WWI pilot’s logbook and gun camera photos discovered in barn

A logbook and gun camera photos that belonged to a World War I pilot have been found in a U.K. barn.

The incredible artifacts were found in a box that had been in the Leicestershire barn for decades, according to U.K.-based Hansons Auctioneers, which will be auctioning the items next month.

The logbook, which belonged to Lt. Stuart Leslie, describes crash landings, the number of rounds fired by the plane’s Lewis gun, bombs dropped and actions against enemy aircraft. Other items found include Leslie’s aerial maps, the aircraft’s pennant flags and the officer’s Royal Flying Corps/RAF wings.

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The logbook runs from Nov. 11, 1917, to Oct. 24, 1918, offering a glimpse into the life of a pilot in the early days of air combat, according to Adrian Stevenson, head of Hansons Auctioneers’ medals and militaria department. “All of Lt Leslie’s documents and records are there,» he said, in a statement. «We know what planes he flew, where he trained and the dangers he faced as he took to the skies to defend our country.”
A second lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps, which was the predecessor of the RAF, Leslie was in active service until October 1918 and logged over 260 hours of flying time as a pilot and observer.

“The entire collection is fascinating,” said Stevenson. “I was also amazed by nine small rolls of gun camera photographs from 1918. Gun cameras were used during training and combat to test accuracy. But that Pilot’s Flying Log Book is particularly special. It’s incredibly rare. I have only ever seen one in a museum.”

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Entries in the logbook include “plane hit by machine gun fire” and “forced down due to engine trouble.” A badge found in the collection of artifacts indicates that Leslie was wounded during his service.

 

Leslie survived the war and died in 1950, aged 57. The collection came to light after a photo frame made out of a First World War aircraft propeller was brought into Hansons for evaluation. “The owner told me he had more items relating to the war and returned with a large box which had been in a Leicestershire barn,” said Stevenson. “He had no idea who it related to but said his mother had been the recipient of old family heirlooms. I was flabbergasted when I started pulling out the items. It was a militaria treasure trove.»

Hansons Auctioneers will be auctioning the items on March 20. The entire collection could fetch $2,585, it says.

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A British soldier’s battered World War I diary recounting the bloody Battle of the Somme will also be auctioned by Hansons on March 20.
The diary, which was written in pencil by Pvt. Arthur Edward Diggens of the Royal Engineers, starts on Feb.13, 1916, and ends on Oct. 11 of that year. His diary entry for July 1, 1916, describes the first day of the Battle of Somme.

The diary has a guide price of $390 to $521.

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Other remarkable World War I artifacts have emerged in recent years, such as a Bible marked with bullet holes from a German machine gun that helped save the life of a British soldier.

The collection had been in a barn for decades. (Credit: Hansons Auctioneers)
The collection had been in a barn for decades. (Credit: Hansons Auctioneers)
In 2018, rare photos surfaced of American troops arriving in Europe to fight alongside the allies in World War I.

World War I, which was one of the bloodiest conflicts in modern history, ended with the armistice that came into effect at 11 a.m. local time on Nov. 11, 1918.

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Leslie’s memorabilia. (Credit: Hansons Auctioneers)
Leslie’s memorabilia. (Credit: Hansons Auctioneers)
Over 700,000 British troops were killed during World War I and almost 1.7 million were wounded, according to British War Office data. Around 6 million British troops were mobilized in the conflict.

More than 17 million people, military and civilian, lost their lives in the war. The U.S, which entered the war on April 6, 1917, lost more than 116,000 service members in the conflict.

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