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Biggles takes off over England ... Highs in the skies for aviation enthusiasts

England boasts the world’s most lively and compact classic aviation scene in the world. In summer especially, there are air shows all around the country, ranging from the free spectacular in the skies over Folkestone to the epic air shows at Battle of Britain fighter bases Duxford and Biggin Hill, to the year-round displays at the Shuttleworth Collection near Biggleswade and many other museums and collections. Here is a reminder of some of the treats aviation enthusiasts are in for …

BEDFORDSHIRE

In the distance near Caddington the green hangars of Britain’s famous between-the-wars airships stand dominating the landscape. It was here the fateful R101 took off for India, crashing on 5 October 1930 near Beauvais with a loss of 46 lives. The torn RAF ensign of the R101 is in the Church and the victims are buried in the churchyard across the road. The Bell Public House has a photographic gallery depicting the history of the Airships. Their story is told in a book by famed author Neville Shute, who worked on the airships’ design.

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Caddington airship hangars.

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R101 airship.

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R101 airship wreckage, 1930.

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Glenn Miller, Major, in US army uniform.

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Glenn Miller, Big Band leader.

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Glenn Miller with Big Band.

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Shuttleworth airfield landing strip.

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Bleriot, March 2019.

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Shuttleworths at Old Warden.

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Dorothy Shuttleworth and William the pug, 1952.

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Richard Shuttleworth winning at Donington Park, 1934.

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Richard Shuttleworth in the freshly refurbished Blériot XI, talking to its previous owner Albert Grimmer.

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Shuttleworth House.

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Swiss Gardens at Shuttleworth.

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Peacocks at the Swiss Gardens, Shuttleworth.

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Shuttleworth Visitor Centre.

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AR501 at Shuttleworth. Photo by Darren Harbar.

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Shuttleworth Collection group tour.

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Shuttleworth hangars.

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Shuttleworth hangarage.

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Shuttleworth Collection: DH88 Comet.

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Shuttleworth drive-in airshow.

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Big Band leader Glenn Miller had associations with Milton Ernest village where the US Army Air Force established its headquarters in the village hall. 

The Shuttleworth Collection
2m W off A1 at the Biggleswade roundabout.
Tel: 01767 627288.
Hours: Open all year, 10am-5pm (4pm November to March). Last admission 1 hr before closing. Closed Christmas Eve up to and including New Years Day.
Entry Fee: Admission charge. 
Events: Flying displays are usually held on the last Sunday in the month from April to October, weather permitting.
Established by the mother of Richard Ormonde Shuttleworth in memory of her son. Richard was a keen racing driver, pilot and collector who joined the RAF and was killed in a flying accident in 1940. The first item in the collection was a 1932 de Havilland Moth, and exhibits now include a 1942 Spitfire in flying condition, many cars, cycles and horse drawn vehicles. Flying displays are held throughout the year.


BUCKINGHAMSHIRE

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Wycombe Air Centre
Wycombe Air Park, Clay Lane, Booker.
Tel: 01494 443737
Take to the skies with one of the UK’s best known flying schools.
There are trial lessons with qualified instructors for anyone who wants to take the pilot’s seat and fly a light aircraft.
Try a family fun flight for a bird’s eye view of Buck. Includes tickets for Blue Max flying museum.

The Blue Max Collection
Wycombe Air Park, Clay Lane, Booker.
Tel: 01494 449810
Hours: Open all year, and in the evenings in summer with an aerial display.
Entry fee: Admission charge, children under 5 free.
A historic collection of classic flying machines that have starred in Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, The Battle of Britain, Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade and many others.
Spitfires and WWI fighters too.

CAMBRIDGESHIRE

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Inside the Fenland Aviation Museum.

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Fenland Aviation Museum: Hawker Hurricane Spitfire propeller.

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Fenland Aviation Museum: De Havilland Vampire cockpit.

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Fenland Aviation Museum: exhibits.

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Fenland Aviation Museum: A Mwing Commander navigator uniform.

