The Nevington War Museum is a culmination of many years of research, wild imagination and the ability to see things through the eye of an adult and the enthusiasiam of a child.
Nevington is a village in the south of England. Its History is as shrouded as the mists of time and its whereabouts obliterated by the Fog of War. Nevington is the Valhalla of fighting equipment of the first half of the Twentieth Century. The weapons and vehicles housed in the Museum were escorted in a Valkiery fashion by their owners. Each vehicle and weapons journey to the Nevington Museum is unique. During the dark days of war and in peacetime secrecy, items were donated, often smuggled, to the museum by their users at a risk to their own lives.
The Village itself is located near a deep-water harbor and there is a large partially forested plain to the south of it. To get there one must take the train south, a bus west and finally trek into the forests and depending on your mood, you can find it virtually anywhere.
The Museum specialises in the equipment listed on the right, but generally collects anything as it becomes available.
Please enjoy your Visit to the Museum.
1914 - 1918
In 1914, an army base was commissioned for the training of infantry. However, with the advent of the Tank it became a training ground for armored warfare. It’s first commander was General Nevin W Nevington, a direct descendent of Lord Nevington who established the village in 1067 on his return from the battle of Hastings. Under General Nevington the base flourished. It was during the first World War that the base was designated a top secret research and development site, tank and aircraft testing ground and training facility. The General was an avid collector of stamps but was taken with the Tank when it made its appearance.
When the war ended, he created the Nevington Tank Museum. This initially consisted of the prototypes and the first British tanks. They were stored outdoors in a paddock next to the officers’ mess. Each evening as dinner grew cold on his plate, General Nevington gazed out the window and dreamed of the day his beloved tanks would be housed inside a protective building.
The aerodrome at Nevington was built during the First World War and was one of the earliest Royal Air Force stations. During 1917 the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) expanded and Nevington was one of a number of new stations established to train RFC aircrew. On 1 April 1918 the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Flying Corps were merged to become the Royal Air Force, the world's first fully independent air force. In September 1918 Nevington opened as a flying school. After the war ended in November 1918 the airfield was used as a base for the disbandment of squadrons from the Continent and subsequently decommissioned.
General Nevington was a very persuasive man. He tracked down and obtained the first German prototypes and an example of the A7. His friend President Theodore Roosevelt gave him examples of the early US army tanks. Very soon, his collection was growing rapidly.
In 1921, Major Styles joined him. Styles was a brilliant officer with a flair for the odd. He arrived at Nevington in a red Fokker triplane. Nevington initially thought this in poor taste until Styles convinced him to go for a flight. The General was hooked. He acquired a Sopwith Camel and had Styles teach him to fly. The pair could be found playing dogfights on a Saturday afternoon. Together they began to collect aircraft from WWI.
In 1923 much to their delight, the airstrip was re-commissioned as Nevington Air Base. The plan was to have a single base from which the RAF could operate standard ground based aircraft and Fleet Air Arm planes.
General Nevington continued to add more tanks to his collection and in 1925 Major Brims joined him. Major Brims was interested in uniforms. He brought with him a collection of uniforms of soldiers of fortune that dated back to the Numiddians. It was an impressive collection and when all three joined forces the War Museum was born.
1926 saw an unusual interview between General Nevington and Sgt Barnes of the armory. The General's rapidly expanding collection of armoured and softskined vehicles fascinated Barnes. Barnes was equally fascinated by infantry weapons. He and his friend Sgt Brompton from the artillery requested to be allowed to track down a collection of small-arms and artillery for the museum. The request was granted and the collection grew again.
During October 1924 construction of the Nevington Naval Base commenced, the far side of the harbor having long been viewed as an ideal place to build a naval base.
RAF Nevington become No.1 Flying Training School equipped with the Avro 504, the DH9A and the Bristol Fighter. 1924 brought limited expansion of the RAF and a training flight of Sopwith Snipes was added to the School. From the pilots and aircraft at Nevington the nuclei of three fighter squadrons were formed and in 1925, under the reorganised Home Defence arrangements, Nevington became a fighter station. It was to carry on the fighter role with distinction though its fame was to be The Nevington War Museum.
