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Martlesham Heath Control Tower
Work on Martlesham Heath Control Tower finished in 1916. Its use peaked during the Second World War and became a museum in 2000.
The museum on the former airfield in Ipswich was created by the Martlesham Heath Aviation Society which has around 300 members - many of them Americans who served with the USAAF 356th Fighter Group in WW2.
The museum in the control tower sits in isolation in the middle of what is now the Martlesham Heath housing estate. Many other airfield buildings still exist on the other side of the A12 at the industrial estate.
The MHAS's Bob Dunnett was instrumental in setting it up: "When I suggested having another go in the 1990s, I was told it had been tried before.
"It then became a challenge I set myself for my retirement. We found out who owned it, raised enough money to get things rolling and now we've a team of volunteer members who do the management work on Wednesdays and open it up on Sundays between April and October.
"We survive on donations. Most of them come from the US - probably up to £13,000 in total."
The Anderson shelter under construction
In 2006 the museum added two new features.
"Children discovered a hole in the ground one year, and as it got bigger we thought we'd better take a closer look," Bob said.
"It turned out to be an underground bomb shelter or bunker. We cleared it of tons of debris, put the railings back around the entrance steps at ground level and now visitors can go inside and listen to an authentic recording of the Blitz so they can get a sense of what it was like.
"When I was a boy, my shelter was the cellar at the Red Admiral pub in nearby Little Bealings where I went to school.
"Back above the ground at the museum, we're reconstructing an Anderson shelter. It's bigger than a typical back-garden shelter and we're hoping to display an airplane engine in it in the long-term."
Alongside the military uniforms in the museum is a white ballgown, which you can see in the picture gallery.
Bob Dunnett inside the bunker
Its origin is one of Bob's favourite tales from the displays: "In the Second World War, a father and daughter near Needham Market witnessed a Heinkel which was being shot down by RAF planes from Coltishall in Norfolk.
"Once the father had made a citizen's arrest of the 17-year-old navigator who ejected, the pair went to look for the parachute.
"Later, a royal seamstress in Needham made the dress from it for a local woman, and it's rumoured many of the local girls spent the rest of the war going round in silk underwear made from the rest of the parachute!"
Society member Frank Bright is a Jewish man who survived Auschwitz concentration camp and eventually settled in Suffolk. Read his story using the link on the right>>
last updated: 17/11/2008 at 14:09
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