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WWI project investigates US history at Tangmere

Original British Handley Page bomber

A HISTORY project investigating the American servicemen stationed at a West Sussex airbase in the First World War has been launched by the University of Chichester.

The study will examine the lives of members of the US Army aviation teams who were based at Tangmere aerodrome and sites across Sussex during the conflict.

Researchers from the University are working with Tangmere Military Aviation Museum and the Chichester Community Development Trust with a group of volunteers for the Over here project.

Dr Ross Wilson, a senior lecturer in Modern History and Public Heritage, established the study to raise awareness of the role of Tangmere in developing American military aviation during the war.

He said: “After the United States entered the war in 1917, pilots, labourers, medics, and soldiers were sent over here to manage aerodromes.

“The United States did not have an advanced history of military aviation at this point so it agreed a programme of sharing technology and resources with Britain to instruct its pilots in fighting, reconnaissance and bombing.

“This was the start of the special relationship between the two nations so sites like Tangmere are a really important part of modern history.”

RAF Tangmere

The history project hopes to unearth evidence about the technological innovations developed in Sussex with focus on the long-range Handley Page bombers that were built to cross enemy lines and target sites in Germany.

Dr Wilson spoke with BBC Radio Sussex about the study which can be heard at 53 minutes at www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04s7yfj.

The investigation will also explore the the political and military history as well as the relationships between residents and US servicemen at Tangmere (above) and the nearby Ford and Rustington aerodromes

It is funded by the Gateways to the First World War charity – through the Arts and Humanities Research Council – which was established to raise awareness of the conflict on its centenary.

Dr Wilson added: “This project will enhance our understanding of the war in the Sussex region as well as demonstrating the importance of Tangmere on an international scale.

“We have already identified some individuals who were working at these aerodromes and in the next few months will be providing biographies and details of their service.

“Remembering the technological advances, the political developments, and those who served and died ensures we can also provide a better picture of this understudied aspect of the conflict for schools and community groups.”

An exhibition presenting all research unearthed from the project will be held in Chichester in September while Dr Wilson will host a conference at the University during the month to mark the centenary of the United States’ entry into the war.

History project investigates American fighter pilots at Tangmere airbase in WWI

To find out about the Over here: Tangmere’s Transatlantic Connections study at www.overheretangmereww1.com.

Alternatively for more about Dr Ross Wilson and his research at the University of Chichester to go www.chi.ac.uk/staff/dr-ross-wilson.

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