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Fenland Aviation Museum: De Havilland Vampire.

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Duxford airfield.

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Imperial War Museum: American Air Museum, Duxford.

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Imperial War Museum: American Air Museum, Duxford.

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Imperial War Museum: American Air Museum, Duxford.

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Imperial War Museum: American Air Museum, Duxford.

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Fenland Aviation Museum
Bamber’s Garden Centre, Old Lynn Rd, West Walton.
Tel: 01945 585808
Hours: Open Easter to October. Saturdays 10am–5pm. Sundays and Bank Holidays 10am–4pm, Wednesdays 1pm–4pm. Other times by appointment. Closed November until Easter.

Entry fee: Admission charge.
Access: Suitable for wheelchair access.
Displays of aviation memorabilia, uniforms and photographs.
The Vampire TII aircraft is one of the finest examples in the country and has undergone a complete respray and airframe check.
Members of the public are welcome to sit in the cockpit and study the aircraft at close quarters.

Imperial War Museum & Aircraft Museum
 
Next to junction 10 on the M11 at Duxford.
Tel: 01223 835000
Hours: Open all year except 24 to 26 December. Summer 10am to 6pm, and in Winter 10am to 4pm.
Access: Wheelchair access.
Six giant hangars of displays at what was once a Battle of Britain fighter station now housing a wonderful collection of displays and exhibitions from the First World War to the Gulf War.
Aces such as legless pilot Douglas ‘Tin Legs’ Bader served here.
The Showscan motion theatre is a must and where you can experience a ride through space or take part in a dog fight.
Have a look around a Concorde static display. In the Summer historic aircraft take to the skies, especially at weekends.
Unique experiences such as a ride in a two-seater Spitfire are available.
In recent years Duxford has been the scene of some warbird milestones, such as the greatest gathering of Spitfires in the air since World War II – on the day of the airshow, 27 Spitfires chased each other in procession through the skies over Duxford.
 

ESSEX

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Aerial photo of The Squadron, North Weald.

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North Weald Airfield control tower.

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The Squadron.

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The Squadron: DSC3936 departing aircraft during Norweigan visit.

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Planes out front of The Squadron, North Weald.

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Another view of planes out front of The Squadron, North Weald.

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The Squadron
North Weald Airfield, Epping.
Hours: Open daily 10am to 5pm
1940s historic aircraft museum in commemoration of the RAF Squadrons based here 1916 to 1960.
Authentic wartime restaurant and bar. Well worth a visit.

GLOUCESTERSHIRE

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Jet Age Museum.

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Inside the Jet Age Museum.

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One of the aircraft in the Jet Age Museum collection.

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Biggles on display in the Jet Age Museum.

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Gloster Javelin FAW on display in the Jet Age Museum.

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A view of the aircraft collection in the Jet Age Museum.

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The Wellington Aviation Museum.

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Inside the Wellington Aviation Museum.

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Jet Age Museum (formerly known as the Gloucestershire Aviation Collection)
Meteor Business Park, Cheltenham Road East, Gloucester GL2 9QL.
Hours: Open from 10am to 4pm (café 10am to 3.30pm) on Saturdays, Sundays, the majority of UK Bank Holidays and selected Wednesdays during Schools’ holiday periods. The Museum is closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Allow between one and two hours for your visit.
As an all-volunteer organisation, the Museum cannot guarantee that all the facilities and activities will be available when the Museum is open. Restrictions may also apply when special events are held on public opening days.

Wellington Aviation Art
Broadway Rd, Moreton-in-Marsh.
Tel: 01608 650323
Hours: Open all year, Tuesday to Sunday and Bank Holidays 10am-13.30pm and 2.30-5pm.
A famed Wellington bomber, designed by Barnes Wallis of Dambuster bouncing bomb fame, and other aircraft artefacts, paintings, prints, aircraft sculptures, books and videos.
Unique collection of WWII aircraft history. Paintings, models and prints for sale.

HERTFORDSHIRE

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North Weald Airfield Memorial.

