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A long and hot Secret WW2 weekend

Phew what a scorcher! ... in fact it had all kicked-off last Thursday afternoon, with the Charity's co-founder Martyn Bell giving a talk at the Tangmere Military Aviation Museum on the French resistance leader Jean Moulin. Trustee Paul McCue, Carol Brown and Ian Titman were in the audience, but they also had plenty more on their minds with such a crammed weekend ahead.

On Saturday 4th, Paul had arranged and hosted a very special plaque unveiling event at Dunsfold aerodrome to commemorate the SOE agent Jacqueline Nearne arriving back in Britain following her dangerous and stressful fifteen months as a courier in occupied France. This was attended by Jacqueline's niece Odile, accompanied by many other notable guests ... and full coverage of this event with more photos can be found by clicking HERE.

The following day's event was organised by - and held at - the Tangmere Military Aviation Museum, near Chichester. The Charity's Martyn Cox had been helping the museum's archivist and deputy curator Trevor Clark prepare for this particular 'living history' initiative - as part of the museum's programme to accompany its six week SOE exhibition - and Carol and Ian were there on the day to help out. Our links with the participants of the BBC Two ‘immersive history’ series Secret Agent Selection: WW2 had led to four of the finalist ‘student’ agents kindly offering to participate in all this - Debbey Clitheroe, Rohini Bajaj, Lizzie Jefferys and Rob Copsey - along with the psychologist Dr Mike Rennie who was also in the programmes, and whose day job is working with the Ministry of Defence in the training of military officers. Anyone who's enjoyed Secret Agent Selection: WW2 on BBC Two, or has since been watching it on DVD or via download or on Netflix, will know that for the last episode Rob Copsey had travelled to Chichester for a filmed interview with the local WW2 veteran Fred Bailey Ld'H, CdG, an SOE wireless operator who’d parachuted behind enemy lines in occupied France and then Burma. Fred had been invited back to Tangmere for yesterday's event, so that visitors and Rob’s fellow participants could all hear first-hand about the wartime exploits for which he was mentioned in despatches and received two medals from the French government.

The Baker Street Boys had SOE gadgets and weapons on display throughout the day and, as well as a Q&A session with museum visitors by Fred, the finalist ‘student’ agents from the television series also answered questions - as did Ian Titman, on his specialist subject of the WW2 clandestine 'pick-up' flights, which 161 Sqn operated out of RAF Tangmere during what was known as each month's 'moon period'. The Charity's Information Officer, Carol Brown, was also on hand - and its co-founder Martyn Bell managed to find a long enough gap in his Sunday schedule (as Chichester's mayor) to drop back in to personally welcome the guests.

Many thanks to everyone involved - especialy those who'd travelled so far on such a hot weekend ... and notably Rob Copsey and Mike Rennie, who'd also been able to attend Saturday's event at Dunsfold.

Very special thanks must go to Debbey Clitheroe and her husband Ste, who had to endure a car breakdown and AA rescue en route between Cheshire and Dunsfold on Saturday morning. Even though this meant they'd had to miss that event and return home, they still hit the road again very early on Sunday morning, and made it to Tangmere in time. Their determination was very much appreciated!

Thanks also, of course, to the Tangmere team for the museum's hospitality, and especially to Trevor Clark for setting it all up. NB: in the photos he's the assertive looking guy in the blue shirt, who makes Rohini look even more petite!

The other images below are mainly self-explanatory, except to say .... note the superb display panels specially brought by Ian Titman, and also The Baker Street Boys with their display cases, gadgets and weapons.

Mike Rennie can be seen landing a Lysander via a PC flight simulator in the SOE exhibition; and Martyn Bell is with the Secret Agent Selection team in the museum's NAAFI styled café. They can also be seen with Trevor on the former airfield and in front of the remains of RAF Tangmere's former control tower ...

Save Tangmere Tower: @TangmereTower

Photos courtesy of:

Carol Brown - Maxine Harcourt-Kelly - Debbey Clitheroe - Rohini Bajaj - Trevor Clark

BBC Two's Secret Agent Selection: WW2 television series is available via Apple's iTunes Store and Amazon Prime, and also on DVD.

Clips from the series can be viewed here:

The series is also available on Netflix, in the retitled format of "Churchill’s Secret Agents: The New Recruits" and this trailer is a punchy and reminder of the series:

Guardian review:

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