Tangmere is a small rural village near Chichester in West Sussex which played a crucial role in the Battle of Britain in 1940, for it was from the airfield at RAF Tangmere that pilots fought in the skies to defend the country. Now a small military aviation museum is located on a corner of the airfield which has not been take over by housing estates, and which commemorates the incredible work of the pilots and staff who sacrificed so much.
Photograph © Tangmere Military Aviation Museum
Historical Background of RAF Tangmere
The airfield at Tangmere was founded in 1917 for training pilots and after the First World War it was used by the Fleet Air Arm. In 1939 the airfield was enlarged to provide better defence for the south coast and RAF Tangmere was the controlling station of Sector “A” in No 11 Group, Fighter Command, covering an area from Brighton to Bournemouth. On the 16th August 1940, Tangmere was attacked by Stuka dive-bombers, causing serious damage and killing 14 military and six civilians. French Resistance agents trained at nearby Bignor and used Tangmere Cottage as their secret operations centre; many night-time missions to enemy territory were flown by Lysanders of 161 (Special Duties) Squadron from Tangmere.
After the war, RAF High Speed Flight was based at Tangmere, with several world speed records being set. The airfield closed in 1970 and over the following years, housing estates sprung up, with just the control tower and an accommodation block still standing. The museum opened in 1982, staffed entirely by volunteers.