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"The American Air Museum in Britain"....at Duxford.


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Many of you will have already viewed my various Duxford airshow reports. Duxford airfield, in the county of Cambridgeshire, England, was a major RAF base in the 1930s, in fact the first ever operational Spitfire squadron was formed there in 1938. During the Battle of Britain in 1940, Duxford's squadrons played a pivotal role. ( Trivia: Duxford was the location for the filming of the classic movie "The Battle of Britain" and one of its vintage hangars was actually blown up in the famous air-raid sequence!) By 1943 the increasingly large influx of men and machines of the United States Eighth Air Force coming into the UK needed to be accommodated so control of Duxford was handed over USAAF Fighter Command who designated it as "Station 357 (DX)". Thus, for the duration of the war it became the home of the famous 78th Fighter Group with their distinctive checkerboard cowlings.


Post-war, Duxford became an operational RAF base again and functioned as such until the late 60s. Thereafter, it fell into disuse until the site was acquired by the Imperial War Museum which wanted to develop a suitable base for its extensive aviation collection.


Fast forward. The British nation was acutely aware of the debt of gratitude it owed to the 30,000 British-based American airman who lost their lives fighting alongside us against Nazi tyranny. Thus, a decision was made to build a permanent memorial in their honour at Duxford. The necessary funding was raised via public and private donations and the best architects of the day invited to submit their designs. The winner was Sir Norman Foster, an architect of international renown. His winning design was a vast, glass fronted concrete carapace. Internally there would be viewing galleries and space for a large number of aircraft both free-standing and suspended from the roof as though "in flight". Building work commenced on 1995 thru 1997.


Internally, the museum is like a gigantic airplane jig-saw! Where else would you see a B-52, B-29, B-17 and B-24 within feet of each other, under the same roof?! The glass fronted design of the building was designed to open up completely, thus enabling the exhibits to be positioned. It truly must have been a mathematical exercise in order to carefully calculate what would go where! The accompanying photos and captions will hopefully give you some idea of what this magnificent museum is like. If you ever visit the UK, do try to make it to Duxford...you will not be disappointed!

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At the rear entrance there is a line of etched glass screens. Each screen documents the losses by type and squadron. It's quite sobering to see it graphically illustrated in such a simple but dramatic form.




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