.
'One prisoner had his watch wrapped around something that wasn’t his wrist because he was so desperate not to lose it'
RAF officer's son
‘He had to search them and one prisoner had his watch wrapped around something that wasn’t his wrist because he was so desperate not to lose it.
‘My father ended up having it and kept it as a souvenir or as part of the spoils of war. When my father died over 20 years ago we had a clear out of his things and acquired his four watches.’
Two of the timepieces are Hanhart pilot’s chronograph watches, made by the famous Swiss watchmaker Johann A. Hanhart. The other two are made by German watchmaker Glashutte.
Historic event: The officer arrived in France 11 days after the D-Day landings in 1944 and interviewed rounded-up German prisoners, which is when it is believed he acquired the four Luftwaffe pilots' watches
Auctioneer Richard Bromell said: ‘The vendor’s father, from Manchester, was of Dutch origin and spoke fluent French, German, Dutch, and towards the end of the Second World War Russian too.’
One fifth of all farm labour in Britain in 1946 was being done by German POWs, who were also working on roads and building sites.
A ban on the Germans socialising with local populations near the UK camps was lifted towards the end of the year, and many British people invited them in for a family Christmas.
Some 250,000 German POWs had been repatriated by the end of 1947, but 24,000 chose to stay in Britain.
One of them, Hans Siegfried Vallentin, married a girl he met in Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, and they had five children and 11 grandchildren.
Perhaps the most famous POW who settled in England after the war was Bert Trautmann , who became a legendary goalkeeper for Manchester City FC. He died last July.
‘As an officer in the RAF, and as a linguist, he is believed to have worked in MI19, the division formed from MI9 as the enemy prisoner of war interrogation department.
‘He arrived in France 11 days after the D-Day landings and interviewed rounded up German prisoners, which is when it is believed he “acquired” these four Luftwaffe pilots’ watches.’
The vendor, who is from the Somerset area, said: ‘If you wind them up they do start to tick but they would need to be repaired as they haven’t been properly used for 70 years. These watches have been locked up in a drawer for many years.
'You can’t go on hoarding things forever and I don’t have any romantic association with them, so I think it is best to pass them on.’
Mr Bromell, of auctioneers Charterhouse in Sherborne, Dorset, which is selling the watches, said: ‘They are four high quality wristwatches used by German pilots and navigators in the war.
‘They need some work doing to them to get them going again. However, with all the watches being quite similar the vendor isn’t sure which one was recovered from the PoW’s underpants.’
The owner’s father worked in Lloyds Bank before the war, and after it had ended he joined the family business which supplied animal feeds.
The Glashütte Chronograph
Date Produced: 1940 – 1949
Forces Supplied: The German Luftwaffe
Manufacturers: Tutima Glashutte, Hanhart
UROFA Caliber 59
UROFA CALIBER 59, THE FLYBACK CHRONOGRAPH
An often overlooked watch developed secretly in collaboration between the German government and Hanhart/Tutima, this Flyback Chronograph is one of the most historically important chronographs in all military history.
Used in aerial combat during the war, the German pilots were the only military combatants to have actual chronograph timing capabilities on their wrist, and the Flyback mechanism was an important technical achievement (and the first of it’s kind).
Tutima Flieger ChronographThis piece has some serious tool watch specs: Antimagnetic and waterproof case, shatterproof domed acrylic crystal, rotating bezel, radioactive lume, and the famous Flyback chronograph mechanism, which allows you to reset the chronograph while its running.
After the war was over and Glashutte lay in ruin, Russian troops dismantled the manufacture and moved all equipment and parts to Moscow as part of reparations. Russian versions of this watch using the same Calibre 59 can be found from this post-war period, and can be highly collectible as well.