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Artefact of the Month

THE SAGA OF JIM SHEDDAN’S BIKE

Flight Sergeant Jim Sheddan was a Hawker Typhoon pilot with No 486 RNZAF Squadron at RAF Tangmere in 1943. In his book ‘Tempest Pilot’ (Grub Street, 1993) he describes Tangmere as being a large airfield with its squadrons widely dispersed. This, of course, added to the transport difficulties for pilots on standby or on readiness. It was possible to draw a bicycle from the equipment store but unfortunately, this mode of transport had an irresistible attraction for ground crews. Sheddan announced his intention to draw a bicycle but the news was not received with any degree of enthusiasm by his fellow Kiwis.

Sergeant ‘Spud’ Murphy, who seemed to have taken a special interest in his welfare, said, “Don’t waste your time, Jim, the Erks will use it more than you will and will not be long until all you have to show for your efforts will be one bicycle listed on your clothing card – you can take my word for it, bicycles are costly items!” Sheddan ignored this valuable advice because he had a scheme up his sleeve! His first call was the paint shop where he and the ‘chiefy’ dreamt up a fool proof colour scheme which would leave Tangmere no doubt as to whose bicycle it was, no matter where it went. It was painted with a pink frame, red wheels, purple handlebars and blue and white spokes! Within 24 hours it had gone! How the bicycle was smuggled off the station, Sheddan never knew – he believed it had been stripped down and repainted to quickly blend in with all the other station bicycles. He had to accept his ‘fool proof’ scheme had failed and Murphy (after the war, Hawker’s chief production test pilot) had been right!

WARTIME BICYCLES RECENTLY REFURBISHED BY MUSEUM ENGINEER MELVYN WILLIAMS ARE DISPLAYED IN THE MUSEUM’S MERSTON HALL ON A RACK PURPOSE BUILT BY ENGINEERS BOB GOODRICK AND SIMON FIELDER

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