Newest Review: ... strange as there area a sizeable amount of aircraft hanging in the direction of the glass and it does make it look like they are ready ... more
Humbled To Say The Least
Imperial War Museum (Duxford)
Member Name: T4imbo3107
Imperial War Museum (Duxford)
Advantages: Airplanes, tanks, helicopters and bombs...up close
Disadvantages: Its what they were used for is the problem.
The whole aspect of the war and the methods used to gain an advantage truly fascinate me, the death and the joy that were experienced through the war years show what a different and cruel world it was then. These days its only through places like the Imperial War Museum at Duxford that one can truly understand the scope of what it is was like to live throughout that period and although the museum itself has lovingly restored aircraft to flying condition, it is also shows how advanced aircraft have become since the war ended in 1945. The trouble is that Duxford can boast about its participation in the war as it was one of Hitler's targets as it was originally an airbase itself. Duxford is just one arm of the Imperial War Museum's attractions. The others are HMS Belfast in London, Cabinet War Rooms, IWM North in Manchester and the IWM London.
Situated north of Stansted Airport and just off Juction 10 of the M11 in Cambridgeshire; Duxford is a museum that is unique in its nature. For the enthusiast it has a lot to offer the historian while also showing the past in an interactive manner that shows progression and evolution in terms of defence and air travel. The history of Duxford is fascinating to read as well, the majority of the aircraft on display were originally flown in to the site itself using the runway; a good example is the Concorde that is on display and open to the public to board. This is one of the prototypes that Duxford acquired, yet to see the photos of the aircraft coming into land in 1977 just gives you some idea as the operational scope of the museum itself. Other aircraft on display along side the runway itself gives an overview of how our methods of travel has evolved with jet liners from the late 1960's standing alongside modern and far more aesthetically pleasing equivalents used today. One thing that is apparent is that war is the common theme throughout certain areas of the complex, which itself is spread down one side of the runway throughout a number of various themed zones.
The museum is always changing yet the two buildings that stand out are the American Air Museum at the far end and the vast Airspace hangar that is nearest to the entrance. For me these two buildings are complete opposites in nature, the Air Museum shows a vast collection of aircraft that are still sealed up due to the security level still being classified with the contents (if any) inside. The building is modern in design with a full glass front that from standing outside looks strange as there area a sizeable amount of aircraft hanging in the direction of the glass and it does make it look like they are ready to fly out at a moments notice, but when inside you enter a completely different world. Most notably the pride of the display in the B-52 Stratofortress bomber whose wingspan is so large that it takes up almost all the entire lower level of the building with all other displays positioned around it including a stealth Lockheed SR71 Blackbird as well as aircraft such as the aircraft hanging from the ceiling! That's not to say that the only thing is planes as there are helicopters, Dakotas and also Bi-Planes on display. All looking rather splendid in their military liveries in the manner they have positioned which has been done very well to show off the aircraft in the best possible manner. In contrast there is also a piece of the Berlin Wall, in fact a very large piece that shows the full height of the wall and is quite frightening to stand against given the size of the piece acquired. This for me gave me a good contrast and gave a time stamp to the majority of the items I was looking at. I think its fair to say that I spent quite a bit of time here, the Huey 105 Helicopter was something that was heavily used in Vietnam while the Dakotas were used in World War II. With the obligatory shop and Coffee bar at the back you sit and relax in the rather chilled atmosphere of the building and just soak up what you see. There is a collection box and I noticed that at the time of my visit that this was half full, not only with sterling but also with American dollars. Outside is a breakdown of the aircraft lost in combat, this was frightening seeing as the memorial is over 50 metres in length and brings to your attention the loss that occurred and so you don't realise how dark a subject that the museum is projecting until you see some stone cold facts.
