Tuesday 9 April 2019

Back to Duxford

I've been to the Imperial War Museum Duxford lots of times over the years, either for Air Shows or just to look around the huge collection at this site. This year we decided to renew our annual family membership when we were here back in February. We didn't have a lot of time that day so we intended to come back again over the Easter school holidays and here we are. Annual membership is great value, especially if, like us, you plan on visiting some of IWM's other sites like the Churchill War Rooms and HMS Belfast. 

When we came here in February I didn't post any pictures (we were knee deep in the Painting Challenge at the time and I didn't have time) so let's start with a few photos from that trip when we spent most of our time in the 'Land Warfare' hall. 

Inside one half of the Land Warfare building. They seem to have changed some of the exhibits since I was last here.

Monty's Command version of the M3A3 Grant Tank. The Hull Gun is a wooden mock-up to allow extra room inside for additional radio sets. 

The Hertzer was a very low profile Assualt Gun/Tank Hunter built on the Czech 38T chassis. 

A nice little model of the French Bocage countryside in Normandy. 

This Centaur Command Tank Mk 1 also has a wooden dummy gun, again to allow extra space inside for radio equipment. 

One of the airworthy planes at the museum. This Supermarine Spitfire Mk Vb can often be seen taking part in airshows at Duxford. 

The B17 'Sally B' was having its regular winter overhaul when we went in February.  

This trip we focused on the other end of the site, visiting the AirSpace hall. I wanted to explore the Para's exhibition here and there were a few aircraft from the Normandy campaign I wanted to look at again.

The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight's Douglas Dakota  

Lancaster Bomber - This plane was delivered for service in early 1945 but following an accident and repairs was not back in service before the end of the war. 

In September 1943, BBC war correspondent Wynford Vaughan-Thomas boarded a Lancaster bomber with his recording engineer and a microphone. The BBC have created a Virtual Reality environment that ties in with the recording for an incredibly immersive experience. IWM Duxford have two VR Headsets that put the viewer inside the cockpit of a Lancaster on a real raid on Berlin. I've never used VR before and can honestly say I was utterly blown away by the experience. You can walk around the cockpit, look over the shoulders of the Pilots and the navigator, look through the Bomb Aimers window and see the sound recordist sat behind the navigator making his recording. You can even put your head through the wall of the plane to see an exterior view of the probing searchlights and burning city below. 

Once inside the VR environment, I was utterly absorbed by the experience and almost immediately forgot this wasn't real. When I lent over the navigator to see him working on his map I almost put my hand out to steady myself against the airframe. When I looked outside the plane I felt familiar vertigo feeling as I looked down on the city below (I even flinched when I got to close to the propellers!). This was an amazing experience and if you get a chance (the VR programme can be downloaded here) have a go, I can't recommend it enough.

Still reeling from the experience of going on a night raid over Germany, I went to my main objective for this visit to Duxford, the Museum of the Parachute Regiment. 

Ginkel Heath (Near Arnhem) by Eef van Brakel - This was the ill-fated landing zone of the 4th Parachute Brigade where 2000 soldiers were dropped on Sunday 18th September 1944 

One of several training posters from WWII. 

An original briefing board from the Normandy Operation Overlord. This section shows the Parachute Landings that would support the glider-borne assault on the Pegasus Bridge and Orne Bridges.
Bellerophon astride Pegasus, the symbol of the Parachute Regiment

Supermarine Spitfire IXB - This aircraft took part in over 80 operations during WWII

Hispano HA 1112 M-1-L Buchon (Bf 109) - A Spanish built version of the German Messerschmitt Bf109. This plane featured in the 1968 film The Battle of Britain

Hawker Hurricane Mk XIIA - The RAF's first eight gun fighter-bomber. Hurricanes shot down more aircraft during the Battle of Britain than all other defences, air and ground combined. 

The Supermarine Spitfire Mk VB - This Spitfire was built in 1942 and served with 315 & 317 (Polish) squadrons during 1942-43. This plane was used during 1967/68 as mould for the replica Spitfires using in the film The Battle of Britain. 

Two months on from my last visit and the B17 Sally-B is looking a little more airworthy with all its engines back in place. 

I've said it before but I wholeheartedly recommend this museum. If you only get one day then I recommend making the most of it, getting there early and staying as late as you can. I guarantee you still won't see all the collection but you'll have given it a good shot. I also cannot recommend enough the VR bomber raid. It was an amazing experience and just confirmed my admiration for the pilots that did this night after night. Bomber Command crews suffered a staggering 44% death rate during the course of the war and of the seven crew that were on the flight recorded by the BBC, only one would survive the war. 


  1. Duxford is great. I've only been once as it's a long way to go for a day! I'd love to go back sooner rather than later.

    1. Its worth the trip, but you need to get there early and stay as late as possible to have any chance to looking round the whole site.

  2. Really enjoy my trips to Duxford, Some excellent stuff. Its only 30 mins from my house and a great place to visit.

    1. Its about an hour from me, so still doable. I'll be fitting in more trips later in the year for sure.

  3. Great pics. Not been to Duxford for years but your photos brought it all back....

    1. I like the fact they change some of the exhibits around, so there is usually something new to see on each trip.

  4. Replies
    1. Thanks mate. I have a very understanding wife!

  5. Great report, Lee. Definitely on the bucket list. Those Spits look fabulous. Lancaster VR sounds a must do!

    1. The VR was incredible and worth the trip out on its own.

  6. Awesome! VR headsets are indeed amazing. You can get really lost in them. Tried it once and time went by so quick. Cheers

    1. Absolutely. The 3D effect was incredible and the ability to move around inside the program was mind blowing.

  7. Great pics Lee. A place I need to visit. Especially pleased with your Hurricane note, people think I'm mad for preferring them over the Spit.


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