Posts Tagged ‘Duxford Imperial War Museum’

Imperial War Museums launches first ever IWM Live event in 2022

Monday, January 10th, 2022

Duxford Live Events

Veterans and historic objects will be brought together with expert talks by curators and leading authors as Imperial War Museums launches first ever IWM Live event in 2022.

Tickets are now available for IWM Live, a new all-day event on Saturday 11 June bringing together IWM’s collection; the expertise of the museum’s curators; book signings from leading historical authors; and the opportunity for visitors to engage with veterans of conflict.

Events will take place at IWM Duxford and range from talks about iconic aircraft, such as the Lancaster, Vulcan, Spitfire and Mosquito, to demonstrations and presentations of some of the most compelling objects from the IWM collection, offering the chance to handle objects some of which will be presented to the public for the very first time.

We are thrilled to be joined by expert writers including Professor Richard Overy (The Dictators; Blood and Ruins: The Great Imperial War 1931-1945), Clare Mulley (The Women Who Flew For Hitler), Dr Helen Fry (Spymaster; The Walls Have Ears), Katja Hoyer (Blood and Iron), and Damien Lewis, who will be discussing and signing copies of his latest book published just weeks before IWM Live takes place.

Alongside them, IWM’s own expert curators will be leading talks on topics including HMS Belfast and the Arctic Convoys which was described as “the worst journey in the world”; Black Americans in Britain during the Second World War; and stories of how IWM was founded in the midst of the First World War. There will also be the chance to hear about how IWM London’s recently opened new Second World War Galleries were designed. The full line-up of IWM Live will be announced early in 2022.

Emily Charles, Curator at IWM and speaker at IWM Live, said, ‘We are so excited to showcase everything special about experiencing IWM live and in person with this event. In particular I’m looking forward to introducing audiences to stories of some of the real people who shaped life and culture in the UK when American forces came to Britain in the Second World War. IWM Live is a really exciting venture for us and there really is nowhere better to see history come to life than at this site which has seen some of the most dramatic days in twentieth century conflict.”

Katja Hoyer, author of Blood and Iron: The Rise and Fall of the German Empire, said, ‘There couldn’t be a more apt place to meet existing and future readers. The historical significance of Duxford makes it a fascinating venue to visit. I’m delighted to be part of this exciting programme at IWM Live and share the stage with not just my fellow historians but with some of the museum’s fantastic collections.’

IWM Live
Saturday 11 June 2022
10:00am – 18:30pm
IWM Duxford, Cambridgeshire, CB22 4QR
Tickets: £45

Spitfire: Evolution of an Icon

Thursday, December 23rd, 2021

Duxford Spitfires

The Imperial War Museum based at the historic Duxford airfield will play host to a brand new exhibition featuring the largest collection of Supermarine Spitfires under one roof in modern times. Duxford is often referred to as “the home of the spitfire”, it was the base from which the first RAF squadron received the aircraft in 1938. Today the museum still boasts the largest range of different Spitfire marks anywhere in the world and, from 27 December 2021 until 20 February 2022, Spitfire: Evolution of an Icon will present the largest exhibition of these historic aircraft. Bringing together 12 Spitfires of varying marks together in IWM Duxford’s AirSpace hall, the exhibition – free with entry to the museum – will demonstrate how the iconic warbird evolved throughout the Second World War.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a programme of tours, talks, events and family activities which will delve deeper into the Spitfire’s history. Characterised by its graceful curves, elliptical wings and powerful Rolls Royce engine, the Spitfire has remained a British icon since its heroic efforts in the Battle of Britain in 1940. A familiar site across the skies over Duxford, Spitfire: Evolution of an Icon will see 12 Spitfires brought together to show how this aircraft underwent continual refinement in order to keep pace with German aircraft development.

