June 12th, 2012
The main Royal Air Force Museum is located in Hendon on the outskirts of London in the UK and it contains a large collection of famous military aircraft that have served in the RAF from the early years of flight to the modern-day. It is a fantastic collection with some very rare historic aircraft.
Classic aircraft of British origin include the World War One era De Havilland DH.9 and Sopwith Camel; 1920/30’s biplanes like the Bristol Bulldog and Gloster Gladiator through to famous aircraft that made their name in the 1940/50’s such as the Supermarine Spitfire, Hawker Hurricane, Avro Lancaster, De Havilland Mosquito, Hawker Typhoon, Bristol Beaufighter, Gloster Meteor (including the original prototype) and De Havilland Vampire.
British built flying boats also make an impressive appearance at the museum. These include the Supermarine Seagull V (later called the Walrus – a biplane used for maritime patrol and search and rescue), Supermarine Stranraer (a biplane used for maritime patrol and training) and the huge Short S.25 Sunderland flying boat (used for maritime patrol, anti submarine warfare and search and rescue). All served during World War Two.
During World War Two the British attempted many times to sink the German battleship Tirpitz between 1942 and 1944. Due to these attacks it was kept holed up in a port in occupied Norway with heavy protection for a large part of the war. The final attack on November 12th, 1944 by 32 Lancaster bombers dropped 29 “Tallboy” 12,000 pound bombs with 2 direct hits and one near miss. This caused massive damage to the Tirpitz resulting in it capsizing and finally being destroyed (to give you an idea of the size of the battleship approximately 1,000 German sailors lost their life in the attack). The museum has on display a gun bulkhead from the Tirpitz, a “Tallboy” bomb and the burnt out wreck of a Handley Page Halifax bomber that was shot down in one of the failed raids on the battleship.
Cold War aircraft are not forgotten, especially those that entered service in the 1950/60’s and served well into the 1980’s (and in some cases well beyond). These include the mighty Avro Vulcan “V bomber” (a strategic nuclear bomber) with its huge delta wings, the English Electric Canberra bomber, the BAC Lightning an ultra fast interceptor (mach 2.0) and the BAE Harrier GR.3 the original “Jump Jet” (VTOL).
Modern combat aircraft that European partners including the UK developed, are on display in the form of the Panavia Tornado (both strike and interceptor versions) and the Eurofighter Typhoon. The strike version of the Tornado remains in service with the RAF today and the Typhoon replaced the interceptor version in the defence of UK airspace (the last F.3 retired in 2011).
In my next post I will include American and Axis aircraft that are on display in the museum.