Friday, 3 June 2011

I have been to ... the Imperial War Museum, Duxford

My wife had her reunion with her old college friends today, and after dropping her off for lunch, I made my way to the Imperial War Museum's site at Duxford.

As I am a 'Friend of the Imperial War Museum' (it does not cost a lot for the annual membership, and it gets you into all the sites free as well as a discount on anything that you buy in the Museum's shops) I did not have to join the long queue to get in: I just showed my membership card and walked straight in.

The first thing that I saw after passing through the entrance was a B17 sitting by the the runway.

It was painted to represent the 'Memphis Belle', and looked very impressive in the early Summer sunshine!

Knowing that I only had a limited amount of time to spend at Duxford, I made my way straight to the 'Land Warfare' Hall.

I resisted the temptation to go straight in, as I know that a walk round the outside of the Hall gives visitors the opportunity to see vehicles that are being stored, restored, or prepared for display. I was not disappointed.

The first vehicle I saw was a Russian ZSU-23-4 Shilka lightly armoured, self-propelled, radar guided anti-aircraft weapon system. It looked in a rather sorry state, and I hope that is just being stored prior to restoration.

Parked behind it was a 'Chieftain' Main Battle Tank (MBT), looking for all the world as if its crew had just dismounted and had gone for a brew.

The next group of vehicles included a Scammell recovery vehicle ...

... a Russian T55 MBT, ...

... and a Russian PT76 amphibious tank.

Nearby was a Russian T34/85 tank painted in an unusual colour scheme.

On the far side of the enclosure behind the Hall was a further group of vehicles, including a Russian BRDM-2 reconnaissance vehicle ...

... and several other unusual tracked and wheeled military vehicles.

I then came across a line of assorted military trucks ...

... including one manufactured by Tatra, ...

... and three Russian trucks.

I then went inside the 'Land Warfare' Hall. Unfortunately the lighting in the Hall is not very conducive to photography, but I did manage to get some reasonable photographs of a Bofors 37mm anti-tank gun, ...

... its British contemporary, the 2-pounder anti-tank gun, ...

... a Vickers Mark VI light tank, ...

... an early German Pzkpfw IV tank, ...

... and a British 18-pounder field gun (just like the ones that equip my LITTLE WARS army!).

After leaving the 'Land Warfare' Hall, a brisk walk took me to the 'Battle of Britain' exhibit, where there was a Hawker 'Hurricane' (which I could not photograph) and a Supermarine 'Spitfire'.

There were other examples of British fighter aircraft on display, including a Gloster 'Meteor' (my favourite early jet fighter) ...

... and a Hawker 'Hunter' (which I consider to be the best-looking jet fighter every produced by the UK).

As Duxford was a major fighter base during World War II, it was not surprising to see further examples of the 'Spitfire' on display in one of the areas where historic aircraft are stored and restored to flying condition.

In the 'Air and Sea' Hall was a much more unusual exhibit. Tucked away in a corner was Coastal Motor Boat (CMB) 4.

It was in this craft that Lieutenant Agar won his VC, when he penetrated the Russian port of Kronstadt and sank a cruiser that was in Bolshevik hands. The fact that Britain and Russia were not at war at the time meant that the award and citation were kept secret for many years.

The CMB carried a single 18-inch torpedo, which was launched from a trough in the stern of the boat.

At this point I had no more time available, as I needed to return to pick up my wife.

I enjoyed my visit to Duxford, and I thoroughly recommend anyone with even a vague interest in military history to pay Duxford a visit. I hope to return there again sometime soon ... and if I do, I will certainly write another blog entry about it!


  1. Really nice photos! I always enjoy pictures from museums out of range of my "home base." Thanks for sharing them!

  2. Interesting story about the VC. Must look into that.

  3. Bard,

    It was my pleasure!

    I only wish that I had had more time and the 'Land Warfare' Hall had been better lit; if that had been the case, this would have been a much longer blog entry.

    As it was, I did not manage to visit the 'AirSpace' and 'American Air Museum' Halls, both of which are massive (the former houses a 'Concorde', a 'Vulcan', and a 'Sunderland' whereas the latter has a B52, a SR71, a B17, and a B24 ... and in both cases these exhibits are only part of what is on display!).

    There was also a collection of post-war British airliners on display that visitors could climb into.

    If you are ever in Cambridgeshire, I would recommend an all-day visit to Duxford. It will take you that long just to see the exhibits.

    All the best,


  4. Conrad Kinch,

    Agar was an extraordinary man, as his entry in Wikipedia shows (See Augustus Agar). He was an Old Boy of Framlingham School, and he has a page devoted to him on their website (See link) that includes a detailed article about how Agar won his VC. It also has a short recording of Agar telling his own story.

    I have always thought that the attack on Kronstadt would make a good wargame, but have yet to give the idea a try.

    All the best,


  5. Thanks for the photos Bob. I agree that Duxford is worth making an effort to visit - more so now that they have so much 'land warfare' kit.

  6. Bob

    Thanks for the pictures. Apparently I now have family in the Cambridge area, so I may make it there some time.


  7. Tim Gow,

    The problem is that they now have so much 'kit' they cannot fit it in the Hall ... and what they have on display is very cramped!

    Perhaps it should be included on the pre-COW itinerary at some time in the future?

    All the best,


  8. Peter Douglas,

    Now that you have a reason to Cambridgeshire, there is no reason why you should not visit Duxford!

    I would suggest that before you go, have a look at their website, as sometimes they have special events that you may – or may not – want to go to.

    All the best,