Ford Airfield Centenary Exhibition Review

The weather was kind to us on Saturday 9th June, for our exhibition to commemorate the Centenary of Ford Airfield (HMS Peregrine). The History Group brought nineteen organisations and associations together in the Yapton & Ford Village Hall, and adjacent playing field, for the event. The proceedings were opened with a hand-operated, Cold War air raid siren based on the design of the type used in the WW2. This was the signal for a constant stream of visitors to come and view the various displays on show and talk to the exhibitors.

Association of WRENS, and Military Vehicles

In the hall the History Group displays charted the history of the airfield with the aid of documents and photographs, from the days of the Royal Flying Corps to Ford Open Prison. There were displays telling the stories of the Ford Motor Company’s Tri-Motor, Yapton Aero Club and Sir Alan Cobham’s Flying Circus to name but a few. Many of the displays covered the years of the war and up to its closure in 1959, when the airfield was home to the Fleet Air Arm and the RAF. A programme of slide shows and talks were put together by Border Digital, including video clips supplied by Cobham PLC of Sir Alan Cobham. The talks were given by Commander John Ford (Retired) dressed in his flying kit, who served in the Fleet Air Arm at Ford during the 1950s.

Local museums and aviation groups were well represented with displays by AirAces of Chichester, Tangmere Military Aviation Museum, Littlehampton and Wings (Balcombe) museums, along with the Association of Wrens, RAFA (Bognor) and the Royal British Legion (Arundel). Aldingbourne Modellers brought along a fine display of model aircraft of the type that were based at Ford painted in the colour schemes that they would have worn at the time. From models to the genuine article or at least part of a reconstructed Wyvern cockpit which was specially transported from Cambridge for the event. Also present was local historian and author Mark Hillier with his latest book, Uniforms of WW1 Airmen.

A stunning collection of aviation photographs by award winning photographer, Lee Carpenter, received much attention from the public as did an array of military vehicles, Triumph Roadsters and Classic British Motorcycles on static display.

Movement was supplied by a hand built scaled down model of a steam traction engine which spent the afternoon letting off steam and circling the arena.

Aviation Photographs by Lee Carpenter

Mid-way through the afternoon, activities were brought to a standstill and all eyes were raised to the sky when an unexpected visitor arrived. A Harvard from Goodwood Airfield appeared and gave its own tribute by executing a couple of circuits around the playing field and waggled its wings before continuing on its way.

Proceedings came to a close at 4.00pm when the all-clear was sounded on the vintage siren.

The exhibition was made possible by the generous donations and support from the local Parish Councils, Cobham PLC, Yapton & District Cottage Gardeners, and several private individuals. Our thanks also go to the tireless efforts of the volunteers who prepared and manned the displays, the officials who were responsible for the safety of the general public, and to the catering staff who spent the whole day preparing and serving food and drink to a steady flow of customers.

The organisers would like to take this opportunity to thank all those people who brought along memorabilia of the airfield which helps to ensure that this part of our history is not forgotten.

The event was accompanied by a booklet mapping out the general history of the airfield and copies are still available - see our Publications page.

Allen Misselbrook
Yapton & Ford Local History Group
June 2018

(Originally published in Yapton News, July 2018)