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Felixstowe: Resort to celebrate centenary of RAF seaplanes and flying boats base

09:09 11 February 2013

RAF Felixstowe in 1933.

RAF Felixstowe in 1933.

Archant

A HUGE celebration is being prepared to mark the centenary of Felixstowe’s links with the RAF and the town’s important role in aviation history.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the opening of its seaplanes and flying boats development base and the resort is gearing up for a huge celebration.

Deputy mayor Jan Garfield said a small team – including representatives from service personnel groups and the Port of Felixstowe – was already working on the project and a number of ideas, including a flypast by vintage planes, parade, civic reception and a thanksgiving service.

“We want to have as big a celebration as we can and make this a wonderful occasion for Felixstowe,” she said.

It is hoped the special day of events on August 4 will bring thousands of visitors to boost the resort’s tourist trade.

RAF Felixstowe

■ The resort’s seaplane station was commissioned on August 5, 1913 – a year later it was at war.

■ By the end of the First World War, RAF Felixstowe was the biggest coastal air station in the world.

■ In 1924 it took on a new role as the Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment, where 250 new seaplanes and flying boats were designed and tested.

■ The Felixstowe Fury flying boat, with a 123ft wingspan, was the largest in the world at the time.

■ Famous officers included Flying Officer Frank Whittle, inventor of the jet engine, and Aircraftsman 1st Class TE Shaw, Lawrence of Arabia.

Mrs Garfield said the Science Museum had been asked if the Schneider Trophy, competed for by teams from all over the world and won by the Felixstowe air base’s high-speed flight three times, can be loaned for the event.

“It still has to be formally agreed by the museum’s committee but we have been told there is no reason why the trophy cannot visit as long as it is available,” she said.

Mayor Mike Deacon said: “The air base is a massive part of our heritage and this could be a huge event for the town, really important.”

Councillor Kimberley Williams said: “It is an exciting idea and anything which can help boost our tourism should be applauded and supported.”

The town council has agreed to underwrite the event to the tune of £6,000 and it is hoped more cash will be gained from sponsorship from businesses.

The RAF, which was given the Freedom of Felixstowe in 1958, had its base where the town’s container terminal stands today. The last of its hangars was demolished to make way for the port’s most recent development.

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