Visiting the RAF Museum in London

I was in England last month, and had a chance to make it out to the RAF Museum, which is in a sort of bleakly redeveloped northern suburb of London. I took the bus partway over from Crouch End (which was a pretty nice bus ride) and then walked from a bus stop on the A406 (this was a pretty long and interesting walk), and eventually arrived at the complex.

The pedestrian approach.

The pedestrian approach.

In scale and presentation, the RAF museum has a lot more in common with Udvar-Hazy than with the main Air and Space museum in Washington. There are some thematic groupings and some interpretive panels (in some instances, the panels seem to have been donated directly from trade show displays, so, for example, there is one for a cluster bomb that basically says “this cluster bomb rules and you should buy it!” which I thought was pretty funny), but in general it’s just rooms with a huge collection of really interesting airplanes. The exception to this is a very nicely-done World War I exhibit which is up in a building that used to be the Royal Aircraft Factory.

A category of person will arrive at a museum like this and want to photograph everything.  I basically fall into that category, and here are some of the pictures I took.

Supermarine Walrus!

One of my favorite seaplanes, the Supermarine Walrus.

Short Sunderland

The Short Sunderland, another classic flying boat.

A Supermarine Stanraer.

The Supermarine Stanraer, despite being a pretty handsome aircraft (if you ask me), was apparently fairly reviled by the people who had to fly it.

Gloster Gladiator

I built a plastic model Gloster Gladiator when I was little, and had read a lot about it, but this is the first time I ever saw one in person.

Fiat CR.42

Fiat CR.42, the Gloster Gladiator’s traditional adversary.

A somewhat overdone painting

This painting had a really appropriately ridiculous name, but I have forgotten what it was.

Dog in uniform and other paraphrenalia

The dog jacket on display was custom-made for a squadron dog, then used to dress a teddy bear until it got into the RAF museum collection.

The English Electric Lightning, a classic Cold War interceptor.

The English Electric Lightning, a classic Cold War interceptor.

Awesome Kangaroo on an ANZAC Lockheed Hudson.

Awesome Kangaroo on an ANZAC Lockheed Hudson.

Aviation needlepoint.

This is part of a tapestry about the RAF that some interested parties put together.

Gloster Meteor DG202/G

The Gloster Meteor DG202/G, one of the earliest jets.

Gloster Meteor F.8 (probably)

Later model Meteor (seriously look at how much more together it is now that they have captured Me-262s to crib from).

He-162 Volksjäger

The Heinkel He-162 Volksjäger.

Avro Vulcan Bomb Bay

Avro Vulcan bomb bay, with a screen showing Avro Vulcans taking off in rapid succession in a practice scramble.

Avro Vulcan

Avro Vulcan and bombs, with stuffed dog and dummy security guy.

Lancaster nose art

The classic claim chowder on the side of this Lancaster should not distract from the fact that so-called “strategic bombing” was both counterproductive and a crime against humanity.

Pathfinder window

A stained glass window honoring the RAF pathfinders, which had formerly been in an actual church. Sort of an atrocity!

wrecked Halifax

This Handley Page Halifax crash-landed and sank in a lake after helping sink the Tirpitz, but was recovered in the 70s.

Nose art on an ANZAC B-24.

Nose art on an ANZAC B-24. I liked the bee.

The Sikorsky R-4, pioneer of the standard helicopter layout.

The Sikorsky R-4, pioneer of the standard helicopter layout.

Hawker Typhoon

Hawker Typhoon, in the “coming right for us” pose.

Percival Mew Gull

Interwar racing plane, of interest for several reasons, particularly its hilarious name.

Nulli Segundus

In view: the tail of a Eurofighter, a P-51, part of a Mosquito, but in particular the gondola of the first British military airship, the Nulli Secundus.


There were several displays of this type, and I thought they were really great.

Hawker Hunter on a stick.

The sky got pretty dramatic as I was leaving, and I got a nice shot of the Hawker Hunter mounted in the parking lot.

Spitfire and Hurricane, under their classic English sky.

And then the classic Spitfire and Hurricane.