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RAF Museum Hendon - Closure / Dispersion of Battle of Britain Hall

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  • Tin Triangle
    Bright Young Thing
    • Dec 2009
    • 1218

    I have mixed feelings about this.

    On one hand, the decision to break up the collection does seem absurd - the Battle is such a crucial phase in the history of the RAF that it richly deserves its own display. And that the fact that much of it took place over and around London and the South East seems to fit incredibly neatly into the "local interest" agenda. What better way to engage with local communities that trying to tell the story of London as a war zone, all of which happened in the remarkably recent past and yet seems so alien to someone growing up in the capital today?

    Still, I've always thought that the BoB display could do with starting again from scratch. No, I wasn't a fan of the Beacon (!) but at the very least the displays look tired, the layout of the hall in that awkward "U" shape seems clunky, and the complete lack of natural light made the whole thing seem pokey, however much or little they turned on the artifical lights. The glazing of the end by the Sunderland made a huge difference, why not keep the building in its current purpose, but put some clear panels in the walls, and glaze the other end? I also feel like they could use the opportunity to focus the collection a little bit-the disposal of the Jungmeister definitely seems like the right decision, and to me, the Bf110 would look so much more poignant and powerful displayed with the Lancaster. I'd also swap the Battle for the Blenheim, relocate the CR42 to a new display elsewhere about the Middle East and Western Desert, and have the Gladiator, Stuka and Battle in a separate space at the beginning, setting the scene by telling the story of the disasters and heroism leading up to Dunkirk. Then the remaining aircraft could be re-arranged to tell the story in a more focused way, with the small artefacts, medals, uniforms etc interspersed rather than hidden away in an attic that's always closed.

    There's a great opportunity here to turn the RAFM into something more widely accessible and improve the display of the exhibits; they look to have made an excellent start with the WW1 exhibition but I can't help feeling apprehensive that they might blow it.
    Armchair enthusiast, but also a fan of sofas and recliners.


    • Trolly Aux
      Rank 5 Registered User
      • May 2006
      • 3799

      I am so upset about this closure and removal of the exhibits in the BoB hall, you may as well close the Bomber Hall and just mix the whole lot up in a jumble.
      The BoB story need to be told and if the RAF museum feel fit not to tell it then the FEW will be outraged, the men laying in the channel, in holes in the ground around the UK and France, Friend and Foe a utter insult to the fallen, the ground crews. the ops girls the list could go on and what about MAFFETS Hurricane and the diorama what will happen to that, it tells a story.

      Some bloody jobs worth who has no interest in history with a bloody degree to prove they can do that job, rip the kin thing up your a disgrace to the memory of that crucial battle.
      TA out


      • Bruce
        Independent analyst
        • Jan 2000
        • 10222

        Sorry, but I couldn't disagree more.

        Firstly, what is the proposed use for the building? Anyone know?

        I strongly believe that no display of anything should ever be considered as sacrosanct. Changing with the times means you find different ways of interpreting the past, and there are many, many successful examples of that in museums all over the world. For myself, I feel the exhibits were tired and in desperate need of change. They also told only a partial story of the Battle - better interpretation could make it so much more real to people who will never have to go through what our forbears endured. The blind assumption that it will, by definition, be worse, or that it will dishonour the fallen is unfair and unkind.

        Remember, even if they are a little more in touch with their audience now, the story of the Battle of Britain is a Londoners story too.



        • Rocketeer
          trying harder
          • Jan 2005
          • 5243

          Pleased to see various views expressed here. I have always been one for compromise. I also understand that change is sometimes required. When the Battle of Britain hall was funded and built there were lots of the Few around. I firmly believe that they could have done the next step in telling RAF history without closing the Hall.

          I believe it is not just the IWM who should cover the BoB but also the RAFM. It does sound like they may put a small display up in Cosford, which is good.
          That's my opinion and as someone very clever once said...I am the worlds greatest expert on my own opinion.

          I am with TA on is a travesty and totally unnecessary to do this. It is weird that the pendulum that was to give us the hugely expensive BoB sculpture building has swung to the 'nothing' side.

