October 2015, after meeting Daniel Hunt and his brother Kevin and there dad Brian who are the owners of the Wings museum in Balcombe West Sussex. I had this idea of having my own little squadron museum along side the main museum. So as normal my brain went into over drive trying to work out how I would fund such a project. I started my search online for large wooden sheds, to get a rough idea of the kind of money I needed it couldn't be any kind of shed it had to look like the one guys used during their time at RAF Warmwell.
I must have looked at loads of sheds, so let's cut a long story short, I found one a deluxe summer house 20 x 10 made in the UK by Garden buildings direct based in Worksop part of Kybotech Limited group and it was reduced, only one thousand two hundred and fifty pounds. The photos looked great well put together very nice, I read all the views which were all good, maybe I should have done a little more digging, this will become clearer as you read on. So I contacted Dan at the museum to make sure this size building would be OK, he came back saying that's fine size no problem.
So I started to put together a design of what I wanted the Hut to look like, then I started a Crowdfunder campaign to raise the money, in the mean time I had contacted the company about the summer house and they informed me that this reduced price was ending soon, and because my fundraising campaign was not going anywhere I went to bank to get a loan, happy days.
I contacted the company and put my order in and paid for the summer house, well that's what I thought only to be asked what floor I wanted? I replied "what floor" , I thought that came with it, she replied "no the floor is extra" , so I paid another two hundred pounds for the floor, good job I borrowed a little bit extra from the bank.
So all I had to do now was sit back and wait for delivery, which was about 6 weeks, it was near the end of November. So I was starting to put the display boards together along with collecting items I could use as props, I had a rough idea of the layout and what I wanted, it would be laid out roughly the same as the marquee, but on a larger scale.
I was finally given a delivery date it was the end January, so I arranged with Andy the next door neighbour to go down over the weekend to put it, I remember it being a bloody cold and windy weekend Andy has done so much work for the Hut, he made the display tables and new doors and loads more, so it was finally up and I started to concentrate on the displays Over the next couple of months, myself and my wife liz spent a lot of time, down there painting it and getting it ready for when the museum reopened in March, it was not easy because of my work shift patterns, I would usually end up working through the night and driving home in the early hours, but we did it.
In May 2016 I had my first international visitor Rod Hurman, Rod's dad was "Bluey" Hurman who served with the Squadron in Burma and his wife who we're travelling around Europe, from their home in Australia. I remember as I walked down towards the Hut that morning with liz something didn't look right, it looked like the roof had sunk and the sides were pushing out, on closer inspection the damage was much worse.
I contacted the company on Monday morning and explained the situation and what had happened.
I was told that I used the wrong nails and loads of other excuses, after a very long draw out battle with the company and losing my 10 year warranty I finally received some compensation £400 pounds. But in the meantime I had to repair the Hut and make it safe for the public, I have to thank Jason and Rebecca Woolf and liz for all their help with that, I'm glad Jason knew what he was doing. So finally after more hard work, it reopened to the public.
The compensation I received from the company, I paid for the the Memorial bench which was made by members of Mencap in Ipswich who make hand made garden furniture, I remember the day I collected it from the factory one of the guys said to me as we were loading it in to the trailer, we made that with love.
Over the rest of the year, we started to improve the outside, by adding the bench and adding the memorial plaques display and doing other things to the displays.
The museum closed down for the winter break so I went down to put things away, all ready for reopening in March 2017.
Myself and liz went down to Hut in early February to get things ready for the new season, as we opened the door you could smell damp on further inspection we found mold on the uniforms, caps and some of the displays and the damp had damaged books and pictures, so it was another cold weekend roughing it in the car to sort out the problems, again we sorted it out and opened in March
I decided it was time do something about the damp, so we spent more time damp proofing the whole Hut and boarding it out, again more nights for me and liz sleeping rough. But all the hard work was paying off, more family members visiting and more positive feedback from the public. More displays were added the Hut was looking great, Andy made new doors to replace the old ones and we replaced the perspex windows with real glass and finally we painted the inside and put down carpet tiles.
To say this has been a labour of love is an under statement, the Hut has gone through a lot of changes of the last year, and I can't thank liz enough for all her hard work and having to put with me, it's not been easy but nothing ever is.
I would also like to thank everyone who has contributed in any way over the last year, and big thanks to Dylan for looking after the Hut and to all the volunteers at the Wings museum for all you do, and I have to say special Thanks Dan, Kevin, and Brian for their support with this project.
Cheers Rob (25.11.2017)