On Saturday 21 July, nearly 70 guests including a dozen children arrived at the Museum for the formal opening of the ‘Tangmere and the SOE’ exhibition. Amongst the guests were two former SOE operatives, Fred Bailey Légion d’honneur, Croix de Guerre was a radio operator with one of the Jedburgh teams in 1944 who later had to be plucked out of the jungle in Burma by a Special Duties Lysander and Stanley David Légion d’honneur, an SOE dispatcher. Many of the other guests were family relatives of the pilots who flew clandestine No 161 Squadron Lysander missions from RAF Tangmere.
Following a speech to officially open the exhibition by James Vaughan-Fowler, Chris McCairns, son of Jimmy ‘Mac’ McCairns, a famous pick-up pilot, was asked to unveil the ‘Popeye’ nose art recently painted on the Museum’s newly acquired full size Lysander replica aircraft. Following the unveiling, the opportunity was taken to recreate the famous photograph taken in 1943 of ‘Mac’ McCairns, Hugh Verity, ‘Pick’ Pickard, Peter Vaughan-Fowler and ‘Bunny’ Rymills standing in front of a Special Duties Lysander at RAF Tangmere. To recreate the original photograph, a member from each of the five families was invited to pose in front of the Museum’s Lysander.
The day concluded with the opening of an exhibition dedicated to Wing Commander Leonard Ratcliff, a famous Special Duties pilot who eventually became Station Commander of RAF Tempsford. Both Rupert and Robin, his sons, made speeches about their father and also presented to the Museum their father’s Irvine jacket he wore when flying special duties missions.
The ‘Tangmere and the SOE’ exhibition is open every day (except 26 August, the Museum’s Family Day) from 11 am until 4 pm. Entry price is included in the Museum’s entry fee.