Alongside IWM’s own iconic Mk Ia Spitfire – one of few remaining airworthy Spitfires to have seen conflict in the Second World War – there will also be Mk V, Mk IX and Mk XIV among the most noteworthy. Visitors will also find information about each aircraft and how the Spitfire cemented its place in history as one of the greatest fighter aircraft of all time. The full list of the 12 spitfires is:

1. Spitfire Mk I N3200
2. Spitfire Mk I AR213
3. Spitfire Mk Vb BM597
4. Spitfire LF Mk Vb EP120
5. Spitfire Mk Vc JG891
6. Spitfire Mk IXb MH434
7. Spitfire Mk VIIIc MV194
8. Spitfire T Mk IX PV202 or PT462 (depending on flying/conservation needs)
9. Spitfire PR Mk XI PL983
10. Spitfire Mk XIVe RN201
11. Spitfire FR Mk XIVe MV293
12. Spitfire Mk 22 PK624 (undergoing restoration)

This exhibition has been made possible thanks to several private owners who have loaned their Spitfire to IWM for the duration of the exhibit. IWM Curator, Adrian Kerrison, said, “The Spitfire became synonymous with hope and protection as the threat of German invasion loomed heavy over Britain. The aircraft captured the hearts of the home front to such an extent that members of the public from across Britain and the Commonwealth would dig deep into their own pockets to fund their production, and the love for them has not subsided since they were first produced. It’s a great honour for us at IWM Duxford to know that we were not only the location from which the first operational Spitfire squadron flew, but that now we can bring together so many of them in one place for the first time and enable visitors to get up close and learn more about this icon of victory.” Spitfire: Evolution of an Icon will be open to general admission visitors to IWM Duxford from 27 December 2021 with associated events and activities taking place for the duration of the exhibition, enabling visitors to learn more about this legend of the skies.

Family Activities
New for winter 2021, Spitfire Engineers will give families the chance to complete activities and learn about the design of the Spitfire, its engineering principles, and the forces of flight. From wing design to fuel consumption, find out more from IWM’s knowledgeable team and take part in hands on challenges to discover how the Spitfire became a force to be reckoned with in the skies.

 Tours and Talks
Twice a week for the duration of the exhibition expert guides will be running an Evolution of an Icon: The Spitfire Exhibition Tour. Priced at £10, this 60-minute in-depth tour will offer the chance to discover more about the development of the Spitfire and look at examples highlighting the evolution of this historic machine whilst getting up close to displayed aircraft. On Wednesday 29 December there will also be the chance to delve into the Spitfire’s history from the comfort of your own home with the one-off Introduction to an Icon which will use IWM’s extensive photo archive to introduce the history and development of the Spitfire and look at the tied history between Duxford and this famous aircraft.

In-the Cockpit Experiences
For just £45 visitors will also be able to Join an expert guide and sit inside the cockpit of the airworthy Mk 1 Spitfire N3200, which flew with 19 Squadron from Duxford. Guests will first explore the history and restoration of the aircraft, followed by 15 minutes inside the cockpit, complete with photo opportunities, learning the controls and immersing themselves in the conditions experienced by those who flew them.

Airfix Event
On 9 January 2022 the museum will host an all-day event explores the design process behind Airfix’s iconic modelling kits. Airfix Product Designers will discuss the research, design and production methods they use, and an IWM expert will take visitors behind the ropes of Spitfire: Evolution of an Icon and observe the intricate details of the aircraft up close. Tickets for this event will be £35 and can be booked via the IWM website.

ON 19th February 2022 the museum will host a unique evening photoshoot; ‘Duxford in a Different Light’, following the first successful night photography event in 2020. All twelve Spitfires gathered for the exhibition will be lit by white and coloured lights throughout the evening and complete re-enactors from living history groups. Tickets cost £75 and include admission to the site from 3:30pm.

(article by Lee Chapman)

IWM Duxford welcomes back visitors with a packed programme of Battle of Britain 80 commemorations

Monday, July 13th, 2020

IWM Duxford re-opening (image by Lee Chapman)

This summer will mark 80 years since the German Luftwaffe began its long series of air attacks, signifying the start of the Battle of Britain. IWM Duxford is pleased to announce that it will be opening its doors on Saturday 1 August, offering visitors the chance to tread the same ground as the young fighter pilots and operational staff of 1940 at this former sector station and participate in a season of new exhibitions and events to commemorate the Battle of Britain 80 years on.

