Prisoner of War Rolex Going Under the Hammer at Fellows

A Rolex given to a British Army lieutenant who was captured as a prisoner of war at the Battle of Dunkirk highlights our auction of luxury watches, in Birmingham.

The watch will be sold alongside a defence medal, images of the lieutenant and two books.

C.M.A. Whitaker

cma whitaker. prisoner of war

Charles Maurice Anthony (Tony) Whitaker (1918 – 1969), of the Worcestershire Regiment, was commissioned into the Territorial Army in the 1930s.

After he was captured inland during the Battle of Dunkirk in 1940, Tony was given a Rolex Oyster Perpetual wrist watch whilst spending time at Oflag VII-B, a prisoner of war camp in Bavaria.

Nearly 80 years later, the watch has resurfaced. With an estimate of £2,800 – £3,600, it is Lot 171 in our Luxury Watch Sale, an auction taking place in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter on Monday 21st March.

Tony Whitaker, who lived in Pershore, came from a family of Worcestershire landowners. He joined the Worcestershire Regiment in 1937 and was second lieutenant. He was reported missing after the Battle of Dunkirk in May 1940.

Whitaker was captured whilst holding a bridge for men retreating to the beaches. It was from here that the second lieutenant was missing for a year, presumed dead by his family.

The Prisoner of War Camps

He was moved between several prisoner of war camps in Poland and Germany for the next five years. The camps included Stalag Luft III and Oflag VII-B – where he was given the watch.

Whilst held captive at Stalag Luft III, Whitaker made friends with a flight lieutenant, Eric Williams, who penned the book ‘The Wooden Horse’. A signed copy is included with this lot.

It was at Oflag VII-B, a camp for officers in Bavaria, where Tony received the Rolex. Rolex and Hans Wilsdorf sent these watches to officers as a morale boost, who paid for them later on returning to Great Britain. It is believed that British soldiers had to request a watch by letter.

At the closing stages of the war when leaving the camp, Whitaker was injured in a friendly fire incident 1945. He sustained a shrapnel wound in his leg. As a result he had to spend months after the war in hospital on the Isle of Wight.

Whitaker continued to wear the Rolex in later life. He held down several jobs in businesses, including at a Gloucester engineering firm. Whitaker died in 1969.

The Prisoner of War Watch

The Rolex is being sold by Whitaker’s son, Max, 72, who lives in Bath. The watch has been in constant use since the war. It has been worn by Tony himself, Max’s late mother and briefly by Max.

prisoner of war rolex

The timepiece still works and is going under the hammer alongside a signed copy of ‘The Wooden Horse’ by Eric Williams, a further book listing inmates from Oflag VII-B, a defence medal and two photos of Whitaker, including one with him wearing the Rolex.

It is not confirmed whether the defence medal was awarded to Whitaker or another individual.

Numbered 2595, the watch has a signed manual wind calibre 710. It sports a black dial with baton and quarterly Roman numeral hour markers. Fitted to an unsigned black leather strap, it is in a great condition for its age.

Max Whitaker, who is selling the watch at Fellows, said: “No one knew what happened to my dad after the Battle of Dunkirk until eventually he was listed as a prisoner of war a year later.

“He was a very social man, he loved racing and often visited Cheltenham. My dad rarely spoke to me about the war. When I was a child, he did tell me that he tried to escape the camps twice and was once recaptured outside the perimeter fence in a field of potatoes.

“My dad still managed to hold down several jobs despite suffering nervous problems after the war. His Rolex watch has been in constant use since the war and I have worn it on occasion myself in the last ten years.”

Our Thoughts

watch specialist

Michael Jagiela, Senior Watch Specialist at Fellows Auctioneers, said:It is an honour to offer a Rolex with such an extraordinary history in our upcoming Luxury Watch Auction.

“Tony Whitaker was held captive for years during the war, after he was captured heroically helping soldiers in the Battle of Dunkirk and we are extremely grateful to Max for selling his father’s watch with us.

“Military timepieces like this do not come around at auction often so I expect huge interest on this historic watch from around the globe.”

The Auction

The auction will take place on Monday 21st March and starts at 10:00am. You can view the full auction by clicking here.

Viewing Times (Photo identification is required)

London

15th March 2022 12pm-7pm
16th March 2022 9.30am-1.30pm

Birmingham

18th March 2022 10am-4pm
21st March 2022 8.30am-10am

Virtual viewings are available by request.

Valuations

Our valuations are free, with no obligation to sell with us. Our experts will value your item with an estimate, so you can find out what it could achieve at auction.

The process is simple, so you can get a valuation now:

Fill in a form online. In addition, you can book an appointment to visit our offices in Birmingham and London. Moreover, you can book a virtual valuation appointment.

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