Military Heritage Centre ‘could boost Midhurst tourism’

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AN ONLINE debate on the military history of the South Downs National Park has led to an ambitious idea to set up a heritage centre in Midhurst.

It is the brainchild of editor of the online community magazine ‘Midhurst Pages’ John Trueman.

He wants to work with Midhurst Town Council to create the centre in the council’s new base at the Old Library on Knockhundred Row.

And he wants to involve other organisations to set up re-enactment groups to play out military history.

His idea was born after an announcement from the South Downs National Park cultural heritage officer Anne Bone. She said it was investigating the feasibility of a heritage project looking at how the park’s role defending the nation changed its landscapes and communities.

Mr Trueman wants to take the project a step further: “We need reasons for folk to explore the park.”

With all the Canadians and Americans based in the area before D-Day and the people whose grandparents fled to the area to escape the London blitz, there was a huge potential to make the heritage centre, a tourist attraction, he claimed.

“We really need to employ a showman’s approach, to entertain and inform, with mock-ups of gun emplacements and doodlebugs, models of aeroplanes and a lot more.

“Tie all these ideas into a path and bridleway network with local museums and you’ve a holistic approach which could help the economies of our small towns and villages.”

He said the exercise could begin in the Midhurst area with the second world war South Ambersham airfield where some 24 Dutch Barns housed planes during the war.

Among the many links between the area and military history he added, was John Moffat who ‘sank the Bismarck’, and was based at Ambersham between 1943-45 getting married in Selham Church in June 1944.

“We might have enough momentum to initiate our own re-enactments of Tudor and Civil War history. An archery club on the slopes of St Ann’s Hill have a ready-made view point at the castle causeway.”

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