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Flixton Aircraft Museum - John Bilcliffe

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Memorial Library, Norwich - photo by John Bilcliffe
Memorial Library, Norwich. - photo by John Bilcliffe

The Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum

Out house hunting in the Norfolk and Suffolk area a couple of months back proved more interesting in more ways than one. This interest stems from a chance sighting of what apparently looked like a lone Gloster Javelin FAW9R, XH892 ex of 23 Sqn parked up in what seemed liked the car park of the,”The Buck”, public house.

Taking a closer look around the site more aircraft can soon be found and my first thoughts are along the lines of a coffee shop to hold my wife's interest while I indulge in what she sees as anorak territory. My luck was in as not only was there a brilliant coffee shop selling home made cakes to go with the treasured cappuccino at very reasonable prices, there was also a table top sale going on inside the very same hangar that housed both these attractions.

Vickers Valetta - photo by John Bilcliffe
Vickers Valetta
Photo - John Bilcliffe

There is a good variety of airframes from the only Vickers Valetta C2 in existence to the rotary wing variety such as the Westland Whirlwind HAR 10. Apart from these outside attractions there are two main hangars that house some interesting items which include to name but only a handful are English Electric lightning DB/F1 XG 329 which has the proud boast of making its first flight in April 1959 with the famous test pilot of the lightning programme Roly Beaumont at the controls. On the 4th of August 1954 Wing Commander “Bee” Beaumont took the first lightning P.1A WG 760 for its maiden flight from Boscombe Down near Salisbury, for me there seems no better aircraft than the Lightning to have stolen or sparked off the imagination of many an enthusiast or pilot. Only once did I have the pleasure of seeing lightning make a zoom climb in the mid 60s at RAF Acklington during a Battle of Britain display and the memory is just as vivid.


Sculpture by P. Richardson - photo by John Bilcliffe
Sculpture by P. Richardson
photo by John Bilcliffe


ROC Cold War map    - photo by John Bilcliffe
ROC Cold War map
photo by John Bilcliffe


Another exhibit that I have only ever seen in photograph format was of the Short Sherpa, although only the fuselage was visible with a small model resting on top it never the less was good to see a by product from our once busier times as plane makers that once led the world. This unique aircraft was specially made in 1951 as a one third scale flying model by Shorts in a bid to design and build a bomber from the specification B.35/46 the same spec. that gave birth to the Vulcan and Victor. Primarily built to test a new shape wing the aircrafts life began as a glider but proved unsuccessful during tests losing control in the towing aircrafts slipstream and crash landing. A new design of the type was fitted with a pair of Turbomeca Palas Turbojets and given the name Sherpa and designated SB 4 bearing B registratation G 14 1, making its first flight from Aldergrove in October 1953 it flew trials up until 1954 but was not successful with its wing design.

Lightning    - photo by John Bilcliffe
Lightning
photo by John Bilcliffe

Other attractions on the site outside the hangars include a memorial to the 446th bomber group, 20th Combat Wing, 2nd Air Division part of the US Eighth Air Force who served at Flixton, Bungay from 1943 to 1945 flying B 24 liberators.

A more in depth research can be made about all the American activities in and around Norfolk during world war two in the newly built memorial library in Norwich adjacent to the town library. Housing some 4000 books covering all aspects of American life fifty percent of the books has an aviation theme, so worth a visit if your round that way anytime.

A few steps away and a leap in direction in theme and time best describes the room dedicated to the Royal Observer Corps No 6 Group museum. Although the corps was formed around 1943, the museum displays a lot of artefacts dealing with the cold war period with displays showing methods of learning the finer art of aircraft recognition to the more eerier example of an underground bunker showing the layout and its equipment .I managed to photograph a section map displaying ROC posts who were to communicate with each other in the event of a nuclear attack and it looks like rabbit burrow heaven at first glimpse.

Short Sherpa fuselage - photo by John Bilcliffe
Short Sherpa fuselage
photo by John Bilcliffe
               Westland Whirlwind HAR 10
 - photo by John Bilcliffe
Westland Whirlwind HAR 10
photo by John Bilcliffe

Changing direction again there is a well stocked shop on site with all things aviation memorabilia on sale and as the museum is free on entry, you'll always have a couple of quid for something even if its to purchase the official guide as the info is worth it. As with all museums of this nature it came from very humble beginnings with a core group of just six enthusiasts in 1972 mooting the possibilities of its chances and holding its first meeting in that same year 25 people turned up at the,”Fleece” public house. Now bearing some 300 hundred names on its books with Wing Commander K H Wallis as its president and yes it's the same Wg /Cdr Wallis whose little autogyros were used in the James Bond films the museum has gained a reputation as a source for researchers due to its extensive and varied collection of exhibits and artefacts.

Gloster Javelin FAW9R
 - photo by John Bilcliffe
Gloster Javelin FAW9R
photo by John Bilcliffe
               Super Sabre - photo by John Bilcliffe
Super Sabre
photo by John Bilcliffe

More details about the organisation can be found on the website http://www.aviationmuseum.net/ as this is a large site there are too many exhibits to mention in this article but can only reiterate that if you're in the locality give it a try its free so what can you loose.

446 Group Memorial - photo by John Bilcliffe
446 Group Memorial
photo by John Bilcliffe
               ROC training equipment - photo by John Bilcliffe
ROC training equipment
photo by John Bilcliffe

Ejection seats - photo by John Bilcliffe
Ejection seats
photo by John Bilcliffe
               Homage to Concorde - photo by John Bilcliffe
Homage to Concorde
photo by John Bilcliffe

Models - photo by John Bilcliffe
Models
photo by John Bilcliffe
                    Bloodhound Missile - photo by John Bilcliffe
Bloodhound Missile
photo by John Bilcliffe

Models - photo by John Bilcliffe
Museum
photo by John Bilcliffe
                    Bloodhound Missile - photo by John Bilcliffe
Museum
photo by John Bilcliffe

                              Article and photos by John Bilcliffe