Friday, 7 May 2010

Wings Museum - up and Flying!

The Wings Aviation Museum opened for the first time at a new and exciting location near Balcombe in West Sussex.

This is an aviation museum with a difference! For example Ghosts of the Tundra is the only place in Europe where visitors can see recovered warbirds as they were found set in "crash diaramas" to represent the actual crash sites. These rare airframes where recovered from remote parts of Russia where they were shot down over 60 years ago.

As well as airframes the new museum also focuses on the RAF with many items and relics in the museum relating to RAF Fighter Command and RAF Bomber Command.

Since the grand opening we are pleased to report that visitor numbers are still very strong and the visitors book is bulging with new positive feedback.

The Grand Opening went very well despite some very heavy rain on the Saturday but luckily the weather was much better on the Sunday.

We were pleased to welcome some military vehicles too including a lovely Half Track which looked rather menacing with its 50 caliber machine guns and heavy armor plating.

We were also very grateful to 212 Squadron Royal Air Force Living History Group who are based in Kent who put on an excellent display regarding the RAF including a demonstration of an RAF ops room and a very information demo of Air Sea Rescue. Not only did they look the part but they also acted the part! We even had a Spitfire Pilot scrambling to his pretend Spitfire and people were amused as he ran in full flying kit out the door jumping over a puddle!

I would like to thank all those for their help in making the Grand Opening of the Wings Museum possible. It has been a lot of work relocating the museum from Redhill Aerodrome and we look forward to moving forward in a positive direction. Thank you to those also who braved the weather to bring along their jeeps and Halftracks and also 212 Squadron Royal Air Force Living History Group for bringing it all alive.

We were also honored to welcome W.O. Jack Hodges who flew Typhoons with 174 Squadron and also David Fellows who was a Tail Gunner (Tail end Charley) with 460 Squadron who flew Lancasters at RAF Binbrook.

The museum is open every Saturday between March to October 10am - 5pm. For further details please see the museum website

Thanks for reading and please be sure to visit again soon, over the next few weeks I will be catching up with the museum blog as so much has been happening that it is now running a little behind!

Daniel Hunt
Curator Wings Museum

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Wings Museum Grand Re-Opening

Wings Museum prepares to spread its Wings!

At long last I am pleased to report that the Wings Museum is due to re-open to the public on a special grand opening weekend due to take place on Saturday 20th March and Sunday 21st March 2010. Please see our website for further information.

As the opening is fast approaching I am please to report that we are now on the final stages of preparing our C-47 "Band of Brothers" Dakota (Sky Train) fuselage section as a visitors walk through. This exhibit will be complete with sounds and images and aims at letting visitors experience what it was like to be a Paratrooper on D-Day. A special ramp is in the final stages of construction and will allow our disabled visitors to explore inside.

The Grand opening weekend will also see an attendance of World War Two military Vehicles and living history groups, including an anti aircraft Half Track, the 101st Airbourne and 212 Squadron living history groups.

The weekend will also welcome several veterans including Warrant Officer Jack Hodges who flew Hawker Typhoons with 174 Squadron during the battle for Normandy.

So what will you see?
Take a deep breath...

The Wings Museum is a fascinating in-sight into life during World War Two. Each artefact or item of memorabilia tells it`s own unique story set along side the sounds & music of the times. History appears to come alive in this truly unique nostalgic experience. Walk inside the famous C-47 Dakota, experience what it was like to have been a paratrooper on D-Day. The only place in Europe where visitors can see aircraft which have been recovered from the Russian front where they were shot down over 60 years ago! Now displayed in crash dioramas representing the crash sites!

Read about the last battles of World War Two fought between the Soviets and the Japanese, these forgotten battles were still raging even after the official surrender of Japan. See the World’s only surviving recovered Japanese Nakajima B5N2 “Kate” Torpedo Bomber made famous during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The museum aims at remembering our gallant armed forces of all nations who served during World War Two. Located in the heart of Battle of Britain country, the Wings Museum displays a variety of “themed” displays of original memorabilia and relics relating to the: Home Guard, The Battle of Britain, Blitz, Home Front, Royal Air Force, Bomber Command, 8th US Army Air Force, D-Day & Beyond, The Russian Front.

This unique exhibition is brought to life by the sounds and music of the times - visitors will be taken back to the 1940’s and get a taste of life during those turbulent times. Items on display include: Aero Engines, Propellers, Artefacts, Uniforms, Aircraft Parts, Equipment, Local History, Home Front Items, airframes, D-Day memorabilia and much much more!

