Isle of Wight museum plans shape up

An artist’s impression of how it is hoped the Wight Aviation Museum will eventually look. VIA JOHN KENYON
The fuselage of Bulldog G-CCOA — currently wearing the markings of the prototype — in the hangar at Sandown on 18 February. JOHN KENYON

The first exhibit for the Wight Aviation Museum arrived at Sandown Airport on 18 February, in the shape of Scottish Aviation Bulldog G-CCOA, which made the short trip from a storage shed at Freshfield on the western tip of the island. Under restoration in a workshop adjacent to Bembridge is the first production Britten-Norman Islander, G-AVCN, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, and is hoped that airworthy Spartan Three Seater ZK-ARH/G-ABYN, built at Cowes in 1932, can return to the island from its current home at Taieri on New Zealand’s South Island.

The director of the Wight Aviation Museum, John Kenyon, says, “Our hangar museum is planned to open in the late spring/early summer, subject to us obtaining the necessary permissions from the local authority, the process already being under way. “The fundraising plans are now also under way…An important part of our strategy is to raise money specifically to return airworthy Spartan Three Seater ZK-ARH/G-ABYN to its home on the island. However, we have to recognise that achieving the price needed to secure this aircraft as part of our national aviation heritage is going to be a long haul. The owner, Rod Hall-Jones, wishes it to come to the Wight Aviation Museum just as soon as we can find the money. However, we will need a serious investor benefactor if we are to succeed in acquiring this airframe.”

The museum’s Bulldog was first registered to Scottish Spitfire IX MJ755 on display in Athens during the summer of 1968. Note the Curtiss Helldiver in the background. M. R. BELL/PETER R. ARNOLD COLLECTION storage was dispatched by sea on the SS Fort Liard for Casablanca, North Africa, where it arrived on 13 March 1944. It was allocated to No 43 Squadron — the famous ‘Fighting Cocks’ — and on 15 August 1944 flew cover during Operation ‘Dragoon’, the landings in the south of France. Having spent two further months operating from French airfields, in late October it moved to Italy, flying from several bases including Peretola, Rimini and, in February 1945, Ravenna. That May it moved on to Klagenfurt, Austria.

Greece received 77 Spitfire IXs after the war, most of them coming from RAF stocks in the Mediterranean theatre. MJ755 was taken on charge by the Greek air arm on 27 February 1947, and by April it was on the strength of 335 Mira (Squadron) at Sedes, just east of Thessaloniki. It made its last flight on 8 September 1953 and, after a period of storage at Hellenikon, went to Tatoi Air Base at Dekeleia for display. It was then moved to the Hellenic War Museum in central Athens where it was displayed in the open for many years until, following the formal creation of the Hellenic Air Force Museum during 1992, it went back to Tatoi in the spring of 1995. Aviation at Prestwick on 9 January 1975 as G-BCUU, but was cancelled on 24 June 1976 after it was sold to the Ghanaian Air Force. It came back to the UK in 1996 and was registered G-CCOA for the Cranfield College of Aeronautics. On 22 August 2001 it was written off in a mishap, although the damage was restricted to the rear of the aircraft and the undercarriage.

Anyone wishing to donate to the project can find details of how to do so at the museum’s website, which is at