Campaign Week 6: Wellesbourne Aviation Museum

0
2077
Wellesbourne Wartime Museum volunteers and committee members Ron Horsley, Geoff Devlin, Del Paddock and Joseph O'Rourke pictured alongside one of the exhibits, a former RAF Percival Provost T1 trainer which dates back to the 1950s.

WELLESBOURNE’S vibrant airfield community has long attracted visitors with an interest in aviation, providing a valuable boost to the local economy.

With the revelation that businesses have been told to vacate the site by the end of 2016, the Herald is highlighting the groups and organisations that make the airfield special. This week the focus is onWellesbourne Aviation Museum.

WELLESBOURNE Airfield’s wartime past attracts many visitors to the site each year eager to learn about what life was like at the former bomber base.

The best place to explore that history is at the Wellesbourne Aviation Museum, run by a dedicated team of volunteer local history enthusiasts. Started in 1985, following the merger of two aviation and militaria groups from Stratford and Wellesbourne, the museum is open every Sunday.

It is based in part at the wartime underground battle headquarters at the airfield, a bunker that control tower operatives could retreat to in the event of a German air raid. The bunker originally housed communications equipment and would enable officers to telephone neighbouring airfields, for which Wellesbourne was responsible during the Second World War.

The Wellesbourne Aviation Museum Committee has around 30 members and a handful of volunteers regularly operate the museum. Visitor numbers can range from 10-15 people on a rainy Sunday to 60-70 on a summer’s day. It has been a tough 18 months for the museum committee, with a succession of floods causing damage to the museum and its display cases.

However, underground parts of the museum are currently undergoing a major refurbishment costing around £6,000, which members hope will safeguard it from flooding in the future. Money is also being spent to reinstate the wartime telephone exchange and restore the underground battle headquarters to its wartime state. If all goes to plan the refurbishment will be complete by the end of spring and offer visitors a unique glimpse into Wellesbourne’s wartime years.

The above-ground section of the museum remains open to the public and uniforms, medals, photographs and machine guns used for the defence of the airfield, are among the items visitors are able to learn about.

Derek Paddock, co-founder of the museum and current committee member, said: “I’m really excited about the museum refurbishment, I spend so much of my time down there, it really is my passion. “The Littler family are a very nice family, they own the airfield and it is their right if they want to sell it, they should not be dictated to.

“However, if the airfield was to close it would break my heart. “Moving for us is not really an option. Some of our items are on loan and would be returned and the rest that we do own would have to be auctioned off and the profits given to the charities that we support. It would be very upsetting if we had to dispose of all the items.”

Let us know your views on the plans to sell off the airfield for housing.

Contact us at: news@stratford-herald.com or call 01789 412819.