Thursday, 21 August 2014

The Imperial War Museum


So yesterday we went to the Imperial War Museum in Duxford, for several reasons, most notable amongst which were the Concorde that set the speed records, and the Blackbird that set the Height and Speed records.  Mark had wanted to see the Blackbird since he first read about it, and here was not only a chance to see a Blackbird, but the Blackbird.

One swift note to anyone planning on going down there, arrive early, particularly in the summer holidays, because we arrived around 11:00 and the queues already looked like this...


And to be honest, it’s not hard to see why, the main focus of the museum is notably the historic aircraft that have been brought there to be displayed, but there is also a land exhibit and a sea exhibit, both of them significantly smaller than the air exhibits, but still with a sufficient amount of things to be interesting.

The thing about the museum is that it’s there for lovers of aircraft, and by that, I don’t mean that it’s there for those who like aircraft, or flying in them.  I mean it’s for people who love the very concept of flying, of being in the air, of dreaming the same way those people who built these aircrafts dreamed, who wanted to go further, faster, higher, than any other person had been.

And the same is to be said of the staff who work there, most of them are volunteers, many of them are the pilots who at one time used to fly the very planes that are there, still wanting to be near the things that gave them so much joy and happy to recount the tales of what those machines could do and the things that never made it to the papers.  It is this that’s the greatest strength of the museum, not the chance to see the planes that no longer fly, but to hear, first hand, from those who flew them, of the things that they could do.  When aircraft were so complex that you needed three people to fly them, and none of them were taking a back seat, you wouldn’t be finding Civilians landing these things...


The planes themselves are spectacular, beyond the dreams of engineers, these are machines that remind you of the wonders that we can achieve when we put our mind to it.  And so starting with the simpler things like the single person submarine...


And moving on to such iconic things as the Tiger Tank, which brought about a round of Kellys Heroes impressions...


The concorde, which will probably have finger marks all the way down one wing after we had to drag Tiny Wife off it...



And of course, the expression on marks face when finally he came to look upon the thing that had so long eluded him...


The Blackbird...

Every bit as magnificent as we’d ever considered, and larger than we’d thought as well, to give you all some consideration, the plane is about half the length of a jumbo jet, which may not sound too much till you consider that it’s a jumbo jet that’s supposed to carry hundreds of passengers.  This one carries one...


And not a very big one...


And a whole lot of fuel...

At least one person remarked that it had such a presence as to have a personality all it’s own, like it knew that it was the fastest thing that man had ever built and didn’t want anyone to forget it...

Worth the Five hours of driving just to see that one plane, but there were regular flybys from Hurricanes and Spitfires (You never forget that noise...), and access to the hangars where the engineers are still restoring other older craft.  Towards the end of the day though, we came across something that meant nothing to Mark, but had a great resonance for me and Jude.


Polaris Missile...

And this for me is the very point of places like this, it’s not just to remember the things that we did that were good, it’s to remember the things that we shouldn’t do again, because when we don’t remember the past, we’re doomed to repeat it.

So, no, it’s not cheap to get in (£17:50 adults), but it is fascinating, and even from the point of view of someone who doesn’t “Get” aircraft the way Mark and Jude do, it was an excellent day and one that will be repeated in the near future... 

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