News and Features

Visitor Information

Opening Hours
(Winter Opening Times - Closed 24th Dec - 2nd Jan incl.)

Free Car and Coach Parking
Disabled Access
Merlin Café open daily

The Spitfire & Hurricane Memorial Museum
The Airfield
Manston Road
Ramsgate
Kent CT12 5DF
[Get Directions]

Tel: 01843 821940
Email: enquiries@spitfiremuseum.org.uk

  1. Spitfire TB752’s Last Aerial Victory

    2nd of May 1944

    Flying Officer Fred Town, RCAF (aka Orillo Kid) in TB752 separated from his squadron after strafing an airfield and flying at low level to avoid flak met and shot down, with what was left of his ammunition, a Heinkel He111 bomber, the last enemy aircraft to be destroyed in WWII. The action is depicted in the painting “The Final Victory” by Michael Turner, hanging in the Spitfire Hall at RAF Manston Spitfire & Hurricane Memorial Museum.

  2. “This Day in History…”

    Today, the 18th of March 2015, is the 70th Anniversary of TB752’s first operational flight!!!

    PO Dick Edwards was the first pilot to take TB752 on her first operational flight on a bombing raid over the goods yards of Rotterdam, Holland, on the 18 March 1945.

    Dick Edwards Sgnt Pilot                                            PO Dick Edwards 2

    Photos of PO Dick Edwards as a Sergeant Pilot and on his last visit to TB752 1n September 2008. Sadly Dick, the only living pilot of TB 752,  died in December 2013.

  3. Firkin Magazine

    by Natalie Düwel-Bou Orm

    The Spitfire and Hurricane Memorial Museum is lucky enough to have in its possession an extremely rare, handmade magazine entitled: ‘Firkin 2.’ This was donated by Mrs R. Sayers from Meopham. The publication belonged to her late uncle: Corporal Edward Leech RAF who served in 8011 AMES Unit in North Africa from 1943-1944. This item is on display in the Hurricane Hall.

    8011 AMES (Air Ministry Experimental Station) was a top-secret mobile radar unit which provided support to the allied air forces. Radar equipment, such as telescopic masts, was mounted on four-wheel trailers towed by operation vehicles. Transmitters and receivers were housed inside trucks which also acted as operations rooms. 8011 was formed at Renscombe Down, UK, in November 1942. It then moved to Algeria and then on to Cap Serrat, on the Northern Tunisian coast in 1943.

    The North African Campaign took place from June 1940 until May 1943 and incorporated the BNAF (British North African Forces). The Eighth Army formed back in September 1941 from the Western Desert Force, and consisted of British, Commonwealth, Free-French and Polish troops. Their task was to drive back the Axis forces across the North African desert. The Eighth Army, after success at El-Alamein, Egypt, withdrew into north-eastern Tunisia. Here the allies prepared themselves for their final offensive. Cap Serrat, a French Colony since the Nineteenth Century, became a hard fought-over battlefield during the spring of 1943 but by the 31st of March, thanks to Montgomery’s Operation Supercharge II, British troops occupied Cap Serrat. By May 1943, the war ended for Tunisia with the defeat of the Axis Powers here. As a point of interest, there was also a remote SOE (Special Operations Executive) base camp at Cap Serrat.

    Here we have the eye-catching front page of Firkin 2 and its introduction in the form of a rhyme. It encourages the Unit not to worry and to ‘let yourself go’ as it is Christmastide.

    Here we have the eye-catching front page of Firkin 2 and its introduction in the form of a rhyme. It encourages the Unit not to worry and to ‘let yourself go’ as it is Christmastide.

    Here we have the eye-catching front page of Firkin 2 and its introduction in the form of a rhyme. It encourages the Unit not to worry and to ‘let yourself go’ as it is Christmastide.

    Firkin 2, (For King and Country) the Christmas 1943 edition, was composed at Camp Ikein in Cap Serrat and consists of a 36 page publication. It seems that most personnel were willing to contribute to this entertaining read which is why this edition is so large! Albert ‘Jimmy’ James provided the brightly-coloured illustrations and the magazine appears to have been hand-written by the editor: S. O. Bavester. This important historical document provides us with a rare glimpse into social humour from the period. It gives us insight but also reflects the thoughts and feelings of an AMES unit, far from home and far from loved ones.

