Spitfires, Hurricanes and SOE…

All three of these words evoke thoughts and ideas about WW2, and for most of us we know about these things from television ,cinema and books.  If you are interested in those terrible 6 years in the middle of the 20th century, you may well enjoy a visit to the Tangmere Military Aviation Museum near Chichester.

First opened in 1917, Tangmere airfield was a training base for the Royal Flying Corps before being turned over the American Airforce for the duration of WW1 after which time it was mothballed.  In 1925 it reopened as a base for the Fleet Air Arm No 43 Sqdn flying Gloster Gamecock biplanes.  During WW2 it was a fully operational and important strategic airfield and some of the most famous RAF heroes being based there such as Group Captain Douglas Bader who commanded the Tangmere wing of Fighter Command.

Today, much of the original airfield has been returned to farmland, save for the site which now houses the museum and a small Military Memorial Garden.


The RAF Memorial Garden at Tangmere

Inside the museum there are 5 Halls which are quite literally crammed floor to ceiling with exhibits ranging from aircraft engines to uniforms, models of the Dams bombed by the Dam Busters, complete with interactive bomb sight to ration tins and winged insignia.  If you can think of it, and it’s related to the RAF in WW2 then it is probably somewhere in one of the cases at Tangmere!


Spitfire and prototype Spitfire


Amazing dress made from Silk Escape Maps, this beautiful garment even has a matching parasol!


Biography about SOE heroine Violette Sabo and the poem she had to learn for sending her coded messages from occupied France.

Tangmere was the base for the SOE who dropped agents behind enemy lines and in the Tangmere Hall there are exhibits which tell the story of these brave individuals, and also of the Lysander pilots who flew them deep into occupied Europe.

Outside, hidden away behind the museum is part of one of the original Air Raid Shelters at Tangmere.  This has been relocated from its original position and reinstalled so that you can sit inside, close the door and listen to the sound of a full blown air raid taking place around you.  It is VERY atmospheric and really gives you an idea of how frightening an air raid would have been.  What is a shame is that it is not well sign posted and could be easily missed by visitors.


Tilly Lamp for lighting, “Kilroy Was Here” slogan on wall and entrance to Air Raid Shelter

There is an awful lot to see at Tangmere, perhaps too much to take in at once and certainly far too much writing on long winded text panels.  It is interesting, but to my mind not as well laid out as it could be, with some areas getting enormous amounts of text information and others having one at all.  There is a strange mix of WW2 with an overload of information and the post WW2 ‘Cold War’ era where written information is sparse to the extent that the aircraft parked outside have no information panels at all!

There is a small shop which sells dvd’s and pamphlets about WW2 as well as the usual bits of tat for kids that has nothing to do with the museum at all; and a small NAAFI cafe.  Sadly I cannot recommend this, it was awful.  The sandwiches were freshly made but from bulk purchased ingredients, and they had run out of some things on their menu.  I have been in a couple of proper NAAFI’s in the past, and this one can’t hold a candle to the real thing! My advice would be if you are going, take your own food and eat in the picnic area!

All-in-all a strange little museum crammed with some odd and interesting objects, probably more for the aficionado than a family day out.

At the going down of the sun,

    and in the morning…….

  We shall remember them.


About paisleypedlar

Artist, Sewist, sometime Cyclist and Arm Chair Activist
This entry was posted in Books, Expeditions and adventures, memorabilia, Museums and Galleries, Out and about and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Spitfires, Hurricanes and SOE…

  1. A really interesting post, have you read Rosies War; an English Womans Escape From Occupied France, by Rosemary Say,Noel Holland its a true story and brilliant.

  2. I’ve not read Rosie’s War, will have to get it on my Kindle, thanks for recommending it.

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