With hundreds of military museums in the UK alone, how do you know which one will best suit your interests? Here is a promotion of some of the best museums and exhibitions to visit this year.
SOLDIERS OF OXFORDSHIRE MUSEUM (SOFO)
Oxfordshire’s newest museum is a hidden gem telling the stories of how conflict has affected the county, using the personal narratives discovered in the archives of not just the two county regiments but also those of civilians from all walks of life who have been affected by the impact of war.
Many of the exhibitions are inspired by the moving stories of all the armed services, from the Liberation of Bergen-Belsen, remarkably told by everyday soldiers and the people they liberated, to the immersive experience of stepping into a recreated section of a Horsa Glider whilst listening to the personal memories of D-Day soldiers as they prepared for action.
Our visiting exhibition ‘Pilots of the Caribbean’ runs from May until September. On loan from RAF Museum Hendon, the exhibition charts the experiences and influence of volunteers of African heritage in the Royal Air Force.
ADDRESS: Park Street, Woodstock, OX20 1SN (in the grounds of the Oxfordshire Museum)
TEL: 01993 810 210
OPENING TIMES: Tuesday-Saturday 10am-5pm, Sunday 2-5pm (last admission 4.15pm)
Hertford Museum is the collecting museum of the Hertfordshire Regiment and charts its history and antecedent volunteer forces from the Boer War to the Regiment’s amalgamation with the Beds & Herts in 1961.
Wonderful objects, stories, and personal audio accounts form part of the museum’s permanent displays, and reserve collections of equipment, uniform, records, oral histories, and a wealth of photographs are available on request to researchers.
A recent HLF funded project ‘From Bull Plain to the Battlefields’ charted the experience of the Hertfordshire Regiment and the district during the First World War, and a book of the same title is available from the museum.
A legacy of the project is an informative website focusing on specific collections and sharing the stories they tell of this astonishing territorial force.
See www.hertfordshireregimentmuseum.org for details. Hertford Museum maintains a free admission policy.
HACK GREEN SECRET NUCLEAR BUNKER
Discover the secret world of nuclear government. For over 50 years this vast underground complex remained secret, hidden on the outskirts of a sleepy Cheshire town.
Declassified in 1993, the 35,000 sq ft underground bunker would have been the centre of regional government had nuclear war broken out. It was built in the 1950s as part of a secret radar network codenamed ‘ROTOR’.
The bunker today offers a warm welcome to anyone looking for a different day out. Tons of authentic equipment in original settings fire the imagination, giving an exciting glimpse into England’s dramatic Cold War past.
ADDRESS: French Lane, Baddington, Nantwich, Cheshire, CW5 8AL
TEL: 01270 629 219
OPENING TIMES: March-November: Monday-Sunday 10am-5pm. For winter opening times see website or call infoline.
DAVIDSTOW AIRFIELD AND CORNWALL AT WAR MUSEUM
This extensive museum stretches across 18 buildings in 2 acres. It covers the history of all three services from 1914 to the present. Visit the officers’ site on the WWII airfield, and see aircraft, vehicles, weapons, personal items, and more. Individual buildings have displays and information on every RAF station that existed in Cornwall, together with coverage of the Royal Navy and the Army.
ADDRESS: Davidstow Airfield and Cornwall at War Museum, Davidstow, Camelford, Cornwall, PL32 9YF
TEL: 07799 194 918
OPENING TIMES: School and bank holidays; every day in July, August, and September; Wednesday to Saturday in April, May, June, and October: 10am-5pm
RAF AIR DEFENCE RADAR MUSEUM
In the summer of 1940, unknown to almost everyone, radar was playing a vital role in the success of the RAF’s Battle of Britain pilots against the Luftwaffe. Established in 1941, the once ‘Top Secret’ base at Neatishead has remained pivotal in Air Defence from WWII, right through to the Cold War, and it still remains an RAF station even today. The museum charts the amazing history of radar from its inception right through to the Cold War. Experience the Operations Rooms, touch the equipment, and feel the fear.
ADDRESS: RAF Air Defence Radar Museum, RRH Neatishead, nr Horning, Norfolk, NR12 8YB
TEL: 01692 631 485
OPENING TIMES: Tuesdays and Thursdays, the second Saturday of the month, bank holiday Mondays, and Easter Saturday to end November: 10am-5pm
Get your name on a Red Arrows plane and support the RAF Museum.
2018 marks the centenary of the Royal Air Force. The awardwinning RAF Museum will celebrate and commemorate this anniversary through a major transformation of our visitor experience, sharing the RAF story on site and online.
Accordingly, the Museum is offering a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have your name, or the name of a loved one, on a Red Arrows Hawk Jet for a donation of just £30. The Hawk will be flown across the globe during the Red Arrows’ 2017 aerial display season.
All of your donation to Names on a Plane will directly support the RAF Museum’s RAF Centenary Programme, details of which can be found on the Museum’s main website www.rafmuseum.org or by signing up to the Museum’s Centenary E-newsletter, the link for which can be found at the bottom of each webpage.
Put your name on a plane now at www.namesonaplane.org
ADDRESS: Royal Air Force Museum London, Grahame Park Way, London, NW9 5LL
TEL:020 8205 2266
OPENING TIMES: 10am-6pm, last admission 5.30pm
To see this article as it appeared in issue 68 of Military History Monthly, click here.