Built in 1917 by German prisoners-of-war, Duxford Airfield became one of the earliest RAF stations established and home to the Royal Flying Corps. Unlike many RAF bases which closed down following the First World War, Duxford remained open and was used as a training school and later a fighter station in 1924.
RAF Duxford at the frontline
By the late 1930’s, the reputation of RAF Duxford’s No.19 Squadron was so renown that they became the first squadron to be re-equip with the new Supermarine Spitfire. The first Spitfire flew into RAF Duxford, August 1938.
Both RAF Duxford and RAF Fowlmere played vital roles during the Second World War. Operating Spitfire’s and Hurricane’s out of both bases to protect Britain’s boarders. On average, 60 spitfires and hurricanes took to the skies everyday to deter the Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain.
Today, in recognition and memory of the heroic acts by the airmen, the Hawker Hurricane II stands as the gate guard aircraft at the entrance to IWM Duxford.
In 1943, Duxford was assigned to the United States Army Air Force where it became home to the Air Defense Wing and later the Fighter Groups. Many aircraft flew out of the RAF base including Lockheed lightenings, P-47C Thunderbolts and the P-51 Mustangs. In fact, the 78th Fighter Group Thunderbolts supported the Allied invasion of Normandy by attacking the targets behind the beachheads of Normandy.
What happened to Duxford post war?
After the war, Duxford was returned to the RAF where it remained site to the Fighter Command Station. However in the early 60’s, RAF Duxford closed as an RAF base for good. The airfield briefly became home to Cambridge Gliding Club and also a popular location to shoot war films such as Battle of Britain and Memphis Belle. But the MoD declared disposal of the airfield to make way for a sports centre or a prison. However plans were never finalised.
Duxford Airfield as we see today
Today, former RAF Duxford is owned by the Imperial War Museum and location to the Imperial War Museum Duxford and American Air Museum.
In addition, it houses The Fighter Collection and the Historic Aircraft Collection (two private operators of airworthy vintage military aircraft).
Holding magnificent aircraft of all ages and sizes. Duxford is a fabulous place to go, explore, discover and learn the full history of aviation like no other.
Fancy a flight experience from Duxford?
Air Experiences offers fantastic flying experiences, where you can soar in the classic Tiger moth bi-plane or the magnificent pre-war 8 seater airliner, Dragon Rapide. Along with your flight, the voucher holder will also receive free admission into the IWM (guests half price entry), the perfect gift for those aviation enthusiasts or hard to buy for people!
images found from warbirdheritagefoundation.org, wikimedia commons and geograph.