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Aerial view of Salisbury Hall de Havilland Aircraft Museum.

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Salisbury Hall de Havilland Aircraft Museum: Tiger Moth.

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Salisbury Hall de Havilland Aircraft Museum: DH110 Sea Vixen.

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Salisbury Hall de Havilland Aircraft Museum: Mosquito B35 TA634.

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North Weald Airfield Memorial
Ad Astra House, Hurricane Way, Epping.
Tel: 01992 572705.
Hours: Open all year daily 12noon-4pm, except Christmas day, Boxing Day and New Years Day.
Entry fee: Admission charge.
Ground floor fine old house at former main gate of North Weald Airfield. Historic record of the airfield from 1916 to 1964.
A comprehensive and accurate collection of archives, photographs, detailed records of all activities, models, uniforms and equipment relating to Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force, all in immaculate condition and surroundings.
 
The de Havilland Aircraft Museum (Formerly known as Salisbury Hall Mosquito Aircraft Museum)
Salisbury Hall, Shenley, London Colney, AL2 1BU.
Tel: 01727 826400
Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday and Bank Holidays 10.30-17.00 hrs (last entry to Museum at 16.00 hrs).
Access: Wheelchairs available, and ramp access to all public buildings.
Entry fee: Admission charge.
Salisbury Hall is not open to the public, but is beautiful moated manor-house, once the home of Sir Nigel Gresley, the great locomotive engineer.
This is the oldest aviation museum in Britain dedicated to the de Havilland Mosquito.
The prototype for this famous timber-built Second World War fighter-bomber was designed and built here.
Other memorabilia relating to the de Havilland aircraft company heritage is also housed here.

LEICESTERSHIRE

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Leicestershire Aeropark.

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Leicestershire Aeropark: Lightning F53.

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Leicestershire Aeropark: Avro Vulcan B2.

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Aeropark and Visitor Centre
East Midlands Airport.
Tel: 01332 810621
Hours: Aeropark open daily dawn to dusk (except Christmas Day). Visitor Centre open Easter to October, Monday to Friday 10am-5pm, Saturday 11am-4pm, Sunday 11am-6pm. Last entrance to the Aeropark is 1 hour before closing time.
Entry fee: Admission charge.
Disabled facilities: majority of areas accessible, ramp into Visitor Centre, specially adapted toilets and parking areas.
See the action from this 12 acre park next to taxiway at eastern end of the airport.
Exhibits include a Lightning fighter jet, Vulcan bomber, Canberra bomber, Argosy freighter and Whirlwind helicopter.
Viewing mound, themed children’s play area and picnic area.

LINCOLNSHIRE

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Lincolnshire: Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

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Lincolnshire: RAF, Battle of Britain Memorial Flight: The Lancaster.

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Metheringham Airfield Visitor Centre: Douglas Dakota KG651.

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Cranwell Aviation Heritage Centre.

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Cranwell Aviation Heritage Centre interior.

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Cranwell Aviation Heritage Centre interior.

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Cranwell Aviation Heritage Centre: Hunting Percival Jet Provost T4.

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Battle of Britain Memorial Flight
RAF Coningsby. Dogdyke Rd, Coningsby, Lincoln LN4 4SY.
Tel: 01522 782040
Hours: Open Monday to Friday 10am-5pm (last tour 3.30pm from March to October and at 3pm from November to February). Closed Easter, Bank Holidays and for two weeks at Christmas.
Entry fee: Admission charge. Access to the hangar is by guided tour only.
Access: All areas accessible to guests in wheelchairs.
A fascinating guided tour around the Flight’s hangar where a Lancaster, Hurricane, Dakota and four Spitfires can be seen. Because of operational commitments a guarantee cannot be given of the availability of specific aircraft. Please phone for details.
 