    From anecdotes to odes to hilarious skits, the Firkin offered something for all. The predominance of humorous articles perhaps was a way of allowing 8011 AMES to forget, for a brief moment, the turmoil and devastation caused by war. Below is a page dedicated to Basil the Ox! Basil was presented to the camp by a French farmer. This poor old beast was cosseted, well-fed and probably loved – a definitive morale booster! However, Basil’s fate was soon sealed: he was to be ‘Le Jour de Noël’ dinner!

    The fate of poor old Basil the Ox!

    The fate of poor old Basil the Ox!

    John Dickerson, for sheer lunacy the reader is advised, presented his ‘shaggy dog tale’:

    “There is the story of a man who noticed another in a café, eating unconcernedly – with a stick of celery in his ear!!! Next day the man was there again, the next and the next. On the fifth day…the celery was replaced by a leaf of lettuce. By this time the first ‘hombre’ was fairly bursting with curiosity, so he went over and asked just why the second sat with a lettuce leaf in his ear. “Cheeredly”, the man looked up and replied, “Because they’ve run out of celery.”

    Shaggy Dog Tales by J. Dickerson!

    Shaggy Dog Tales by J. Dickerson!

    We may deduce that ‘Battles of North Africa’ would be a serious historical addition to the magazine; however, here we find the title referring to stories about important football matches played at the camp and the delicate subject of refereeing is tackled! A crossword puzzle was also included. The prize, for the first all-correct solution, would be issued by the NAAFI (Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes) canteen. What is interesting is the message written to interested parties. They should sketch out their own copies in order to allow for ‘Firkin 2’ to be passed on to other readers.

    Here we have evidence of how free time was spent at Camp Ikein.

    Here we have evidence of how free time was spent at Camp Ikein.

    Here we have evidence of how free time was spent at Camp Ikein.

    However, such articles did not appeal to everyone. The magazine cleverly achieved balance by providing serious features which conveyed a more sentimental message. Quotes by Omar Khayyám, the famous Persian Poet who died in 1131, were included:

    “Ah Love! Could thou and I with Fate conspire
    To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,
    Would not we shatter it to bits – and then
    Re-mould it nearer to the Heart’s Desire!”

    Corris Locke contributed a beautifully crafted poem entitled: ‘My Son’.

    “…At early morn, before the sun has risen

    He opens his eyes and struggles to his feet.

    Those eyes, like pools of crystal water, flashing

    And dancing with the joy of a spring dawn.”

    My Son by C. Locke.

    My Son by C. Locke.

    The final page of the magazine includes a saucy illustration for the boys, complete with the message:

    “Fellow Doofers,

    Have you enjoyed this second issue of the Firkin?

    If so, kindly show your appreciation by contributing to our next publication – provisional date February 29th, Leap Year Day, 1944.”

    In conclusion…a plea for articles for the next edition.

    In conclusion…a plea for articles for the next edition.

  4. 222 Squadron Scoreboard

    by Natalie Düwel-Bou Orm

    222 Squadron Scoreboard

    222 Squadron Scoreboard

    The story attached to this artefact, as reported to Tony Sturgess, explains that this historic scoreboard started life as part of a wing from a Messerschmitt Bf 109 which was shot down by Flying Officer MacMullen; 222 Squadron, on the 15th of October 1940. This piece of wreckage from RAF Manston, was apparently thrown out!

    According to the story, chaps from 222 Squadron were here collecting supplies and as they were leaving, spotted the aforementioned piece of wreckage and thought that it would make a fitting souvenir. However, it mysteriously disappeared, so the determined bunch was forced to track it down. Meanwhile, another squadron had taken it and stored it somewhere safe. Yet, the determined 222 boys discovered it again and took it home where it was then converted into a Squadron Scoreboard! As 222 Squadron was based at Manston during July 1941, the Squadron Association felt that the scoreboard should be returned to Manston and kindly donated it to the museum back in January 1997.

    Here we can see it displaying 112 confirmed enemy kills, 46 probable kills and 2 V-1 Flying Bombs. 222 Squadron was involved in numerous famous offensives including the Battle of the Channel. Squadron Battle Honours were achieved through participation in Dunkirk, The Battle of Britain, Dieppe and D-Day operations. The squadron badge, as painted on the scoreboard, features a wildebeest, symbol of speed, and the squadron motto in Zulu: Pambili Bo means Go Straight Ahead!