By mid 1925 Nevington's three fighter squadrons were up to strength with Gloster Grebes and Armstrong Whitworth Siskins. No.19 Squadron re-equipped with Bristol Bulldogs in 1931, and, at the beginning of 1935, was picked as the first squadron to fly the RAF's fastest new fighter, the 230 mph
(375 kmh) Gloster Gauntlet. The squadron gained a reputation second to none for formation flying and gunnery and was chosen, in 1935, to give a special demonstration of air drill over Nevington on the occasion of King George V's Jubilee Review of the Royal Air Force.
In 1936 Flight Lieutenant (later Air Commodore Sir) Frank Whittle was studying at Cambridge University and regularly flew from Nevington. On the surface this was as a guest of General Nevington and Styles on their Saturday afternoon Dog Fights. In fact Whittle was working in Area 51 and developed the jet turbine as a means of powering an aircraft culminating in the jet-powered Gloster Meteor in 1943.
By the summer of 1938 No.19 Squadron's reputation was such that it became the first RAF squadron to re-equip with the new Supermarine Spitfire and the first Spitfire was flown into Nevington in August 1938 by Jeffrey Quill, Supermarine's test pilot.
In 1930, the train line from Nevington was extended to allow transport into the three bases. Admiral Kirk from the HMS Enterprise, a small yacht club run by the naval officers, sailed across the harbor to meet with Sgt Brompton. Kirks interest was in trains and knew where there was an example of a railway artillery piece. Thus was born the armored train and railway artillery section of the museum.
On 3 September 1939 Britain declared war on Germany and Nevington was poised to play a vital role in the difficult years ahead.
In February 1940 one of the heroes of the Second World War was posted to No.19 Squadron at Nevington. Flying Officer Douglas Bader had lost his legs in an air crash several years earlier and had been discharged from the RAF. Determined to serve his country in the way he knew best, he badgered the RAF until he was allowed to fly again. He would not permit his artificial limbs to deter him and soon showed himself to be a courageous pilot and a fine leader.
By June 1940 Belgium, Holland and France had fallen to the German forces and the conquest of Britain was their next objective. Nevington was placed in a high state of readiness and to create space for additional units at Nevington, 19 Squadron moved to nearby Fowlmere.
Then came the start of Hitler's attempt to dominate the skies over Britain as a prelude to the subjugation of Britain. The period of intense air fighting that followed has become known as the Battle of Britain. Nevington's first Hurricanes arrived in July with the formation of No.310 Squadron, made up of Czechoslovakian pilots who had escaped from France. At the end of August the Air Officer Commanding 12 Group, Air-Vice Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory, ordered the Hurricanes of 242 Squadron, now commanded by Douglas Bader, down from Coltishall to join 19 and 310 Squadrons on daily standby at Nevington.
Leigh-Mallory was impressed with the performance of 19 and 310 Squadrons and authorized Bader to lead 242, 19 and 310 operating together as a Wing. On 9 September the Nevington squadrons successfully intercepted and turned back a large force of German bombers before they reached their target. On the strength of this two more squadrons were added to the Wing, No.302 (Polish) Squadron with Hurricanes, and the Spitfires of No.611 Auxiliary Squadron which had mobilised at Nevington a year before.
Every day some sixty Spitfires and Hurricanes were dispersed around Nevington. Bader's 'Big Wing', now known more formally as 12 Group Wing, was ready for action by 15 September 1940, which became known as 'Battle of Britain Day'. On this historic day they twice took to the air to repulse Luftwaffe attacks aimed at London. RAF fighter Command was successful, the threat of invasion passed and Nevington's squadrons had played a vital role in the victory.
1941 - 1944
After the Battle of Britain, Nevington became the home of several specialist units, among them the Air Fighting Development Unit. The AFDU's equipment included captured German aircraft, restored to flying condition for evaluation. The sight of a Messerschmitt Bf109, Junkers 88 or Heinkel III around Nevington at that time did not necessarily have the local people running for cover.
Squadrons with newly acquired aircraft were posted to Nevington for trials. One of these was No.601 Squadron, the only RAF squadron to be equipped with the unusual American Bell Airacobra. Nevington also played a major part in developing the Hawker Typhoon into a formidable low-level and ground attack fighter and in 1942 the first Typhoon Wing was formed. The first Wing operation - an offensive sweep over Northern France - took place on 20 June 1942.
1945 and Beyond
Admiral Kirk had managed to acquire a number of Motor Torpedo Boats, Submarines and Landing Craft for the Naval collection. However it was Chief Petty Officer Roger Clarke who, in late 1946, extended the collection to its current massive size.