Re-opening of IWM Duxford
The doors to IWM Duxford have been closed for over four months but, from Saturday 1 August, they will re-open once again to welcome members of the public back to Europe’s largest air museum. Visitor numbers to the historic site will be limited to ensure the safety of staff and visitors and those looking to visit should book tickets online in advance for an allocated time. IWM Members will receive access to priority booking from Friday 10 July with public bookings opening on Wednesday 15 July.

New Exhibition Openings
Originally scheduled to open in July, The Ops Block: Battle of Britain will now open on 15 September, the anniversary of the day the Battle of Britain reached its climax. The exhibition will grant the public access to newly transformed and previously unseen historic Second World War rooms. Visitors can step foot into the former nerve centre of RAF Duxford to discover accounts of those who lived and worked here and immerse themselves in a multi-sensory recreation of the Ops Room, experiencing the tension felt on the ground on 15 September 1940. Visitors can explore three dedicated ‘people stories’ rooms and learn about the Women’s Auxiliary Airforce, controllers and pilots who served at RAF Duxford.

The newly transformed Battle of Britain Exhibition will also reopen on 15 September, featuring iconic Second World War aircraft, interactive displays and Duxford-specific stories. The exhibition will also explore Duxford’s shared history with the Supermarine Spitfire as the base of the first operational Spitfire squadron. An airworthy Spitfire will be displayed in the hangar while a replica, positioned outside between the hangar and newly opened Ops Block, will complete the visitor experience.

Duxford Battle of Britain Air Show
Despite the cancellation of two air shows earlier in the year, IWM Duxford’s annual Battle of Britain Air Show will be taking place as planned on Friday 18 – Sunday 20 September. With tickets now limited in order to ensure social distancing, Duxford Battle of Britain Proms has been added to the event schedule on Friday 18 September with afternoon flying entertainment followed by a concert featuring The D-Day Darlings. On the ground, there will be vintage fairground activities and market stalls, military vehicle displays, bunting workshops, flight line walks and plenty of music and dancing. Spitfires, Hurricanes, Mustangs and other remarkable aircraft will take to the skies for spectacular flying displays and sunset flypasts. As one of the only air shows taking place in the UK this year, Duxford’s Battle of Britain Air Show is a summer must-see in this commemorative anniversary year.

Battle of Britain Events
This summer and autumn will also see IWM Duxford host a number of new Battle of Britain events and activities including bespoke tours, photography workshops and panel discussions. Highlights include the Life and Death in the Battle of Britain walking tour with IWM historian Carl Warner, who will provide an insight into the psychological pressures young fighter pilots faced in the summer of 1940, and a panel discussion with author, historian and broadcaster James Holland. There is also the chance to sit in the cockpit of an airworthy Mk1a Spitfire or gain after-hours access to the site for Battle of Britain 80: The Night Shoot for an opportunity to capture Duxford’s historic buildings and airfield through your camera lens. For a full list of events, please visit the IWM Duxford website.

IWM Books and Gifts
To coincide with this momentous anniversary, IWM Shop launches a new range of Battle of Britain inspired products which will be available to purchase online and in our new Battle of Britain gift shop at IWM Duxford. Items include a luxury, leather holdall with Spitfire lining, a Spitfire fountain pen made from the metal of a 1940 Battle of Britain Spitfire P7350 and an exclusive limited-edition W T Author No 1940 watch, inspired by aircraft gauges of the Battle of Britain era.

IWM will also be releasing its seventh title in its Wartime Classics fiction series, Squadron Airborne by Elleston Trevor (author of The Flight of the Phoenix). Set for publication on 10 September, this fast-paced novel has been brought back into print by IWM and focuses on one week at a fictional fighter station during the height of the Battle of Britain, inspired by the author’s personal experience as an RAF engineer. For full details of IWM’s product ranges and publications, please visit the IWM Shop.