See artefacts from Hitlers V-Weapons, see relics from the "Doodle Bug" V1 Flying Bomb, see the engine from a V2 which fell to earth in Essex. Enter the "Dora" room - an emotional story from the Holocaust, see images and artwork about those involved in the construction of Hitlers "Terror Weapons".

We look forward to welcoming you to the new and improved Wings Museum.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

School Kids get experience of the "Blitz"

We recently retrieved our World War Two Morrison Shelter from Godstone Village School having been on loan at the school for the past term. As part of their school project the Children were each given a turn to experience what it was like to shelter in the Morrison "Table" Shelter while their teacher played sound effects of the Blitz, it was the quietest they had been all day!! The children were then asked to write about their feelings and what it would have been like to be a child in wartime Britain.

Our Morrison was recently recovered from a local garden were it had spent the past 60 years outside, the shelter was lovingly restored to its former glory. The gentleman who owned the shelter actually used it as a boy himself when he lived in London during the Blitz. The shelter has certainly been put to good use and provides a valuable teaching aid helping the younger generation understand what wartime Britain was like all those years ago.

About the "Morrison" shelter

The Morrison shelter, officially termed Table (Morrison) Indoor Shelter, had a cage-like construction beneath it. It was designed by John Baker and named after Herbert Morrison, the Minister of Home Security at the time. It was the result of the realization that due to the lack of house cellars it was necessary to develop an effective type of indoor shelter. The shelters came in assembly kits, to be bolted together inside the home. They were approximately 6 ft 6 in (2 m) long, 4 ft (1.2 m) wide and 2 ft 6 in (0.75 m) high, had a solid 1/8 in (3 mm) steel plate “table” top, welded wire mesh sides, and a metal lath “mattress”- type floor. Altogether it had 359 parts and had 3 tools supplied with the pack.

One of the first structures to be designed using Baker's theory of plastic structural analysis, it was designed to absorb the impact of debris falling on the top of the shelter. The sides could be removed to permit its being used as a table. 500,000 Morrisons had been distributed by the end of 1941, with a further 100,000 being added in 1943 to prepare the population for the expected German V-1 flying bomb (doodlebug) attacks.

In one examination of 44 severely damaged houses where three people had been killed, 13 seriously injured, and 16 slightly injured out of a total of 136 people who had occupied Morrison shelters, it was found that the fatalities had occurred in a house which had suffered a direct hit. Some of the severely injured were in shelters sited incorrectly within the houses.

The Morrison "Table" Shelter served many functions, for example sometimes it was utilised as a table tennis table and also as a dinning room table which was the most popular use. Because of the bulky and heavy construction very few of these survived the war and many were simply scrapped, we must be thankful that one of these shelters has survived for prosperity and will be on display at the Wings Museum.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

From small acorns...

Ok, those that have followed the Wings Museum will know that we have the remains of 6 x Bell P-63 King Cobras which were recovered from Russia. The aircraft were part of an abandoned squadron having been left were they stood for over 60 years. The aircraft suffered over the years from not only the extreme weather conditions but also at the hands of the local militia. At some point during the cold war the Russians broke many of the aircraft up so that US Spy Satellites did not mistake them for modern air worthy aircraft. Surviving all of this the aircraft were eventually recovered to the UK, the main P-63 King Cobra will be on public display as part of the Wings Museum's "Ghosts of the Tundra" display which will open next March.

This week, work commenced on the restoration of one of the "dog house" sections, this is basically the cockpit cabin which is a separate production assembly. It is hoped this will be put on public display at some point in the future and who knows maybe the rest of the aircraft will follow!

Having obtained a full set of drawings from the US, we have started with the steel tubing which makes up the cockpit canopy. We are using as much of the original as possible and also a lot of material is providing us with a working pattern. This week I completed a template for the tube which goes over the Pilots door. Much of the actual fabrication is being carried out by a friend of the museum, my job is sourcing the parts, patterns and drawings etc. I have received a lot of help from the folks at the Confederate Air Force Museum in America who have a P-63 in their restoration facility. They are able to take measurements from their airframe to assist us with the restoration of our cabin section.

Andy, meanwhile has now completed overhauling the front nose gear with many new nuts, bolts and clevis pins being obtained from the states. The nose gear drive still turns freely after more than 60 years!

This project is on long term restoration but from small acorns the mighty oak grows as they say!

Thanks for reading

Sunday, 22 November 2009

The beginnings of the Wings Museum

The Museum finds its Wings

Ok, so let's kick start the museum blog off by saying a little bit about how the Wings Museum came to be what it is today.

