My 2011 trip to the UK was pretty legendary- I climbed a Welsh mountain, watched a USAF F-15 on its take-off run, shopped at Selfridges, and visited so many castles and country houses that I can’t even remember them all. But the memories I recall most fondly, and which educated me the most, are those of my visits to various military and aviation museums. These museums seem to be almost as plentiful as pubs are in the UK, and one that I really loved was the Yorkshire Air Museum.
Located on the former site of RAF Elvington near York, the Yorkshire Air Museum has an awesome array of vehicles and, especially, aircraft. An imposing Chieftain main battle tank guards the car park, and gives visitors an idea of the advanced and unique equipment held by the museum.
The Chieftain was in service with the UK from the mid-60s until 1995
A replica Spitfire- the original R6690 flew in the Battle of Britain but was shot down over London in 1940. Its pilot, Pilot Officer Gaunt, was sadly killed.
This museum was memorable for me because it had close to a dozen aircraft I’d never seen before; and that I haven’t seen since! One was a member of the fabled V-bomber trio- the gorgeous and gigantic Handley Page Victor. The Victor played an important role during its lifetime, as it comprised part of the UK’s Cold War nuclear deterrent.
The Victor is an unmistakeable design, with its T-tail and elegantly-integrated intakes. However, back then I lacked the aviation knowledge I now have…
…and I continually confused it with this aircraft, the Hawker Siddeley Nimrod!
I was delighted to also see a Harrier GR.3 here! I’ve always been fascinated by this truly gravity-defying jump jet, and it was so neat to see one again. The GR.3 is of the first generation of Harriers, and was the precursor to the British Aerospace-built GR5, GR7, and GR9 models. GR.3s served alongside Sea Harriers in the Falklands War, and provided vital air support as ground forces went on the attack.
This GR.3 would have been built in the ’60s or ’70s. Click here for more photos of this groundbreaking aircraft
The Panavia Tornado is another aircraft I already knew and loved. It is currently being used by the RAF to attack ISIS targets in Iraq
I learned a lot during my time at the Yorkshire Air Museum- there were so many planes that might have looked familiar, but that I really knew nothing about. I did my best to learn their names and some facts about them, and it was one of the most enjoyable and informative museum visits I’ve ever had!
This is the English Electric Lightning- an early jet-powered aircraft, it had fantastic performance but (unsurprisingly) limited range
With folding wings typical of carrier-based aircraft, the Blackburn Buccaneer was designed to be a nuclear-capable maritime strike aircraft. Paint schemes ranged from the camouflage seen here to an anti-flash white livery for nuclear missions
The museum has a second Buccaneer- this one is a sandy colour, as it was used in the Gulf War
It was interesting to see a Canadian T-33 Silver Star displayed, beside an original World War II hangar and a prominent Union Jack. By the time I visited the museum, I’d been in the UK for several weeks; and although I didn’t really miss Canada, I did miss my dog! So it was neat to see a reminder of Canada.
The aging buildings create such a wonderful, atmospheric backdrop for old aircraft like the T-33
An ungainly Fairey Gannet- this aircraft is a specialized Airborne Early Warning variant; note the radar dome beneath the fuselage
Many of the Yorkshire Air Museum’s aircraft are displayed outside, but there was also a large hangar containing many different aircraft. The showpiece inside was undoubtedly the resident Handley Page Halifax bomber! This Halifax was reconstructed from parts of various original planes, and is a beautiful example.
The Halifax was one of the wartime RAF’s four-engined heavy bombers; similar to the better-known Avro Lancaster
This WACO Hadrian CG-4A was an American-made glider, used extensively during the invasion of Sicily, Operation Market Garden, and D-Day airborne landings
After looking through the hangar, it was back outside again- and it was like I stepped right into the 1940s! As I mentioned, the Yorkshire Air Museum is on the former site of RAF Elvington, which was used heavily during WWII. Many of the original buildings are intact, and the museum has done a great job of retaining the wartime feel of the location.
I always think of the C-47 Skytrain as an American plane, but (as shown here) the RAF operated it as well
It was so amazing to think that these buildings stood during WWII, and were hubs for the defence of Britain and its Allies
I walked among the buildings and hangars for a little while, and it was such a fantastic experience. My imagination was going wild- except for my modern dress and the presence of a bunch of picnic tables, I could have been in the ’40s. Speakers on one of the buildings were even playing appropriate music; in typically stoic British fashion, ditties by George Formby were being played.
A collection of beautiful camouflaged WWII-era buildings
An Austin Champ truck, along with a bunch of bicycles in a garage
The atmosphere of the museum grounds was nostalgic and quiet, so it really felt like just a memory. Although the olive drab buildings and ancient aircraft were still standing, long gone was the bustle of the war. A further memorial to the days of the war and the sacrifices of those people who lived through them was found in the museum’s RAF Memorial Chapel; located just beside a gorgeous memorial garden.
The chapel pays homage to various squadrons and associations, and is a place of peace and remembrance
The memorial garden was planted with roses and shrubs dedicated to both units and individuals; which mixed wonderfully with the wreaths of poppies near the memorial
A lone destroyed propeller is a fitting tribute to the glorious dead
I think about the Yorkshire Air Museum an awful lot. Granted, it’s not the only museum to have original wartime buildings and an undeniable ’40s atmosphere- IWM Duxford is so original that it has been used as a filming location for various movies. But Duxford was teeming, and hordes of tourists and holiday-makers don’t really contribute to a feeling of wartime nostalgia. The Yorkshire Air Museum, on the other hand, was secluded and peaceful; which added to my enjoyment of it. I haven’t been to Yorkshire since that trip in 2011- but I know that next time I visit, I’ll have to visit this museum again.