Last August the BNTVA organised a trip to RAF Museum at RAF Cosford as part of their conference. Due to a busy schedule, I was unable to attend the visit, but on seeing their report I decided to visit the museum for myself.
RAF Cosford, the site of the RAF Museum was opened in 1938. It was set up to deliver operations training to technicians and ground trade recruits. Cosford along with other RAF stations stored aircraft for the RAF Museum at Hendon. The museum at RAF Cosford began in the spring of 1974 with monthly openings to view aircraft.
In 1977 the volunteer group, the Aerospace Museum Society was founded which ran events, raised funds, and restored and conserved aircraft as well as informing visitors to the Museum. In 1979, the trustees took over the management of the Museum and then in 1998 an arrangement between the MOD and the RAF Museum, passed ownership of the collection to the RAF Museum which became RAF Museum Cosford.
Since then the site has seen the development of a Visitor Centre, a Conference Centre and a Conservation Centre named after the then Marshall of the RAF Sir Michael Beetham. In 2007 the National Cold War Exhibition in Hanger 4 was opened.
Parking is situated straight in front of the entrance to the museum. Access is very good with ramps from the car park to the main entrance. Entry to the museum is free but donations can be made, and the car park is pay-and-display. Staff at the museum are very helpful and we were told which way to proceed and what time guided tours could be taken.
Walking from the visitor centre, several aircraft are on display including the Hawker Siddeley Nimrod R Mk1 which can be toured in spring and summer.
Hangar 2 is the first part of the tour displaying the history of the RAF from its formation during WWI to its role in our defence today. Exhibits feature stories about the people who served and a huge amount of objects that show the history of the RAF across 100 years. The next area is Test Flight – this contains prototype aircraft used to test new designs and features that not all of which would go into production. Notable aircraft include: Hawker Siddeley Kestral which went on to become the Harrier, the Euro Fighter Typhoon and the BAC TSR 2 Strike and reconnaissance aircraft.
Hangar 3, War in the air was next on the tour which features aircraft from WW1 and WW2. The Sopwith Pup and Sopwith 1½ Strutter are two examples of British planes from this era but the majority are from WW2. Not only does museum exhibit Allied aircraft, many Axis aircraft are also in the collection.
What is very interesting are the numerous information boards giving personal details about the servicemen and women who fought in the wars. One Board depicts Wing Commander Eric James Brindley Nicholson VC DFC who despite being injured and his Hurricane on fire, shot down an enemy aircraft and was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery.
I was able to get up close to the Lancaster bomber exhibit and was able to stand underneath it with the bomb bay doors open. This gives you a sense of just what the aircraft was capable of carrying, the space was vast.
Moving through Hanger 3, there are a lot of familiar aircraft on show including: Spitfire Mk1, Hurricane IIC, de Havilland Mosquito TT35, Messerschmitt BF109G-2, and various other Axis forces fighters and bombers. It’s an impressive collection and again includes lots of objects such as squadron mascots and flight uniforms.
Next is Hanger 4, which houses The National Cold War exhibition which is the highlight of the museum. The Hangar itself is visually stunning with its sloping angular sides and is packed literally to the rafters with aircraft, missiles and vehicles.
No exhibition would be complete without Britain’s V-Bombers and the exhibition has all three.
The Vickers Valiant XD818 flown by Captain Ken Hubbard which dropped the first bomb in operation Grapple, is housed within the hanger. We were able to walk around the whole aircraft and also take a look into the plane via the port crew door just to the rear of the cockpit. This area housed the navigators and electronics operator and to the rear you can see the soup heater.
Next was the Handley page Victor the last of the V-bombers. designed as a strategic nuclear bomber, but later were converted to in-flight refuelling tankers, remaining in service until 1993. Much use was made of them in the 1982 Falklands campaign and the 1991 Gulf War.
And finally we saw the Avro Vulcan B2 Bomber, the second of the RAFs V-Bombers. By 1966 Vulcan’s switched from high level to low level attack due to improved Russian missile defence.
In 1970 Vulcan’s were switched to a conventional bomber role with their range greatly increased by in-flight refuelling. This was used to such good effect in the long-range attacks on the Falkland Islands from Ascension Island in 1982. The last Vulcan retired from operational service in 1984.
The Cold War Hanger also shows our Nuclear deterrent missiles including the Thor, Polaris and Blue Steel as well as many other aircraft and weapons systems.
For anyone who is interested in the British Nuclear deterrent and anyone involved in the Nuclear Community, this is a must-see exhibition. All information is superbly laid out and easy to read. The hanger is split into 2 levels but access is no problem with lifts and stairs between the floors.
RAF Cosford can be found at
Lysander Ave, Cosford,
Shifnal TF11 8UP.
Tickets do need to be booked in advance but can be booked online at https://www.rafmuseum.org.uk/midlands/
For any other enquiries
or telephone: 01902 376 200