Metheringham Airfield Visitor Centre
Westmoor Farm, Martin Moor, Metheringham.
Tel: 01526 378270
Hours: Open weekends and Bank Holidays April to November, 10am-5pm.
Entry fee: Admission free.
Access for wheelchair users.
During the Second World War farmland near this Lincolnshire village was cleared of buildings, livestock and trees to make way for RAF Metheringham and the Lancasters, air and ground crews of 106 Squadron.
A fascinating exhibition of photographs and memorabilia can be found at Westmoor Farm, the site of the domestic quarters, which recalls life on this wartime airfield.
 
Cranwell Aviation Heritage Centre
Heath Farm, North Rauceby.
Tel: 01529 488490
Hours: Open April to end-October, 10am-5pm daily. November to March, 10am-4pm daily (photographic exhibition only).
Entry fee: Admission free.
Access: All areas accessible to guests in wheelchairs.
Photographs, exhibits and archive film portray the history of the RAF College at Cranwell which is perhaps the most famous landmark in RAF history.
Follow the North Kesteven Airfield Trail to discover the other airfield sites in the area.

NORFOLK

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Aerial view of Norwich Aviation Museum.

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Nimrod MR2 at Norwich Aviation Museum.

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Vulcan B2 at Norwich Aviation Museum.

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McDonnell Douglas Phantom FGR2 at Norwich Aviation Museum.

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Seething Airfield Control Tower.

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City of Norwich Aviation Museum
Old Norwich Rd, Horsham St Faith.
Tel: 01603 861 348
Hours: Open January to end March and from end-April to end-December Sunday only 10am–4pm. May to August also open Tuesday and Thursday to dusk and Wednesday 2–5pm. Bank Holidays 10am-5pm. Closed Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
Entry fee: Admission charge.
Access: Suitable for wheelchair access.
Exhibition building with displays of aviation memorabilia, photographs, models, maps and pictures.
Of interest to Australians and Americans are the RAAF Horsham St Faith display, 8th USAAF display, 2nd Air Division display, and 458th Bomb Group display.
The collection of aircraft include a Vulcan Bomber from the Falklands Task Force.

Seething Airfield Control Tower
Station 146, Seething Airfield. Entrance via Toad Lane, Mundham, Norfolk, NR15 1EL.
Tel: 01508 550453
Hours: Open June to October, first Sunday in every month.
Access: Suitable for wheelchair access.
Seething was a B24 Liberator base during World War Two. Renovated USAAF control tower has model a/c room, diaorama of Seething base, 448th Honour roll, display of World War Two memorabilia, and an exhibition of ‘The 448th Bomb Group Collection’. This includes diaries, photographs and personal stories from Americans based here during 1943-1945.


NORTHAMPTONSHIRE

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Interior of the Carpetbagger Aviation Museum.

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Exterior of the Sywell Aviation Museum at Sywell Aerodrome.

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Carpetbagger Aviation Museum
Sunnyvale Farm, off Lamport Road, Harrington, Northampton, NN6 9PF.
Tel: 01604 686608
Hours: Open weekends only 10am–6pm, other times by appointment. Car parking; no smoking; all children under 15 to be accompanied by an adult.
Entry fee: Admission charge. Children under 12 accompanied by an adult, free of charge.
Access: Suitable for disabled and there is one wheelchair on site.
The Carpetbagger Museum is housed in the old Administration Building on the site of the USAAF Station 179 and offers a rare look at life on the base of the 801st/492nd American Army Air Force Bomb Group during World War Two.
Photographs and exhibits vividly show the work carried out by the group codenamed ‘Carpetbaggers’ because of their operations in parachuting people and equipment into Occupied Europe.
Next door is the Northamptonshire Aviation Museum with exhibits including the remains of recovered WWII aircraft – parts of a Luftwaffe Junkers Bomber, a Dornier Do 217K Night Bomber and a USAAF Liberator together with instrumentation and other fascinating items of equipment.
There is also a NAFFI for refreshments.