    Below is a picture of Pilot Officer Coulombe adding to the victory board in Norfolk during the winter of 1940.

    Pilot Officer Coulombe adding to the victory board in Norfolk during the winter of 1940.

    Pilot Officer Coulombe adding to the victory board in Norfolk during the winter of 1940.

    flyingforyourlife.com

    This photograph depicts 222’s squadron incomplete scoreboard which dates from1943.

    222’s squadron incomplete scoreboard which dates from1943.

    222’s squadron incomplete scoreboard which dates from1943.

    222 Squadron formed back in April 1918. Equipped with Sopwith Camels, it performed duties in the Aegean region whilst also flying anti-submarine patrols across the English Channel. After being disbanded in 1919, it was reformed in 1939 at Duxford as a Day Fighter Unit, first flying Blenheim Mk. IFs and then Spitfires from March 1940-1944. Interestingly, 222s Spitfires, when off duty, were used in the making of the film ‘Dangerous Moonlight’ in 1941. This film was considered a real morale booster!

    South Africa, an active Commonwealth Country, was involved with raising money in order to build Spitfires. Natal, one of its provinces, raised more than £250,000, providing the opportunity to maintain 222 as an operational squadron. 222 Squadron converted to Hawker Tempests in 1944 and Gloster Meteors were introduced with the arrival of the Cold War and flown until 1954. The Squadron was then equipped with Hawker Hunters until 1957. From May 1960 it operated as a Bristol Bloodhound Missile I Unit at RAF Woodhall Spa. The squadron was disbanded in June 1964.

    Ballad of Treble Two by L.A.C Nobby Clarke – Died 1994

    In the summer of nineteen forty
    When England was at war,
    We were saved by our fighter planes
    When the Huns were at the door.

    The Hurricanes and the Spitfires
    Our pilots best of all
    Would jump in the aircraft
    When they heard the scramble call.

    They would fly up to the heavens
    And wait there for the Hun,
    And Tally-Ho was the battle cry
    As they flew out of the sun.

    You heard the roar of the engines
    And saw the white trails in the sky,
    Heard the chatter of machine guns
    Some would live and some would die.

    When you saw the enemy shot down
    The guns had taken toll,
    And the pilots of the spitfire
    Would do his victory roll.

    When I was just an armourer’s mate
    Dressed in Air Force blue,
    We were stationed down in Hornchurch
    With our squadron – Treble Two.

    We lost some of our pilots
    Some we missed a lot,
    But the one that I missed most of all
    Was Sergeant Earnest Scott.

  5. Hidden Letter

    by Natalie Düwel-Bou Orm

    Here we have an unused box of ‘Wild Woodbine Cigarettes,’ produced by W.D and H.O Wills; Bristol and London.  The box contains pristine packets of cigarettes, as fresh as when they were produced during World War Two. However, the real gem lies in a tiny piece of paper sandwiched between two cigarette packets.

    How we discovered the hidden letter in the box of cigarettes

    How we discovered the hidden letter in the box of cigarettes

    The letter, still in situ, was cordially addressed to ‘My friend’ and continues…

    We were very pleased to have a letter from you; no doubt you think I have quite forgotten you, but I think of you every day and trust when you go to France you will have good luck and a safe return.

    There seems to be terrible fighting out there.  Pleased to tell you that we are all in good health. I hope this will find you the same.

    From your true friend, 

    D (?) Brown

    This poignant letter immediately raises concerns. Did the dear friend ever see the letter? Was the sender ever able to reconnect with his/her friend? Why weren’t the cigarettes ever smoked? Were they a sentimental keepsake or a love lost? There are endless scenarios; however, I somehow feel that there may have been a sad ending to this story.

    The box of cigarettes and the hidden letter

    The box of cigarettes and the hidden letter

    The hidden letter revealed

    The hidden letter revealed

    The second page of the hidden letter

    The second page of the hidden letter

    One of the tiny unused packs of ‘Wild Woodbine’ Cigarettes, dating from WWII

    One of the tiny unused packs of ‘Wild Woodbine’ Cigarettes, dating from WWII

     

     

     

  6. World War 2 Cigarette Cases

    by Natalie Düwel-Bou Orm

    Cigarettes were used as staple currency in POW camps during World War Two. They could be exchanged in order to buy food, other essential commodities and were even used to settle debts. Even non-smokers accepted cigarettes owing to their trade value.

