Twitch Inn Door Returns to Famous Wartime Haunt of Fighter Aces
The cellar door to the legendary ‘Twitch Inn’ at Douces Manor is today being returned to its former home by the Yorkshire Air Museum & Allied Air Forces Memorial, to complete the restoration of this famous wartime haunt. This unusual artefact was donated to the Museum through the Aircrew Association in January 2002.
Douces Manor was the Headquarters and Mess for officers flying from RAF West Malling, in Kent. The cellar bar was frequented by many brave young fighter pilots and, typical of the dry sense of humour of the time, became colloquially known as the ‘Twitch Inn’, due to the nervous affliction that affected many pilots. This noticeable twitch that many displayed was a result of the immense stress, strain and fatigue they experienced during this time of national crisis.
The name was ‘officially’ inscribed into the top half of the swing door by officers of 29 Squadron in 1944, using metal which could possibly have come from aircraft of the time. The bar, which was also adorned with candle soot ‘graffiti’ in the form of signatures and cartoons carved by the airmen into the walls and ceiling, has witnessed many tales of aerial battles won and lost.
Many illustrious air aces have frequented Douces Manor, including ‘Sailor’ Moran, Stanford Tuck, Guy Gibson and Wing Commander John ‘Cats Eyes’ Cunningham with his navigator Jimmy Rawnsley. Together, this pair had become the most successful defensive night fighter team, flying Mosquito aircraft with 85 Squadron and protecting the skies over the Home Counties during 1943. As Commanding Officer of 85 Squadron, John Cunningham actually lived in the Manor House.
The door and other photographic panels were initially donated to the Aircrew Association by Norwich Union, who had been using Douces Manor as a Training Centre, until they vacated the premises. The Yorkshire Air Museum, as the Allied Air Forces Memorial, is now the national repository for items donated to the Aircrew Association and the Twitch Inn artefacts arrived in January 2002. Since then, the Douces Manor site has been redeveloped by Beechcroft Developments, but the cellar bar (Twitch Inn) has now been leased to West Malling Parish Council for a long period for use as a Heritage Centre, managed by the Malling Society. Beechcroft undertook the restoration of the cellar bar in a high quality and sympathetic manner.
Ian Reed, Director, Yorkshire Air Museum, comments: “It is fantastic that these artefacts that have been in our safekeeping for a number of years can be returned to their original home, and complete the restoration of this historic room, which has been witness to so many tales of bravery in the defence of our nation in its darkest hour.”
On behalf of the Malling Society, Margaret McCarthy (Secretary), said: “We are indeed very grateful that the Twitch Inn door panel was saved in the first instance and protected by the Yorkshire Air Museum and the enthusiastic reception to the idea of bringing these artefacts back ‘home’ to Douces Manor on long-term loan is much appreciated. They will be the finishing touch to the restoration project.”
The Douces Manor Heritage Centre will open to the public on certain days and times, and information on this can be found by calling Margaret McCarthy on 01732 220 563 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org