(by William Walker, UK) Wellington Bomber Pilot Peter Walker
Read the incredible story of a UK navigator on a Wellington bomber during WW II.
Peter Walker was born in 1915 on Christmas Eve. During the pre-war years, he attended Hotel college in Lausanne. However, in July 1939, he made a crucial decision to leave for England just before the Nazi invasion of Poland and the onset of World War II.
Joining the British air force, he was a navigator in a Wellington bomber and shot down over occupied France on his 1st. Mission. By a staggering coincidence, he was captured by two Germans with whom he had been at a hotel college in Switzerland. Wellington Bomber Pilot Peter Walker
Peter’s captors orchestrated his transportation to a prison camp by air. Fluent in both impeccable German and French, skills honed during his education at a hotel college, he found himself in a peculiar situation. Equipped with a small suitcase, housing essentials such as razor blades and soap, he suddenly confronted intense questioning by the British authorities.
He became a camp interpreter in Stalag Luft III (great escape camp), where he persuaded a camp guard to lend him, over five years, a camera to photograph general life in the camp.
Liberated by the Swiss lead team in 1945
he gave the reels of film to a Swiss liberator, asking him to forward the rare film to his English address, as he thought he might lose them. Six months after V-day, a parcel arrived with all his photos, and the Swiss liberator had them developed and printed! (they are all stamped by the Geneva Convention).
We, as a family, have a complete photographic record at home. My father, Peter Walker, has had to go into a home for the elderly; he is 96 years old.
Stalag Luft III (Stammlager Luft, or POW Camp for Airmen #3) Wellington Bomber Pilot Peter Walker
Situated amidst the tumult of World War II, this Luftwaffe-operated prisoner-of-war camp served as a detainment facility for air force servicemen who had been captured in the throes of battle. It was in the German Province of Lower Silesia near the town of Sagan (now Żagań in Poland), 100 miles (160 km) southeast of Berlin. The site was selected because it would be difficult to escape by tunneling.
Two famous prisoner escapes, depicted in the films The Great Escape (1963) and The Wooden Horse (1950), and adapted from the books by former prisoners Paul Brickhill and Eric Williams, have made the camp best known for tunneling.
Thank you very much, William, for contacting me and sharing with us this fantastic story and passport of your father. Wellington Bomber Pilot Peter Walker
FAQ Passport History pasaporte passeport паспорт 护照 パスポート جواز سفر पासपोर्ट
1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?
The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...
2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?
Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...
3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?
"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...
4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?
Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...
5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?
Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.
6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?
7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?
During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...
8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?
Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.
9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?
Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.
10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?
A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉
11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?
First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...
Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.
Question? Contact me...
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