The Historic Aircraft Museum
Before the Southend Historic Aircraft Museum (SHAM) opened in 1972 a small group of aviation enthusiasts, who were based at Biggin Hill airport in Kent, formed a small collection which was named The British Historic Aircraft Museum. Their main task was the restoration of a North American Mitchell HD368 aircraft. The aircraft had been damaged during the 1966 Biggin Hill Air Fair; the damage had been caused when the cockpit hatch and circular hatch were forcibly removed. The group moved to Southend in 1967 and made an application to construct a hanger in Aviation Way to display the aircraft they had collected. Local aviation enthusiasts were recruited to work on the renovation of the aircraft in their spare time, this work included re-sprays, fabrication of new parts, and general maintenance work to keep the airframes in good condition. The project collapsed shortly after the application had been approved, and the aircraft were left on the eastern boundary of the airport. Once word of the project’s collapse spread, and the news that the aircraft were still on site and within easy reach of the public road, they very soon became the target of the local vandals and souvenir hunters. The south eastern climate, combined with the salt spray from the sea, also took its toll on the airframes. The aircraft which were at the airport included the North American Mitchell HD368, Percival Proctor G-ANZJ or G-ANZS, Hawker Sea Fury WJ288 and Hawker Seahawk XE489. When it seemed that the aircraft were destined for the scrapheap a consortium of Essex Businessmen, which included the Budge Brothers (Group) Ltd and The Canterbury (Group) Ltd of Basildon, stepped in to save the aircraft. The consortium, who were all aviation enthusiasts and amateur pilots, formed the company that took over the ownership of the aircraft and breathed new life back into the museum project. They re-applied for planning permission for the museum hanger, as well as a number of other buildings which included a conference centre (to be named The De Havilland Suite), a large car park, hotel complex and a petrol station. When the council gave the go-ahead the building work started on preparing the site for the museum. Once the main exhibition hall had been completed the aircraft started to move on site during 1970. The aircraft on the eastern boundary had now been joined by Glostor Meteor T7 XK635; Gloster Javelin FAW9 XH768 (7929M); Hunting Percival Provost T.1 WV483 (7963M); a De Havilland Tiger Moth; a Casa 2.111 GAWHB (J-PR); A Fiat G.46 MM53211 (BAPC79). A bargain basement Avro Anson, (which had belonged to local company ECKO), was up for sale in an airworthy condition and priced at £3,000, but it was virtually donated to the museum for the sum of just £300; flitting in just days before the opening of the museum was Saab J-29f 29640, the aircraft had been donated to the museum by the Royal Swedish Airforce; De Havilland DH84 Dragon 1 G-ACIT (the actual aircraft which inaugurated the first passenger flight from Scotland to the Islands); Europe’s only DHA3 Drover 3 G-APPP (VH-FD), which had last seen service with the Australian Royal Flying Doctors Service; Westland Dragonfly WG725; SncanStampe; Miles Gemini; and possibly the world’s last airworthy Avro Lincoln which flew into the airport on the 9th of May 1967. In April 1971 the museum took Flying Flea G-ADXS, the rear fuselage of Proctor NP339 with the fabric stripped back to show the internal structure, a sectioned Rolls Royce Merlin engine, several propellers, and a parachute for a week long display at the South Essex motor showroom at Basildon. In May 1971 the Southend Historic Aircraft Society, (affiliated to the museum), had a stand at the RAFA display at North Weald. At the end of April 1971 The Historic Aircraft museum hosted a press conference, at the museum site, for dignitaries and representatives from the aeronautical world, local press and council including the Mayor of Southend who inaugurated work on the museum building (despite it already being well underway!). During 1971 the museum had bought a 26ft long trailer for transporting aircraft and other large items to the museum site. This was pressed in to service for the first time in August 1971 when it was dispatched to collect the Dragonfly from Balckbushe. Other trips with the trailer that month included collection of a Bristol Hercules engine from Lydd, Miles Gemini G-AKGD from Wisley, and in October it was dispatched to RAF Halton to collect the Provost. In September 1971 a team was sent to RAF Cranwell to dismantle the Javelin; the task took ten days after which it was collected by the company Aviation Traders and taken by road to Southend. De Havilland DH.84 Dragon G-ACIT flew into Southend Airport during September 1971 and it was kept in airworthy condition at the museum. Blackburn Beverley XB261 flew into Southend on 6th of October 1971 and, before its final landing, the aircraft performed a “touch and go” - the event was covered by the local press and TV crews. The aircraft remained parked on the airport apron for a few weeks before it was moved, under its own propulsion, to the museum complex! The aircraft was moved successfully without damage to itself or any other aircraft, however, a couple of huts on the airport were hit by the