Battle of Britain Artworks
To mark the Battle of Britain 80th anniversary, IWM will be working with partners to proactively loan from its rich art collection for the first time thanks to the generous support of the Art Fund . Three Battle of Britain artworks will be displayed at four distinctive venues, alongside unique works from our partners’ collections, with each display exploring and illustrating a different and locally-relevant perspective on Second World War aviation. From August, ‘An Aerial Battle’ by Francis Dodd, ‘Squadron Leader G L Denholm, DFC’ by Thomas Cantrell Dugdale, and ‘Untitled’ by Eileen Agar will tour between Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum in Bournemouth, the Harris, Preston, The Collection in Lincoln and Touchstones Rochdale. Each partnership display will be complemented by an associated events programme.

As the Battle of Britain raged in the skies in the summer of 1940, a range of artists were quick to record and interpret this vital event, many of whom were commissioned by the War Artist Advisory Committee. Highlights from IWM’s collection include ‘Battle of Britain’ by Paul Nash, ‘Fitters Working on a Spitfire’ by Raymond McGrath and ‘Corporal J. D. M. Pearson GC, WAAF’, by Laura Knight which is displayed in the Lord Ashcroft Gallery at IWM London.

Top five things to see and do at the Duxford Battle of Britain Air Show

Monday, September 16th, 2019

Duxford Battle of Britain Airshow

Saturday 21 – Sunday 22 September 2019
Tickets from £35; kids go free*

The Battle of Britain Air Show returns to IWM Duxford this weekend, with the site transforming into a film set in commemoration of the 1969 Battle of Britain film. Visitors can expect a mass Spitfire flypast, historic film screenings and vintage makeovers.

Here are the top five things to look out for over the epic weekend:

1. Gaze up at original Second World War fighter aircraft
From Hawker Hurricanes to a Bristol Blenheim, the Battle of Britain Air Show will showcase an array of fighter and bomber aircraft in daring flying displays. The air show will culminate in a mass flight of 18 Supermarine Spitfires, synonymous with the Battle of Britain in 1940.

2. Watch historic Duxford footage from Imperial War Mumseums’ film archives
Visitors can watch rarely seen films from IWM’s archives, include amateur footage taken by Prince William of Gloucester at the Battle of Britain (1969) film set a RAF Duxford. Second World War footage taken during King George VI and Queen Elizabeth’s visit in 1941, and of the US Air Force’s fighter pilots based at Duxford, will also be screened.

3. Have a vintage makeover and enter the ‘best dressed’
A wardrobe department will be on hand with aviation-themed costumes to help visitors look the part in IWM Duxford’s film set. Hair and makeup gurus Pretty Me Vintage will demonstrate how to create 1940s victory rolls, while traders will be offering an array of garments, from bomber jackets to boiler suits.

4. Get lost in the Land Warfare Hall
The costume and props worn by American soldiers in the exhibition hall were originally costumes in Spielberg’s D-Day classic Saving Private Ryan, and the Tiger Tank featured in the film. Further along the Normandy Experience trail, visitors can spot General Montgomery’s campaign caravans, used during Operation Overlord in 1944.

5. Pick up a Spitfire souvenir
Air show visitors can browse through IWM Duxford’s shops, and pick up anything from a Spitfire keyring to a RAF Irvin flying jacket.

Tornado GR4 now on display at IWM Duxford

Monday, April 16th, 2018

IWM Tornado GR4

On Wednesday 11 April Tornado GR4 ZA469 took pride of place on display in the Battle of Britain exhibition at IWM Duxford.

Tornado GR4 ZA469 was transported from the Conservation Hall in AirSpace to the Battle of Britain exhibition in order to be displayed to visitors.

The Tornado GR4 is the most significant combat jet used by the Royal Air Force during the last 27 years and continues in service until 2019. This aircraft – ZA 469 – deployed to Afghanistan between 2011 and 2014, frequently operated in support of ground forces. In 2011 it flew on Operation Ellamy, to help enforce a no-fly zone over Libya. Most recently it took part in counter-ISIS operations in the Middle East.

