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Former RAF base remembered

PUBLISHED: 11:33 22 March 2008 | UPDATED: 13:37 16 March 2010

NINETY years of the RAF are being celebrated this summer in a Suffolk town which has extremely close links with the air force.

Felixstowe Museum is hosting a special exhibition to mark the anniversary - telling the story of the service and its connections with the seaside town.

NINETY years of the RAF are being celebrated this summer in a Suffolk town which has extremely close links with the air force.

Felixstowe Museum is hosting a special exhibition to mark the anniversary - telling the story of the service and its connections with the seaside town.

It is part of a special year for the RAF, which has been invited to mark the 50th anniversary of being granted the Freedom of Felixstowe and to march through the resort with bayonets fixed, colours flying, drums beating and bands playing later in the year.

Felixstowe Museum - which stands just yards from where the RAF station stood where Landguard Terminal is now - re-opens on Easter Sunday for the season with the new exhibition as its main attraction, right next door to its RAF room.

It also has 13 other rooms focussing on different aspects of Felixstowe's history.

Exhibition organiser Bob Davies said the RAF's links with Felixstowe were part of the town's “hidden history” - with many people not realising the port's former use as a military base.

Felixstowe's base existed five years before the air force came into being and was a world famous experimental station where many seaplanes and flying boats were designed.

“When you look at the port, there is very little to see now of its RAF base - one of the three hangars remains and we very much hope that it will be taken down and reconstructed at somewhere like Duxford, so it is not lost,” he said.

“Few people realise as they drive to Ipswich every day that they pass a former radar station.

“There is a lot of military history in this area and some of it is quite fascinating.”

The exhibition features scale models, paintings by artist Dean Regan, photos by Chris Webber, and many artefacts, including personal stories and memorabilia of the men involved, some of it loaned by their families.

Winston Churchill was tipped out of an aircraft into the estuary and was taken to a Felixstowe hotel to change, where the owner's teenage daughter asked the great man for his autograph - the book and signature are one of the items on display.

There is a special feature on the Schneider Trophy for the fastest flight, which Britain won outright in the 1930s, and also on the Felixstowe Mayor's chain and chair, the only ones in the country which feature the insignia of the RAF.

Felixstowe Museum in the Ravelin Block next to Landguard Fort opens Sunday from 1pm to 5pm. It will be open Sundays and Bank Holidays until November, and also Wednesdays from June to October.

Do you have memories of being involved with RAF Felixstowe? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

FASTFACTS: RAF Felixstowe

Felixstowe was commissioned as a seaplanes base in 1913 and during the first world war aircraft from the base patrolled the coast from Southwold to Clacton looking for German U-Boats and by the end of the war was the largest station in the world.

In 1924 the base - which was where the port now stands - took on a new role as the Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment.

During the following years more than 250 types of seaplane and flying boat - military and civilian aircraft - and others were tested and designed at Felixstowe.

The base was responsible for inventing the technology which led to the development of Concorde and also the space shuttle.

Those who served at RAF Felixstowe included Flying Officer Frank Whittle, inventor of the jet engine, and Aircraftsman 1st Class TE Shaw, better known as Lawrence of Arabia.

The station's special high-speed flight also won the world famous Schneider Trophy for Britain three times in a row.

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