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Wartime Wallop 2015

 

 

Something a little out of the norm... Airscene's first museum event review at the Museum of Army Flying, Middle Wallop, Hampshire.

The museum itself is situated immediately alongside AAC Middle Wallop, which I am sure many of you will remember as the home of the Massed Approach. In it's 2nd year, Wartime Wallop is an event still in it's infancy and marketed as a local community event.

The flyer promised Historic Vehicles, WW1/2 re-enactors, Laser Gunnery Range and a Historic Aircraft Flight, however also detailed that the Southern Counties Organ Festival would be taking place at the same event - and I have to admit that the relevance was lost on me.

Reading up on the Organ Festival after the event, I discovered that this was a separate event for a few years until last year, when the museum added the wartime element on top. Prior to this it appears that the organs had been unable to find a permanent home for their festival.

 


The static display was in a separated from the main even area, and situated just over the fence from the museum cafe, and consisted of just 5 aircraft in total... DHC-2 Beaver, Auster Mk.9, Sioux AH mk.1, Westland Scout and Paul Beaver's newly restored "Monty's Messenger"... albeit not in flying condition yet, as I understand the engine still needs a little work.

Still it is great to be able to get up close around these aircraft, as it turns out unimpeded by both barriers and crowds to have a good look at the workings. It's just a shame there weren't any more on show with the AAC right on the doorstep.

Period wartime costumes were in evidence in the main field, with re-enactors more than will to stop and pose for a photo and also give you a bit of an insight into the history of the service they represented.

My father was on the receiving end of one of the longest lectures of the day, concerning the stamps on the butt of a rifle used by the Canadian Armed Forces in ww2. The most interesting element from the re-enactors came from Captain Mike Authers of the 25th. Bomb Disposal Co. Royal Engineers WW2 Living History Group.

Mike's bomb disposal talk and demonstration was both informative and entertaining, although I am sure some of the audience (particularly those with weak tickers) may have appreciated a bit of a warning before things exploded...



The £15 ticket price included entry to the museum (usually £10) and will take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours to complete depending on how much you wish to read. Photography is permitted in the museum, however you will need to set a high ISO (3200) and tripods cannot be used before 2.30pm.

The museum boasts 35 historic fixed and rotary wing aircraft spanning 100 years of Army Flying, spread across 2 decent sized halls. Many of the aircraft are displayed in the middle of large diorama's which helps to give some context to their operational use. In addition to the aircraft exhibits is a comprehensive walkthrough detailing the various conflicts the AAC has been involved in, and also a wartime house which was quite a nice touch.

Opinions were offered to me by a few visitors whilst I sat with my burger and coffee regading the event, and it seemed to be the general consensus that the event wasn't all it was cracked up to be, many being disappointed with the fee's charged over and above what would have been the normal entry fee.

The museum is fairly priced and does represent a good day out, particularly with the cafe overlooking AAC Wallop, which has a pretty active daily schedule itself during weekdays. The museum giftshop is also very good, with a wide selection of models, books and memorabilia - there is bound to be something for most visitors to dip their hands in their pockets.

What was evident though was the confusion over the event and the "inclusion" of the Organ Festival (although this may have originally been the other way around). The additional £5 did not represent value for money for many of the visitors we spoke to... it took no more than an hour to go around every exhibit outdoors (and that includes the organs which did not seem to be that popular anyway). Gaps were evident in the exhibits and it was explained to me that several had not turned up.

So what about next years event? Personally I think Wartime Wallop has a lot of potential, and could be more than just a local community event. I would dump the organs (or at least host their festival on another day) and beef up the event with more re-enactors, military vehicles and also get in some military themed stalls selling art, models and other related memorabilia, and perhaps even a military band or The Three Belles up keep the audience fully entertained.

 

Review by Airscene

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