PENSIONER Stewart Barnes has been holding on to his cases of butterflies from Burma for decades.

But the 83-year-old, who was given the mementos of his father’s involvement in the Second World War, think it’s now time to let them go.

The former Pressed Steel worker from Gentian Road, Blackbird Leys, who lives with his wife Jean, 78, is weighing up donating the butterflies to the Oxford University Museum of Natural History or selling them to a collector.


The father-of-three, who has seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, said: “It will be sad to let these butterflies go but I think the time is right.

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“I have been keeping them in the attic and I’m worried they will disintegrate if they are not being kept in the right conditions.

“I was given these cases when my father John ‘Jack’ Barnes died about 30 years ago.

“He also worked at Pressed Steel and was in the REME (Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers).


“I know he fought in Burma and brought these butterflies back but I don’t know anything more about them and I don’t know how he got them back home - it must have been difficult.

“I’m thinking about selling them to a collector because I need £1,500 to buy a new mobility scooter - I have got back problems - but if someone from the museum wanted to get in touch I would like them to take a look and may be I could donate them.”

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Mr Barnes said his father also fought in France and Egypt during the war and after moving to Oxford he worked as a welder.

He added: “He didn’t talk about the war much - when he died my mother gave me the cases and said ‘keep these safe’.


“I’m in two minds about what to do with them but I don’t want them to disintegrate.”

Mr Barnes said his father spent some time as a football referee and once was the ref for a Headington United game.

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The Burma campaign was a series of battles fought in the British colony of Burma, during the Second World War, involving the forces of the British Empire and China, with support from the United States, against the invading forces of Imperial Japan, Thailand, and units such as the Burma Independence Army, which spearheaded the initial attacks against British forces, and the Indian National Army.


Brigadier William Harry Evans, who died in November 1956, was a lepidopterist and British Army officer who served in India.

He documented the butterfly fauna of India, Burma and Ceylon in a series of articles in the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society and found approximately 1,439 species of butterfly from British India, including Ceylon and Burma.

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Susannah Wintersgill, a spokesman for the Oxford University Museum of Natural History in Parks Road, said staff were used to receiving unusual requests.

She has now notified her colleague James Hogan, who is collections manager at the museum.

Ms Wintersgill added: “The museum has a large collection of butterflies, with many unique and historic specimens, including the world’s oldest pinned insect – a bath white butterfly dating back to 1702.