Wattisham Station Heritage Museum and Aircraft Collection   11/03/2014
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Leaving at 9:00 from Longwater Retail Park, eight members boarded the minibus to Wattisham. Stopping at Chery Lane Garden Centre near the Pulhams we picked up Peter Gibbard. When we arrived at Wattisham Airfield we handed our photo I.D’s over at the Main Gate and had our photos taken for the visitors pass. We were then greeted by our guide who took us to the Wattisham Station Heritage Museum. Just inside the Main Gate we saw a Westland Scout AH1 (XT617) on display.
Inside the museum we were greeted by a second guide. They told us we could have free time to explore the museum on our own rather than being shown around. Starting in a clockwise direction there is a Room of Remembrance with the Stations Standard at the back and an Altar at the front and Honours on the walls along the sides. In the main part of the museum are various sections depicting the RAF during WWII when Blenheims etc were based there. Next followed a display of the USAF with North American P-51 Mustangs and P-38 Lightnings etc. In the far left hand corner there was a display of the early jet years with Meteors, Javelins and Hunters. Also The Black Arrow’s display team had a mention with their black Hunter aircraft from Number 111 Squadron. On the wall was a piece of a Hunter with the crews’ signatures. Down the far end were uniforms and photos showing the rich history of the airbase. Further round were prints of the EE Lightning and other items dating from this period. I took a photo of one of the Lightning prints as I have a card of this which was sent to me at Addenbrooke’s Hospital when I had my kidney transplant. There was also a whole section dedicated to the Mc Donell Douglas F-4 Phantom. This took me back to going to a Tiger Meet at Fairford, the Mildenhall Airshows and when a Phantom came to Norwich Airport and the pilot gave a talk to the Norwich Airport Aviation Group which used to be held there. The next display was The Army Air Corps and had a piece from a Westland Lynx (XZ180), models and some Iraq/Gulf War and Afghanistan War mementos. The RAF No 22 Squadron with their Westland Sea King HAR3A’S had a mention in this section too. These will be a sad loss when they retire, as they have been a regular sight in the East Anglian skies.
Beyond the shop table with items which were for sale, was another room showing the Local History. It had old Airshow programs and a picture of Maurice Hammond’s Mustang “Janie”etc. We then followed our guide in his car around the perimeter passing the old Hardened Aircraft Shelters which used to house the Phantoms and now used for storage. We also saw some Westland Apaches AH1’s from the Army Air Corps and Gliders from the Anglian Gliding Club. Also there was a Westland Gazelle AH1 (ZA729) tucked away in the grass and rotting away, and a red and white Pitts S-1C Special (G-FCUK) owned by H. C. Luck parked near to the Gliders and Tug. Inside the Quick Reaction Alert Hardened Aircraft Shelter there was a collection of various aircraft also owned by the museum. These were a fully restored Mc Donell Douglas F-4M Phantom FGR2 (XT914) with 56 Sqn marking near the cockpit and 74 Sqn tail markings, which we could climb up to and have a look at the cockpit, a Hawker Hunter FGA9 (XG194), which again we could have a look in the cockpit, in Number 111 Sqn markings and Black Arrow colours and a forward fuselage section from an English Electric Lightning F3 (XP743) in Number 56 Sqn markings. Also in here were engines, a propeller blade from a Hercules and a part from a Gazelle. In the old Crew Room there was an East German red Trabant 601 Kubel car with no doors and a folding roof. Presumably work is under way to bring it into working condition and this is very rare type of car. Later we were taken for a coffee break at the aptly named café called the “Longbow Café” named after the Westland Apache with its mushroom shaped radar called “Longbow”. Later after leaving the café several of us watched a Westland Sea King (ZH543) using its hoist. Also we had a word with an Apache Display Pilot to ask if he was able to give a talk at the Club at some future date. After thanking our guides for a tremendous day out we got back into the minibus and headed for Cherry Lane Garden Centre to have our dinner and then dropped Peter off before going back to Norwich. Thank you to our guides and both our mini bus drivers.
Andrew Elphick
Click this Link for more information! Wattisham Station Heritage