Over the bank holiday weekend I took a long overdue trip to the Imperial War Museum at RAF Duxford, despite it only being 40mins away from where I live it's been over 15 years since my last visit. Obviously I had some recollection of my last visit, but it was hazy at best, quite a bit seems to have changed as well. The site is an old RAF station and is a collection of hangers, purpose made museums and old military buildings, focusing mainly on military aviation, but also featuring some civil aviation, naval and a large collection of land warfare exhibits. You can just about get round it all in a day (we did), but I heartily recommend that if you're visiting you arrive at opening time!
There are three main museums Airspace, The American Air Museum and the land warfare hall. Airspace is the central gallery of the site really, it is a large hanger filled with (mostly British) planes. Highlights include a Lancaster bomber, a Sunderland flying boat, an Avro Vulcan and a Concord (that you can go on and have a look around) plus lots more. The hall also includes an introduction to flight and aircraft, which is mainly aimed at kids, but still had some fun buttons to press. And finally it also includes the museum of parachute regiment.
Oddly perhaps for a visit to an aviation museum my favourite part was the land warfare hall that is at the far end of the site. It has a mixture of tanks, trucks and guns from WWI up to fairly modern stuff (although WW2 takes the lions share) all laid out in mock battle zones. It's very good and there is a lot of stuff in there including the vans used by Montgomery himself as his HQ. We also have another regimental museum here this time for the Anglian regiment. Just out the back of the land hall is a tank arena, luckily we got there just as they started driving a bunch of tanks and other tracked vehicles around through the mud. This was totally unexpected and was a great bonus to the day out.
The American air museum is the last of the big exhibit spaces, a showcase of American military aircraft from early bi-planes up to modern planes. The building is built around a B52 Stratofortress, which whilst being an awesome plane, is not the highlight of this gallery, which is undoubtedly the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. The blackbird shouldn't really need any introduction, but just in case it does, it's an old US spy plane that still holds the record for fastest and highest flight by a manned aircraft! On top of it's fantastic spec is the simple fact that I think it's the best looking plane I've ever seen. Apart from the Blackbird and the Stratofortress my other two favourites were both hanging from the ceiling, the A-10 Thunderbolt tank hunter, and the U2 spy plane.
There are a number of additional galleries as well housed in old aircraft hangers. The first one we went into housed a bunch of privately owned classic flying aircraft, both military and civil and some that weren't in a very good state at all, but are in the process of being renovated. The next one was called 'battle of Britain' and as well as looking at the battle of Britain also looked at British air defences in general. The most interesting of these hangers though was the 'air and sea' hall. As well as more aircraft this also had a midget submarine, an old lifeboat and torpedo boats from both WWI and WWII.