Imperial War Museums is delighted to be working with RAF Marham to add Tornado GR4 ZA469 to our displays at IWM Duxford. Wing Commander Phil Marr, Acting Station Commander, RAF Marham, said: “It’s fantastic to be able to loan a Tornado GR4 to Imperial War Museums, especially as the Tornado Force enters its last year of service with the Royal Air Force. The Tornado has been supporting operations across the globe for just over 27 years and continues to fly sorties in the Middle East today so it is great for visitors to IWM Duxford to be able to see an aircraft up close that is currently being used on operations.”

Diane Lees, Director-General, Imperial War Museums said: “Imperial War Museums is actively building its contemporary conflict collections. This Tornado represents some of the most significant post-2001 conflicts in which UK armed forces have been involved. Over the next few years, we hope to work with former Tornado aircrew – especially those who have flown in this aircraft – to also tell the personal stories of those who have taken part in these conflicts.”

IWM Duxford announces 2018 air show season with fabulous flying and commemoration of the RAF Centenary

Sunday, April 8th, 2018


IWM Duxford will present a festival of flying for all the family in 2018, with children under 16 going free to IWM air shows.* Tickets are now on sale, with a fantastic Early Bird offer for all air shows.

Tickets booked for either the Duxford Air Festival or the Duxford Battle of Britain Air Show before 23.59 on Thursday 8 February will automatically be entered into a prize draw to have a chance of winning a once-in-a-lifetime Spitfire flight with IWM Duxford’s pleasure flight partner Classic Wings.

Tickets for all air shows must be booked in advance; no on the day tickets are available.

IWM Duxford’s 2018 air show season commences with the Duxford Air Festival (May Bank Holiday weekend Saturday 26 and Sunday 27 May) offering a thrill-packed weekend. The Flying Legends Air Show (Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 July) is a feast of nostalgia while the Duxford Battle of Britain Air Show (Saturday 22 and Sunday 23 September) is an official partner for the Royal Air Force centenary, celebrating its famous aircraft, past and present.

The Duxford Air Festival will be a feast of action-packed flying full of speed, noise, power and thrills. Confirmed aircraft include the Tiger Nine formation team of nine 1930s Tiger Moth biplanes and the AeroSuperBatics WingWalkers, the world’s only aerobatic formation wing-walking team.

Across the museum, visitors can enjoy a wide range of events and activities. The Family Flight Challenge shows that it takes more than a pilot to make an aircraft fly: from scientists and engineers to designers and mechanics. You might find yourself leaping into the air, slipping-on goggles, meeting our real inventors and adventurers or working in a team to make something fly. In our ‘Meet the Authors’ marquee writers will discuss their current books and take questions from the audience.

The Flying Legends Air Show is organised and produced by The Fighter Collection. This world-famous air show combines flying displays of remarkable historic aircraft with engaging nostalgic activities to create an authentic 1940s atmosphere at IWM Duxford’s wartime airfield.

Rare aircraft travel across the globe to take part in the Flying Legends Air Show, performing exceptional aerial spectacles. At Flying Legends 2018 the Flying Bulls will present a five-ship formation for the first time in the UK, featuring two Alpha Jets, a B-25J Mitchell, Goodyear Corsair and P-38 Lightning. The world-renowned balbo, a massed-formation flying display, provides a remarkable finale to the air show.

In 2018, there will be two vintage villages at the Flying Legends Air Show, offering a wide range of nostalgic entertainment.

The Duxford Battle of Britain Air Show brings to life Duxford’s finest hour as an important Second World War fighter station defending Great Britain from aerial attack in 1940. The roar of Spitfires and Hurricanes over Duxford’s historic airfield make this a hugely engaging historic experience and a great British day out for 2018.

The Duxford Battle of Britain Air Show is an official partner of RAF 100, commemorating the centenary ofthe formation of the Royal Air Force. The flying display will showcase not only the famous historic aircraft of the RAF but will also present its modern capabilities with contemporary aircraft in service today.

Entry to the award-winning IWM Duxford is included in the ticket price for all air shows. Visitors can get up close to the aircraft that have revolutionised flight, including the futuristic Blackbird spyplane, which performed top secret operations for almost 30 years and the B-52 Stratofortress, which stretches the length of the American Air Museum. Iconic aircraft, including the Spitfire, Concorde and the contemporary Eurofighter Typhoon, are on display across the museum.

