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History of the Society

The Society was formed as the Sea Vixen Society in 1983 to commemorate and celebrate the aviation history of Christchurch and to enable like-minded Aviation enthusiasts to meet, be entertained and have a chat on a regular basis - a format which is very much the heart of the Society today.

It was founded with the intention of obtaining a fitting icon and meet with like-minded aviation enthusiasts in the area. It was therefore a memorable day when, in the dark of the morning (06.45 hours) of Sunday 16th December 1984, Sea Vixen XJ580 was towed from Hum Airport (via the Spur Road as she was too large to take along the Fairmile route) to a site on the corner of Somerford Road and Wilverly Road, the approximate location of the deHaviland factory site main gates. She therefore returned to the site where she was originally built.

 

 

XJ580 was formally handed over to the Society on 21st April 1985 by Troika Developments Ltd. who had purchased it on their behalf from Flight Refuelling Ltd. having completed her days as a target towing aircraft. The handing over ceremony was organised in conjunction with Christchurch Borough Council and the USAF (who were based at Christchurch airfield during the 2~ World war), and the Guest of Honour was Monseur Dennuy Boudard who, with his compatriot Jean Hebert, escaped from North Africa, travelled up through France and arrived at their home town of Caen. They then stole a Bucker Jungman from Caen airfield (used by the German Commandant as his personal transport, an aircraft neither airman had ever flown before) and flew from occupied France to the coast of England, where they saw an aircraft on 'finals' and followed it down - into Christchurch airfield! This is believed to be the only occurrence of French pilots escaping the occupation by flying out and landing in England.

Unfortunately, after more than 10 years of being a well loved local landmark, she became a target for vandalism by elements of the local population and, over a period of several years, caused increasingly serious damage. Eventually the Society accepted that, being unable to obtain permission to secure the site with adequate fencing, and following major damage caused by the use of a blowtorch or firework to burn a hole in the Observer canopy and an axe or similar to hack through several skins of the windscreen, XJ580 needed a new home where she would be safe from total annihilation. For some years the Museum at Tangmere in Sussex had expressed a keen interest in looking after XJ580 should the need ever arise and it was therefore agreed that her new home should be with them.

On Sunday 25th June 2000 the wings were removed in preparation for the lift and, on Monday 26th the Royal Navy arrived with a low-loader to prepare XJ580 for her move to Tangmere. She was lifted and loaded onto the low-loader on where she remained over night to prepare for the move early on Tuesday 27th June. However, XJ580 had other ideas and, having had to be loaded so that her nose and front undercarriage overhung the back of the trailer, when the tractor unit tried to set off it was unable to move as the front trailer wheels were off the ground! Ballast was therefore urgently sought to bring the centre of gravity further forward and after much tricky manoeuvring with ballast sacks, XJ580 finally set off much later in the day than originally envisaged! She is now happily ensconced at Tangmere and is much appreciated and cared for by their staff.

Final note: Some weeks after her move, the Society were contacted by Tangmere to ask if we were aware that the outer tanks were full of fuel - needless to say we were not!

 

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