BRENZETT AERO MUSEUM AND LAND ARMY REUNION By Richard Holdsworth
One of the endearing memories of WWll is Tommy Handley and his radio programme ITMA – It’s That Man Again – and now we have ITEA. It’s That Event Again, the Brenzett Aero Museum August show! And what a great show too!
Brenzett air base, at Ivychurch near Romney, played a vital role in WWll as an advanced landing ground for air crews and, especially for those combating the ever increasing number of flying bombs, or V-1 Buzz Bombs, coming across the Channel.
The runway at Brenzett no longer exists, of course, having been turned into productive farmland long ago, but the buildings have been preserved to create a remarkable museum of WWll memorabilia, as good as any the length and breadth of the country. This museum is the centre-piece of the August event which also sees dozens of sales stalls, local craftsmen giving demonstrations (where else can you see a Sussex Trug being made?), working farm machinery of yesteryear and a pair of jet aircraft of the Cold War period, a de Havilland Vampire trainer and an English Electric Canberra bomber.
The aero museum also houses one of the largest displays of bomb disposal equipment from WWll giving an insight into the heroic deeds of a small band of men always trying to keep up with the devious efforts of the enemy.
See, feel, touch a Bouncing Bomb!
And if you have ever wondered what a Bouncing Bomb looks like – there is an example of this amazing creation of Barnes Wallis that was carried by Lancaster bombers of No.617 Squadron and which successfully breached the Mohne and Eder dams, flooding an area of the Ruhr Valley, and wrecking part of the German war machine.
Inside the museum are literally hundreds of items from pilot’s log books, uniforms (German and British), right up to complete engines, both piston and jet propelled.
Brenzett airbase being, quite literally, in the front line against the Luftwaffe, the Museum’s display also includes an immense number of items that demonstrate the frenetic battles that went on in the skies overhead in the years between 1939 and 1945. Many aircraft came down in the area and because of the soft nature of the ground on the Romney Marshes, aircraft were often not severely damaged.
Farmers, to this day, plough up aircraft parts and are on the phone to Brenzett Museum curators. “I’ve got something of interest for you here…” As a result, there are several Spitfire and Hurricane engines, almost intact, plus the Daimler-Benz V12 engine used in the Messerschmitt 109E front-line German fighter.
It was in July, 1942, that the British Air Ministry saw a need for an aerodrome in Kent near to the coast and, thus, at the very front line in tackling in-coming German bomber and fighter aircraft. The airstrip (known locally as Ivychurch airstrip) was not completed until March1943 but was immediately made the home of Spitfire squadrons No.122 and 315 that were charged with the task of taking on the Luftwaffe the moment the German aircraft came in over the Channel. And when flying bombs arrived on the scene in 1944, RAF Squadron 129 and two Polish Squadrons, Numbers 306 and 315, were posted to Brenzett to perform the hazardous role of bringing these pilotless aircraft down before they could reach London.
The trick was to fly alongside the V-1 Buzz Bomb until the wing was just under that of the V-1 and then tilt it over so that it came down harmlessly in the Kent fields. Harmlessly, of course, unless you happened to be a cow or sheep having a quiet snooze!
Home of the Land Girls
Brenzett also became the home of the Land Army Girls in the area and the Sunday of the August show sees many of the original girls attend a reunion and re-live old times. To this day, you can see some of the messages that had been written on the hostel walls… who said graffiti is a modern invention?!
The Brenzett August Show over the weekend of August 15/16 is a true family affair. And if the life of an evacuee interests you (or someone you know who was evacuated) or children studying the subject at school, then author Richard Holdsworth will be there signing his evacuee book, Six Spoons of Sugar. (www.holdsworthwrites.co.uk). Richard will be there both days talking about his experiences. Come along and have a chat.
You can learn more of Brenzett by phoning 01797 320077 or logging onto: www.brenzettaero.co.uk
“Hastings Town” August 2009
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