This has been another year of considerable progress for the Museum. Our first major event was an Open Day, held on 11th March, which attracted some 1600 visitors – a figure well beyond expectations and far in excess of any previous single day’s attendance. Shortly thereafter, in April, a new management structure for the Museum was introduced in recognition of our growth and expansion of activities; comprising a Director and three principal officers – Curator, Head of Maintenance and Marketing Manager – this team is now responsible for managing our complete day-to-day operation in accord with the policies and budgetary measures determined by the Trust Council. The regime has developed steadily during the year and all the signs are that it is providing a much improved and flexible modus operandi.
It was with profound shock and sadness that we learned of the death of our Honorary President, Neville Duke, on 7th April. A substantial number of volunteers were present at his funeral at St Andrews Church, Tangmere, on 1st May and at the reception that followed at the Museum. Later on in the year, on 11th October, several of us attended a Service of Thanksgiving for his life at the RAF Church of St Clement Danes in London. Our main ‘Open Weekend’ during the year was founded on a celebration of the Museum’s Silver Jubilee and held on Saturday, 16th and Sunday, 17th June. Despite the poor weather, some 1100 members of the public attended to see a wide range of exhibits and witness an outstanding flying display featuring both P40 Kittyhawk and P51 Mustang. We were pleased to welcome Lord and Lady Tebbit amongst our celebrated guests on the Sunday, a day which also saw the formal opening of our new education and briefing facility, the Neville Duke Hall, by Neville’s fellow test pilot colleague and friend, Duncan Simpson.
Another major event in 2007 was the very successful art exhibition held throughout the month of August, when over 500 visitors viewed a display of some 50 original aircraft paintings. We were indebted to renowned wildlife and aviation artist, David Shepherd, for opening this exhibition. And there was more during the year – including new and improved exhibits, the re-vamped Museum website and a further development of our educational activities.
Twelve months ago, I reported a 16% increase in visitor numbers over the previous year. Some would say this was a hard act to follow but, as already mentioned, progress has accelerated with the 30,000 barrier being breached in October 2007 for the first time in our history. Our 2007 year end total of just over 31550 visitors represents an increase of almost 17% over 2006.
Finally, towards the end of October we were delighted to announce Duncan Simpson’s acceptance of our invitation to succeed Neville Duke as Honorary President.
Group Captain David Baron OBE.