I am pleased to report that the number of visitors in 2015 exceeded that for 2014 with a total of 28,601 souls passing through our doors. Whilst this represents a somewhat modest increase of 2.1% on the previous year, the number of paying visitors was up by a rather more substantial 4.7%
New attractions during the year included a major Douglas Bader exhibition and an interactive display enabling visitors to navigate around the Lightning F53 cockpit, much the same as with the facility already established for the Canberra. The exhibit featuring Denis Noble’s Hurricane was significantly upgraded and, following several years of work, the Museum’s D-4 Link trainer was deemed ready for use by visitors with flying experience. Short films on the 3 Royal Flying Corps pilots awarded the Victoria Cross during the First World War (Albert Ball, James McCudden and Edward ‘Mick’ Mannock) and a fourth on Germany’s Red Baron, Manfred von Richthofen, were produced in-house for viewing in the Astra cinema. A travelling exhibition marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of SOE wireless operator Noor Inayat Khan was officially opened at the Museum in June – an apt venue given that Noor was flown to France from RAF Tangmere to begin the dangerous occupation which subsequently led to her capture and execution. In July, notification was received that our application to the Arts Council for Full Re-Accreditation had been successful.
On Sunday 14th June, the Museum hosted another successful Classic Wheels day with 800 visitors enjoying an impressive array of almost 120 classic cars and military vehicles covering many decades of motoring. This was followed on Sunday, 16th August when, 75 years to the day after the Luftwaffe’s heaviest air raid on RAF Tangmere during the Battle of Britain, we welcomed over a thousand visitors to ‘Tangmere under Attack!’ – our main event. The occasion included a wide range of special features including an audio representation of the air raid, associated talks to packed houses and Spitfire flying display. We were delighted to be joined for the day by a number of VIP guests, including The Lord Lieutenant of West Sussex, Mrs Susan Pyper, Air Marshal Sir Dusty Miller, the Museum’s Honorary President, Wing Commander Paul Farnes DFM who flew Hurricanes during the Battle of Britain, Joe Roddis, an engine fitter on Spitfires in the same era, and several other Second World War aircrew veterans. In September, the Museum combined with the local Chichester Cinema at New Park to mount a week’s series of talks and films on the Battle of Britain. Given the success of this venture, we look forward to more cooperation between our two institutions in the future.
Finally, may I extend good wishes to all for a Happy New Year – roll on our new season which opens on 1st February 2016.
Group Captain David Baron OBE