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Posted on Apr 4, 2004 in Stuff We Like

Duxford Air Museum: A Photo Visit

A J Summersgill

Duxford Air Museum is located in Cambridgeshire on the site of an old RAF base that was used in both world wars. Between 1943 and 1945, Duxford was a US 8th Army Air Force fighter base and maintains links with the US armed forces.

The Duxford site is a part of the Imperial War Museum, which has its main location in Lambeth, London. For obvious reasons, it is impossible to store many large exhibits in the centre of the capital, and so Duxford is home to a great many planes, AFVs and even some maritime exhibits.

As much as we would recommend a visit to Duxford, there is almost too much to see here, we would recommend that if you are planning a visit, you book the whole day – and be ready to take regular breaks for food and drink, and a long nap afterwards as the museum is spread out over a large area.

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If you have children there is much to amuse them, as there are plenty of shops, cafeterias, play areas and interactive displays to discover as you journey through the museum. In addition, there is a sort of road “train” that can take you to and from each hangar if you’d rather not walk.

The following photos were taken using a Sony DSC-P12 Cyber-Shot digital camera (AJS) and a Kodak DC280 digital camera (Roach).

You will find the following links of interest:

Imperial War Museum

Duxford site

GENERAL LAYOUT

The exhibits of the museum are housed in large hangars, some of which date back to World War I. Newer buildings supplement the old outhouses of the original RAF base, which remains a working airfield as many of the exhibits are still flying.

Each hangar has a specific theme to it as follows:

Hangar 1 – Static exhibits.

Hangar 2 – Flying exhibits.

Hangar 3 – Exhibits relating to maritime warfare.

Hangar 4 – Contains an exhibition of the history of Duxford and the people who served there along with a Battle of Britain exhibition.

Hangar 5 – Conservation hangar.

American Air Museum – Has the largest collection of American combat aircraft outside the United States.

There is also a Land Warfare Hall, but we will leave the details of that for another piece. At the time we visited, there were a number of refurbishment works going on around the museum. Bearing in mind that this year will see the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings, it’s obvious that the museum is gearing up to be fully ready for the thousands of visitors who will attend at that time.

EXTERIOR EXHIBITS

Not all of the exhibits are inside the hangars. There are a great many outside as well, and you will find these scattered around the base at various locations.

In fact, the very first exhibit you see in the whole museum is right outside the main entrance and is a replica Mk I Hawker Hurricane. Not many people realise that there were more Hurricanes active in the RAF during the Battle of Britain than there were Spitfires, and Hurricanes scored a greater number of kills of German aircraft during that battle than their more glamorous cousins. Photo by AJS.

Later, you will come across a Handley Page Hastings C1A transport plane, used during the Berlin Airlift, an Avro Shackleton and various civilian aircraft, some of which you are able to board and walk through. Photo by AJS.

Here is a nice line-up of combat aircraft. Photo by AJS.

This is a Pucara, a propeller driven ground attack aircraft used by the Argentine Air Force during the Falklands War. British forces captured this one during that conflict in 1982. Photo by AJS.

This is an American Sabre. Photo by AJS.

Although this was not an exhibit, we did see this twin-seater Spitfire that is fully-operational, privately owned and used for pleasure flights. The lady who operates this machine was seen wandering around some of the outbuildings, we understand she has bookings for the next several years for people who want to go up in this plane. Photo by AJS.

Later on in the grounds of the museum/base, we came across this old German radio-detection dish from World War II. It’s an original piece and in remarkably good condition. Photo by AJS.

And here is a replica V1 Rocket on a launching ramp. This was the world’s first Cruise missile. When the later V2 rocket strikes were first launched, Britain became the first country in the world to suffer ballistic missile attack. Photo by AJS.

Not far from this display piece and around the back of the curved building that houses the American Air Museum (which we will come to later) is a large array of immaculate glass screens with iconic representations of the lives of American airmen flying from British shores that were lost in the war. Photo by AJS.

This is a long-shot showing how far these screens extend for. As you can see, they stretch out for a long way. Each aircraft etched onto these glass panels represents an American aircraft that took off from Britain and never returned. Photo by AJS.

Finally, here is the “The Gibraltar Gun”, moved piece by piece, from its mount on the rock of Gibraltar. Photo by AJS.

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