Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Imperial War Museum Duxford Visit

Last Monday was my birthday, and my company gives you an extra day off within the month of your birthday, so AGG and I went up to Imperial War Museum Duxford for the day. It was the same day the some bicycle race was going on, so we left early expecting there to be loads of traffic. As it happened, the roads were pretty clear and we made it in record time.

IWM Duxford is a great museum built on the former Duxford Aerodrome. It's still a working airfield and they have regular displays there. They also keep a stable of vintage warbirds there and there is a very active restoration centre too.

AGG has a medical condition that has recently taken a turn for the worse, which means she finds walking very painful and tiring so we decided to reserve her a wheelchair for the day. This was the first time her condition has been this bad and was a trial run for us if things degenerate with her condition further. One thing I learnt was that If you are pushing a wheelchair all day with cheap plastic handles, gloves are probably a good idea! 

Rocket Engine from the UK rocket program in the 60's.
The museum has a large section devoted to the Airborne Regiments - the Paras - including lots of equipment used at places like Arnhem.

75mm Pack Howitzer 

Air-droppable motorbike

Air landing Jeep

equipment pod.

Air dropped 3" anti tank gun.

A display of weapons from WW2 to modern day.

More support weapons


 After the display on the Paras we moved out into the main hangar, where there are an impressive collection of aircraft, including a personal favourite of mine, the TSR-2.

TSR2 - a fine plane that never was. We considered adding blades to the wheels of AGG's ride, Boadicea style.

Concorde test aircraft engine inlet

One of Concorde's Olympus engines.
Tornado, Jaguar (above) and Harrier GR7
Tornado and AGG in her chariot.
Blue Steel (the nuclear missile, not Zoolanders "new look")
 We then moved on to the Land Warfare Hall, which is right at the opposite end of the airfield from the main hangar. We walked past a mobility bus just outside the main Hanger and AGG suggested we use that to take us down to the other end of the airfield. I foolishly let my bravado rule my head and declined - a decision I came to regret after realising that the airfield slopes inexorably upwards all the way to the our destination. I didn't take any pictures in the LWH, but it has a good collection of vehicles from WW1 right up to the modern day. It also has the replica Tiger tank from Saving Private Ryan.

Next was the new 8th Air force hall. An impressive domed building that looks a bit like a grounded flying saucer. The path into the entrance is lined with glass panels with an aircraft etched into them for every person that died on a mission from Duxford. The aircraft are a couple of inches in size and the panels are a good 6 feet tall. There are dozens of panels and hundreds and hundreds of tiny aircraft. Very sobering.

The sinister looking SR-71 Blackbird (which was filthy - they should get up there with a soft broom and clean off all the dust)


JT11d-20 engies from the Blackbird. Apparently they tried a variety of exotic fuels, including a coal slurry!

Vietnam workhorse, The F-100 Super Sabre

Another favourite, and a plane I had a model of in this very paintjob hanging over my bed on nylon fishing line as a boy, the F-4 Phantom.

We then moved on to the Battle of Britain hangar, which was partly empty as it contains aircraft that take part in the displays. Since there was a Flying Legends display on the following weekend, some of the planes were out practising their displays.

Prototype flying bomb on launch rail.

Spitfire. 'nuff said.

An interesting autogyro. There was no display placard for this aircraft, so I know nothing about it.

Next we moved on to the Air, Land and Sea hall which held aircraft from the RAF and Fleet Air Arm.

Army Lynx
Early Jet engine

Late model Gloster Meteor - the first operational British jet fighter.
MIG 21
RAF Phantom
Phantom gun pod.
Fairey Gannet. The Gannet used two jet engines mounted side by side to run the contra-rotating prop at the front. It was a good, if cramped, AWACS aircraft used by Fleet Air Arm off British carriers. it is also HUGE 
Hawker Hunter Hawker Sea Hawk (Thanks to Jarrovian on TMP)
Sea Vixen. I loved the names of the early jets, Vixen, Vampire, Venom. 
A section of the waist armour from the German WW2 battleship Tirpitz. It's almost 2 feet thick!
AN interesting german autogyro that was carried aloft on a cable behind a submarine on the surface to increase it's visibility. The operator had a radio link to the sub and would spot for potential targets. If the submarine came under attack the cable would be cut and the poor pilot would ditch in the sea as the submarine submerged.
The first guided munition. A German WW2 radio-controlled glide bomb.
Helicopter from HMS Endurance, the Arctic patrol ship. Note the penguin squadron markings.
 We then moved on to the restoration hangar, where aircraft under repair or restoration are stored. I've been to Duxford a few times, and this hangar changes quickly depending on what aircraft are being worked on. Occasionally you will find groups of men in overalls working on a twisted mass of metal and mud that has been dug out of a field or bog, only to return the next time to see a gleaming, fully restored aircraft.

Nose fairing from a Kittyhawk in tropical colours. 
Kittyhawk tail art.
Typhoon |Late Model Spitfire under restoration.
Not many museums have racks of drop tanks on the wall... 
A Spitfire, Bearcat and just visible a... blue plane. 
Very shiny, bare metal Curtis P-36 Warhawk (I think)
Auster observation aircraft. My father-in-law owns an Auster that was used for observation over Normandy on d-day.
F-86 Sabre under restoration.


Anonymous said...

Nice trip report.

The autogyro is an Avro Rota Mk 1 (Cierva C30 built under licence). It was actually used during the Battle of Britain; hovering off the coast to calibrate radar stations.


The 'blue plane' is a Boeing P-26 Peashooter.

Anonymous said...

I had the pleasure of going across the pond in 1999 to the green and pleasant land and visiting Duxford while I was there. Thanks for bringing back good memories.