From The Neolithic To The Sea: A Journey From The Past To The Present
Duxford Imperial War Museum
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Category
County
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Condition
Age
Admission
Military
Cambridgeshire
52° 5' 36.6" N 0° 7' 49.0" E
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Good
1917
£16
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Duxford Imperial War Museum is located close to Duxford in Cambridgeshire. Formally know as Raf Duxford it is now an air museum displaying British and American aircraft and holding Air shows regularly though out the year.

Built during World War One the aerodrome at Duxford became one of the first Royal Air Force stations. Used as a training base for the Royal Flying Corps during 1917 and then for the Royal Air Force in 1918 as the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service merged forming the Raf, the worlds first independent air force. Duxford opened in September 1918 as No. 35 Training Depot Station, but the war ended in November 1918 so the base was used to disband squadrons from the continent.

Raf Duxford carried on with its training duties becoming No. 2 Flying Training School in 1920 being equipped with Avro 504's and Bristol Fighters. Sopwith Snipes were added later. A reorganisation in the Raf and Home Defences caused Raf Duxford to become a fighter station.

The squadrons at Duxford built up a good reputation and were the first Raf Squadron to be equipped with the new Supermarine Spitfire in 1938. Jeffrey Quill flew the first Spitfire into Duxford, he was Supermarines test pilot.

With World War II Raf Duxford played a vital role in the Battle of Britain. Hurricanes arrived at Duxford forming new squadrons, some with pilots from Czechoslovakia who escaped from France. After successful missions two more squadrons were added. Raf Duxford helped win the Battle of Britain and help to save London.

In 1943 the United States 8th Air Force took over Raf Duxford. The P 51 Mustangs based at Raf Duxford acted as fighter escorts for the large daylight USAF daylight bomber raids in Europe and Germany. Later in 1944, Duxford took part in D-Day providing air cover for the fleet and the steady progression in land. Raf Duxford was handed back to the Raf in December 1945.

After the war the Spitfires were replaced by Gloster Meteors. In 1951 a concrete runway was laid and T2 hangers erected. Raf Duxford's days were numbered, the airfield was too far south and too far inland and the costly improvements required for supersonic fighters could not be justified. In July 1961 the last operational RAF flight was made from Duxford and for some 15 years the future of the airfield remained in the balance.

The MoD put the base up for sale in 1969, new plans were drawn to convert the base into a sports arena, luckily nothing came of this. The Imperial War Museum leased the site for air displays and came up with a plan to acquire the site. They joined with the Duxford Aviation Society and Cambridgeshire County Council and bought the site in 1977.


The Imperial War Museum restored the base, making improvements and acquiring new aircraft. New hangers were built for the repair and restoration of historic aircraft. Two famous aircraft were purchased, the original Concord and the SR 71 Blackbird. New hangers have been built at opposite sides of the runway to house the British and American aircraft.

In 1936 Flight Lieutenant Frank Whittle was studying at Cambridge University. He flew from Duxford as a member of the Cambridge University Air Squadron.

Whittle went on to develop the jet turbine and his engineering genius enabled Britain to produce the jet powered Gloster Meteor in 1943 - the Allies' first operational jet fighter.

In February 1940 Flying Officer Douglas Bader was posted to Duxford. He had lost his legs in an air crash several years earlier and had been discharged from the RAF but they allowed him to fly again. He would not permit his artificial limbs to deter him and soon showed himself to be a courageous pilot and a fine leader.