Royal treatment for Lee-on-the-Solent as Princess Anne takes a tour of the Hovercraft Museum

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GUESTS turned out in force to welcome the Princess Royal to Lee-on-the-Solent for a 50th anniversary celebration.

Princess Anne visited the Hovercraft Museum at Daedalus to mark 50 years since the naming of the SR.N4 hovercraft dedicated to her.

Princess Anne taking a tour of the museum and greeting staff. Picture: Habibur Rahman.

Princess Anne taking a tour of the museum and greeting staff. Picture: Habibur Rahman.

More than 140 people gathered around the slipway to welcome Her Royal Highness, including volunteers at the museum, hovercraft crew and borough and county councillors.

The celebratory event also marked 50 years since the start of the continuous cross-Channel hovercraft services from Dover to Boulogne and Ramsgate to Calais, as well as the 60th anniversary of the first hovercraft Channel crossing.

The Princess was met on arrival by the Lord-Lieutenant of Hampshire Nigel Atkinson, who then introduced High Sheriff of Hampshire Sarah Le May, chairman of Hampshire County Council Charles Choudhary, mayor of Gosport Kathleen Jones and their consorts.

Throughout the day, Princess Anne met groups of people representing hovercraft organisations as well as volunteers who donate their time to running the museum and restoring the craft.

Princess Anne meeting and greeting staff of the Hovercraft Museum. Picture: Habibur Rahman.

Princess Anne meeting and greeting staff of the Hovercraft Museum. Picture: Habibur Rahman.

A short demonstration of a Hovertravel 12000TD and Griffon 995ED was enjoyed by the crowd before the Princess spent time on the craft, toured the museum and met more of the special guests.

The day ended with all guests seated on board The Princess Anne, where event organiser Captain Robin Paine gave a short speech about the history of the hovercraft and paying tribute to inventor Christopher Cockerell.

Her Royal Highness unveiled a commemorative plaque with Louise Jenkins, chairman of museum trustees, before giving her thanks and joking with the crowd.

Princess Anne said: ‘Thank you for your invitation. It marks the passage of time but at least I know where to come when I’m in need of restoration.’

Princess Anne giving a speech. Picture: Habibur Rahman.

Princess Anne giving a speech. Picture: Habibur Rahman.

Warwick Jacobs, founder of the Hovercraft Museum, was one of the invited guests who enjoyed the day. 

A keen artist, Warwick presented the Princess Royal with a painting of his own depicting The Princess Anne hovercraft, as well as the book On a Cushion of Air, which tells the history and development of the technology.

PEOPLE from all walks of life were invited to enjoy the celebration and meet Princess Anne during her tour.

One person who was more pleased than most was Hovercraft Museum founder Warwick Jacobs.

Princess Anne watching the hovercraft leave. Picture: Habibur Rahman.

Princess Anne watching the hovercraft leave. Picture: Habibur Rahman.

Warwick fell in love with hovercraft as a schoolboy, when he spent his time collecting models before asking his mum if he could bring a hovercraft home which was due to be scrapped.

Unsurprisingly she was not keen, but Warwick managed to find a home for it and this was where the idea for the museum was born.

Warwick said: ‘It’s the icing on the cake to come back and see it all doing well.

‘For me, It’s a very proud day because it’s 30 years of volunteering work coming to fruition. I never thought this day would happen with Her Royal Highness visiting.’

Although he met the Princess and presented her with one of his own paintings, Warwick said the highlight of his day was seeing Her Royal Highness getting her camera out to snap a picture of the hovercraft display and showing a genuine enthusiasm.

Among the 140 guests were plenty of past and present museum helpers, including long-term volunteers Pam Walker and Vivienne Burns, who said they have had many happy years volunteering for the museum with all their friends.

With plenty of younger volunteers helping out on the day, including some undertaking the Duke of Edinburgh award, Warwick was pleased his legacy will continue into the future.

He said: ‘Seeing this today reaffirms the museum is in good hands for the next generation, seeing young people still loving hovercraft like I did years ago.’

AS THE world’s only museum dedicated to hovercraft, the Lee-on-the-Solent venue sees plenty of visitors throughout the year.

A registered charity, the Hovercraft Museum relies on volunteers and donations to ensure it is able to stay open every Saturday from 10am to 4pm.

Louise Jenkins, chairman of trustees, said: ‘The main priority is to restore the craft and to educate and inspire people who can see and experience the craft.

‘We’re really committed to Gosport. The museum has something for all ages and it’s a real family day out. We have got a lovely team and it’s really coming on leaps and bounds.’

The museum, which has existed since 1986, is self-supporting and does not receive any grants to update and maintain the premises and exhibits.

With a dedicated team of 40 volunteers, the museum is able to display its exhibits which include craft from James Bond film Die Another Day, racing craft and, of course, The Princess Anne. 

However, the team is always looking for more volunteers to help out as former trustee Ben Avery said that without them the museum just cannot function.

For more information, or to get involved, visit www.hovercraft-museum.org