Duxford Aircraft Museum
Explore Duxford, Europe’s most extensive air museum with an expert guide
Duxford Aircraft Museum
The Imperial War Museum Duxford is a military aircraft museum of the highest standard. There are ten permanent exhibitions, including the NEW Battle of Britain hanger. Marvel at the Concorde and Spitfire, two icons of British engineering.
The vast collection incorporates; paintings, photographs, sound archive, film and aircraft. There is also a contemporary conflict collection covering theatres of war since 2001, such as the Iraq War, Counter ISIS operations, and war in Afghanistan.
Duxford is on the eastern side of England and works well when you combine Cambridge. Our Cambridge and Duxford driver-guided tour is a tour suitable for all the family. Our Tour-Designers will tailor the trip to your interests.
A brief history of Duxford
The airfield at Duxford was constructed during World War One and was one of the first Royal Airforce Bases. On the 1st April 1918, the Royal Naval Air Service combined with the army’s Royal Flying Corps to create the world’s first independent air force, the Royal Air Force.
RAF Duxford became a flying school in 1920, noting that it was only seventeen years earlier, that Orville and Wilbur Wright made the first famous 12-second flight on 17th December 1903. Early aviation must have been terrifyingly unpredictable and proved as much. In 1935, brave pilots demonstrated their skills with a flying drill over Duxford for King George V.
In 1936, flight lieutenant Frank Whittle, an undergraduate at nearby Cambridge, flew for the University Air Squadron. Whittle went on to develop the first jet engine of a means of powering an aircraft. His engineering genius enabled Britain to produce the Gloster Meteor Jet in 1943. The plane was the Allies’ first operational jet aircraft.
In 1938, the test pilot Jeffrey Quill, flew the first Super-marine Spitfire into Duxford, as the storm clouds-of-war gathered. By 1939, Duxford was ready to play its roll in the conflict to come.
German armed forces had quickly overwhelmed much of the low countries. The next move was to achieve air superiority over Britain, as a prelude to invasion. The Battle of Britain began in the summer of 1940 and lasted until 31st October, overlapping the ‘blitz’; The bombing of British cities. On the 9th September 1940, Duxford squadrons intercepted and repelled a large force of German bombers before they could reach their targets. Two more squadrons joined Duxford, and they were ready on 15th September to meet the largest Luftwaffe attack yet. The day became known as Battle of Britain Day; the purpose was to obliterate the RAF, once and for all. The Luftwaffe failed in their attempt and turned their attention to the concentrated bombing of cities.
Most of the British pilots enjoyed superior intelligence. The 630 RAF fighter pilots on that day received detailed information on attacking formations from 50,000 observers on the ground. Command centre staff collated data from radar and ground observations to accurately predict where German squadrons would be. Allowing RAF pilots to rendezvous and deliver a surprise attack.
After the Battle of Britain Duxford became the home of specialist units, such as the Air Fighting Development Unit. Duxford engineers restored captured German aircraft to flying condition for research purposes. From April 1943, the RAF handed the airfield to the United States 8th Air Force. Personnel numbered over 200,000 men at maximum strength.
By the 1960s’ the airfield was entering its last operational phase. There were proposals for a prison or a sports centre. The Imperial War Museum was looking for storage and space for large exhibits. The Ministry of Defence granted permission to the IWM - today Duxford is the top European centre of aviation history.
Exhibits and VIP tours
Here are a few exhibit highlights; See the last remaining B-17 this side of the pond. The ‘Sally B’ is a flying memorial to the many US servicemen who gave their lives during World War Two.
Book a private tour and go behind the ropes and go inside the Avro Lancaster bomber, and be guided by an on-site expert. The Lancaster is one of the most successful bombers of the war and famous for the daring Dam-Buster Raid.
Go inside the Concorde, the fastest passenger jet ever. Designed and built to fly at twice the speed of sound, and could fly from London to New York in just under 3 hrs.
The American Air Museum at Duxford is a tale of two nations united through conflict and loss. See P-51 mustangs, B-17 flying fortress and aircraft used to the present day.
There is a mountain to see at Duxford and far too much to mention here. Let us tailor the day to match your interest in aviation history.
Touring and accommodation
Staying in the region gives you a chance to explore in more detail. The Norfolk Coast (AONB) is a vast coastal nature reserve with many historic towns and villages to wander. Suffolk offers bucolic villages scenes made famous by the English painter John Constable (1776-1837). The university city of Cambridge is close to Duxford. We can combine the two places as part of a day trip from London, or stay overnight nearby. Contact us for detailed information and suggested itineraries.
If this is your first time to England, we would recommend a custom version of our Town and Country Tour; it covers the famous places and allows you to utilise your private driver-guide by getting-off-the-beaten-path. Our Classic tour of Ireland is a good place to start for the first trip to Ireland, and we suggest the Classic tour of Scotland for your first trip to the bonny Highlands.
Experience IWM Duxford
The European Centre of Aviation History
- Flying Opportunities
- VIP Tours Available
- Europe's Leading Air Museum
- See Concorde, Spitfires and Lancaster Bombers
- Combine Duxford with Cambridge
The Airspace Hanger - One of Ten Displays
Spitfires in Flight at Duxford
The Duxford Concorde
Hurricane during WW2