The Battle of Britain hangar at the IWM Duxford tells the story of Britain’s air defence from World War One, World War Two and the Cold War period. Here you can see some of the greatest combat aircraft developed and used by Great Britain along with a couple of their old foes.
From the two world wars the aircraft on display include the Bristol F2B Fighter (a 2 seat fighter and reconnaissance aircraft from World War One that proved to be a very capable aircraft that could mix it with single seaters and served on until the 1930’s); the famous fighters flown by the heroes of the Battle of Britain in 1940 the Supermarine Spitfire Mk.VB and Hawker Hurricane Mk.IIB; and their arch-enemy the German Messerschmitt Bf-109E-3. The latter is displayed as a fallen foe (which seems to have been inspired by a 1940 photo that can be seen below).
Following World War Two the British entered the Cold War against a new foe, the Soviets and the Communist forces of the Warsaw Pact nations. From this period the museum display covers some of the earliest British jets including the last of the gun fighters the Gloster Meteor F8, De Havilland DH100 Vampire TII (trainer version) and Hawker Hunter F6; along with a Gloster Javelin FAW9 that is painted in an unusual red and white test aircraft scheme (but they were originally used in the 1950’s and 1960’s as an all-weather interceptor armed with both cannons and missiles). There is also a more recently retired McDonnell Douglas F-4 FGR.2 Phantom II used by the RAF as an interceptor (equipped with Rolls Royce Spey engines rather than the GE J79’s and British avionics) and another old enemy a Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-21PF Fishbed in Communist Hungary markings.
The final aircraft on display in the Battle of Britain hangar during my visit in June 2012 was not a fighter aircraft but rather one used for training purposes. The Vickers Varsity T1 was used for advanced training of pilots, navigators and bombardiers. It was used in this type of role in the RAF from 1951-1976. This particular aircraft was retired from the RAF in 1974 and was then flown by the Duxford Aviation Society for a number of years before becoming a museum exhibit.