News | June 5, 2024

Previously Unseen D-Day Document Archive Features Battle-Scarred US Flag

Oliver Bayliss

The flag and archive offered by Oliver Bayliss

Bayliss Rare Books is offering The Beckham Collection, a unique D-Day collection ahead of the 80th anniversary on June 6.

The collection features the original D-Day assault documents detailing mission orders, hand annotated by William Beckham, captain of the minesweeper USS YMS-381, one of the first boats to start Operation Neptune. These documents were in use on D-Day. The 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. 

What makes the Beckham Collection of particular interest is 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.

Another 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 USS YMS-381. Flags flown on D-Day are Incredibly rare with only a handful having ever come to the market. The provenance of this flag features the original customs documentation placing it back to the Normandy Beaches from where Beckham mailed it from in September 1944.

The launch of this D-Day collection by Bayliss Rare Books, with a price tag of £500,000, marks the first time the flag has emerged in public and is the first time it has been offered for sale.

Oliver Bayliss of Bayliss Rare Books said: "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 D-Day collections to ever come to market just before the 80th anniversary."