I had the trains all worked out today and even then the timings were tight, so tomorrow’s trip to Stratford-upon-Avon will have to be more generously planned. I traveled pretty light and headed up into Cambridgeshire for what I thought wold be an interesting and relaxing day.

The trip, once outside London, was glorious, with the flat fields on either side of the line. I hopped off the train at the Parkway and kicked the 25 minutes to the gate, across the M1and through the fields to the IWM entrance. I was greeted with the greatest of courtesy by an elderly gentleman, obviously a volunteer, who made me feel very welcome and upsold me a guidebook! Then it was into the museum, and I realised what I was up against.

I would never bring Paula here: she would kill me in five minutes. Not only was there the main exhibition hall, with more planes that you could possibly imagine, but there was a Battle of Britain exhibition, the American Air Force display, the Paras Museum, Land and Sea (mostly Fleet Air Arm), tons of bits of aircraft under restoration and conservation in hangers, the Land Warfare exhibition and, to cap it off, many private vintage aircraft under restoration or actively flying. Two biplanes, a Nimrod and a Gladiator, had flights in the afternoon. Sadly, the Mustang didn’t take off but looked very pretty out on the grass. Did I forget to mention the Ops Room and the historic Duxford display.

I spent every minute of seven hours walking the joint, with a coffee stop. I must have gone miles. The quality of the exhibits was outrageously good in the main halls, but the most interesting things were often in the areas where work was being done, or where the private aircraft were held. The IWM does not restore aircraft to flying condition, it’s too expensive to keep them licensed, but the private owners were pottering around planes, servicing and reconstructing. Amazing.

What did I see? I just have to list what I can remember…

  • The fastest Concorde, the one they used in the testing.
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  • Mosquito
  • Canberra
  • Harrier
  • Jaguar
  • Spitfires, from Mark I through to F24
  • Vulcan bomber
  • HP Victor
  • Shackleton
  • Panavia Tornado
  • Bristol Fighter
  • Bearcat
  • Wildcat
  • Hellcat
  • TR2
  • SR71

And on and on… it was just a huge day. Here are just a few of the photos.