Hendon, June 13th, 1997
This section is laid out in two pages. This page describes the Museum in general and the Main Aircraft Hall - the other pages look at the Sunderland tour and the Battle of Britain exhibit.
An official site for the museum can be found at http://www.rafmuseum.org.uk/
I travelled up to Hendon by train from Redhill to Victoria Station, and then on the Northern Line of the London Underground (Colindale station). It was somewhat of a shock to find that a lot of the 'Underground' is actually overground. I now also understand some of the jokes about the Northern Line. The Museum is a short walk (very well signposted) from the station. I went with my partner's Uncle David who is quite keen on technology of all kinds - my partner and her Aunt went off to Kingston-on-Thames to check out the shopping . . .
Walking into the grounds was a strange feeling. Hendon was the place where the Royal Air Force came into being and has an association with aviation even older than that, so I can't think of a more appropriate place to locate a museum. The museum has been around since the early '70's, but some of the buildings date back to World War One.
We were lucky to get in though. Two days prior to our visit there had been a heavy downpour which flooded parts of the Main aircraft hall, and the Bomber Command hall. Some of the carpets were still sodden, and there was a risk from the floor lighting. The Bomber Command hall was closed, but we were able to view the Main Aircraft hall and the display galleries.
Of high interest to me were the World War One aircraft - something we don't see much of in New Zealand. Although there are several replicas (such as the Vickers GunBus ('2345'), the Sopwith 1 1/2 Strutter ('A8226'), and the Bristol 20 M.1C ('C4994') above), most of the aircraft were original. It was amazing to see the Sopwith Pup (N5192), the Triplane (N5182), and of course the F.1 Camel (F6314). I have to admit (and I blame it on all those Biggles books), I couldn't resist touching the Camel!
One exhibit I thought strange at first but after closer inspection decided was really neat, was the Bristol 20 F.2B (E2466) - which was only partially covered, allowing the interior and construction to be examined. You really need to take a close look at this image!
The inter-war aircraft were also of interest. I noted particularly the Hawker Hart (J9941) and the 'Afghan' Hind (BAPC.82). I can't really tell them apart, so I was glad they were labelled. HInds were used by the NZPAF and then the RNZAF - there is one example under restoration in New Zealand.
The other images below show the control cabin of the Armstrong-Whitworth R33 airship, a Gloster Gladiator (K8042 - actually in the Battle of Britain Exhibit) and a Supermarine Stranraer (920)
Moving onto the World War II period, one of the more fascinating exhibits was the Airspeed AS.40 Oxford (MP425) - the only complete exhibit of its kind in the world. Although this situation will not last long, as there is an example in New Zealand awaiting reassembly (Its complete - just dissassembled). The Tempest II (PR536) was 'way cool' too!
Not all the exhibits are aircraft - as shown by the raft display. But it was mostly the aircraft that had my attention. The Beaufighter TF.10 (RD253) blew me away - talk about 'wide-track' undercarriage.
The aircraft Hall image shows the Tempest II (PR536), and Spitfires Mk.1 (K9942) and Mk.24 (PK724). The Bristol Belvedere (XG474), the Beaufighter (RD253) and Beaufort (DD931) and Sikorsky Hoverfly (KK995) are in the background. There were lots more aircraft -particularly for the post-war period, and lots of vehicles too. The pictures here are really only a taste. But some that caught my eye were the Hoverfly, the Gloster Meteor F.8 (WH301), and a slightly different exhibit - the Whittle engine.
All around, David and I enjoyed wandering around the Hall, and we even spent some time upstairs in the display galleries. The Uniforms and other items were interesting, but I had really come to see the aircraft. It was a shame we couldn't get into the Bomber Hall, but we could see some of the aircraft from the door (Lancaster, B-17, Mosquito). I guess 'them's the breaks'. But there was more to come in the 'Battle of Britain' exhibit, which is described on the next page.
© 1997 Phillip Treweek, all rights reserved