Life and Death in the Battle of Britain

Saturday, April 7th, 2018

Life and Death in the Battle of Britain

Previously unpublished wartime diary reveals a moving insight into life on a Battle of Britain airfield and the young men who risked their lives in aerial battle.

Life and Death in the Battle of Britain is the powerful and moving unpublished diary of Guy Mayfield, Chaplain at RAF Duxford during the Battle of Britain, a defining moment of the Second World War and one of the greatest aerial battles ever fought.

Through Mayfield’s engaging and evocative writing, readers are transported to life in early 1940s Britain, as the Battle of Britain raged in the skies above.

Guy Mayfield arrived at RAF Duxford on 2 February 1940 and wrote regular entries in his diary until his last day at Duxford, prior to a posting to Gibraltar, on 2 December 1941.

Through the emotive and insightful entries in his diary, the reader accompanies Mayfield as he describes the hectic nature of airfield operations and the constant call to scramble interspersed with off-duty time and high jinks in the Officers’ Mess. Mayfield’s intense grief is felt as he describes the loss of friends and colleagues who became so dear to him, while his gentle and endearing humour show why he was such a trusted friend to these young airmen and an integral part of life on this famous Battle of Britain fighter station.

Mayfield spoke, at length and in intimate detail, to pilots who knew they might not survive the next 24 hours. His documenting of these conversations in his diary provides a unique, never before published, insight into the lives of the young men who risked their lives daily in defence of Great Britain – their innermost thoughts, hopes and fears. Years after he wrote his wartime diaries, Guy returned to them, adding retrospective observations and remembrances which have been added to the original diary entries in this publication.

Guy Mayfield’s powerful words are accompanied by poignant photographs of the airmen he lovingly describes. Many of the images are from his personal photograph album and will be published for the very first time. In an introductory section, IWM historian Carl Warner explains why Mayfield’s diary is so remarkable in bringing a compelling and direct new perspective to the Battle of Britain:

“In the pages of his [Guy Mayfield’s] diary, we find one of the finest accounts of a fighter station at ar. It is full of insight into the mind of a man who made an enormous, unsung contribution to victory and into those of others on the station whose mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing he cared about so deeply.”

“Much has been written of Duxford’s role in this defining conflict, but there are few accounts as honest, open and revealing as this.”

“For scholars of the Battle of Britain, and of the Second World War RAF, Mayfield’s account is unique in that it provides us with access to the most heartfelt, deep and meaningful conversations that took place in 1940 as ‘the few’ faced the most monumental challenge of their young lives. It gives rare insight into the thoughts and feelings of young men who, underneath the famous ‘Brylcreem Boys’ exterior, were real people who overcame their own fears day after day – the very epitome of courage.”

‘Life & Death in the Battle of Britain is published by IWM on 19 April and can be pre-ordered here:

Winter maintenance on rare Lancaster aircraft can be seen by visitors to IWM Duxford

Monday, October 17th, 2016

Duxford Lancaster in the Hanger

The Royal Air Force Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s Avro Lancaster recently arrived at the Aircraft Restoration Company’s new Stephenson Hangar at IWM Duxford.

The Lancaster, the sole flying example in Europe of the most successful heavy bomber of the Second World War, will undergo major maintenance work in the Stephenson hangar over the winter months.

For the first time, visitors to IWM Duxford will be able to see the maintenance work in progress from a viewing gallery on the ground floor of the hangar.

Included in the major inspection is the servicing of all of the instrument systems and undercarriage.

At the conclusion of the major inspection, the aircraft will be repainted in a new scheme that commemorates the sacrifice of thousands of Bomber Command aircrew during the bombing campaign of the Second World War.

The major service is due to be completed in April 2017.

Important safety information in advance of The American Air Show this weekend

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

Ahead of The American Air Show, IWM Duxford has released some important safety information:

· IWM Duxford takes great care to ensure its air shows are as safe as possible for everyone involved.

· It is not safe to occupy the fields immediately south of the runway during the air show. If you do so you are putting yourself and the display pilots in harm’s way.

