Dignitaries and Veterans gathered at Staffordshire Arboretum to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Closure of all units in the Far East Airforce on the 31st of October 1971. The Far East Airforce was established in 1948 but originated from the remnants of Air Command, South East Asia which was formed in WW2. The Far East Airforce performed post war occupation duties in a variety of countries including Siam (Thailand), Burma, French Indo-China and saw service through the Malayan Emergency and confrontation.
This morning greeted the volunteers with relatively clear skies and a brisk breeze to rustle the senses before starting the day’s work. There was an extended meeting in the morning for all volunteers which set out the plans for the future and announced our intention to hold the museum AGM in the third week of January. Unlike other AGM’s, the trustees have made the decision to run the meeting in a ‘hybrid manner’; meaning that it will be taking place physically at Scunthorpe and virtually on Zoom. A formal notification and agenda will appear on the website, but we encourage all followers to attend. Mid speech, the boss was interrupted by an intense downpour which restarted the office water feature which has plagued the building in previous weeks. The rate of water influx into the building is such that the Matelots amongst the volunteers have been seen digging out the ship repair manuals to stem the flow. Hopefully the raft of leaks will be sorted soon or at least before our volunteers start turning up on Saturdays in speedos, goggles and flippers!
After an extended meeting and general catch up, the team split into its component parts to carry on with the rest of the day’s activities. Those who remained at the HQ restarted the inventory work in both the library and upstairs where most of the artifacts are now stored. The Mobile Display Unit also received a coat of polish to ensure the elements do not ruin the paintwork and undo the fantastic work that the team have done. The Explosive Storage Area Hose Cart was also treated to its first coat of primer to enable the slow process of bringing it back up to display standard. It may be grey now, but it will be back to red at some point in the future!
In a more sombre note, after years of devoted service our beloved hose cart has finally given up the ghost. Serving as the main focal point at the entrance to the Museum of RAF Firefighting, our hose cart first came on duty in 2014 at RAF Scampton. The much-modified hose cart was once used as a chariot to take retiring firefighters off station but with some additional modifications, stalwart museum volunteer, Eddie Munro, added some homemade flower boxes and filled the cart with a variety of flowers. The cart has been seen by many thousands of visitors at Scampton, Gainsborough and Scunthorpe. After seven years exposed to the elements and despite numerous touch ups and movements, the British weather has finally taken its toll. As you can see from the photographs the rot has well and truly set in. Due to the fact the cart is now becoming a health and safety issue, the decision has been made to disassemble it. Whilst we attempted to do this sympathetically, the cart literally fell apart in our hands.
We are hopeful that one day the cart will be rebuilt, probably to its original specification but with the option to convert it back to a gate guard if required. Sadly, this restoration will be beyond the capabilities of our volunteers as we will need a wheelwright to make us two new wheels and a skilled carpenter to reconstruct the centre wooden hose drum and equipment box for the top. The museum does have three of these carts although sadly two are now in need of restoration. A wheel will cost upwards of £500 each to be reconstructed and as such these projects must go on the backburner considering the museum’s current situation. Please remember your donations help us restore artifacts like this for the enjoyment of the public so check out our Standing Order Supporter section to find out ways to donate to the museum.
As this work was continuing at pace, the team at the storage area were making short work of the task list set before them. The WOT1’s radiator and water pump were refitted and the engine was heat cycled to check for leaks which returned a clean bill of health. The remaining vehicles were also checked over for any remaining equipment or kit which were stowed in the lockers prior to the previous move from Alford. Two of the door straps for the 45 Monitor were also renewed with new examples. The remainder of the team also raked through the pallets and stillages for any equipment which the team may need for any minor rectification works which could crop up in the coming months with the vehicles in the shed. The speed and manner that we moved out of the previous location has meant that many of the tools have been hastily stowed with other artifacts or spares just to maximise the available space in a crate or pallet. The Red Army Goddess’ engine was also turned over by hand to check if a previous backfire had caused internal damage and seized the engine. Thankfully it still turned as it should which leaves the temperamental ignition points to be checked over another time.
The Museum also received its latest vehicle, an early 70’s Civilian Thornycroft Nubian Major Crash Tender that operated out of Gatwick Airport, which has been loaned as a restoration project. According to its owner, the vehicle drives and operates so the museum will not be undertaking further work on it until the Museum relocates to its final home and is able to give it the time and attention the vehicle needs to bring it back up to spec for its owner.
Finally, the Museum will be undertaking the monthly Crashline Call on the 3rd of November on Zoom. Details can be found on the Museum Facebook Group but please pass them on to those Serving Firefighters and Emergency Service Veterans who would benefit from an hour of socialising and banter on a Wednesday night.