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Spring 2017

This will be my last contribution to our NEWS section of the website as I have retired as Chairman, but shall continue to serve as a Trustee and a Vice President on the Committee.  I have some health problems so need to reign back from administration responsibilities but will attend the museum when I can in a more casual capacity.  The Chair is now taken by my colleague Steve Bell.

I am very proud to see the way the museum has grown over the years to where we are today, and thank goodness our founding members were far-sighted enough to purchase our 8-acre site back in the 1980s, despite the need for a bank loan. Our collection of hangars and buildings - mostly having aviation backgrounds - give the impression of long-term military activity but our land was never part of the Bungay airfield.  We are, however, very close to the perimeter, and the Buck Inn adjacent to our entrance was a favourite watering-hole for USAAF, FAA and RAF personnel in turn.

2016 was a reasonably good year for us when several museums around the UK reported difficulties and even closures: visitor attendance was slightly up; we had a good spread of events; we continued to receive a steady flow of donated artefacts; volunteer’ attendance was good; several inter-active displays were added; and our end-of-year finances showed useful growth over the previous year.  We were also honoured to welcome Wing Commander Tom Neil DFC* AFC, AE as our new President, filling the vacancy left by the death in 2013 of Wing Commander Ken Wallis MBE.  Tom has been a member for a number of years and lives nearby.

Although space is at a premium and we have often needed to decline offers of aircraft, we were very pleased to receive by donation the remains of Auster AOP6/T.10 ex-VX123/G-ARLP.  The wings have now received new fabric and the fuselage is in the workshop, steadily being returned to its former Army Air Corps identity by member John Self and his team, following the building of a Boeing Stearman PT27 with components coming from several machines, thanks to the generosity of Black Barn Aviation at Tibenham.  Pictures of both are on the website under OUR AIRCRAFT.  Not all of the components survived for the Auster, however, so we have a list of “wants”, which presently includes the propeller and engine bearers; a non-running/incomplete Gypsy Major engine would also be useful to fill the void beneath cowlings.

Our 1942 Mk1 Morris Reconnaissance Car is now displayed in contemporary Royal Air Force Regiment markings and early camouflage, and sports a Boys Anti-Tank Rifle - an impressive replica built by member Roger Hellen.  The main armament, a (deactivated in our case) .303 BREN gun, isn’t left in the turret for security reasons, and the crew’s Enfield No.4 rifles will be replicated using genuine woodwork and a mix of original and replicated metal components.   A replica Lewis gun is also in hand to be made to replace a less convincing example, presently mounted in our  Felixstowe Flying Boat nose section.  The forward cockpit section of a Mosquito night fighter variant has also been replicated by member Ken Huckle, and fitted out by Colin Breach to provide an interesting exhibit, and a much better way to display the instruments and equipment previously sitting in a show case and stored.

Research is a vital part of museum activities.  We believe it is important to properly investigate all incoming objects to the best of our ability, in order to interpret and fully caption them for the interest of our visitors.  The work can be demanding but always rewarding, and it is something I can continue to undertake from home.  My chance find of an oak bible (?) box on ebay, with the door carved as a memorial to Captain Basil G H Keymer DFC*, was identified as being in respect of the son of a local
clergyman and has enabled us to present another interesting display, with replicated foreign and British medals and awards; plus those for his father who also served in World War l as a Chaplain. 

Research brought to light Captain Keymer’s very interesting flying career in the RNAS, and finally with 47 Squadron RAF where he met his death in October 1919 when flying sorties in support of the White Russians against the advancing Bolsheviks in South Russia.  He was killed when the bombload on his DH9 exploded on take-off, and he and his Observer (Lt. W B Thompson) were buried in the Krasnador Cemetery. I don’t know if the graves have survived - circumstances would suggest that it is unlikely to be the case - and, regrettably, the general political situation doesn’t provide for an investigation by the CWGC.  Both airmen, however, are commemorated on the Haidar Pasha Memorial in Istanbul.  Coincidentally, an adjacent display of artefacts relate to the late Lt. Col. George Eardley Todd (ex-No 2 Squadron) who was then Wing Commander of 16 Wing to which 47 Squadron belonged during its time in South Russia.  This new display nicely extends our already impressive collection of artefacts and personal effects found along our WWI Centenary Poppy Trail for visitors.

As for other new arrivals, they made an interesting mix and include (to name but a few) an Engine Telegraph from the R100 airship, the medals awarded to WWll Northern Fleet veteran Arthur Howes of 846 RNAS (including his Navy League Gallantry Cross, Arctic Star and recent Legion d’Honneur), a Single Mamba engine, several scale models of high-speed Air-Sea Rescue launches, and a large number of instruments, uniforms, aviation manuals, books and aircraft models.

Our collections of aircraft and artefacts are extremely impressive, and we go to great lengths to provide detailed interpretation for the benefit of our visitors, who naturally possess different levels of understanding and interest.  We create new displays wherever we can, and improve upon others when additional artefacts come to hand and expansion is called for.

Consequently, the contents of all of our themed buildings have undergone some change over the last twelve months as a result of more artefacts coming along.  Our interior displays can sometimes appear a little “crowded” but many tell us that this is a joy, and provides the need for a return visit.  We prefer to display as much of our collection as possible rather than lock items away in stores (to the disappointment of the donors), and also to place artefacts under secure cover whenever we can.  Even so, we are forced to leave some aircraft outdoors; car parking has to be provided for within our site as much as possible so as not to upset neighbours, and this reduces the space remaining for new buildings to be erected.  We do have some plans in mind all the same.

We are fortunate to retain a talented band of volunteers - and our dedicated Museum Keeper employee - who can offer the skills and trades we need to run the museum and its rural site.  Gaps do appear, however, and space for new volunteers then opens up on the teams so it is worth keeping in touch if you have some spare time and would like to support what we do in one way or another.

 Ian Hancock - February 2017

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