As you walk back the half mile towards the entrance you see something that would give the British a major headache and take numerous lives. The V1 rocket launcher is something that bought terror to civilians in the Blitz. Launched in Germany or France the V1 would travel in the direction of its perfectly calculated target when the engine would cut out and so the V1 would simply drop from the sky with devastating consequences, as their was no sound no judgements could be made as to the impact point. To stand next to something like this is surreal and to see the item in very good condition shows what level of terror this weapon of mass destruction could bring. Again it was the size that shocked me, standing next to the rocket itself with its wings and looking at a fairly compact piece of kit raised my awareness with how the design was thought out. I was still thinking of the impact some two hours later. Other displays as you walk back include a prefab house, a Gatling gun as well as combat aircraft such as the Eurofighter.
The Airspace hangar is a brand new building and here the aircraft depict the story of the parts that Britain and the Commonwealth have played in the design of aircraft throughout the various periods of the past. Here is where Concorde is located and while the fascination of the plane interested me it was the Avro Vulcan Bomber that really caught my attention. This is a forerunner to Concorde with its Delta shaped wings and to see one in the "flesh" is amazing to say the least. It isn't just about looking at the planes in this area either as there is now a simulator that you can enter to experience the first flight by the Wright Brothers... the kids will love it.
If you're into Tanks then Land Warfare offers a wealth of information, with displays depicting a full scale French village with Tank showing the destruction to the assorted back up vehicles that were used with the Tanks in the battlefield. On my first visit I didn't realise this was here and missed it completely as its based further on from the American Air Museum, yet on a return visit I found it and was glad I did as seeing the vast collection of vehicles and different types of Tanks up close is extremely interesting and with the information on each one provided in a clear and concise manner totally in encapsulating to read.
This place works on two levels - firstly the adults will look at the exhibits and stare in awe of the care that they have been given and reminisce as to when they travelled on such an aircraft or tell stories to their kids about the time when so and so happened. The kids will love it because they can in and interact with the displays and see the sheer size of what there actually is to see and will find the day to be an adventure into new territory. I know when I was there I felt I had found my utopia as I could name the various aircraft to the extent which models and mark designs they actually were, much to the disbelief of my other half who by the afternoon had simply given up with me. Okay to be honest I was like a kid again, but I was having a blast!!!
You are also allowed in to look at the current restoration projects that are taking place; on my visit this was restoring a Spitfire. The display boards showed pictures of a before state that the air frame was acquired in and to see the frame as it was on my visit showed an almost entirely different aircraft as well as a much healthier one that one day will take to the air again. All this work is carried out by volunteers who give their time to Duxford.
Facilities on-site are very good, with Coffee shops placed in the right areas and with some in the style of 1930's Tea shops only adds to the atmosphere that is projected, the price is very good and not much different from the High St prices anyway. Also the entire complex is wheelchair friendly and the assistants will go that extra mile to assist if necessary. Lavatories are clean and well kept, which considering their could be coach loads of American tourists tells me that the image is all important. In fact in one area they have a display dedicated to the filming of the 1969 movie Battle of Britain. The majority of the film was filmed at Duxford and watching the relevant clips showing the precise locations in the airfield make you realise just how much history the place actually has as it was used as a base in World War II with Fighter Command being based here.
Free parking on site with enough spaces for visitors and coaches means that getting to the place is easy. Cost wise its very good money, for an Adult it will cost £16.50 whilst children under 15 years old get free entry. Although the prices do vary for out of season from October to March and are less than in the peak period from March to October. Be warned in the summer the venue will hold a number of high quality air shows and this means that you could be paying up to £35 per ticket if you haven't checked the website. However I have been to a number of these and find the aircraft flying such as Spitfires and Hurricanes with the occasional 747 aerial display certainly does warrant the entrance fee. Also the site does hold large gatherings throughout the year, a good example is Showbus, a celebration of Buses that gather from all over the country, even on days like this the various Museums and annexes are open and extremely busy.
I heartily recommend Duxford as a place to visit, however check before you go as to what is on and go early. To give some idea of the size from Airspace to Land Warfare is somewhere close to a mile in length and so a land train is used should anyone wish to forego the walk. This is one place that the children can wander freely and it is guaranteed that they will be totally zonked out by the end of the day.
Summary: An excellent day out!
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