Military History | 28 March 2013
A Second World War Royal Air Force 10" 'Fire' Bell, inscribed 'GRVI' and F.
A Second World War Royal Air Force 10" 'Fire' Bell, inscribed 'GRVI' and F.A.S., the inner and crown top retaining a red paint finish, complete with clapper and rope.
By Repute A Fire Bell From R.A.F. Tangmere
As war threatened in the late thirties, the fighters became faster, with Hawker Furies, Gloster Gladiators, and the Hawker Hurricanes powered by the famous Merlin engines all being used at Tangmere. In 1939 the airfield was enlarged to defend the south coast against attack by the Luftwaffe, with Tangmere's only hotel and some houses being demolished in the process. The RAF commandeered the majority of houses in the centre of the village, with only six to eight families being allowed to stay.
In August 1940 the first squadron (No. 602 Squadron RAF) of Supermarine Spitfires was based at the satellite airfield at nearby Westhampnett, as the Battle of Britain began. By now the villagers had mainly been evacuated, and extensive ranges of RAF buildings had sprung up.
The first and worst enemy raid on the station came on 16 August 1940 when hundreds of Stuka dive bombers and fighters crossed the English coast and most headed for Tangmere. Soon, the Stukas started to dive on Tangmere, there was extensive damage to buildings and aircraft on the ground and 14 ground staff and six civilians were killed, but the station was kept in service and brought back into full operation.
Throughout the war, the station was also a secret base for the Special Operations Executive who flew agents in and out of occupied France to strengthen the Resistance. The SOE used Tangmere Cottage, opposite the main entrance to the base. Today the cottage sports a commemorative plaque to its former secret life.
Many of those killed at the base, from both sides in conflict, are buried in the cemetery at St Andrews Church, Tangmere, today tended by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
Thursday 28 March 2013, 10.00am
Bristol Auction Room
Wednesday 27th March 10.30am - 6.00pm
Morning of sale from 9.00am