Archive treasured by Churchill’s wartime chauffeur found in JIGSAW box

Posted on 03/07/2020 in Press Coverage

A ‘fascinating’ historical archive collected by Sir Winston Churchill’s chauffeur has been discovered in a jigsaw box during lockdown – and saved from the tip.

Items once treasured by the late Reginald Parker, personal chauffeur to the former British prime minister during the Second World War, were found by a 60-year-old clerk on furlough during a clear-out of cupboards and drawers.

It includes several Post Office telegraphs and instructions from 10 Downing Street and the Metropolitan Police stating when and where the prime minister must be picked up.For example, one note states, ‘The Prime Minister will arrive tomorrow by air at Hendon Aerodrome. Please have police car in readiness’.

The flavour of the times is driven home by grainy black and white images of Reginald Parker, one at the wheel of the prime minister’s limousine outside 10 Downing Street.

Now the long-forgotten ephemera, which nearly ended up in a skip, is set to go under the hammer at Hansons Auctioneers on July 21 with a guide price of £250-£350 (lot 3373).

The owner of the archive, who did not wish to be named, said: “I’m on furlough and I’ve been sorting out cupboards and wardrobes. I saw a jigsaw box in my study and just thought it was one of my many jigsaws. But, when I opened the lid, I found the archive. I’d forgotten all about it.

“I saved it from going to the tip during a house clearance in the late 1990s. It used to belong to my mother-in-law’s partner whose surname was Parker. When he died, I helped to clear his bungalow in Hilton, Derbyshire. There was quite a bit of stuff which needed to be sold, scrapped or given to charity. I stumbled across the paperwork and photos when I opened an old suitcase in the loft.

“Nobody wanted it and it was going to be chucked away. But I’m fascinated by history and decided to take it home. I looked through the paperwork occasionally but forgot all about it. In fact, I thought I’d lost it at one time and panicked.

“When I rediscovered it, I decided it was time to find out if it was important. After all, it relates to one of Britain’s most iconic leaders. A newspaper cutting says Reginald Parker was a chauffeur to five British prime ministers.

“I’ve always wondered if there is some key information in there, a piece of history that’s missing. I’ve visited the Churchill War Rooms in London. Perhaps it should be there. It would be lovely if it went to a museum.”

The ephemera reveals that Reginald Parker lived in Buckinghamshire and retired at the age of 64 in 1949 after serving five British prime ministers during a 24-year career which began in 1925.

As well as transporting Sir Winston Churchill from 1940-45, he was chauffeur to Ramsay MacDonald, Britain’s first Labour prime minister who was in office in 1924 and again from 1929-1935. Parker also served Stanley Baldwin, Conservative leader of the country on three occasions between 1924 and 1937; Neville Chamberlain, Conservative leader from 1937-40 and Clement Atlee, 1945-1951.

Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons Auctioneers, said: “Jigsaws have proved phenomenally popular during lockdown and it seems apt that an archive relating to British leaders who served during previous turbulent times in history has been found in a jigsaw box.

“The fascinating archive provides an insight into the daily lives of some of the most famous names in British political history and highlights the part played by a devoted chauffeur.

“The timings indicate that Parker transported Churchill around London during the Second World War. No doubt, they got to know each other well. It’s telling that one of the items in Reginald’s long-lost archive is a photo of Churchill with the iconic leader’s signature attached to it.

“We believe the gentleman whose loft it was found in some 20 years ago was Reginald Parker’s relative, possibly his son. Churchill memorabilia does well at auction and it would be wonderful to see this unusual piece of British political history preserved for posterity, perhaps in a war museum.”

The Churchill chauffeur archive, lot 3373, is due to be sold ion July 21 n Hansons Auctioneers' July 16-21 Antiques and Collectors Auction. To find out more, email: [email protected].

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Free valuation of all types of memorabilia are available at Hansons Auctioneers. Our books and works on paper specialist is Jim Spencer: [email protected]