slipstream from the engines – the huts roofs were never seen again! With work on the museum complex nearing completion in 1972, early February saw the fence around the site modified to accommodate two 30ft gates through which exhibits would be moved to and from the museum compound. Groundwork included laying a paved roadway/apron from the gates to the hanger doors in the main building. Arriving at the museum in early 1972 was a unique project Vampire T11 XD527 obtained from Aviation Traders; it was to have been the prototype of an executive conversion known as the MJ.2 for a firm called Jetcraft of Las Vegas, and was to use the Vampire wings and tail with a new six-seat fuselage. Along with XD527 came a wooden fuselage mock-up and sundry jigs, patterns and manufactured parts. The original project was started in 1969 but was abandoned due to reported difficulties with FAA and ARB requirements. Meteor VZ683 arrived at Southend, from Kemble, in January 1972; it had been kept in storage within the Aviation Traders hanger. With work on the museum site nearing completion, the first two aircraft were moved from the storage facility within the airport to the museum complex. The move took place on 14th February 1972, and saw the Provost & airworthy Dragon moved into the protection of the main building; these were followed by the Proctor, Sea Hawk, Flea, and Sea Fury. Most of these aircraft were in the process of being readied for exhibition, and moving them into the new building meant that they could be worked on no matter what the weather had in store. It was around this time that another of the “star” exhibits was acquired the Spanish built CASA2.111 G-AWHB (Heinkel H.E. 111H). The aircraft had been languishing at West Malling airfield in Kent for a number of years following the filming of “The Battle of Britain” some years previously. The aircraft flew during filming but, having not flown since the end of the film shoot, the decision was made to have the aircraft dismantled and taken by road to the museum. Aviation Traders again stepped in to help move the valuable aircraft to Southend. Three more airworthy aircraft were inspected a short while before the museum opened. The first of these was Storch D-EKMU based in Norway, it was decided that the aircraft would make a valuable addition to the collection. The Storch flew into Southend a few days after the museum opened. The second aircraft inspected, and subsequently bought, for the museum was Harvard LN-BNM and it arrived via Felixstowe a few days before the opening. It was quickly reassembled and ready for the museum’s opening day. The third aircraft was a Percival Sea Prince, an ex “Admirals Barge”, based at Yeovilton; however, after inspecting the aircraft, it was found to be in need of too much work to bring the aircraft up to a civilian operation condition, so it was refused. It was hoped that another of the type would become available at a later date but the type never made it to the museum. Arriving just before the opening of the museum was the dismantled Tiger Moth G-APMM which arrived from Boscombe Down, this replace, the airworthy G-ANPE. Another totally different type of arrival, just days before the opening, was for the museums resident cat named Squeak, who gave birth to a litter of four kittens. Sadly one of the kittens was too weak to survive but, once old enough, the remaining three were all found new homes! The museum was officially opened on Friday 26th of May 1972 by Air Marshall Sir Harry Burton KCB, CBE, DSO, RAF who, at the time, was Air Officer Commander-in-chief of Air Support Command. The following day the museum opened to the public an airshow was held to celebrate the completion of the project. Unfortunately the day began overcast and by the time the display was due to start the heavens opened, virtually washing out all but a few of the display aircraft. The flying display had promised: 1. R.A.F. Spitfire 2. R.A.F. Hurricane 3. Rothman’s “Stampe” Aerobatic Team 4. Aerobatic Gliding by Champion “Ladi” Marmol 5. Major Tom Ridgeway’s “Silver Stars” Sky-diving Team 6. Low-level crop spraying demonstration 7. A 1929 “Tom Titt” Bi-plane from the Shuttleworth Collection 8. A “Cirrus Moth” from the Shuttleworth Collection 9. An ascent by a Hot Air Balloon 10. A formation of Turbulents tied together 11. “Jungman” & “Tiger Moth” 12. R.A.F. “Skeeter” Helicopter 13. Bill Cole’s “Flying Flea” 14. The Museum Aircraft 15. A young lady wing walking on a Bi-plane 16. De Havilland “Pussmoth” G-AEOA (founding aircraft of East Anglian Flying Services). The museum charged an entry fee of £1 for adults and 50p for children on the day. The fee included car parking, museum entrance, air display and a program. Throughout the day joy-flights in either a fixed wing aircraft or a helicopter were also available. There was also the opportunity to take up flying lessons using a Cessna 150. The commentary for the show was by Keith Fordyce, who was at the time a well-known TV & Radio commentator. On site for the opening of the museum was the mighty Blackburn Beverley XB261, this aircraft had last been seen with the A&AEE at Boscombe Down where it had been used for parachute drop trials with the clam doors removed. This was the only Beverley to fly across the Atlantic. The flight was to Canada for cold weather