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Air Sea Rescue / 270 Squadron Trench Art Cigarette Case
We have had many examples of trench art cigarette cases here over the years but this has to be one of the best. It is made from what we believe to be scrap aircraft alloy and is very finely worked indeed. To the front is a depiction of an RAF High Speed Rescue launch (HSL) and looking at the design this appears to be based on the Type Two 63' known as the 'Whaleback'. The bows carry an RAF roundel and above the lettering 'ASR' and to the top left corner is a set of RAF Wings. The opposite side is engraved with an RAF Sunderland flying boat passing a steamer below and again finely engraved. The case is opened with a sprung catch to the right side and inside, whilst the cigarette retaining elastic is long gone, this is more than made up for by a reclining female, carrying a calling card and on the telephone. The image seems to be a close depiction of the 'Just Jane' cartoon character created and drawn by Norman Pett in 1932 and of course today proudly displayed on 'Just Jane' Lancaster NX611. The case has various knocks and bumps, commensurate with it's age and use, but is overall in fine original condition. The opposite inside face is engraved with the West African locations of Apapa, Accra, Jui, Oshodi, Gold Coast, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. Above a further name was engraved but this has sadly been ground out, but may have been the original owner with possibly his service number, followed by his surname and intial 'K'.
We do however have some provenance with the item and were told by the previous owner it belonged to /originated from a member of 270 Squadron RAF and our online research seems to confirm this. The Squadron was originally formed in 1919 and was based at Alexandria, operating coastal reconnaissance flying boats and floatplanes. Disbanded in September '19 it was reformed at Jui, Sierra Leone on 12th November 1942, as a general reconnaissance Squadron, equipped with the Consolidated Catalina IB, that were operated until May 1944, tasked with anti-submarine patrols along the West African coast. 270 then moved its base to RAF Apapa in Nigeria in July 1943 and the following December began to convert to the Short Sunderland III, which they operated until June '45. In general the anti-submarine squadrons in West Africa had a quiet war, but their ceaseless patrols helped to keep the area safe from U-boat attack. The squadron finally disbanded after the war in the Atlantic had ended on 30 June 1945 at Apapa. In addition we have established the RAF also operated Air Sea Rescue out of Apapa in Nigeria, with 135 HSL's being allocated for West Africa in 1941 although the first did not arrive until October '42 but the reminder were delayed until mid 1943, with Sunderland's carrying out any rescue work in the interim.
So this modest case indicates a WWII story as good as any novel. We speculate it was made after December 1943 in view of the Sunderland and Whaleback HSL engravings. Looking at the quality of the workmanship we surmise it was made by a local craftsman from scrap obtained from the base and sold to an unknown member of the ASR branch or from 270 Squadron and brought home as a souvenir at war end. This would make a unique Christmas gift for the ASR, Sunderland, 270 Squadron or trench art collector in your life! It measures 6.25" x 3.0" (15.5 cm x 7.5 cm)