Carpetbagger Aviation Museum
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The Beginning of Sunnyvale Farm
& The Carpetbagger Museum
by Bernard Tebbutt
Bud Brooks and myself had worked for a firm called Pest Control Ltd of Cambridge carrying out weed and insect control on farms since 1945. However when the firm decided to close down its local operation in the early 1950's we formed a partnership, Tebbutt & Brooks, and took over the job of crop spraying for this area. Needing a depot we decided to rent some buildings at the RAF Harrington airfield.
Buildings on the Airfield Technical Site
We took over part of the Technical Site sometime about 1954 and operated from there crop spraying and general agricultural contracting, we also kept some pigs in the former armoury nissen hut. Then in the middle of 1958 the RAF notified us that we would have to vacate as the airfield was being handed back to its original owners Merton College of Oxford and that all buildings etc were to be sold by auction in October 1958.
This was very unexpected as we had quite a lot of machinery, pigs etc and asked the RAF if the admin site below us was also being handed back. We were advised by them that this had already been handed back to a Colonel Paine, they gave me his address and my partner and I decided to look this site over as we passed by it each day to our site.
On looking over the site, which was in two sections, the east side had a large brick building with 1 large and 1 small Nissen hut with a small paddock on the east boundary. On the west side a number of Nissen huts joined together with 2 independent Nissen huts and a toilet block. Appeared that this was a hospital site and it also had one below ground air raid shelter.
Station 179 layout
On going round the brick building, which had no windows in it and with large fans and two large boilers to the rear, my partner and I got separated when I suddenly heard him shouting. I found him coming out of one of the doors of the main building. He said there are ghosts in there and I am having nothing to do with this site. I went in but could see nothing except that I could hear noises sounding like footsteps. I came out and told him that I thought that it was water dropping but he was adamant that he would have nothing to do with it. I said that Awe have got to have somewhere and this is not too far to move to, if we purchase the large Nissen hut and the brick building we should be able to keep going. He replied that if you buy this I no longer wish to be a partner. We had had one or two problems before as the depot was about 14 miles from his home and 7 miles from mine so I said that I would see what the ground and buildings would cost and then we would talk again.
I got my agent to see if we could purchase the ground how much it would cost. He came back with a very reasonable answer as the 14.5 acre site was very rough after 12 years of neglect. I mentioned to Bud my partner that I was seriously thinking of buying it, after having asked the tenant of the Home Farm, to which it belonged, if he wanted it. He had replied No - look at the state its in. To this Bud replied Well I think I will leave the firm. We agreed that if I paid all bills etc he would leave and this happened.
I then spoke to the RAF and said that if I bought some of the buildings on the Admin site, as I was thinking of buying the site, could they remain standing. The condition of the sale was that everything was to be removed and levelled. To this they agreed that the buildings I purchased on the Admin site could be left standing.
Administrative Headquarters Site
I managed to buy the site and the brick and large Nissen hut at the sale but could not afford any more buildings. After the sale I removed all our equipment from the airfield to the admin site, at that time I still had some employees although Bud had left. My father-in-law had purchased the buildings we had rented so that gave me a little more time to move, we sold all the pigs so that they were not a problem. Vera and I were still living at Clipston with our two boys, Roy and Eric, and she was helping out.
It took us nearly 3 years to clear the site as it was very overgrown and put up fences etc. As the site was being visited by thieves and other undesirables we decided we had better see if we could build a house or two on it. We already had a Agriculture Holding Number given to us so we had to do market gardening, growing strawberries, potatoes etc. We applied to Kettering Rural District Council for two houses so that we could have close neighbours but this was turned down and they would only give consent for one but with no restriction on size. So I decided to build a large bungalow. This we started in 1960 and it took Vera and I five years to build it at weekends. We called the farm Sunnyvale and this was put on the map by the Ordnance Survey.
In 1986 Doug Walker came over from the USA as Vice-President of the Carpetbagger Association. This was the name of the American group that had flown from here during World War 2.
Doug Walker in Group Ops Building 1987
Doug was brought down to me by John Hunt, a local farmer who had found him on the airfield. Doug then explained to me that he had flown from Harrington as a dispatcher during the war and he had come to see if it was possible to put up a memorial to those who had not made it back home and he would like to put it near the original flag post in our garden. I explained to Doug that this was not possible as this was a busy farm and contracting business, to which he replied Then where can we put it?. I suggested that a suitable place would be on the airfield beside the road where Bill Dillon, a friend who flew from here and who, amongst others, called in on us from time to time. Doug then mentioned to me that Bill had been one of the pilots that he had flown with on missions. At this I enquired whether he knew where his aircraft had been parked but he said everywhere looked so different now.
So we went up to where the aircraft used to be parked and he asked me who owned the ground. I told him that Major Glover at Pytchley was the owner and explained where his house was. He went and contacted Major Glover, who had been in the SOE during the war, and an agreement was reached whereby the Carpetbagger Association could have a 99 year lease for the memorial site.
Station 179 Memorial on site of Dispersal at side of the Harrington to Lamport Road
Doug with his wife Jacqueline and Ron Clarke, who had taken over as the UK Carpetbagger Rep, designed the memorial and it was erected in 1987 and dedicated one very wet Saturday in September. Prior to the dedication ceremony members of the Association had a reunion at Sunnyvale in the old administration building, which was not in the best of condition as I had used it as a winter store for cattle and other things. However we managed to cover up the mangers and hay racks with carpets etc and Northants Aviation Society made a centre piece of the airfield with models etc. After the reunion a banquet was held at the Royal Hotel in Kettering to which Vera, Roy and myself attended.
1993 Reunion party on the lawn at Sunnyvale Farm
After the banquet I was asked if they could have their 50 year reunion here at Sunnyvale. I asked for time to think about it as this would be an important reunion. Anyway I agreed and in 1992 a small group of us renovated the Admin building, refelting the roof etc. as there had been several large water leaks through the roof. We repainted the walls and ceiling of the large operations room and three smaller office rooms and also one for the NAAFI and alleyways, replastering where necessary. Taking down unreliable air ducting, finding tables to lay out memorabilia, covered with white linen to hide the tables, and put up as many relevant photographs as possible. Fit sinks and units for a canteen and rewire all the electrics. We managed to get this done for the reunion with people loaning us many exhibits. When they arrived for the reunion they were quite impressed and spent quite some time before going to France for two weeks. After they had gone I did some reflecting and decided to ask for planning permission for a permanent museum from Kettering Borough Council, these being granted. We formed the Harrington Aviation Museum Society to administer the museum, this being granted Charitable status in 1997. From those early days the museum has grown and has become more professional and is now quite well known.
The main hall of the Carpetbagger Aviation Museum in the Group Operation Building 1995
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