With our two better halves busy yesterday, another husband (and a friend) and I went off to the Imperial War Museum at Duxford (I suppose, as guys might do when left to their own devices), which is just south of Cambridge. It’s about a 30 minute drive from here in Potton. And it being a Thursday in early October, it was wonderfully uncrowded.
This morning, I thought a non-book-ish, travel and history post was called for:
Duxford is a World War I and World War II military airfield near the town of Duxford (hence its name) that has been turned into one of the Imperial War Museum’s sites. After World War II, the runway was too short for jet aircraft. The entire site was also just in the wrong spot geographically for “the Cold War.” So it was closed as a military base in 1961.
In the 1970s, however, its hangers were turned into an aviation museum. It is now a hugely popular destination for everything aviation – including aircraft hanging from ceilings and standing all over the place, as well as related historical and social displays of all types in the various hangers. Its shortish runaway is used for smaller and “classic” aircraft in air shows. And of course there are restaurants. Fun for the whole family – if the family is into aviation and history, that is.
First, there are the civilian aircraft, including the famous test Concorde from the early 1970s:
Trying to get the entire thing into a photo is nearly impossible:
And they make sure you know it was FAST:
You can go aboard and have a walk thru:
Routine civilian aviation milestones are also noted in nearby displays. For example, are any of you flight attendants? This is why that role exists:
Also on display is the Comet – a British-made 1950s passenger jet aircraft:
Like Concorde, you can go aboard:
It was the first passenger jet to cross the Atlantic.
Indeed airlines never change. A note aboard points out that Pan Am had announced October 3, 1958 that it was beginning passenger service across the Atlantic towards the end of the month. BOAC immediately announced it would start service “the next day” – stealing Pan Am’s thunder, so to speak, and beating Pan Am across the Atlantic by about three weeks. LOL!
You can see displays here and there of air travel in the 1950s. Very “glamorous.”
And very comfortable.
Uh, but that meal to the left (the sign on table points out) is NOT edible:
A post-Comet selfie was required:
The Comet was a troubled plane, however, and ultimately did not last long in passenger service.
Eventually, naturally, military uses and military aircraft are the Duxford focus.
Battle of Britain Spitfires – there are not many left in the world – are a huge deal. This one isn’t real:
But it sure looks real:
This plane, on the other hand, IS REAL. It is an American B-17 bomber. It is the only one in Europe that still flies (and as for the nose artwork, well, if you are under-18 please look away):
There’s a hanger devoted to war on the ground. The 1944 World War II Allied invasion of France to kick out the Nazi occupiers and eventually sweep to Berlin, has currently a huge display. There is also artwork, including photographs. This one is de Gaulle – being all liberator, “certain idea of France”-like – as he walks through the first French town liberated from the Nazis:
And the career of Britain’s greatest World War II commander, General Sir Bernard Law Montgomery, gets its own entire huge setup:
Oh, and for the invasion American and British and other Allied soldiers were given – to carry over to France – money… and a “guidebook”:
It’s not all the Allies in the West. This is a real T-34 Soviet tank:
[You may groan now.]
The American air forces in Britain get their own hanger and special museum:
Americans, being, uh, “special” of course.
We are indeed very “special” people. LOL!
American aircraft from World War I up to the present day:
It can be a bit overwhelming at times.
A P-47 American WWII fighter:
It’s not just planes, but people too. Here, the story of an American World War II nurse – one of those who had to deal with the consequences of all of that military hardware:
There are also stories of individuals, shared by them. You can listen to the actor Jimmy Stewart – who was a pilot during the war – share his:
Soberly, a necessary reminder. A scrolling list of all of the American airmen killed.
As you see, it is only half the alphabet. The rest is on the opposite wall:
They, and lots who did not die, practically filled Britain between 1942-1945:
Two million Americans were here. Two million.
Time for an attempted “artistic” reflection selfie:
And there is a lot of attention paid – unsurprisingly – to 1940’s Battle of Britain. After the defeat of France in June, the German air force attempted to pummel the British Royal Air Force (RAF) into submission to pave the way for German forces to land on the island:
The German aerial assault was beaten off by the smaller number of RAF pilots, flying the now famous Hurricane and Spitfire fighter aircraft. A Hurricane on display:
The British Spitfire was faster and better than anything the Germans had:
This downed German fighter was captured (as was its pilot):
Later in 1940 it was sent on a tour of the U.S. and Canada to raise war contributions.
Of course, Winston Churchill is all over the place:
Also a reminder: how so many people lived trying to avoid being killed by all those bombs falling:
I barely scratched the surface with these pics:
It took us nearly six hours to get through everything – and we did not linger too long anywhere.
And I do admit that by the end I was a bit “Churchill-ed” and “Spitfire-d” out. LOL!
Have a great weekend, wherever you are. 🙂