Sywell Aerodrome
Sywell Aerodrome, Wellingborough Rd, Northampton NN6 0BN.
Tel: 01604 670824 (during open hours only)
Hours: Open 10:30am–16:30pm every weekend and every bank holiday between Easter and the end of September. Also open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays 12pm–4pm from Easter until October half-term.
Entry fee: Entrance to the museum and tours are free. Donations are welcome to cover operating costs and fund new projects.
Access: Wheelchair access to hotel and most areas airside.
Founded in 1928, is the UK’s premier classic general aviation airfield, popular for pilot training, vintage and classic aircraft and modern helicopter businesses. There are some 40,000 movements per year, including charter and air taxi operations to European destinations.
Tours start with refreshments in the Aviator Hotel Bar, followed by visits to the Northamptonshire School of Flying, the small Control Tower, Sloane Helicopters, one of the private aircraft hangars with historic aircraft and also Microlight School. Sandwiches, bar snacks and lunch available at the Hotel after the tour.
Tour lasts 1¼ - 2 hours and is free. Children under 14 must be accompanied by an adult and kept under strict control during airside visit.
 Sensible walking shoes recommended; 


NOTTINGHAMSHIRE

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Aerial view of the Newark Air Museum.

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Inside the Newark Air Museum hangar.

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Newark Air Museum
The Airfield, Winthorpe.
Tel: 01636 707170
Hours: Open all year. March to October 10am–5pm, November to February 10am–4pm. Closed 24–26 December and New Year's Day.
Entry fee: Admission charge. Car park free. 
Access: Wheelchair access.
Aircraft, parts and memoribilia. Book and model shop, exhibition hall. Features aircraft types such as Anson, Prentice, Swift, Provost, Vulcan, Vampire, Meteors, Varsity, Sycamores and more.


SUFFOLK

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Aerial view of the 390th Bomb Group Memorial Air Museum.

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Inside the 390th Bomb Group Memorial Air Museum.

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Looking towards the hangar at the Norfolk & Suffolk Aviation Museum.

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One of the displays in the Norfolk & Suffolk Aviation Museum.

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Inside the Boulton and Paul hangar at the Norfolk & Suffolk Aviation Museum.

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Beck Row church and graveyard.

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Flight Sergeant Rawdon Middleton, VC, lies in  the Beck Row church graveyard, grave location Row D.1.

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390th Bomb Group Memorial Air Museum
Parham Airfield, Parham.
Hours: Open 11am to 5pm on Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays from beginning of April to the last Sunday in October. Also open Wednesdays during June, July and August from 11am to 4pm.
Entry fee: Free admission.
Access: Due to the nature of the Museum Buildings, some parts are not accessible by wheelchair. The tearoom, gift shop and toilets are accessible.
The collection reflects East Anglia’s aviation history during World War Two. Housed in a 1942 control tower of the former USAAF bomber base. Engines and artefacts from many famous aircraft, uniforms and memorabilia relating to the RAF, US 8th Air Force and German Air Force.
The Library and Archives centre is located in a Nissen hut.

Norfolk & Suffolk Aviation Museum
The Street, Flixton, Bungay, NR35 1NZ.
Tel: 01986 896644
Hours: Open April to October on Sunday to Thursday 10am to 5pm; November to March on Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday 10am to 4pm; Closed Christmas period 15th December to 15th January.
Entry fee: Free admission. Donations appreciated.
Access: Wheelchair accessible. Some wheelchairs available to borrow. Wheelchair accessible toilet facility.
17 historic aircraft and other aviation material including the 446th Bomb Group Museum and Memorial and the Royal Observer Corps Museum.

Beck Row.
In this churchyard lie the remains of one of Australia’s war heroes Flight Sergeant Rawdon Middleton.  He died at 21 when, the Short Stirling bomber he was piloting was hit during a raid on Turin in Italy in 1942. His Victoria Cross was for the bravery shown, and was regarded as one of the most awe-inspiring feats of the war by a pilot of any country. While seriously wounded himself, losing an eye and sustaining shrapnel wounds to his body as his aircraft was hit, he ignored the crew’s advice to all bail out over Europe and determined to deliver the crew to England, despite the  horrific injuries to himself. Middleton flew the bomber back over England and most of the crew parachuted to safety. It is believed he then flew the damaged aircraft out to sea to avoid crashing into a built up area.  His body was washed ashore at Dover two months later. Grave location: Row D.1.


