Exciting new era for Neatishead radar museum

From bright sunshine outside, MP Norman Lamb yesterday stepped into the shadowy world of Neatishead's RAF Air Defence Radar Museum to celebrate its landmark day.

For 18 years after the first intrigued visitors were invited on to the once top-secret base near Horning, the trustees of the Broads attraction have announced the purchase of the two-acre museum site from the Ministry of Defence.

A substantial sum from a benefactor has enabled the purchase, for an undisclosed sum, following more than 18 months of negotiation.

Once commander of RAF operations at the base, trustees' chairman Air Commodore Kevin Pellatt said: 'This is a hugely important day for us as we can now plan for the future with confidence now that the site is ours.'

Mr Lamb, who donned an RAF Neatishead tie for the occasion, said: 'This is a fantastic achievement to get to this point. Here in rural Norfolk, the museum is a wonderful treasure and a really important element of the last century's history.' Giving Mr Lamb a tour of the museum's cavernous rooms which draw visitors into the twilight world of ops rooms during the second world war and cold war periods, Air Cdre Pellatt said: 'Going into the cold war ops room now is very, very reminiscent of when we actually had ops here. It records the whole atmosphere with sound as well.

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'The height of the cold war was in the 1970s and 1980s but when I was here in the early 1990s we still had a number of scrambles around the UK.'

He said when the museum first opened it was just seen as a facility to show visitors to the station snippets of history.

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However, it now attracted more than 6,000 visitors a year and had attracted several tourism awards.

Air Cdre Pellatt said: 'We are making steady progress and are comfortable with our visitor numbers given that we currently only have one paid member of staff and are very heavily reliant on the goodwill of our volunteers.'

Resolving the land ownership issue would allow them to consider expansion in the future, but they would first need more volunteers as well as extra paid staff.

He said: 'There are all sorts of opportunities from running the cafe and shop to providing technical support and sorting out displays. For the present volunteers it is almost like a club.'

Manager Chris Morshead, a former Royal Navy commander, said improvement plans were ongoing and several rooms had been refurbished for this summer.

The museum open Tuesdays and Thursdays and the second Saturday of every month from April to October as well as Bank Holiday Mondays.

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