Forget the dodgy mirrors with fake 617 Squadron engravings or the wartime telephones whose Scampton control tower dial inserts have miraculously survived. Here is your chance to buy something with both impeccable provenance and incredible good looks: the 1937 Jaguar once owned by Gp Capt J N H (“Charles”) Whitworth.
Ray Hepner, a good friend of this blog and a man with an eye for a bargain, spotted this beauty on the Car and Classic UK website. It is advertised as being:
… one of just 15 remaining in the world. The ‘coachbuilt’ saloons were only built between 1936 and 1937 and are noted for the spare wheel on the running board. This car is a scaled down version of the 2 1/2 and remains the smallest Jaguar ever produced since the introduction of the name.
The car comes with its original logbook and an extensive history of the car. The car was owned from new until 1978 by Group Captain Charles Whitworth, who was station commander at RAF Scampton with 617 sqdn during the ‘Dambusters’ raids.
Although there is nothing around to verify this, it is highly likely that in the spring and summer of 1943 various Dambusters must have sat on its swish leather passenger seats. At this time, Whitworth and Guy Gibson attended several meetings at 5 Group HQ in nearby Grantham, and would probably have travelled together. And Whitworth was also an old colleague of several other members of 617 Squadron – before the war, he had taught Melvin “Dinghy” Young to fly when the latter was a student at Oxford, and he had been the CO of 35 Squadron when George Chalmers was flying on his first tour of operations. He can be seen in the photographs taken in the Dams Raid debriefing, and here with the King, Air Vice Marshal Ralph Cochrane and Guy Gibson on the day of the royal visit to Scampton on 27 May 1943.
A career RAF officer who had gone to Cranwell aged 18 in 1930, Whitworth rose to the rank of Air Commodore after the war. In 1954 he was the ‘technical advisor’ on Michael Anderson’s Dam Busters film, and must have been responsible for much of the accuracy of the detail in the film. In one of his last service jobs he became chief of staff of the new Ghana air force when the west African state became the first in the continent to gain independence from the British empire in 1958. He finally retired from the RAF in 1964, and died ten years later at the age of just 62. His Jaguar car was still in his possession at the time of his death.
So, if you have £40,000 to spare, this could be a great investment. There is of course one person in the world who might have the resources to buy it in order to add verisimilitude to his forthcoming film project (if it still exists). Are you reading this, Sir Peter?
[Thanks to Ray Hepner for help with this article.]