D-Day Collection | 1940s, the finest set of D-Day assault documents that have ever been offered for sale, alongside an original 48 state US flag from one of the first boats on D-Day


£500,000.00 GBP

As seen in The Telegraph.

Read the Press Release here.

Bayliss Rare Books is delighted to present The Beckham Collection, one of the most unique, unprecedented and complete D-Day collections to ever come to market and stands as the most complete set of D-Day assault documents to have ever been offered for sale - a museum level collection which is being sold as one.

The highlight of this never-before-seen collection is one of the first flags flown on D-Day; an original, battle-scarred, 48 state US flag from the minesweeper USS YMS-381, one of the first boats to start Operation Neptune. Flags flown on D-Day are Incredibly rare with only a handful having ever come to the market and they always command significant sums. Unlike other flags, the provenance of this flag is unequalled and features the original customs documentation placing it back to the Normandy Beaches from where the ship’s captain, William Beckham mailed it from in September 1944. Again, unlike other flags to have surfaced, this is the only flag from the minesweepers to have surfaced and as such is the earliest flag from D-Day one could own. This is nothing short of one of the most important flags to come onto the market.

The launch of this D-Day collection by Bayliss Rare Books marks the first time the flag and indeed the full collection has emerged in public and is the first time it has been offered for sale.

Alongside the flag, the collection also features the original D-Day assault documents, hand annotated by Beckham, detailing his mission orders, alongside the original BIGOT maps. These documents were in use on D-Day. The near-suicidal minesweeping mission of Y-1 Squadron (the first wave of boats to start D-Day) was of critical importance to the success of the entire Invasion. After being spotted, the Squadron was on the receiving end of German gunfire. To see Beckham’s flag, maps, charts, course documents and orders provides a physical connection with the world-historic D-Day event that is nothing short of extraordinary.

What makes the Beckham Collection unique is the fact that recipients of TOP SECRET – BIGOT documents were under orders to destroy such assault papers immediately after their missions had been completed, and this destruction had to be officially witnessed and recorded under the Official Secrets Act. However, Beckham instead kept everything. This is the most complete collection to ever enter the market.

After eighty years in storage and never seen before, it is remarkable to have, for the first time ever, a D-Day flag complete with the relevant documentation available on the market. Each individual document of this collection is rare, but to have the collection as a whole is breathtakingly unusual and completely unprecedented.

‘this one-of-a-kind collection tells the story of a captain and his boat on the most important day of the 20th century. Alongside the original shrapnel-scarred flag, the archive contains Beckham’s set of D-Day documents, some annotated by the commander whilst on operations and under German fire. There is nothing else like this. It is truly awe-inspiring to offer one of the most important and complete D-Day collections to ever come to market'’ (Oliver Bayliss, Owner & Founder of Bayliss Rare Books)

Description and condition:

An extraordinary and very large quantity of documents relating to the service of Lt Cdr W. E. Beckham, Jr., Commander of Mine Sweeper USS YMS-381 on D-Day. He was awarded the Bronze Star for his actions that day when in charge of one of the very first vessels to reach the French coast.

This archive represents a microscopically comprehensive set of personal documents, lecture notes and hundreds of mimeographed documents covering many US Navy aspects from 1942 to 1945. The collection provides a very detailed insight into the training syllabus of the war-time US Navy, including “Restricted” indoctrination documents relating to “Negro units”. The total weight of the non-D-Day documents is about 13 kgs.

The archive contains a complete set of D-Day documents “Top Secret – Bigot - Neptune” annotated by Beckham relating to mine sweeping off Utah Beach and this also includes the 48-state US flag that was flown on USS YMS-381 on D-Day. Recipients of Assault documents were security checked before they were entered by name on the extremely select “BIGOT”-list, rated above “Top Secret” in terms of security classifications. All recipients, with the exception of the originator, appear to have followed the mandatory destruction order. To put the importance of “BIGOT” list members into perspective, ten US officers holding this security clearance also perished during the Slapton Sands incident on 28 April 1944. Eisenhower put the invasion on hold until all the bodies had been recovered by divers.

