Artefact of the Month Archive

Tangmere’s Bells

April, 2014

The summer of 1940 was long, sunny and hot and the pilots of Fighter Command’s No 11 Group were facing the German Luftwaffe’s daily bomber raids. Group sector airfields such as RAF Tangmere were in the thick of the battle, later known as the Battle of Britain. Squadrons were divided into sections, each with its own dispersal hut away from the airfield main buildings. The hut was used by the pilots to relax, catch up on lost sleep, most were exhausted, and to wait for the telephone call instructing them to take-off to meet the next raid – a ‘scramble’.

Squadron aircraft would be parked nearby and when the telephone call to scramble was received, the ground crew, riggers and fitters, also needed to know to enable them to be at the aircraft when the pilot arrived. They had to be there to strap him into the cockpit and start the Spitfire or Hurricane’s Merlin engine. To notify the ground crew, a scramble bell was rung.

Another bell found on RAF Stations is a ceremonial bell called the Station Bell. The Museum is fortunate in having the Station Bell that was at RAF Tangmere throughout the Second World War and up to the airfield’s closure in 1970. Following the closure, the bell engraved ‘Air Ministry 1939’ was amongst many items that quickly disappeared as ‘souvenirs’. However, in 1998 a young Royal Naval Cadet returned it to the Museum having found the bell hidden away in a naval paint store underneath some sacks.


Talks by Tangmere

The Museum is pleased to be able to offer speakers to interested groups or societies on a range of subjects connected with the history of operations at RAF Tangmere and other military aviation subjects.

The presentations are usually given as an audio/visual presentation using the Museum's equipment. Our presentations can be tailored to suit audiences ranging from specialist societies to community based groups and range in length from 40 to 90 minutes depending on the subject matter.

Further details of the full range of presentations and the availability of speakers can be obtained by calling the museum on 01243 790090, by emailing your interest to or by letter marked for the attention of the Director.