IN REACH OF THE SKIES

MUSEUM OF ARMY FLYING

MANSTON HISTORY MUSEUM

BOSCOMBE DOWN AVIATION COLLECTION

MUCKLEBURGH COLLECTION

UXBRIDGE OPERATIONS ROOM

BENTLEY PRIORY

The Museum of Army Flying is on the edge of Middle Wallop airfield in Wiltshire which is still an active army field. The museum covers history going back to RFC days and is primarily under cover with just a couple of exhibits outside. Since army flying has typically been of a spotting nature the majority of exhibits consist of light aircraft and helicopters although there is also a good section on the now defunct glider unit and their operations in WWII. The entrance fee appears to give unlimited access to the museum over the following 12 months. Visited in July 2015.

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Manston History Museum is located next door to the Spitfire and Hurricane Museum. A deceptively spacious museum it houses several full size airframes together with cockpit sections, various artefacts and dioramas. As of July 2015 it is only £2 to enter and is certainly worth a visit.

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Boscombe Down Aviation Collection can be found in Hangar 1 at Old Sarum airfield. It has a small car park right next to the airfield and control tower. There are several original buildings from WWI still in use as part of a small business park and the museum is within this area. Through the summer it is open form 10 to I except for Mondays when it is closed. Winter opening is generally weekends only. The are several full size aircraft on display, with odd visitors in the active area of the hangar, and also a number of cockpit sections most of which you are permitted to sit in. Certainly worth a visit. Pictures from July 2015.

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The Muckleburgh Collection can be found on the coast in Norfolk, being part of the former Weybourne Army Camp. It operates seasonal opening along with other times such as school half term which is when we visited in February 2016. Primarily the collection is of military vehicles and artefacts but there are displays on air reconnaissance, WWI air war, some crash recovery items as well as incorporating a couple of air frames so just about appropriate to this site! There is a good size café on site with a reasonable selection of snacks and hot food.

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Bentley Priory in North London was a former mansion house acquired by the Air Ministry in 1926. Following its creation ten years later Fighter Command moved in to the priory as its HQ under Hugh Dowding and the RAF remained until 2008. Today the house has been converted in to a museum commemorating Fighter Command and the Battle of Britain in 1940. The continued occupation by the RAF means there is little remaining in terms of how the building was in 1940 but displays, artefacts, and videos, as well as a recreation of the Filter Room explain the important role that the HQ played in 1940 and beyond. A replica Spitfire and Hurricane are mounted outside the museum which sits within the grounds of a private housing development. More details on their website. Pictures from a visit in March 2016.

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Uxbridge Operations Room or Battle of Britain Bunker as it is also known was the operations room of 11 Group Fighter Command during world War II. It became opearational literally days before the outbreak of the war and for protection from attack was built 60' below ground. It was part of the world's first intergrated defence system, inspired by Sir Hugh Dowding, and included the chain home radar stations. Using a simple colour coded sytem that tied in real time with the plotting table and the 'tote' bolard on the wall, fighter command were able to build a picture of incoming attacks and availability of RAF fighters and take appropriate action. In no small part this enabled 'The Few' to successfully defend Great Britan from the Luftwaffe and the pending theat of invasion in 1940. I was part of an organised group visit in March 2016 but please note that opeing times are restricted although this may change once the local council acquires the site from the MoD.

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