WWII pilot's 1940s pin-ups collection is sure to excite bidders

Young Evan Davies made the most of it when he found himself stationed in an RAF camp in Canada - he rubbed shoulders with the stars.

The handsome flyer had been posted overseas to help train Commonwealth pilots for the war effort and life on camp in the prairie town of Carberry, Manitoba, might have been lonely and dull.

The powers that be recognised the fact, however, and the townspeople responded by taking the young men to their hearts, providing housing, entertainment, and generous hospitality.

A highlight was the morale-boosting visits by Hollywood pin-ups of the era and airmen filled the theatres and halls to see them. Navigator Evan somehow steered himself to meet them personally and he brought home a stash of autographed publicity photographs of such starlets as love goddess Rita Hayworth (pictured), sweater girl Lana Turner and screen siren Betty Grable to prove it.

Rita Hayworth signed photo
Alluring: a Rita Hayworth signed photo

Now, after years of lying in the attic, Evan's pin-ups are to be sold. Colwyn Bay auctioneers Rogers Jones Co expect the 17 full plate photographs to raise four figure sums when they come under the hammer next Tuesday (April 26).

Evan's son David (62) who lives in Colwyn Bay, said his father was born and educated in Llanybydder, Carmarthenshire, and signed up with the RAF on the outbreak of the Second World War. He quickly qualified as a navigator, serving on Sunderland flying boats stationed at Pembroke docks, but was then selected to join Service Flying Training School No 33 for military pilots in the vast British Commonwealth Air Training Scheme, based at Carberry.

The first RAF troops arrived in December 1940 and towers, hangars and numerous accompanying buildings were quickly erected before the drone of airplanes began to fill the air in early 1941. Men from all over Britain descended on the town, sending its population skyrocketing almost overnight. Among the thousands of men who passed through the school was Welsh actor Richard Burton, who also served in the RAF as a navigator.

The men soon made themselves at home. The training school sports teams, choirs, dramatic society, and bands staged events, to which the townspeople were invited, and the town provided a war service club in which soldiers and townspeople joined in community activity.

Carberry's fair grounds became the scene of rugby, soccer, softball and cricket matches. Many townsfolk donated plants and labour to spruce up the training school grounds. Most notably, Christmases found every airman who was not required on duty spending his leave with a Carberry family.

How Evan managed to obtain the autographed photographs will never be known, but he brought them home to South Wales and they have remained in his family since. He married his wife Hilda, who survives him, after the war and retired as manager of a bank in Newcastle Emlyn. He died in 1966.

Since then, the photographs have been kept in the attic of the family home where, according to son David, they have remained for the last 30 or more years, although they are in remarkable condition.

The list of stars reads like a Hollywood who's who of the 1940s: in addition to the three already mentioned, they include Claudette Colbert; Laraine Day; Hedy Lamarr; Loretta Young; Evelyn Keyes; Gene Tierney; Jinx Falkenbureg; Virginia Grey, June Clyde and La Grandeur Sisters. A further four pin-ups are unsigned.

Viewing for the monthly antiques and fine art sale is on Sunday April 24 from 2-4pm; Monday April 25 from 1-7pm and on the morning of the sale. Collectors interested in signed photographs of Rita Hayworth, her near contemporary Lauren Bacall and more recent pin-ups should click here.

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