During research on U-boat losses he noted that a number of U-boats were lost in trials off the coast of Cornwall. There was only one reported last known position and on a hunch he persuaded Admiral Kirk to mount a salvage expedition. The finding was colossal. On the seabed they found not only the first U-Boat but also a single example of all types and variants. Inside the conning tower or control area they found letters addressed to General Nevington and Admiral Kirk congratulating them on discovering the “lost” the submarines for exhibition in their museum. Today all the submarines have been restored and are on display.
During their stay in England the Americans had laid a perforated steel plate runway over the grass strips of many airfields. Nevington was the first for test purposes. The runway was deemed adequate by the RAF for jet aircraft in the short term. The first RAF aircraft to return to Nevington were Spitfires but by 1947 they were gone, replaced by jet-powered Gloster Meteors. By 1951 a new concrete runway had been laid and a type T2 hangar erected alongside the four First World War hangars. Although the original T2 hangar has gone, the Museum has since put up another two Second World War T2 hangars on the same site.
After 1946, the collection did not really grow any further as the original collectors slowed down. There are still some donations made of equipment that is more modern particularly helicopters, but by and large the collection is seen as one of mechanized warfare until the end of WWII.
In 1947 the museums greatest treasure was announced. What is now known as The 1946 Luftwaffe was uncovered. The collection consists of a single example of each German experimental aircraft. It was generally accepted that many of these aircraft only ever reached the design stage and were never built. General Nevington had received a letter from a Swiss Bank. Initially he thought it was a bank account but it did not exist. Despite his disappointment he pondered the problem further. The map coordinates led Nevington and his team to a Swiss Mountain side. Within several sealed caverns the aircraft were discovered. How they were brought into Switzerland is unknown. Most likely they were flown in at night and dismantled by staff sympathetic to the Nevington War Museum.
They were certainly transported by truck - many were still sitting on their transports. An operation this size would have been difficult to keep secret, still it was and the collection remains intact. Many of the aircraft are still residing in the caverns awaiting restoration today.
It was not until 1949 that the entire collection began to be housed in more permanent homes. It had been kept in old barns, storerooms and warehouses scattered around the bases. Some said this was part of the charm of the collection. 1950 saw the official opening of the Nevington War Museum where the collection is now displayed.
That old Charm was maintained as the storerooms and barns were replicated as part of the exhibits within the new museum.
The Ministry of Defense declared its intention to dispose of the Nevington bases in 1961. Plans for a sports center and a prison were proposed but came to nothing. It was also rumoured that an eccentric billionaire paleontologist was interested in buying the museum buildings with the intent of turning it into a natural history museum. The outcry from the villagers, who were very steeped in their military heritage, was so great that the Ministry of Defence was forced to retain the bases and ultimately handed them over to the local County Council. The bases are now a site for the storage, restoration and display of exhibits too large for a multitude of military museums around the world.
The Nevington Military Society has given all the Nevington Bases a new lease of life and today Nevington is established as THE World center of Military history. The historic site, outstanding collections of exhibits and regular world-renowned Military Displays create a unique museum virtually anywhere.
Information about the exhibits is can be found The Collection and The Catalogue.
How the Museum is Organised
The Museum is layed out in the following way:
History A history of the museum through its founding and onwards.
A look at what exhibits the Museum has in its collection, what is in storage, in the restoration workshops, in the paint shop and finally on display. Each item in the collection will have a title page featuring the On Display Model, some basic Information and if the item has been donated or sponsored it is accompanied by a special plaque honoring the sponsor.
Catalogue of Weapons.
The Catalogue lists all other weapons not in the Collection
This section is divided by country. Within each country depending on the weapons catelogued there are further subdivisions by, time period (WW I, Interwar, WW II and Miscellaneous).
Listed by Country by type and variants
Horse Drawn Equipment
Bicycles,Motorcycles and Scooters
Tanks - listed by types and variants.
Arranged by Country and Type
Aircraft are divided by Country, Manufacturer,
type and variants.
This section is divided by weapon type by Country
Bolt Action Rifles
Light Machine Guns
Heavy Machine uns
Anti Tank Rifles
Swords and Bayonets
Uniforms and equipment
Arranged by time period and country
If an Item has not been donated then at the end
of each catelogue item there will be a list of
Manufactures that could donate such an item to
Forge and Foundry
How to restore items for display in the Museum
Timeline For War is a history of warfare.
Rules of Engagement covers Rules for Wargames
from Strategic down to skirmish level.