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IWM Duxford

The Imperial War Museum's Duxford annex, like the Dulles annex of the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum, is where they have more space to exhibit lots of actual airplanes. It's located in Cambridgeshire on the site of a former World War II airfield. For anyone interested in military aviation, or any of the dramatic historical events associated with it, both of these museums are must-experience sights. We spent most of a whole day at Duxford, after taking an early train from Liverpool Street Station to Whittlesford, the closest town the Duxford on the rail line. Directions offered by some helpful Whittlesfordians led us to a footpath that afforded a pleasant autumn walk to the Museum. Getting back to Whittlesford for the train home was easier, as there is a county bus line making the circuit that picks up right in front of the Museum.

We took a LOT of pictures at the Museum. The ones shown here are just a small sample. You can see these and many more in this Flickr set. The Museum was conveniently uncrowded on the rather gray October day when we visited. But they have airshows there a few times a year when the place, and the surrounding countryside, is packed. I'd love to go back and see one of those!

Here are a couple of panoramic shots that give you an idea of the scope of the exhibits. The photo on the left was taken in the main hanger (there are seven hangers on the site) and the one on the right in the American hanger (more about this exhibit hall later).

Duxford main hanger Duxford American hanger

Of course, there is a working airstrip on the site, which you can see part of in the photo on the left below. And there are several sections of some of the hangers where restoration work is going on, returning some of these classic planes to flight-worthiness. On the right is the famous Memphis Belle B-17, and below is a completely different type of plane in one of the smaller hangers. Plus a typically polite English sign saying, essentially, "Keep out"!

airstrip with plane & tractor Memphis Belle


cute yellow plane
"don't distract the engineers"

The most impressive, visually, of the hanger spaces, is the relatively new American Air Museum. This lovely building serves as a memorial to the American flyers based in the UK during World War II who lost their lives flying from those bases. But it is also a fascinating exhibit space which features aircraft from other 20th and 21st century conflicts, from Korea and the Cold War to Iraq.

American Air Museum

The memorial aspect is paramount, however, and beautifully expressed in the panels lining the walkway to the entrance (which is on the other side of the structure from the one shown above).

Memorial sign

323rd Bomb Group losses

I'm standing in front of the representation
of losses from my father's bomb group,
the 323rd, which consisted of B-26 medium
bombers in the 9th Air Force

heavy bomber losses

Many of the other groups' panels were more thickly
covered with planes representing losses, like this one
representing a group of heavy bombers in the 8th Air Force

Not for the first time in England, we were quite moved by the British gratitude, expressed in memorials, to their American cousins for working together to defeat the Nazis.

The interior of the American Museum is enormous (there's an entire B-52 (Dr. Strangelove) bomber in there!) and packed with interesting information as well as neat planes. You can see many more photos of this space in the Flickr set. Here are pictures that showcase flight crew creativity, some examples of "nose art" (since we have a friend named Mary Alice, we were particulary charmed by the plane shown on the left):

"Mary Alice" "Hawg Wild"

This rather sinister craft is a stealth bomber—it looks stealthy, doesn't it?

stealth bomber

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