Visiting the RAF Museum at Hendon

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For my Dad’s birthday we took a trip into London to visit the RAF museum at Hendon. It’s a site we haven’t visited in about 10 years and truth be told I had forgotten the scale of the museum. It’s a huge place with a vast and interesting collection, of which there were certainly things I wasn’t expecting to see!

Admission to the museum is free and it’s a 5 minute walk from the Colindale underground station on the Northern Line. If you live in, or around, London, I highly suggest you take a day out to explore the museum for yourself.

As always, I’m going to present the exhibitions that really stood out to me, but I won’t be covering everything the museum has to offer. So if you want to see everything that’s there, you’ll have to take a trip out to support the museum!

Once we entered the museum ground, the first hanger we went into contained the gift shop, a small cafe, and a collection of aircraft and vehicles which acted as a taste of what was to come.

The first thing I laid eyes on was of course from the First World War;  De Havilland’s DH9A which was a British two-seat long range bomber which first entered service in 1918. Note the bomb racks under the wings.

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Here we have a 1924 Trojan Tender with RAF markings. An unusual little truck. I love the solid wheels.

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Folland Gnat used by the Red Arrows display team. When I was a kid I used to think these little jets were so cool!

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Mk1a Spitfire. A symbol of the British victory of the Battle of Britain.

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Between the entrance building and Hanger 1 were two boats. It’s nice to see the Marine Branch of the RAF represented.

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The next building to the right was this beautiful Edwardian era building which was one of the original buildings on the aerodrome.

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Inside was the preserved office of Claude Grahame-White, who founded the aerodrome.

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Here’s a photograph of a photograph of the original entrance. Check out the car; why can’t we have class like that now?

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This massive Pegasus trophy was won by Reginald Carr for winning a 315 mile air race from Hendon to Brooklands. Brooklands is one of my favourite places in the country and you’ll be able to find a few write ups of events there in the archives of this site.

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The Edwardian building led into Hanger 1. Hanger 1 holds most of the collections WW1 (and earlier) era vehicles.

First off is this Bleriot XXVII. I have featured Bleriots on this blog on write-ups of events at both Shuttleworth and Stow Maries. This is a different aircraft though owned by Richard Nash.

Louis Bleriot was, of course, famous for flying one of his creations over the English Channel in 1909. The aircraft he used now lives in the Musee des Arts et Metiers in Paris.

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Check out the suspension on the landing gear.

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Avro 504k. Of note is the skid on the front of the aircraft to stop it tipping forward when landing on less than perfect ground.

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The Caudron G.3 was a really unusual little training aircraft. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

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Sopwith Triplane:

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Royal Aircraft Factory SE5:

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This truck is pure class!

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I’d love to daily drive something like this little Ford truck. 3 litre displacement over four cylinders. I bet it had quite a punch in it’s day!

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How unusual is the little brake light hanging from the tail gate?

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Sopwith Camel diving down from the ceiling.

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Tailed closely by a large bomber.

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A Fokker DVII intercepts from the other side of the room.

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Back on the ground we have an Albatros D.V. Stow Maries in Essex are also looking after one of these.

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The Sopwith Dolphin is an interesting little plane. I’d never heard of one until now!

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There’s a lot more in the WW1 section of the museum including a great demonstration of an interrupter gear and how it works. To see that though, you’ll have to visit the museum!

The other hangers contained plenty of aircraft from the 1920s up to the present day.

Here we have a P-40. These were used extensively by the RAF in North Africa.

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The P-47 Thunderbolt is a massive thing. It certainly has presence in the room!

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The ground attack Typhoon also has a lot of presence. These things had devastating fire power and destroyed hundreds of German tanks in the Falaise Pocket.

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The Beaufighter was another fantastic British ground attack aircraft. It’s not the prettiest of things but it packed a mean punch!

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This is one of the autoloading cannons it could be equipped with:

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AW101 Heliliner. As the name denotes, it looks like an airliner inside with lots of seats. One of these would make the ultimate private aircraft. *sigh* when I win the lottery.

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Scammels, affectionately known as mechanical horses, were used by the railways a lot. The RAF appear to have used them too!

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Gyrocopter. I’d never heard of one before and trying to figure out how the thing worked hurt my head. I think I need a RC one or to properly see one in action to really understand it.

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Messerschmidt 109. One of several rare German aircraft cared for by the museum.

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Other World War 2 era German aircraft in the collection include the JU87 Stuka. These were famous for the screaming sound they made as they dived. This is te first time I think I’ve seen one in person:

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Another first for me was the Heinkel He111. This particular one was built to drop paratroopers. I’m surprised that any of these have survived and have been preserved to be honest as they were used extensively during the blitz.

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The Messerschmidt 110. A multipurpose aircraft used by the Germans. I’ve always known them as a light bomber or ground attack aircraft but this one appears to be configured for reconnaissance.

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The Focke-Wulf 190 was one of the Third Reich’s best aircraft in my opinion as it was so versatile and could be used in a number of roles. This particular one was a twin seat training variant.

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Another really unexpected German find was this He162. It’s a wooden bodied jet designed to be mass produced. It looks… interesting… to fly.

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Speaking of jets, De Havilland Vampires are one of my favourite jet aircraft.

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Finally, one of my favourite aircraft; the P-51 Mustang. A lot of these survived the war and were converted to racers. Several are still used in events such as the Reno Air Races, an event I would love to cover sometime in the future.

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By Richard Francis

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