Graduate freelance writer. Visit my online portfolio at www.nataliebollu.yolasite.com
Published July 27th 2016
Discover the stories of those who worked at RAF Duxford
Entering the very modern entrance building of the Imperial War Museum, you are greeted by the museum's incredibly friendly volunteers, who welcome you with open arms and provide you with an array of interesting information about the museum. At first glance of the map, you begin to realise this isn't just any old museum. It is HUGE. We had planned to stay and see as much as we could… 6 hours later we still hadn't seen all the exhibits and show rooms, so here is one piece of advice, get there early!
There are 8 different hangars in which you have full access to go into and have a venture around. One of my favourite hangars we visited was 'Air Space'. Hanging above your head, extended high up into the air are various different planes from different era's and on the ground, some of the larger planes tower above you making you feel incredibly small.
What's great about this museum, is the fact that it is exciting for people of all ages. The feeling of nostalgia ran through my father's mind as he began to tell me stories of his memories of some of the different planes in the room. Standing there in disbelief as planes you had only heard about in stories are right there in front of you in the flesh, the Vulcan Bomber and the Lancaster to name a few. Another great touch to this hangar was all the activities they had for school groups and kids to play with to understand how planes fly. The aerodynamics and trivia games are great for visitors that have children as the kids will be entertained for hours, playing with various different games whilst the parents take time to enjoy the museum.
My favourite moment of the whole day was when we saw a real Concorde Jet. The Concorde being known as the fastest passenger plane of all time, smack dab right in front of us. Best of all, there are steps that lead up to the passenger entrance which you can use to board the plane. On board you are able to see the cockpit and walk the whole length of the plane and get a feel for what it would have been like to be one of the lucky few that would have been able to afford a flight on this beast.
After losing track of time (which is easy to do in this place!) we headed on to some of the other hangars. We visited 'Air and Sea' which took you on a journey from aircraft and boats used in the first world war all the way until present day. This impressive hangar is also home to naval aircraft and helicopters from the 1950's, lifeboats and other aircraft that served in the Falklands War.
At the centre of Duxford's historic site, you can discover how Britain protected its skies during the Second World War. Inside the 'Battle of Britain' hangar you will get to see a true veteran of the battle itself, the Messerschmitt Bf 109 and hear actual recordings of the young men who fought to defend Great Britain during this time. Dotted around the hangar are some of the most iconic planes and other vehicles from the 'Battle of Britain' including the Spitfire and many more.
Some of the other hangars include the 'Conservation in Action' room, this is where you can see some of the engineers and staff working to keep some of the planes and other museum artefacts in good condition so that they will last for future generations to enjoy.
As you walk towards what looks like a large hill that has transformed from the ground itself, you will notice that you are actually approaching the American Air Museum. This has to be the most impressive building of them all, with huge glass shutters that allow them to bring the planes inside for protection from the elements and for guests to enjoy. Inside the American Air Museum, they have everything from original letters and uniforms of the American Airforce, Military and even items that even some of the past Presidents of America would have worn. The aircraft in this hangar range from the oldest spy planes to today's fastest and most ferocious fighter jets.
There really is something for everyone, from all walks of life and backgrounds to enjoy. The museum has an onsite restaurants and a café if you feel hungry, but I somewhat lost my appetite when confronted with some of the prices. Your best bet is to bring a backpack and pack a picnic for the day. You can sit down outside on the grass strip that runs alongside the runway, and if you are lucky you may even get to see some of the planes practicing for upcoming air shows and events.
The RAF Duxford museum is also home to the annual Duxford air show which is home to some of the most exciting planes of today, and some of the most important planes in our history. So be sure to check online to see if you are visiting around this time as I can't imagine a better time to visit than the day of an air show.
Duxford Imperial War Museum is a day out that you are sure to never forget and a place that you can visit with the family time and time again. So why not explore somewhere different for a change, ditch returning to the same boring London museums time and time again, give this place a try as it is truly one of the best museums I have ever visited.