IWM Duxford transforms historic rooms to mark Battle of Britain’s 80th anniversary

PUBLISHED: 08:30 10 March 2020 | UPDATED: 08:53 10 March 2020

A graphic rendering of the Pilots’ Room in Battle of Britain: The Ops Block, opening this summer at IWM Duxford. Picture: © IWM

A graphic rendering of the Pilots’ Room in Battle of Britain: The Ops Block, opening this summer at IWM Duxford. Picture: © IWM

© IWM

IWM Duxford will transform unseen historic rooms this summer to commemorate the airfield’s role in the Battle of Britain 80 years on.

Squadron Leader Douglas Bader of 242 (Canadian) Squadron, seated on the cockpit of his Hurricane at Duxford, 26 September 1940. Picture: © IWM (CH 1406)Squadron Leader Douglas Bader of 242 (Canadian) Squadron, seated on the cockpit of his Hurricane at Duxford, 26 September 1940. Picture: © IWM (CH 1406)

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

One of the most famous campaigns of World War Two, the Royal Air Force defended the United Kingdom against large-scale attacks by Nazi Germany's air force, the Luftwaffe.

IWM Duxford will this summer grant visitors access to newly transformed and previously unseen historic Second World War rooms to retell the story of the Battle of Britain in this 80th anniversary year.

WAAF plotters in the Sector 'G' Operations Room at RAF Duxford, receiving reports of enemy aircraft plots from Observer Corps posts, September 1940. Picture:  IWM (CH 1404)WAAF plotters in the Sector 'G' Operations Room at RAF Duxford, receiving reports of enemy aircraft plots from Observer Corps posts, September 1940. Picture: IWM (CH 1404)

Through the opening of The Ops Block: Battle of Britain and reinterpreted areas of the Cambridgeshire museum, the story of the first major military campaign fought primarily in the air will be explored alongside the historical figures who helped steer the course to victory.

Operating as a Sector Station during 1940, RAF Duxford provided support against the relentless assault of the German Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain, which saw intense fighting in the skies and attacks launched at airfields, towns and cities across the country.

From July 13, IWM Duxford will give visitors greater access to the historic site than ever before with the chance to step foot into the Second World War nerve centre of RAF Duxford and hear first-hand accounts of those who lived and worked at the airfield in the summer of 1940.

A Messerschmitt 109 in the Battle of Britain Exhibition at IWM Duxford, a former RAF base in Cambridgeshire. Picture: © IWMA Messerschmitt 109 in the Battle of Britain Exhibition at IWM Duxford, a former RAF base in Cambridgeshire. Picture: © IWM

An authentic recreation of the 1940s Operation Room will provide a multi-sensory immersion into the tension felt on September 15, 1940 - the most action-filled day at RAF Duxford during the Battle of Britain.

Items from IWM's Second World War collection will be displayed, including new acquisitions such as fighter ace George Unwin's logbook detailing the victories he achieved on this pivotal day of fighting in September 1940.

IWM Duxford curator Craig Murray said: 'Teamwork was vital to winning the Battle of Britain and nowhere is this more apparent than in the Operations Room at RAF Duxford, the site of highly efficient communication between those on the ground and the pilots in the air.

Squadron Leader Brian 'Sandy' Lane of 19 Squadron (centre) confers with Flight Lieutenant Walter 'Farmer' Lawson and Flight Sergeant George 'Grumpy Unwin at Fowlmere near Duxford, September 1940. Picture: © IWM (CH 1366)Squadron Leader Brian 'Sandy' Lane of 19 Squadron (centre) confers with Flight Lieutenant Walter 'Farmer' Lawson and Flight Sergeant George 'Grumpy Unwin at Fowlmere near Duxford, September 1940. Picture: © IWM (CH 1366)

'We want visitors to see and hear what it was like to work in such a highly pressurised environment on a day which saw the greatest activity in this phase of the Second World War.

'Through first-hand accounts, archival film footage and displayed personal items, we want this new visitor experience to highlight the role RAF Duxford played in protecting England from the threat of German invasion.'

Display cases, listening points and a dedicated People Stories Room will tell of the historical significance of The Ops Block and introduce visitors to key ground and air personnel, including leading fighter pilot Douglas Bader and members of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force.

A formation of Spitfires at the Battle of Britain Air Show at IWM Duxford in 2019. Picture: IWMA formation of Spitfires at the Battle of Britain Air Show at IWM Duxford in 2019. Picture: IWM

IWM Duxford's 80th anniversary commemorations will also see the re-opening of the Battle of Britain Exhibition.

This transformed area of the museum will feature interactive displays, highlighting Duxford-specific stories, including those of fighter pilot and flying ace 19 Squadron Commander Brian 'Sandy' Lane, and Josef Vopalecky, a Czech Hurricane pilot who served with 310 Squadron.

The hangar will document the story of the Battle of Britain and allow visitors to get up close to iconic WWII aircraft, including a German Messerschmitt Bf 109, shot down during the battle before touring North America to raise funds for the British war effort.

Living history group Spirit of Britain pose on the IWM Duxford airfield at the 2019 Battle of Britain Air Show. Picture: IWMLiving history group Spirit of Britain pose on the IWM Duxford airfield at the 2019 Battle of Britain Air Show. Picture: IWM

The exhibition will also explore Duxford's shared history with the Supermarine Spitfire as the base of the first operational Spitfire squadron.

An airworthy Supermarine Spitfire will be displayed in the hangar while a replica will complete the visitor experience between the hangar and newly opened Ops Block.

The Battle of Britain commemorative activities will culminate at IWM Duxford on Saturday, September 19 and Sunday, September 20 with the annual Battle of Britain Air Show.

Visitors to the annual Duxford Battle of Britain Air Show enjoy up-close access to historic aircraft on the airfield. Picture: IWMVisitors to the annual Duxford Battle of Britain Air Show enjoy up-close access to historic aircraft on the airfield. Picture: IWM

Spitfires, Hurricanes and other iconic aircraft from the era will take to the skies with dog fights and aerobatic displays.

Visit www.iwm.org.uk/airshows for more on the Duxford Battle of Britain Air Show and to buy tickets.


If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Cambs Times. Click the link in the orange box below for details.

Most Read

Most Read

Latest from the Cambs Times