Being a bit of an aviation fan and having time to spare from a job in Chichester I thought I'd pop into Tangmere. Of course, this was one of the great Battle of Britain airfields, ranking with places like Biggin Hill, Kenley, Detling and West Malling. Like all except Biggin Hill, Tangmere has long since shut, the last vestiges of RAF presence ending in 1970 and the last echo of a jet engine from the RAF's High Speed Flight, fading over a decade before.
The museum has brought new life to the site. Housed in buildings that once formed part of the station, it is home to a good range of aircraft, from a reconstruction of the Spitfire prototype to some interesting jets, displayed both indoors and outside.
But it is the history of Tangere, woven from artefacts and photographs and set around the set-piece aircraft, that make this a particularly interesting and engaging museum. The human interest stories abound, telling the story of the Battle of Britain that raged above and around Sussex. A lot of care has gone into making the displays both captivating and interactive. Like many such museums, some exhibits have that naive, almost amateur touch that seems to make them even more winsome. However, the visitor is constantly surprised by the push-buttons that bring life to the exhibits through movement, light and sound. There is enough to keep even the most casual visitor occupied for a couple of hours.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is the number of flight simulators that visitors can experience, none more impressive than to be able to sit in a real Lighting cockpit and pilot it on a sortie along the South Coast.
The entrance fee is rather higher than equivalent museums at Hawkinge, Brenzett and Manston but it really is worth every penny.
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