If you want to get fit, walking the length of Duxford airfield will give you plenty of exercise. Duxford in Cambridgeshire is home to the Imperial War Museum’s (IWM) aviation museum and is built on a suitably historical site. Duxford airfield was constructed by German prisoners of war in 1918. It has housed RAF squadrons and flying schools, played a key role in the Battle of Britain and was used by USAAF. The ministry of Defence disposed of Duxford in 1969.
The IWM was looking for a site and with the Duxford Aviation Society, bought the runway in 1977. The museum is the largest aviation museum in Europe and makes use of the original buildings and hangars, many are protected with preservation orders.
What would you find on your long walk around Duxford’s numerous buildings?
Aeroplanes. I’m not a plane buff. But it’s hard not to be impressed by a Concord, (the test flight version), which you can go inside, and discover how small it is! Planes are suspended from the ceilings, and there are viewing galleries, circling the perimeters of the hangars, bringing you nose to nose, with noses. Sometimes it’s hard to know which wing goes with which fuselage such is the density of ‘flying’ planes.
In the American Air collection there’s a black sleek Lockheed Blackbird (the only one outside of the USA), elsewhere in other hangars, there are biplanes, like the De Havilland Tiger Moth, and the famed WWII Spitfire, which still flies.
Duxford runs air shows, and was used in films, like the Battle of Britain in 1967.
It’s not just about planes themselves. In the main museum hangar, which is modern and purpose built, there are displays and interactive exhibits explaining how planes fly, what they are made out of, radar, etc. Great for the kids’ education.
Weapons feature in the Land Warfare Hall, including tanks and artillery, tableauxs of post-1945 wars, such as Korea and Bosnia, and this is a reminder that war isn’t to be celebrated. Around the site there are memorials to those lost on bombing campaigns, those times when planes didn’t return to Duxford.
The whole site is one big exhibition and even though it’s a trek from one end to the other, it’s worth the effort, especially when you can watch small aircraft take off and land as you go.
Duxford has managed to capture the best of its objects, there’s nothing more dramatic than having a plane hanging above your head.