SUSSEX WEST

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Aerial view of the Tangmere Aviation Museum.

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Tangmere Aviation Museum hangar signage.

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Inside the Tangmere Aviation Museum Meryl Hansed Memorial Hall.

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Explore the museum grounds.

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Tangmere Airfield (Tangmere Military Aviation Museum)
Gamecock Terrace, Tangmere, Chichester PO20 2ES.Tel: 01243 790 090.
Hours: Open February to November, daily. February & November 10am–4pm. March to October 10am–5.30pm.
Entry fee: Admission charge.
Access: Access for the disabled.
Restrictions: Only assistance dogs are permitted in the museum buildings. All dogs are allowed in the grounds and picnic area.
Light refreshments and picnic area.
Not an airfield these days, although much of the concrete runway system of the jet fighter era remain. This is the famed fighter station where Douglas ‘Tin Legs’ Bader led his Tangmere Wing into battle during the Battle of Britain. Bader himself officially dedicated the museum to the RAF and opened it in the 1970s.


WARWICKSHIRE

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Aerial view of the Midland Air Museum.

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The Frank Whittle designed W2/700 engine on display in the Midland Air Museum.

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Frank Whittle and his jet engine design.

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Entrance to the Wellesbourne Wartime Museum.

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Some of the outdoor exhibits at Wellesbourne Wartime Museum.

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Wellesbourne Wartime Museum grounds.

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Recce cameras exhibit at Wellesbourne Wartime Museum.

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Midland Air Museum
Coventry Airport, Baginton.
Tel: (02476) 301033 (outside UK +44 2476 301033).
Hours: Open all year. November to March, Monday–Saturday, Sunday and bank holidays 10am–4:30pm; April to October, Monday–Saturday 10am–5pm, Sunday 10am–6pm.  
Entry Fee: Admission charge.
Access: Access ramps and disabled toilet.
Indoor and outdoor displays of aircraft engines and related exhibits, including Meteor, Hunter, Lightning, Vulcan and Sopwith Pup replica.
Upstairs gallery depicting ‘Wings over Coventry’.

Wellesbourne Aviation Group
The Airfield, Wellesbourne.
Tel: +44 121 777 3518Hours: Open Sunday and Bank Holidays 10am–4pm and other times by special arrangement.
Access: Underground exhibits not suitable for the aged and infirm. Above ground museum has ramp and hand rails.
Wartime underground defence headquarters, now housing a museum of relics, posters and photographs.
Above ground display includes a Vampire jet, jet engine, Sea Vixen cockpit and a Piston Provost.
The museum contains aero engines, a Spitfire control panel and a mock-up Blenheim turret.


YORKSHIRE

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Aerial view of Yorkshire Air Museum.

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Yorkshire Air Museum's Pioneers display.

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Yorkshire Air Museum's Halifax cockpit display.

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Yorkshire Air Museum air gunners collection.

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Yorkshire Air Museum's Tornado cockpit experience.

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Yorkshire Air Museum's aerial combat display.

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The Canadian hangar at the Yorkshire Air Museum.

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Yorkshire Air Museum
Halifax Way, Elvington.
Tel: (01904) 608 595.  
Hours: Open bank holidays and Easter holidays; Summer 10am to 5pm; Winter 10am to 4pm. Please note: Last admission 1 hour prior to closing. Closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.
Entry fee: Admission charge.
Access: The majority of the Museum site is accessible by wheelchair. Wheelchair access is restricted in the upper floor of the Control Tower, due to it’s listed building status and steep staircase.
Once a World War Two bomber base site, the museum has aircraft, authentic control tower, Barnes Wallis Collection, Blackburn Heritage, ROC, Air Gunners and general displays. Plus unique Handley Page Halifax and a de Havilland Mosquito re-build.

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Mike Sullivan, London

  • Hits: 1919