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This page is intended to provide news of activities at Flixton for non-members.  It is written by the Chairman - Ian Hancock - and will be updated at least annually

Summer 2016

 The omission of recent input to this section is regretted.  It was not because of any lack of news at Flixton but simply due to health problems for me and other pressures.  With something like normality back in my life - or a new version of it - I shall now try to catch up on happenings since early 2015.

 The number of aircraft on display is more or less the same, following the return of the Westland Widgeon to its owner at Sywell, and the move of the anonymous Primary Glider to a new museum “up North”. On the gain side, we completed the assembly of a Boeing Stearman Kaydet PT.27, based around the fuselage frame of FJ801. The components came from several aircraft that had been restored over many years by the skilled engineers of Black Barn Aviation in Tibenham, who had previously donated the remains of our now rebuilt Fairchild F.24 - once with the Civil Air Patrol in the US.  Both aircraft look superb so we are forever grateful for their generosity.  Our Flying Flea also received a complete overhaul and now looks pristine.  Recently, we received by gift the remains of Auster AOP.6/T.10 VX123 - latterly Beagle Terrier G-ARLP.  Components had been dispersed to several locations nearby over the years and more items are due to reach us soon.  This is our current workshop project and the plan is to display it in its Army Air Corps paint scheme - only ten examples of the T.10 were built and few have survived.

 The growth in smaller donated artefacts never ceases to amaze me as items arrive almost daily, often as a result of a visitor liking what we do and selecting us to receive a family “treasure”.  These keep us on our toes with research, cleaning, and finding a suitable display location; this often requires members to construct a bespoke display case.  I believe that one of our strongest features is that we are prepared to provide space for personal effects and the unusual, with everything undergoing research in order to provide a detailed caption.  It is claimed that museum visitors should not be given more than a couple of sentences of text that a 12-year can grasp, but we do not agree entirely with this.  Museums exist to preserve, educate and inform, so we believe it is wrong to suggest that our many visitors - be they young, adult, mature, learned - should be restricted to the one level of intelligence and interest.  Hopefully, we leave room for further research by an individual with particular interest in an artefact, but our captions can be read to the full or otherwise.  We are very much guided in what we do by the feedback and comments from our visitors as these are our customers so need to be satisfied.  On this point, it was nice to receive a Tripadvisor Certificate for the third year running.

 We have spent a lot of time revisiting some of our older exhibits to improve their appearance and the information given about them - the internet is a very useful tool for research but so often there needs to be an opportunity to cross-check as errors can easily appear and are then compounded.  Our two-way contact for information to/from museums in the UK and overseas is increasing, along with a growth in foreign visitors to Flixton and research enquiries from individuals abroad.

 Dedicated days for Beavers, Cubs, Scouts and Explorers continue to receive a good response so we are obviously meeting a need, and school groups show no decline to learn something of the social history of the region, aviation and the effects of world conflict.  Our reminiscence programme is healthy but visits to residential care homes have been less than in other years simply because of the pressure upon the free time of the volunteers involved in these activities.

 Our volunteer base is steadily growing to meet vacancies when they occur but there is always a need for members to paint the aircraft displayed outdoors – we try to maintain a three-year cycle for each aeroplane, plus an annual wash.  The Pucara and Mystere were recent projects, plus the Flying Flea and the Battle of Britain film Spitfire replica indoors - now attention is on the Meteor. Vehicle restorations recently tackled have been the Mercury Tug and the 1942 Morris Mk1 Reconnaissance Car – now in RAF Regiment markings.  Other teams that need some extra bodies are grass-cutting and ground maintenance (fence mending, repairs to the raised boardwalk, tree-lopping, etc.).  Both are vital for the good appearance of the museum but do not appeal to many people when they ask about a volunteer role.

 Our Link Trainer room is aptly named in view of the four active units we have within, but a lot of work has been going into providing interactive displays to illustrate the science of navigation and aircraft identification/location.  Flight simulation programs provide less strenuous activities for the younger visitor and more are planned.  The Redifon simulator has at last shown some signs of life after a lot of puzzling-out of the wiring, but provides interest even when mute.  The Gnat procedural trainer cockpit has also been restored to near completeness with engine sound effects, so provides another attraction when we can ensure supervision.  Off course, most of these units are quite old and temperamental, so require frequent attention from (old and temperamental?) members – coupled sometimes with some head-scratching!   Our working aircraft gunsight display has been completely overhauled and is probably unique in providing a very good cross-section of designs for visitors to try.

 Creating new displays is a regular task as artefacts soon come to hand by gift or following restoration/conservation.  Attention recently has been upon our remains of V.1 and V.2 rockets, and our large collection of Luftwaffe “wreckology” - engines, components and smaller items such as personal effects that have been recovered from WWII crash-sites.  The subjects touched upon by artefacts on view vary greatly, and a recent example is an oak box rescued from a disused church and found on ebay quite by chance.  It has an ornately-carved door commemorating the death of one Captain Basil Graham Homfray Keymer DFC* who died in 1919 when serving with 47 Squadron – then disbanded and its personnel made volunteers in the Russian Army; a British government ploy in order for the squadron’s aircraft to continue attacks upon the Bolsheviks in support of the White Russians.  The bombload of Keymer’s DH9 aircraft exploded on take-off for one such sortie and, sadly, he and his Observer were killed.  They were buried in Krasnador Cemetery, in South Russia, but we cannot find out if the graves survived – unlikely perhaps, but a possible choice for repatriation if they do exist. A contemporary photograph of a DH9 wearing the special tricolour in place of RAF roundels would be a welcome addition to the display.  All Captain Keymer’s medals, British, Italian and Russian, have been replicated for the display.  We found that his father also served in World War I, as a Chaplain, and that he had been vicar of a church very near Flixton in his later life.  A smaller display, adjacent, now records this - but what a coincidence!

 Displays require space and any visitor to Flixton will have noticed that we don’t have much to spare.  One recent improvement has been to digitise a large gallery of photographs charting the history of local company Boulton & Paul.  This has freed up a very valuable amount of wall-space which is now occupied by display units with an eclectic mix of subjects represented by their artefacts.  Another venture has been to set-up a computer display adjacent to the NAAFI tables, with our forthcoming event attractions projected on the screen for diners to view.  With their attention drawn to the images, it was not long before we saw the opportunity for some income by including adverts for local services and others further afield, so this is now being rolled out to attract some additional income for the museum, and a member will take on the modest role of marketing manager to handle things.

 The current year has been a busy one for us, with the need to meet a range of maintenance requirements around our 8-acre site, provide for an active event programme, and keep up-to-date with the requirements of running a museum and a business – all without the injection of a large amount of income.  Whilst our annual visitor total of 35k-40k sounds impressive, the generosity of individuals when making donations does vary greatly from one to another.  Some are seen to have deep pockets and very short arms!

 One gap in our formalities has been to find a new President, having lost Wing Commander Ken Wallis in 2013.  We are therefore exceptionally pleased and honoured to record that the post is now filled by Wing Commander Tom Neil DFC* AFC AE RAF (Ret’d), who lives only a couple of miles from the museum and has been an honorary member for several years.   Tom is very well known in aviation circles and is a popular author, following service in the RAF from 1938 to 1964.  During the Battle of Britain, Tom served with 249 Squadron and flew 141 combat missions; he went on to take part in the Battle of Malta, and later became Officer Commanding No. 41 Squadron.

 Ian Hancock - August 2016

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