At 25,738, the total number of visitors in 2016 was down by 10.0% on the figure for 2015 with the number of paying visitors down by 11.47%. The majority of this shortfall occurred during the 2-month period mid-July to mid- September when, it is thought, the particularly warm mid-summer weather drew punters to outdoor rather than indoor attractions. It is apposite that a similar reduction in attendance appears to have been experience by other essentially indoor museums.
Notable events during the year included, in February, the Museum publishing Lysander Pilot: Secret Operations with 161 Squadron – a book telling the incredible story of James ‘Mac’ McCairns’ who served as a pick-up pilot at RAF Tangmere during the Second World War transporting agents to and from fields in occupied France. The following month, an appraisal by Visit England (the National Tourist Board for England) resulted in the Museum being accredited as a Quality Assured Visitor Attraction – a most welcome qualification. Victoria Wicks, the granddaughter of the famous fiction writer H E Bates visited Museum in the early summer to present her grandfather’s RAF Officer’s tunic. Bates served at RAF Tangmere during the Second World War when under contract by the Air Ministry to write short stories about the Service – albeit he is probably better known to the public as the author of The Darling Buds of May, the celebrated TV series. On Friday 24 June, we were delighted to host to an investiture at which three RAF veterans, including our own dear friend, Joe Roddis, were presented with the Légion d’Honneur by the Honorary French Consul for Brighton and Newhaven, Captain François Jean. In July, we were grateful to receive ownership of Phantom XV408 from the RAF Museum. Finally, we accepted on loan from his family the medals awarded to Dr Courtney Willey, the RAF medical officer, who was awarded the Military Cross for his bravery during the major Luftwaffe raid on RAF Tangmere on 16th August 1940.
On Sunday, 12th June, our annual Classic Wheels Day was marred by the most appalling weather; nevertheless, the owners of 55 cars and military vehicles elected to brave the conditions and these undaunted enthusiasts clearly enjoyed the occasion. Regrettably, attendance at our main themed event, ‘Bader Downed’, on Sunday, 7th August, was acutely disappointing with only some 350 visitors showing an interest.
Finally, may I extend my best wishes to all our readers for 2017 – we open for our new season on 1st February and hope to see you sometime during the year.
Group Captain David Baron OBE