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IWM Duxford Visit by Cpl Daisy Campbell

24th February 2018

After a pit stop at Tesco Riverhead for refuel, we were on our way to Cambridgeshire for a much-anticipated trip to the Imperial War Museum's aircraft collection at Duxford.

Light traffic meant we arrived right on the 10am opening time and after a briefing from Sgt Hibbins we decided to start at the Airspace exhibit. This is the biggest display, with a range of both British military and civil aircraft. The Vulcan bomber takes pride of place, and we went underneath the aircraft to have a close of view of it's enormous bomb bay.

We then had a look inside Concorde, and were amazed at how small it was inside, and its tiny windows. The helpful guide inside explained that this one flew faster than any other Concorde! Cpl Hughes, our official photographer for the day was kept busy taking shots for the Squadron's Facebook page. CWO Relyea shed a tear passing the Tornado, as we heard from him that this was the last year the aircraft would be operational with the RAF

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The time "flew" by, and a quick check of the watch meant that our lunchtime slot at the cafeteria was fast approaching; we had only seen one of the seven exhibits!

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After lunch we decided to head for the American Air Museum which is on the other side of the airfield. The massive Boeing B52 Stratofortress dwarfs all the other aircraft, but most cadets thought the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird was the most impressive with its sinister black fuselage. We learnt that the pilots of these aircraft were the elite of the US Air Force, and wore bright orange flying suits to set them apart. An unexpected exhibit was part of the steel structure from the World Trade Centre, recovered after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

We then had a break from aircraft and headed for the Land Warfare building where we saw how war on the ground changed during the twentieth century, and admired the size of the main battle tanks that were on display. By now time was short, so brief visits to Duxford's original Operations Room and a restoration hangar before our final highlight, the Battle of Britain hangar.

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We arrived just in time for a guided tour, which covered the role of the Royal Observer Corp in WW2, a close look at an anti-aircraft gun and the unsung role of the hurricane. The guide was left reeling after being asked some searching questions from Cadet Penn after the tour, but we reassured him that he had got off lightly! Sgt Hibbins announced that we had 10 minutes in the hangar, so everyone raced over to the Eurofighter Typhoon. CWO Relyea could hardly contain his excitement and amongst other things said this was a first "tranche" delivery aircraft compared to tranche 3 which are the current versions.

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That left just a few minutes to have a look round the gift shop. A few cadets were tempted by the sheepskin flying jackets but the £790 price tag meant that most ended up with a fridge magnetic, a souvenir of a great day out. Thanks to Sgt Hibbins for organising the event just a day before travelling to RAF Cranwell for her Sergeant's course (best of luck Ma'am) and my Dad for piloting the minibus so skilfully.

Author: Victoria Ballard

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