trials and this flight was commemorated by the Maple Leaf flag painted on the aircrafts’ nose. The first flight of the aircraft took place on Tuesday 5th July 1955, and its last flight was from its base at Boscombe Down in to Southend Airport, on Friday 8th October 1971. In July 1972 a replica Bleriot arrived at the museum, followed by the Skeeter arriving in early August of the same year. A further acquisition was the Messerschmidt Me109 which was taken by road from the Kent Battle of Britain Museum (KBoB), it was joined at Southend in 1973 by a replica Hurricane also from the KBoB. With the demise of Channel Airways, on 1st February 1972, a number of artefacts were salvaged including Viscount seating, undercarriage components, and the bent up propeller from Viscount G-APPU which had skidded off the end of the runway after it aquaplaned on Saturday 4th May 1968. The largest item collected was the nose section of Viscount G-ATVE which was converted into a walk through exhibit and included sounds of the aircraft engines running. On the 17th April 1975 the Fairchild Cornell arrived but, sadly, the aircraft had suffered major damage during its transportation from America as it had been inadequately secured within its container. Included in the container, alongside the aircraft, was a new nose section for the Mitchell which had also suffered damage. During the summer of 1975 Marconi Aerospace completed its restoration work on Westland Scout XP165, the ex-RAE Farnborough aircraft had lost its engine, boom and some cockpit instrumentation. It was collected at the end of July and transported to Southend. A Custom & Street Hot Rod show was held at the museum over the weekend of Friday 29th August Sunday 31st August 1980. It was organised by the Evening Echo. Westland Widgeon G-APTW was placed on loan with the museum on 23rd July by its owner Helicopter hire. A special exhibition was hosted at the museum, between the 18th July & 29th August 1981,when the then local based Matchbox Company exhibited the latest aircraft kits it was producing; a number of the aircraft exhibited by the museum had been used for references in the production of the kits. In October 1981 the Leisure Sport Thorpe Park collection, of five airworthy First World War replica aircraft, flew in to be housed at the museum over the winter after a long season of display flying across the country. The collection consisted of Sopwith Camel G- AWYY marked up as C1701, an all red Fokker Triplane G-BFER, Ernst Udet’s red and white Fokker DVII, Spad XIII G-BFYO in the colours of the French ace’s Georges Guynemer when he flew with the 3rd Escadrille, & the black and silver schemedAlbatross Va G- BFXL. A military vehicle rally was held at the museum over the weekend of Saturday 14th& Sunday 15th August 1982. It was followed by a Competition Motorcycle Show over the period of 16th – 24th October in the same year. The museum had started off as a very popular attraction, but began to fall in popularity and in 1983, after 10 years of hard work, the announcement was made that “The Historic Aircraft Museum at Southend is to close on the 27th of March this year.” The closure of the museum was attributed to a number of reasons which included rising running costs, reduction in the number of visitors, the opening of the much larger R.A.F. Museum at Hendon, and poor support from the council. On the 10th May 1983 an auction was held, at the museum, to sell off the aircraft and the rest of the museum’s collection of aviation artefacts. In total just over £175,000 was raised from 250 lots. Few of the aircraft were expected to reach their reserve bid, as many of them had stood outside in the open for more than 10 years suffering from the corrosive salt spray, gale force winds, rain, snow, hail, and anything else the south-east weather could throw at them. The aircraft had also suffered at the hands of vandals and souvenir hunters, which resulted in many of the aircraft having parts missing and entrance hatches damaged from having been forced open. It wasn’t just the airframes that were sold off that day, the entire contents of the main exhibition hall were also put on the market; this included an extensive aviation library, aircraft manuals from the 1920s and 30s, collections of pictures (prints and photographs), a number of aero engines, and rare philatelic covers. As well as the aircraft owned by the museum a number of other aircraft were flown into the airport to be included in the sale; these included Tipsy Belfair G-APOD, Stinson Voyager G-BCUM, Monocoupe G- AFEL, a Dutch Tiger Moth, and French owned Lockheed 12A F-BFUD. At the auction the lowest price paid for an aircraft was £1,000, this was for the Javelin which was bought by Air Classik of Germany and, in contrast, the highest price paid was £34,000 for the Sea Fury. All but one aircraft were sold, this being the Beverley. Most of the aircraft were rapidly removed from the site, but some were still in situ in late August early September, these included the Lincoln, Fiat G.46, Javelin, Mitchell, Beverley, and several aircraft that were not included in the sale but had been allocated new homes. When the Beverley failed to sell, the Airport Moat House Hotel proposed to tow the aircraft across the road and set it up in a mini museum with ex British Air