    The comforts material goods provided came largely through the issue of Red Cross parcels. These provided foodstuffs including tinned goods, chocolate and also cigarettes.

    Cigarette Case

    Cigarette Case

    POWs had time on their hands when not completing forced agricultural or industrial labour duties. Therefore, they began to produce items such as cigarette cases in their free time. The case would be fashioned from aluminium obtained from, for example, food cans or from the fuselage of aeroplanes. Decoration was added using broken drill-bits, saws and old toothbrushes to produce effective designs often made from simple punch-holes.

    There are a number of beautifully designed cigarette cases displayed in the Hurricane Hall. One example, as photographed, was crafted by a German POW in North Africa. Can you spot the palm trees? This was kindly donated by Mr. D. Holmes from Gravesend.

    The other example pictured here was made from a bully-beef tin and was produced using only a hammer and nail! The donor: Patricia Philip’s father purchased it from an Italian POW when he was stationed in Shetland in 1943. Ms. Philip from Surrey added that, “I had been sentimental about it for all these years…but I should get more pleasure by giving it to the museum to display.”

    Of course, these functional yet decorative cases were often considered as souvenirs and treasured possessions. They could easily be transported home when the war ended and were often given to loved ones.

    Cigarette case crafted by a German prisoner of war in North Africa

    Cigarette case crafted by a German prisoner of war in North Africa

    Cigarette case crafted by a German prisoner of war in North Africa

    Cigarette case crafted by a German prisoner of war in North Africa

    Cigarette case crafted by a German prisoner of war in North Africa

    Cigarette case crafted by a German prisoner of war in North Africa

     

     

     

  7. Escape Items

    by Natalie Düwel-Bou Orm

    Who would have thought that a simple comb dating from World War Two could accommodate such an important escape item; a compass! ‘Swinger’ compasses could be inserted into many small everyday objects and were often moulded into plastic combs, which needed to be broken in order to extract such escape devices. The compass comprised of two small magnetised strips of steel with tiny holes, filled with luminous paint. In order for the compass to work, you would need to tie it to a piece of string and then allow it to float in water in order to get your bearings. But this wasn’t the only type of compass allied forces could utilize.

    RAF tunic buttons used on clothing could also conceal small escape ‘pill box’ compasses. The buttons were produced by the famous ‘Firmin of London’ Company. The top of the button was unscrewed to reveal the compass. In the later stages of the war, a new version had to be created with a reverse thread screw as the Germans had detected such compasses in earlier models. This type of compass was also found hidden inside shaving brushes and lighters. When you are next looking around the museum, see if you can find the Polish Air Force button complete with its internal compass!

    Another type of button compass known as the ‘Weskit’ consisted of a black (RAF) or reddish-brown (Army) Bakelite button modelled after a uniform fastener. A small magnetised steel bar was embedded inside the device. The three dots were placed on the back surface of the button so that they were not seen. The single dot pointed towards Magnetic North. To use the button, it had to be suspended from thread and allowed to come to a stop in order to obtain an accurate reading.

    The trouser fly button compass was in use before zips. This type required two discs which when balanced carefully on top of each other, on a level surface, depicted Magnetic North through the position of the two dots.

    Compasses were an essential piece of kit when planning and carrying out an escape but other items were also vital. The museum is lucky enough to have in its collection a flip-top torch designed to look like a cigarette lighter. This was probably used for escape purposes by aircrew. This item was kindly donated by Mr. J. Sherwell of RAF Manston.

    Also a very important item to have about your person was currency and during World War Two, Allied Military Currency, ‘AMC’, was a type of currency issued by the Allied Powers to troops entering newly occupied countries. This was declared as legal tender. Here we have French and Italian currency issued to airman serving in the desert air force. This was kindly presented by Mr. C.T. Mumford of Folkestone.

    Silk and cloth escape and evasion maps were issued to all aircrew on operational duties. Some examples were found sewn into the lining of wallets and inside uniforms including sewn into the lining of the collar. These maps were used by many servicemen of all nationalities to escape from behind enemy lines. These fabric documents when used made no noise, which was essential when in hiding, and did not disintegrate when in contact with water. Permanent ink was used. Interestingly, they could be folded up small enough to fit into a cigarette packet!

