On Saturday morning, refreshed after a well-deserved lie-in, the students in Clare College travelled to the Imperial War Museum at Duxford.
Duxford’s museum is a place with a long, illustrious and at times deeply dangerous history. The enormous collection of historical artefacts –mostly aviation-related— are kept in vast ex-RAF hangers, the same hangers used during the Battle of Britain in World War II, the series of air skirmishes in which the much-beleaguered Royal Air Force defeated the far larger German Luftwaffe. Without that victory, the United Kingdom would probably have been invaded, and the outcome of the Second World War across the globe may well have been very different. The Museum pays testimony to those aircraft and, importantly, their pilots. It was a fascinating visit, deeply informative and at times moving.
It was lucky, however, that the exhibits were all under cover: outside furiously bad weather was lashing down rain, and students were thankful to have the shelter of the great old hangers. Though confined to them by the weather, there was no shortage of things to see and about which to learn: there are hundreds of aircraft, many of them with crucial roles in historical engagements, or with record flights noted down in the books of aviation’s history. There was also, especially interesting, a recreation of a World War II control room, one of the rooms in which regiments of men and squadrons of planes would famously be pushed around an enormous map.
Students returned to Clare College tired after such a busy day of historical learning, glad to be given an evening of spare time.