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Artefact of the Month

OUTSIDE AIR RAID SHELTER OPENED AT THE MUSEUM

Last April, the Museum was informed by a house building company that they had commenced preparatory work near the airfield’s hangars and that an air raid shelter had been exposed– would we like to take a look?

When we went over to the old camp we found that a complete air raid shelter, near the last remaining accommodation ‘H’ block. The shelter was about 70 feet in length with blast walls protecting the entrance. As it had almost certainly been built just before the commencement of the Second World War, it would have been used during the major enemy raid on RAF Tangmere on 16 August 1940 and during the many following raids that took place during the Battle of Britain and the remainder of the war.

What to do? A decision was quickly taken to bring a section of the shelter across to the Museum’s site and reconstruct it with a view to using it to enhance our education programme. Keith Arnold, Head of Maintenance, hired a large mechanical digger and with the help of Ian Adams, our manning officer, started digging out the shelter which was made up of large concrete sections. The sections were brought over to the Museum, reconstructed with a section of the original blast wall at its entrance and then covered over with earth. To add to the realism, sandbags were placed around the entrance and a wooden door built. As the intention is to provide an air raid shelter ‘experience’ for school children visiting the Museum, Pete Pitman, our Education Officer, took on the task to produce sound effects that could be played inside the shelter (air raid siren, aircraft taking off, bombing etc.). During October, an electricity supply was provided and the sound equipment purchased. All was ready for the opening.

In April, the Museum lost a long serving volunteer when Ken Sherry died. Barbara, his wife, decided to donate the money collected at Ken’s funeral to the Museum and kindly agreed to it being used for this the air raid shelter project. Barbara officially opened the shelter dedicated to the memory of Ken on Thursday 6 November. The photographs show Barbara receiving a bouquet of flowers from the Museum’s Curator David Coxon and some of the volunteers who rebuilt and fitted out the shelter.

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