    It is widely believed that cloth maps, compasses and foreign currency were sometimes hidden inside games including Monopoly and sent through the allied charitable organizations to prisoner of war camps. Maps were even hidden between the 2 sides of a playing card! The Red Cross, however, was not involved in this unique operation, in case the items were discovered and parcels to POWs stopped.

    So as you can see, if it wasn’t for these ingenious ways of concealing escape devices, many troops and SOE’s would not have made it home. These everyday objects played their part in helping to save lives and can still be seen at the museum, so come and have a look!

     

    A Swinger Compass would have been hidden inside a comb

    A Swinger Compass would have been hidden inside a comb

    A Polish Air Force Button concealing a compass

    A Polish Air Force Button concealing a compass

    An escape compass hidden inside a screw-top RAF tunic button

    An escape compass hidden inside a screw-top RAF tunic button

    A Bakelite Weskit button and Trouser Fly button compass

    A Bakelite Weskit button and Trouser Fly button compass

    A Flip-Top torch disguised as a lighter

    A Flip-Top torch disguised as a lighter

    Italian and French currency

    Italian and French currency

    Italian and French currency

    Italian and French currency

    Part of a silk map

    Part of a silk map

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  8. Pencils As Escape Gadgets

    by Natalie Düwel-Bou Orm

    During World War Two escape devices saved many lives and we are extremely lucky at the museum to have a rare pencil which when split open reveals a brass compass, under where the ferrule (clip) was attached. Some pencil barrels even concealed tightly-rolled up silk maps which didn’t rustle when opened.  A tiny compass was placed on top inside the metal clip.

    The green wartime Cumberland Pencil

    The green wartime Cumberland Pencil

    Wartime gadgets were used by the British Secret Service including the Special Operations Executive (SOE).  These objects enabled secret agents, shot-down aircrew and escaping Prisoners of War (POW) to navigate their way across Occupied Europe. POW’s received pencils in Red Cross parcels and drawing implements were standard navigation tools used by RAF airmen. Who would suspect an ordinary pencil?

    The green wartime Cumberland Pencil

    The green wartime Cumberland Pencil

    The top-secret task of producing such a pencil was given to Charles Fraser-Smith. During World War Two, Charles was ‘working’ for the Ministry of Supply Clothing and Textile Department. However, in reality, he was secretly working ‘underground’ on escape gadgets and equipment.  Believed by many to have been the inspiration for the character ‘Q’ in Ian Fleming’s James Bond stories, he was passionate about out-witting the enemy and saving allied lives. His gadgets were nicknamed ‘Q-devices’ after World War One ‘Q-ships’ which saw warships being disguised as merchant shipping.

    The pencils were produced in the upmost secrecy, out of normal company working hours, at the Cumberland Pencil Factory at Keswick. Part of the pencil lead was left at the writing end, for effect, and for pencils containing maps; a cavity was drilled along the length of the pencil where the map could be placed inside. An eraser was glued to the top and then a metal ferrule, containing a compass.

    The pencils were painted green and were the only war-time pencil to have colour, owing to paint being requisitioned for the war-effort. There were four sets of numbered pencils from 101-104, each containing a specific tiny map. For instance, number 101 contained a general map of Germany. The others contained escape routes out of Germany and there was a map of Switzerland. Some maps depicted ‘safe houses’. Owing to the secrecy of such gadgets, no-one knows how many pencils were manufactured between 1939 and 1945.

    These pencils with both a map and compass are considerably rare. The government recalled such items after the war and it is presumed that they were destroyed. So, if you are rooting around in an old drawer or bureau, who knows, maybe you might be harbouring an extremely valuable, and not so humble, green pencil!

Donations are very gratefully received. Not only because they let us know that we enjoy the support and interest of our visitors but also because, like many charities, we can claim Gift Aid support which could add an additional 20% to our donated income.

 

 

» Read more about ways to support the museum.

Search

Categories

Recent Articles

Ken Wills In Memoriam

It is with great sadness that the Spitfire Museum has to inform our visitors and […]

> Read More

Half-term Halloween Fun at the Spitfire Museum

Looking for something fun to do with the little ones over half term? Yes? Than […]

> Read More

Simulator Secured for Spitfire Museum!!

The Spitfire Museum is pleased to say that we have gratefully received a £6000.00 donation […]

> Read More

Archive

December 2017
M T W T F S S
« Oct    
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031