· In the event of an incident it is imperative that the emergency services have clear, unhindered access to the tracks across this land.

· There is no public access to these fields at any time.

Jointly issued by IWM Duxford, Cambridgeshire Constabulary and the owners of this land

Duxford’s People in the Battle of Britain at IWM Duxford

Thursday, August 20th, 2015

A new exhibition telling stories of the people who served

Opens to the public on Friday 21 August

Marking the 75th Anniversary, Duxford’s People in the Battle of Britain is a new exhibition which presents the personal experiences and mementoes of seven people who served at RAF Duxford, a pivotal fighter station during the Battle of Britain.

The people represented in the exhibition are David Whitley (Pilot Officer, 264 Squadron), Maria Blewitt (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force), Gordon Sinclair (310 Squadron), Guy Mayfield (Chaplain at RAF Duxford), James Coward (19 Squadron), ‘Woody’ Woodhall (RAF Duxford Station Commander) and Peter Howard-Williams (19 Squadron).*

The exhibition was officially opened today by Chas and Liz Bazeley, cousins of Maria Blewitt and Gordon Sinclair’s son, Alan.

Maria Blewitt was a member of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force at Duxford. Her letter home to her mother, which features in the exhibition, was written by Maria on 11 September 1940, the day that the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, gave a speech stating:

“‘…a heavy full-scale invasion of this Island is being prepared…it may be launched now… Therefore we must regard the next week or so as a very important period in our history.’

Maria’s letter shows how real and frightening was the threat of imminent invasion. In it, she says: “I have just been listening to Winston. Brilliant, inspiring but just a tiddly bit frightening. He seems quite sure invasion will come within the next week or so. If not I shall be home for 48 hrs on 17th…”

Gordon Sinclair joined 19 Squadron at RAF Duxford on 27 November 1937. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross on 25 June 1940 and in late June became ‘A’ Flight Commander of 310 (Czech) Squadron, which became operational on 17 August. Gordon Sinclair was awarded the Czech Military Cross on 24 December 1940.

The exhibition also contains transcriptions from the diary of Guy Mayfield, Duxford’s Chaplain during the Battle of Britain. It was to him that pilots would turn when they were feeling the immense pressures of the battle. One diary entry reads:

“19 Squadron were night flying after dinner… [Pilot Officer Horace Trenchard] crashed while we were there…he had crashed at Whittlesford…he was killed at once. Peter appeared with a beer and questions following on Trenchard’s death. It was a relief to be able to talk realistically to him, not about Trenchard, but about the things which we keep concealed for the most part beneath the surface. What happens when you die? Is it wrong to be frightened of dying? How should you live if you are twenty and will be dead by the end of the summer?”

James Coward’s Pilot’s Flying Log Book, in which he recorded every flight he made with beautiful drawings, also features in the exhibition, turned to the page upon which he has drawn an illustration of the flight on which he was shot down and wounded.

Many of these objects on display in the exhibition have not been previously seen by the public.

Alan Sinclair said: “It is wonderful that these personal items are on display. It seems slightly ironic that the last time I saw it [Gordon Sinclair’s flying suit] he was sitting on a lawnmower wearing it.”

Chas Bazeley said: “It is wonderful to see what Maria was involved in during the war and it’s wonderful to know that she has been chosen as the only woman amongst all those handsome chaps. She would be delighted.”

RAF Duxford was pivotal in the Battle of Britain. The first Spitfires flew from Duxford. Douglas Bader was based at RAF Duxford and it was the home of the controversial ‘Big Wing’ flying tactic. It is through the very different personal stories of the men and woman featured in the new Duxford’s People in the Battle of Britain exhibition that we discover what it was like to work and serve at an RAF Fighter Station in the relentlessly demanding days of the Battle of Britain.

Duxford’s People in the Battle of Britain is a contemplative exhibition in which visitors can learn about people who were instrumental at RAF Duxford, before they visit the Battle of Britain Exhibition to view the aircraft that fought the battle from the skies.

Entry is included in general admission to IWM Duxford.