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  • jochengielen

Duxford Imperial War Museum

Updated: Mar 13


Duxford Imperial War Museum has been on my bucket list for a long time now, and since I had an assignment in October 2023 that took me close to Duxford, I decided to finally spend a day there. Duxford airfield is a historic place that played a vital role in the defense of Britain in the Second World War when the Battle of Britain demanded complete dedication of the famous Spitfire and Hurricane pilots and ground support to stop the Germans from invading Britain.

The site is now still an active airfield and the home of the Duxford Imperial War Museum. They have a huge ... and I do mean HUGE ... collection of vintage airplanes and some of them were the reason why I wanted to visit this place.

I urge anyone who's interested in history to visit this fantastic museum so I will not show every detail here, instead ... follow this link to their website for more information to plan your visit: Duxford IWM.

Instead I will show my list of aircraft in their collection that sparkle my interest the most. My explanations are also very basic and for more details, you can always contact me and I can guide you towards more detailed sources around the world that can give you full explanations about each aircraft.

Short Sunderland Mk V (ML796): Ever since I first visited Southampton, seeing the remains of the flying boat piers and visiting the Solent Sky museum back when it was called Hall of Aviation, I fell in love with the flying boat Short Sandringham. The Sandringham was developed from the Sunderland as the Sunderland was a military patrol aircraft and after the war, the need for civilian airplanes was high, so the Sandringham was developed and used by BOAC for passenger flights. This aircraft however is a surviving Short Sunderland as it would have been in use during the Second World War.

Concorde 101 (G-AXDN): We all know the famous Concorde aircraft, the commercial passenger jet that flew at the speed of fighter jets. It was a joint venture between British and French aviation industries and it resulted in a marvel of technology at that time. However ... a lot of testing needed to be done and many tests were actually performed by several prototypes and pre-production aircraft, the first pre-production aircraft after the prototypes was the Concorde 101, this aircraft was used on many test flights and promotional events and was eventually retired to the Duxford museum in 1977.

Comet 4 (G-APDB): In 1952 Britain was in the lead of development as the BOAC started the first commercial jet flight with paying passengers. Other commercial aircraft were all still powered by traditional propeller engines, however, after World War 2, Britain had started developing a commercial jet powered aircraft and the result was this new shining and fast plane called Comet. Initially everything looked fantastic but after some early accidents, a major design issue was found and new versions were built resulting in the first version being called Comet 1 and later versions Comet 2, 3 and 4. However ... by now it was too late and other companies and countries had caught up by introducing the Boeing 707, the DC-8 and VC10. The Comet however was the first and set the benchmark for others to follow. The aircraft in the Duxford collection is a larger and stronger one of the Comet 4 type in the traditional BOAC colors.

Avro Vulcan B2 (XJ824): The Cold War era ... after World War 2, the world looked very different from a political and territorial point of view. Friends during the war were now potential enemies and nations stopped sharing research as the US officially stopped to sharing of information on Nuclear arms research. Britain had developed its own Nuclear program and required new aircraft to back this up. in 1947 development for such an aircraft began in the form of a new bomber with specific capabilities. Eventually resulting in the Avro Vulcan entering service in 1956 as the Vulcan B.1 version. The Vulcan could carry Nuclear bombs as well as conventional bombs and was used in the latter role during the Falkland War in 1982. In 1960 the second type, the B.2 version was introduced and Vulcans remained in service until 1984. By the time of writing, at least 3 aircraft are kept fully functioning although only in a taxiable state and none of them are actually capable of flying at the moment. The XJ824 is in static display.

Avro Lancaster Mk X (KB889): Back to World War 2! The British government had requested the development of a new heavy bomber and out of many designs, a few were selected, one of those was the Avro Lancaster, a new bomber that could carry up to 6400 kg of bombs, she could carry every single bomb used by the British at the moment she entered service. Various production facilities were selected to produce these 21.13 m long and 31.09 m wingspan bombers, including one in Canada. In total more than 7000 aircraft were produced with the first flight being done in 1941 and the first one entering service in 1942. Their most famous action was the legendary raid of the Dam Busters in 1943. At the time of writing only 18 are still around, 2 of these are actually flying and 2 more are taxiable. This one is in a static display state alongside many other famous aircraft in the huge Duxford collection. This 4 engine and 7 crew machine of 6.25 m high is surely an impressive sight to look at.

Supermarine Spitfire: Is there any more legendary aircraft around? The Spitfire is probably the most iconic fighter in World War 2, Germans feared it, British loved it and the noise of its famous Rolls Royce Merlin engines, although also used on the Lancaster and some other aircraft, was best known as the iconic sound of the Spitfire. You can say that alongside the Hurricane, these 2 airplanes won the Battle of Britain and kept the Germans from invading Britain. The origins of this fighter lie in a less known airplane, built for speed, the Supermarine S.6A and S.6B were built to participate in the famous seaplane races to win the Schneider Trophy. These airplanes were incredibly fast and on that basis, the Supermarine Spitfire was developed for the Royal Air Force in the 1930's with the first flight in 1936 and entering service in 1938, just in time for World War 2. Production continued after the war with several countries buying them for their own air forces (including my own country Belgium). Over 20.000 were built and at the moment of writing 201 still exist and a large number of them are actually airworthy. Belgium has 4 of them and 1 of these is still flying (I personally photographed 1 on display at the Brussels Military museum and the one that is still flying at the Belgian Air Force Days in September 2023 at Kleine Brogel Air Force Base in Belgium) - (I photographed 3 of them in Duxford, the VN485 in the Air Space hall, the N3200 in the Battle of Britain hall and PT462 taking off and performing a flyby).

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