As a child growing up during the 1970's I shared an interest in World War Two aircraft with my older brother (Kevin), Kevin became interested after completing a school project on World War Two. I used to follow my brother around everywhere much to his annoyance!. Every Easter we would visit relatives in Norfolk, our cousins at the time were into flying model aircraft and used the old perimeter tracks of the long since abandoned American 8th Air Force airfields to fly their model aeroplanes. Many a Sunday afternoon was spent walking the old airfields and as a boy of about 5 or 6 years old, something must have lodged firmly in my brain at such a young age. While we walked down the old runways my imagination would run wild imaging those mighty B-17's and B-24's rumbling down the runway of on another mission. As I walked along together with my family, I could hear the song of a Skylark high above the airfield, the sound of a Skylark still to this day reminds of those days. It was while walking along the old perimeter track at Flixton one day that we found something that was unknowingly to us going to be the start of it all. Laying on the edge of a ploughed field our dad spotted a gun site from a .50 cal Browning Machine Gun! My brother and I were naturally excited and it was this single find that inspired us to search around for other relics from the war. As you can imagine during the late 1970's quite a lot of material was still to be found laying around on the surface. It wasn't long before my brother emerged from the undergrowth with an armful of bits and pieces such as shell cases, aircraft access panels, personal effects etc. Having shown me what he had found he soon disappeared again, off to find more, leaving me behind to wonder what he would return with next. I was too young to crawl through the thick hawthorns so I eagerly awaited his return.

Searching of the airfields of the Eighth around East Anglia and Suffolk continued on and off right up until 1993. Believe it or not we still have that gun site today and it can be seen on display in the museum together with a few of the finds from what I call our "airfield days".

No one could have envisaged what that discovery would lead on to in later life, since those early days we have attended and organised various 'aircraft digs' in the UK and Europe, we have traveled to the Battle fields of France, we have traced missing aircraft in Belgium on behalf of the families of the aircrew involved, we have also unveiled 3 memorials in Belgium together with the help of our good friends Luc and Marcel, (a fourth memorial is currently being planned for the near future). We have also rescued numerous airframes from certain scrap and have also been heavily involved in the restoration of these airframes. We have traveled to Russia many times on the hunt for warbirds, and have recovered a total of 22 airframes in various conditions from the former USSR including what is believed to be the World's only surviving Japanese B5N2 Kate air frame, we have been to Norway, Holland and the USA. Our passion for aircraft takes us all around the world and the people and friends we meet along the way are unforgettable. We have held history in our hands as it emerges from the ground after years of laying undiscovered. The buzz one gets from recovering something buried in the ground is as addictive now as it was back then.

Today, I cannot walk along a field or track without having my eyes firmly fixed on the ground! this provides great amusement to my wife who thinks I am totally mad! In fact when I proposed, I even hid the ring in some bushes, then while walking along the river after a romantic meal on Valentines Day, I stopped to poke about in a bush only to come out with the ring catching her completely off guard! I went down on one knee and popped the question, of course she said yes! who wouldn't want a human magpie as a husband!

During our adventures we have always dreamed of opening up a museum to share our 'finds' with the general public. In the early days we would stage one day exhibitions whre ever we could, we often displayed in the Reigate Caves which were an underground ARP Control Centre during World War Two and were also used as public air raid shelters. These proved popular but conditions were not suitable for a permanent display, every time the displays would have to be pulled down at the end of the day and packed away in boxes, this was heart wrenching to say the least. Needless to say we were always on the look out for something more suitable.

The dream finally came true in 2003 with a small aviation museum being established in a run down building at Redhill Aerodrome, which was formally known as 'The old Gas Decontamination Block' Redhill Aerodrome as it is known today was known as 'RAF Redhill" 60 years ago and many squadrons were based there flying Spitfire's, Hurricanes, Mustangs and even Beaufighters. More about this on a later blog.

Since then we have not looked back, like most things it has had it's ups and downs but no one said starting up a museum was going to be easy! Ultimately it has been very rewarding, not in a financial sense for there is no money in running a museum, but our reward is hearing the positive feedback and seeing people take an interest in the past and our discoveries. The Wings Museum is a 'raw' museum that tells the stories of real people and remembers all those that gave so much during those dark troubled times. The museum is run by a group of dedicated volunteers and a special thank you must be said to all those who have assisted and supported the museum over the years.

You can learn more about the Wings Museum here>

Thanks for reading.

Daniel Hunt - Curator Wings Museum UK

Friday, 20 November 2009

A Wings Welcome

Welcome to the Wings Museum blog spot!

My name is Daniel Hunt and I am one of the curators of the Wings Museum. The Wings Museum website is generally updated regularly, but hopefully this blog will allow us to keep you informed on a more regular basis. Please watch this space for further updates on the Wings Museum and its activities.

Thank you for viewing.