Lt Cdr Beckham was a fastidious keeper of virtually all the paperwork that related to his naval career, and especially those of ephemeral course work. He was historically aware and kept the flag of his mine sweeper together with all the D-Day documents that were issued to him. Because inclusion in the “BIGOT” list was very tightly controlled, this is, as far as can be ascertained, the only set of Operational Orders that went into battle and survived the strict destruction order. The US Naval archives retain a file copy of Operation Order 3-44. Typical for working papers, this copy of Order 3-44 contains marginalia in the CO’s distinctive handwriting, made before and during the mission. (See page 8).

This archive does not contain his Bronze Star Medal and related paperwork which was retained by the family.

Provenance:

The originator died in 1977, then family by descent. Given to present owner in 2013.

D-DAY COLLECTION:

1. US 48-State flag flown on board USS YMS 381 on D-Day. This is one one of the very first US flags that ever flew on the French Coast on D-Day. Flag with metal grommets,  30-inch masthead with faintly visible stamp “US Ensign”. This flag was mailed to a recipient in Tarrytown, NY, on September 21, 1944 from France and was returned to the owner at a later stage. With original address label, cut out from the mailing envelope with some brown backing paper. Original signed and dated US-Customs Declaration slip.

NOTE: Unlike other D-Day flags that have come to market, the provenance of this flag is supported by extensive corroborative evidence and does not have to rely solely on the assertion by Beckham that it was flown on his vessel as his signed US Customs slip and the mailing label with which the flag was sent to the USA from France are present. In view of the fact that this archive is so comprehensive and includes all the “Top Secret” paperwork that was issued to him for D-Day, this can be taken as very strong indicators that the flag is genuine.

ORIGINAL D-DAY DOCUMENTS:

2. D-Day Operation Order numbered 3-44. Serial number 00010. Dated 15 May 1944.

 “Top Secret – Bigot – Neptune” Bound at top with brown shoe lace, appx pp. 400. Mimeographed with printed original “Utah Beach” maps. Mine sweeping plan. One of 757 copies (according to distribution list) With all maps, overlays and inserts as called for. Hand annotated by Beckham.

3. Operation Order No. 1-44. Serial number 0001 (One of 33 copies according to distribution list, mimeographed). Task Organization (Assault Phase). Sweeper Units Four and Five Dated 2 June 1944. pp. 3.  With Annexe Mine Sweeping Plan, 2 June 1944, pp 2. Appendix One “Dan Characteristics”, p. 1. Annex Baker Communication Plan, pp 2.

Distribution list, p. 1 with Mine sweeping plan (map) And Fuel, Provisions, Wrecks comments with crude map on reverse, pp. 4.

4. Naval Expeditionary Force Minesweeping Instructions (XFMI). Section III only - Tactics and Operations. Heavy paper bound folder tied with brown shoe lace. Cover dated 28 April. Text dated 8 May 1944. Copy number 206, pp. 25 plus 5 XFMI diagrams. Signed on title page by Admiral Ramsay.

5. Hardbound copy no. 1775 of ON1 Appendix VII Annexe C Neptune Batteries, pp. 46, including large folded map: ON 1, App 7, Annexe C Showing coastline and range of German batteries on Utah beach North, numbered 2613.

6. Hardbound coastal recognition “Booklet H” “France, North Coast”, pp. 5. With photographic coastal silhouette. Prints are glued together to form a continuous image With printed instruction sheet and Template in book pocket.

7. Hardbound coastal recognition “Booklet M” “France, North Coast” pp. 27. With photographic coastal silhouette, Prints are glued together to form a continuous image. With printed instruction sheet and Template in book pocket

8. Twelfth Fleet, France Mimeographed report number 00477. Receipt date stamp 24 Dec 1944 (Distribution List refers to 68 copies). “Minesweeping diary of the Western Task Force”, p. 1 plus pp. 21. Appendix 1 to Section E para 4d p. 1 Appendix 2 to section “E” para 24. Beaches Area Minesweeping routine p. 1. Appendix 3 The minesweepers guide to WTF area, p. 1.

CAREER DOCUMENTS & NAVAL TRAINING DOCUMENTS:

Further to the D-Day items, The Beckham collection seemingly contains all paperwork related to Beckham's military service alongside his training with a total weight of about 20 kg. Some of these documents are incredibly scarce and sought after in their own right.

Given the vastness of the collection, a full list and high res images will be supplied upon request. The D-Day part of the collection as detailed above is complete.