Ferries ATL 98 Corvair G-AOFW but, when the airliner was sold for £1,400 to a scrap metal merchant who destroyed the aircraft using a JCB, the project was abandoned and the Beverley was left to stand where it had been for over a decade. In September 1985 the Beverley was given a new role to perform, it was to ‘guard’ a new leisure complex that was to be housed inside the former exhibition hall at the museum. The building had been converted in to one of Europe’s largest roller-skating halls (Roller city). The British Air Reserve at Lympne had, by this time, obtained Anson G-AGPG and placed it in a fabricair hanger in preparation for it to be transported to their base. The aircraft didn’t leave the museum site until April 1986 by which time it was in a very poor condition and in need of major restoration. The aircraft was moved to Kent where it stood in open storage for a number of years before moving up to Manchester for long-term restoration. In early 1989, and after more than 18 years at Southend, the Beverley was finally read its last rites when it was deemed to be unsafe and on Friday 7th April the aircraft was scrapped. The once mighty aircraft was smashed to pieces over the weekend by a JCB. All that remained of the aircraft was the cockpit section which originally went on show at Duxford before its onward move to the Newark Air Museum. In the mid 1990s plans were unveiled to build on the former museum car park and the De Havilland Suite conference centre. The plans for a Roman style swimming and fitness centre gained council approval and work on the project began in 1996. Works to the old museum building included removal of the original windows and cladding, each being replaced with “Roman” style architecture; the fast jet parking area was landscaped in to gardens. For many years the main outdoor parking area was used for the storage of new cars, after which the land was left empty for a number of years and became overgrown. The museum also had a unique feature – a flat for the live-in attendant…..and his cat!
Museum Memorabilia
Opening Day Airshow Programme
Museum Guide Book
Museum Button Badge
Museum Sticker
Casa 2.111
Tiger Moth
Roe Triplane
Museum (type 1)
Custom Car Show August 1980
Museum (type 2)
Museum leaflet (type 2) The leaflet that had instructions on how it could be folded and flown!
Museum leaflet (type 1) The first leaflet was made from a single sheet of paper folded in half to produce a four page leaflet
Museum Pennant
Museum Sew-on patch
Like any museum the Southend Historic Aircraft Museum had its own memorabilia for sale
Vista of Museum Building as seen from the Airport Hotel and Zero 6 Complex in Aviation Way, Southend
Beverly C.1
Casa 2.111
The Ekco Anson. G - AGPG Avro 652 A. Anson 19SRS 1
Visiting the Museum The museum was one of the first purpose built aircraft museum complexes built. The area didn't just include a collection of historic aircraft but also had a conference centre, hotel, petrol station, nightclub and a car park. The museum building it's self was a modern style building with high amounts of light entering it to give the best possible views and the best opportunities for photography. Walking up Aviation Way you would have passed the building and the Fast Jet Line-up, the Casa 2.111 and the main out door display. On entry to the main hall the cafeteria was on the left which was capable of seating 120 people at any one time. On the right was the "Kit Room" this was the museum shop stacked full of model kits, souvenirs, books, postcards and every thing else associated with aircraft. The main exhibition hall contained the World War 1, World War 2, photo archives and other collections, also here was the aero engine collection and other related aero memorabilia. On the airframe side this was where the “rare birds” were housed, these were the aircraft deemed too valuable and far too fragile to go on external display. These aircraft included the replica Roe Triplane, the DH Moth Collection, the Flying Fleas, Sea Fury, Proctor, Storch, Spitfire, Dragonfly, Widgeon and the pride of the museum the DH84 Dragon a number of other aircraft were also stored indoors. Outside the museum was a Spanish built Casa 2.111 this sat next to a former Belgian Air Force FU-6 Thunderstreak facing these was the “Fast Jet” Line-up consisting of a Javelin, Sea Hawk, Meteor and an ex Swedish Air Force Saab J29F. On the main outdoor display area next to the main exhibition hall sat the bulk of the collection this included such aircraft as the founding aircraft the Mitchell, the mighty Beverley, the former Ekco Anson, the Napiers research Lincoln, Harvard, the rare P.531 (test bed scout), Drover and a wide range of other aircraft. Many of the aircraft had their cockpits open to the public including the Anson, Beverley and Viscount nose section. The motto of the museum was one of public participation and one saying "We try to keep a minimum of DO NOT TOUCH notices." The museum's opening times were: Winter months up until June 6th Saturdays & Sundays only From 11:00 until 18:00. From June 6th until winter normal opening times will be in effect this being 7 days a week. From 10:00 until 18:00. Group visits can be arranged outside of normal opening hours but only on Mondays during winter.

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