Exhibition Final Report
The Museum’s summer exhibition, ‘Tangmere and the SOE’, was officially opened on the 21 July by James Vaughan-Fowler, the son of Peter, the famous Special Duties pick-up pilot. Some 60 relatives of other pick-up pilots also attended with special guests; Stanley David, an SOE dispatcher and Fred Bailey, an SOE wireless operator with the one of the 1944 Jedburgh teams, who later served in Burma and had to be evacuated by a Lysander from a jungle strip. Rupert and Robin, the sons of Wing Commander Leonard Ratcliff, a No 161 Squadron Special Duties pilot, whom in 1944 commanded the Lysander flight at Tangmere, presented to the Museum their father’s Irvine flying jacket he wore whilst on SD operations. A week after the exhibition opened the Museum and Chichester Cinema at New Park held a joint event in which the famous film ‘Carve her Name With Pride’ about the wartime life of Violette Szabo was screened. Prior to the showing of the film two talks were given to a packed audience, one by Tania Szabo about her mother and the other by the Museum’s Director Dudley Hooley on the No 161 Squadron pick-up pilots.
The exhibition closed on Sunday 2 September. During the six weeks of opening it had been well attended and received, many of its 2,000 visitors deciding to see the exhibition after viewing our recently acquired full sized Westland Special Duties Lysander aircraft, displayed in the Museum’s Merston Hall. Also well received was the exhibition’s programme of talks and demonstrations which commenced on 2 August with Martyn Bell, a good friend of the Museum and the current Mayor of Chichester, giving a very interesting and informative talk on Jean Moulin, de Gaulle’s representative within the French Resistance. On the 9 August (repeated on the last day of the exhibition), the Museum’s Pete Pitman provided his audience with his excellent talk on ‘Tangmere and the SOE’. Further exhibition talks included Dudley Hooley on ‘Jimmy ‘Mac’ McCairns’ and ‘Noor Inayat Khan’, Rosemary Coxon on ‘Operation Anthropoid’ and Dr Andrew Smith of Chichester University on ‘Resistance and the Free French’. Many of the talks attracted a ‘full-house’. The Museum is particularly grateful to visiting speakers Martyn and Andrew who gave up their time to support the exhibition.
On the first two weekends of the exhibition espionage equipment used by the SOE was demonstrated by a local Living History Group called the ‘Baker Street Boys’, dressed as members of the French Resistance. They showed our visitors the ingenious and deadly devices used by the SOE to carry out Churchill’s famous order to “Set Europe Ablaze”. On Sunday 5 August four ‘trainee agents’ and one ‘conducting officer’ from the recent BBC documentary series ’Secret Agent: WW2’ visited the Museum and answered questions on how during the filming they had managed the training undertaken by the real SOE agents in the Second World War. Fred Bailey again attended and answered questions from the public on being a member of the SOE.
In conclusion, a well-attended and successful exhibition with an excellent programme of talks and demonstrations that provided more information to our visitors on the important role RAF Tangmere and the SOE played in the Second World War.
Photos: Brian Blackman, John Chivers & Pete Pitman