Former RAF base brought to life as heritage centre opens
- Credit: Ian Brown
After a successful fundraising campaign and months of work, a new hands-on heritage centre will tell the stories of RAF Sculthorpe.
The centre opens on Sunday, August 11, with a flypast by a Douglas C-47 'Dakota' of the sort that flew from the airfield during the '50s. Military all-terrain vehicles and a vintage 1985 RAF fire engine will also attend.
Curator Ian Brown said: "I'm chuffed with it all. The RAF have done me a massive favour fitting in the flypast, so thanks to them, and to the generous donors."
In February, the EDP reported on Mr Brown's fundraiser to put the centre together. He said: "Since then things have snowballed, and really taken off, pun not intended. I announced I was doing this online one or two years ago, and since then 2,500 people have shown their interest. Next weekend a couple are coming from California to donate their father's gear from Sculthorpe."
Mr Brown assembled the heritage centre in his spare time. He said: "I really wanted it to be hands-on and great for kids. We've got books, uniforms, thousands of photos and helmets of British and Soviet airmen. Everything in the museum can be touched, except for the fragile models."
The centrepiece of the exhibition is the engine from a RB-66 which took off from the airfield on July 3 1958. Control of the aircraft was lost when the three pilots ejected over Sculthorpe, leaving the plane to circle Norwich twice on auto-pilot before crashing near Saxlingham.
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The remnant of the plane is the only known surviving RB-66 engine in the UK. Mr Brown transported the wrecked engine from near Ipswich.
While he raised £670 online, major contributions were also made by people who worked at the base.
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Ed White and Don Brown both worked at the base during the 1950s. Part of the 84th and 85th Bomb squadrons respectively, both met future wives there, and Mr Brown is still married to his 60 years on.
Both made contributions to the museum, and Mr White told Ian Brown what a great posting Sculthorpe was.
The base closed 27 years ago and is now used as a training ground.
"Not many people, even locals, know the history of this place," said Mr Brown. "That's why I've done what I've done, to tell that story."
The centre will open free of charge, with opening dates to be announced.