Sunday, September 05, 2010

RAF Museum London - pictures and details on a great day out

Recently I had the good fortune to head down to visit the RAF museum at Hendon in London and get to enjoy the sights. I felt as it was such a good day I would share a few pics of the Aircraft we saw as well as details about the museum with you, this is mainly because I have spoken to a few people and other then proper enthusiasts most people didn't know the museum existed.

The reason the post is called the RAF museum London is because there are two sites, one in London on the old Hendon Aerodrome and one in Cosford. Both sites house an extensive collection of Aircraft, equipment, vehicles, awards and exhibits. The London site was chosen due to its proximity to me and I was rather glad of this. Some more information on the museum, as taken from their website here, states:

Britain's only national Museum dedicated wholly to aviation. The Museum occupies two public sites at Hendon in North London, and Cosford in Shropshire, West Midlands.

Each site offers a unique experience to the visitor and the exhibits complement each other. Both Museums tell the story of aviation from early bi-planes to the latest strike-jets. Both sites are free to enter.

With a world-class collection and display of aircraft, integrated with special exhibitions, films, interactives, artwork, engines, missiles, photographs, medals and uniforms and research and education facilities, the Museum takes an innovative approach while keeping with tradition.

While offering a detailed insight into aviation technology, it also focuses on the people who made it possible - daredevil early aviators, wartime heroes and the thousands of ordinary Service men and women whose contribution shaped the World today.

The reason for this post is given the book I have just completed and that this is the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain I felt it was time people knew there was an alternative to Duxford for aviation history in the UK and also to give the readers from overseas some information on another place to visit should they ever get over.

The most interesting aspect I found about the museum compared to other similar places I have visited was it was free! Most places charge a large entrance fee to enter but not so the RAF museum, parking is Pay and Display and at £3.50 I didn't think too bad as you could leave the car and then catch a bus or train to Central London should you not find enough to do at the museum.

The fact the museum is free really doesn't detract from the quality of the exhibits and the level of maintenance. Many of the exhibits or halls feature projectors, touch screens and other interactive media. each of the five main sections or areas of the museum are clean and for the most part well lit, though in the Bomber hall and Historic hanger the lighting is very subdued and flash or a museum setting will be needed on your camera.

The museum is well laid out with five distinct areas all dealing with a different aspect of the history of flight and the RAF, however the most spectacular and impressive exhibit is yet to come, the museum is planning a building/exhibit called the Battle of Britain Beacon, rather than even attempt to explain what this is here is a link to the pages detailing it:
RAF Museum Battle of Britain Beacon
if like me your as impressed by it as I was there is a link on the page to donate to the building of this iconic monument to the brave pilots.

The site as a whole is well spaced out and has a number of large buildings all well stocked with Aircraft and exhibits, the map below shows the layout of the site and the ample parking as well as a very nice open picnic area, something of a rarity in London. the site doesn't show that behind the museum is the main rail line and to the side of the site new apartments are being built but these are being built to function with the look of museum and improve it rather then as a building just dropped next to the site.

Once inside the buildings you are instantly welcomed by one of the most iconic aircraft of the RAF but not in its normal livery or position, I wont say any more then that. A brief stroll through and that's it your in amongst the aircraft, there is everything you could imagine in front of you and through out the halls, kites and balloons through to bombers and jet aircraft. The museum truly does give you the whole history of flight and the RAF.

So that's enough of me waffling on about it time for some pictures of the day and of some of my favourite aircraft:
On arrival to the Museum you are greeted by one of the most iconic aircraft of the RAF, the Spitfire

Alongside the Spitfire at the entrance is the equally famous, and deservedly so, Hurricane

In the Grahame-White factory there are many older aircraft including this Pup

Others are set up showing the equipment associated with them, in this case a Hucs starter.

Other treats include these early examples of "military" transport.

On from the old to the new in the Milestones of Flight exhibit with the Eurofighter

Along side the more recognisable aviation pioneers and warplanes we find the Junkers Jumo 004, the first turbojet production plane, a true but frightening milestone. A creation many people don't realise existed.

Suspended from the ceiling one of my favourite aircraft, the first VTOL plane, the Harrier Jump Jet.

The milestones of flight exhibit was like my dream come true with my favourite plane of all time, the Mosquito taking a prime spot

Unfortunately not all displays show the "perfect" aircraft and some remind us of the sad fate of many aircraft and their aircrews. None more so or more poignantly then this burnt and crashed Halifax that crashed during a raid on the Tirpitz and was raised from the ice covered lake on to which it crash landed.

Along side the many RAF planes a number of allies feature too, and quite rightly, one of the best examples is this beautifully maintained P51 Mustang.

The heavy bombing capability of the Americans is also show cased with this immaculate example of the B-17 flying fortress. On a side note the tail markings show this plane as belonging to a squadron that was based out of Tuddenham Airfield (just outside Bury St Edmunds) where I now play airsoft, in fact the site actually makes use of some of the original accommodation huts that were built for the pilots in the games.

Finally in my opinion on of the most iconic and easily recognised planes of world war two, the Lancaster Bomber, takes pride of place in the entrance to Bomber hall (facing a Spitfire and Hurricane in their display in the Historic Hanger) and gives an awesome display of British engineering and design.

Hopefully the little write up I've given and the pictures I've included have intrigued you or interested you enough to either visit the museum, either London or Cosford, or have made you want to visit any similar locations near you. If you know of any other places similar in the UK let me know as I would love to visit those too. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to contact me or leave them below.
Thanks for looking.


Mike Howell said...

Sounds like a great time!

I live near a small airport (called Willow Run) and the Yankee Air Museum. I am regularly treated to WWII vintage aircraft flying over my house, including a B-24 Liberator bomber. There was an air show this year and I got to see a formation of bombers in flight... amazing.

Millest said...

That sounds so amazing i love vintage aircraft and its great when people get the chance to enjoy and appreciate them. I really do envy people that get to see different aircraft to those we see in the UK.

Mind you similar to that one of my most enduring memories is of a bomber, it was whilst attending a rememberance day event at Elsham in lincolshire. Whilst the last post was playing a lancaster flew over, about 100 feet up at most! it approached from behind the building and there was no sound until it was there and just roared over so low you felt you could touch it and the throb of the engines just set you shaking in an amazing way. the bomber circled several times dipping its wing as it flew over the memorial. It was breath taking and one of the few times I think I saw my grandad with a tear along with several other veterans from the various services, it was just so emotional and moving. To be honest though even now just typing about it gives me goosebumps and this was over ten years ago! its something that just sticks with me and I know is very unlikely to be repeated.

mind you when it comes to aircraft flying and airfields im spoilt rotten round here but im sure ill talk about that in a while when it gets asked about:)

Papa JJ said...

Thanks for sharing your pictures of all those great old planes, that looks like a very cool museum! Definitely a place I'd like to see next time I'm over in your part of the world. It's amazing to see that bomber recovered from the frozen lake and quite humbling, too. I love those pictures of the B-17 and Lancaster, such beautiful planes. Thanks, Millest!

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