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Spring 2015

Our President Wing Commander Ken Wallis MBE died in September 2013, ending a very close association since 1976.  His passing generated a great deal of media interest from here and around the World and we naturally featured in the reporting.  My biography of Ken - now out of print - would have gone to a 6th Edition but matters have arisen that make it difficult for me to end the story on a satisfactory note.

In 2006, Ken gave us a copy of his Will, showing that the Museum would be the beneficiary of his collection, something he was at pains to point out to his many contacts, visitors to his collection at Reymerston Hall, and at every other opportunity.  In 1998, we collected his replica Wallbro Monoplane from hangar storage and put it on display; in 2009 it was completely restored by members in readiness for the 2010 centenary of its first flight.  In July 2010, Ken was delighted to open the new Ken Wallis Hall at Flixton with the Wallbro in prominence - he again declared that this would be the future home for his collection when the time came. For such a great man we felt it was important his collection should be displayed to the full at a dedicated location so that visitors could appreciate his many lifetime achievements and inventions; we willingly fundraised to help spread the cost of a new building.  It was therefore a great surprise to be told early in 2014 that he had signed a new Will prior to his death and the Museum was not a beneficiary.  In April 2014, his eldest daughter supervised the dismantling and removal of the replica 1910 Wallbro Monoplane from the Ken Wallis Hall, along with the “Little Nellie” autogyro used for studio shots for the James Bond film “You Only Live Twice”.   Sadly, in July 2014, a burglary at Reymerston Hall saw the loss of his impressive collection of weapons.

On a happier note, in July 2014, full Museum Accreditation was awarded to us by the Arts Council, and later in the year we were again shortlisted for Suffolk Museum of the Year.  We thank all the visitors who took the time to complete a nomination form in our favour.

Late in 2014, we were contacted by the Boulton Paul Association for help.  The planned display of aircraft at RAF Museum Cosford, to honour the manufacturing companies in the Midlands, had been rescinded so their aircraft and artefacts in storage with them needed to be suitably rehoused as quickly as possible.  Following discussions with all concerned, we agreed to accept by gift the superb replicas of the B&P P.6 biplane and the forward fuselage/cockpit of the B&P Overstrand bomber; the cockpit of RAE Hunter T.12 XE531 (actually a R Danish AF T.53) and a Folland Gnat T.1 simulator.  In addition, there are several large-scale models of B&P experimental aircraft of the 1920s/30s.  With little in our region to record the remarkable aviation achievements of Boulton & Paul Norwich, it is pleasing to receive these exhibits and we are extremely grateful to the BPA members for their generosity.  They certainly didn’t deserve to lose both their impressive premises at Wolverhampton, and the offer of display in RAFM Cosford.  As regular visitors will know, space is at a premium here so to squeeze another four aircraft inside the hangars took some doing.  In order to provide accommodation for any B&P archive we purchased another secure Portacabin, which can double for other purposes.

We have entered into the spirit of celebrating the First World War in a modest way with the introduction of a “Poppy Trail” around the buildings.  Some new cabinet displays have been introduced to show a range of household and aviation artefacts of the period, created a large display of postcard images of recruitment and War Bonds’ posters, and “poppied” existing WWI exhibits around the site so that visitors can easily spot them and note their special significance to the period.

We have also been pleased to welcome an increasing number of visitors from the U.S. in the last year or two, including a 446th Bomb Group USAAF veteran of 93!  Herb Gold travelled alone across the pond and was extremely sprightly for his age.  He was naturally quite overcome to visit the old Bungay/Flixton airfield and huts again after some 70 years; all recorded on a BBC TV Inside Out programme.  This was the third television programme devoted to us in the last year or two.  Earlier, the BBC had made a documentary about what we do and, in particular, the rescue of bricks from a local building that was due to be demolished.  The Ditchingham Maltings had been the home of Station Q-104 USAAF in WWII, and some of the personnel had recorded their stay by scratching names and home towns on an external brick wall.  Our Curator Huby Fairhead had kept an eye on these over the years and when demolition was planned he was instrumental in raising awareness and having the wall carefully dismantled by the developer (P J Livesey Group of Manchester) in order to preserve the bricks in question.  These are now displayed in our 446th BG building, and can also be viewed on the website.  Contact has been made with many family members of those named and this has generated a lot of correspondence.  The lack of a precise address has meant that some of those recorded could not be researched.

Work undertaken by volunteers around our site ensures an interesting time for our many visitors but much of the activities tend not to have much to do with aviation!  Our rural location means that teams are devoted to grass-cutting, tree-lopping, and road/building maintenance, or refurbishing external seating and car-parking areas.  Those with carpentry and engineering skills are called upon to mix jobs between building display cabinets, artefact restoration/cleaning/conservation, and the upkeep of the site in one way or another.  Our electricians seem to be forever changing tubes, checking/installing CCTV monitors, or re-wiring something.   One growing team is devoted to maintaining the Link trainers and simulators, manning them when required, plus introducing new inter-active displays and making IT improvements.   Another is concerned with logging new artefact donations and maintaining the growing Library & Archive.  Whilst some members attend several days a week, others may be less frequent, or support us by undertaking research at home and keep in touch with our followers via social media sites.  We are grateful to visitors who take the time to record their views, especially on sites such as TripAdvisor; it means a lot to us to read so many complimentary comments.

2015 looks to be a busy year for us again with a growing list of special events, plus school group visits, dedicated Beaver & Cub days, and visits by members to residential care homes with an assortment of artefacts to stimulate memories. Unexpected maintenance costs over the winter months, however, will mean that we shall budget even more strictly than usual but visitors will not notice this.    We have never charged for admission but it would be greatly appreciated if you gave a donation on leaving.  We look forward to your visit!

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