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The RAF Museum, London

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Visiting London’s RAF Museum

If one is in London, then a visit to the RAF Museum is a great outing. Located just outside London up the Northern Line in the tidy suburban community of Colindale, the grounds are part of the former Hendon aerodrome. The museum has spacious exhibits covering flight all the way from its beginnings to the present day, though naturally (as the name implies) there’s a big emphasis on the Royal Air Force and its history in both World Wars. Some excellent aircraft are preserved within its halls, as well as a few vehicles for the armor enthusiast.

The Museum is free, and is comprised of four primary halls:
1.) Early flight (housed in aviation pioneer Grahame White’s former factory
2.) Milestones of Flight: More of a teaching exhibit
3.) Historic Hangars: this one has the fighter planes from WW II
4.) Bomber Hall: As the name says, with big boys all the way to the nuclear era
5.) The Battle of Britain: Some excellent planes from that conflict and the battle over Germany

The Grahame White Factory used to be part of the Hendon Aerodrome during the early 20th Century. Henry Coxwell and James Glaisher took off in a balloon from here in 1862, and it was noteworthy as one of the fields used by the British to defend London during the Blitz. White’s former factory houses the World War I exhibits, and includes a lovely SE5a, a Sopwith Pup and a Bleriot XXVII. You can’t get very close to the planes, but just seeing them is wonderful. Most are reconstructions or salvaged from numerous airframes.

I frankly rushed through the exhibits in “Milestones of Flight” to get to the fighters in the Historic Hangars (it seemed like a single hangar, but what do I know?). The highlight for me was the ME-262 jet and a P-51 that I was able to photograph in detail.

Bomber Hall is frankly rather dark and dreary, but the collection of aircraft is superb, including the Avro Lancaster, B-17G, B-24 and the Avro Vulcan that features in the James Bond film, “Thunderball.”

The major reason for my going to the Museum was to see the “Battle of Britain” exhibit. Frankly, there are bits of the battle all throughout the Museum, including a Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire displayed outside the entrance. But since I have been struggling converting a Revell of Germany BF110-G4 Nightfighter to current standards, I wanted to see the version housed there. Sadly the hall was so dark, I could barely get a decent photograph.

While the exhibits at Duxford are considered the Holy Grail for aviation enthusiasts, the London branch is well worth a visit if you’re in town.
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About the Author

About Bill Cross (bill_c)
FROM: NEW JERSEY, UNITED STATES

Self-proclaimed rivet counter who gleefully builds tanks, planes and has three subs in the stash.