          I still cannot get over how the BoB hall was the ideal delivery system of an NC requirement and now it has gone.
          I think I have spoken enough here on this....though knowing me I will say more. I am considering a petition, for what its worth. I am not an anorak, I am just very aware of the debt I owe and thought others were too.
          Tony Dyer


          • Trolly Aux
            Rank 5 Registered User
            • May 2006
            • 3799

            Bruce, its not about the building its about what it is portraying a major battle that if had not been won thing could of been a whole lot different.

            The building was built as a tribute to the BoB was it not, yes it could do with a revamp but not disposal/dispersal
            SMOKE SMOKE GO!
            TA out


            • ~Alan~
              Rank 5 Registered User
              • Mar 2010
              • 5018

              Originally posted by mmitch View Post
              Perhaps they want to build a larger catering area that they can lease it to KFC or somebody.
              Careful what you wish for
              Engine Failure:.... A condition which occurs when all fuel tanks mysteriously become filled with air.


              • Creaking Door
                Rank 5 Registered User
                • Sep 2006
                • 9863

                Originally posted by Bruce View Post
                Firstly, what is the proposed use for the building? Anyone know?
                I think it is to be the centrepiece of the 'Centenary of the Royal Air Force' and the new entrance to the whole museum site; a bit like the 'Milestones of Flight' used to be.

                And, yes, there is going to be a new and bigger restaurant.


                • CADman
                  Rank 5 Registered User
                  • Aug 2008
                  • 662

                  Several things, replying to several posts.

                  The building can hardly be described as a "tribute" its a tin shed, that for the last 20 years or so has had a name, and some dimly lit aircraft in it. Time for change.

                  If I remember reading correctly the new use for the building will be :-
                  1) as the main entrance to the whole RAF museum site.
                  2) as a sort of time line and exhibition space. Hence some design consultant receiving XX million quid. Expect fancy lights and talking heads.
                  3) as an education space, something to do schools science and engineering ? We might not like it but guess it brings in extra funding.
                  4) all this is for 1st April 2018, so they better get moving.
                  5) question is what happens in 2019 ? Expect the 'management' rubbing their hands over the prospect of a big open venue for quilt show ect.

                  I am more concerned by the removal of aircraft from Hendon to Cosford. We can all have our favourite aircraft but to move signification types from the Hendon, where the vast majority of international visitors go, to the Midlands, is unfair. The Defiant is the sole survivor of type and deserves to be at Hendon as it is a RAF aircraft. As with most collections we can not show them all, and some of the German types may well be better displayed at Cosford, or indeed the IWM Duxford. Reports by the new CEO early this year indicated that some exhibits could be loaned out, the Typhoon has already gone to Canada, how long before the Gladiator goes to Belguim, or the Me109G goes to Germany. Losing these, all be it temporarily should be of more concern than the name of the tin shed they live in.


                  • PeterVerney
                    Rank 5 Registered User
                    • May 2009
                    • 1021

                    This old fogey as an 8 year old had a grandstand view of the BoB, I am alarmed that the modern generation have no feeling for history and do not want to hurt anyones feelings. Typical civil service lack of understanding.
                    Man is not lost. Only temporarily uncertain of his position.


                    • CADman
                      Rank 5 Registered User
                      • Aug 2008
                      • 662

                      I remember talking about this, may even have posted it here.

                      Many museums in the USA have an associated restaurant, this maybe run by the museum or it may be run by a private operator / franchise. But why should they only be open when the museum is open ? Say RAFM Hendon closes at 5.00pm, why, with correct local authority approval, could the restaurant not be open until 11.00pm The RAFM gains publicity as the pub / restaurant with a load of airplanes next door, and the eating / drinking public visit again when the musuem is open. RAFM occasionally have open evenings, extend this with a meal / entertainment package and it is something people will pay for. Corporate entertainment loves these sort of places. If in 2019 the reformed BoB hangar becomes a money maker for RAFM then it is a good thing. Lets just hope the been counters do not throw away the aircraft in the process.


                      • stuart gowans
                        Not a real Spitfire
                        • Dec 2005
                        • 2005

                        I seem to recall some mention of making RAFM Hendon an open space, so that may well come about.
                        Why be your own worse critic, that's what the forum is for.


                        • jack windsor
                          Rank 5 Registered User
                          • Dec 2008
                          • 921

                          I'm one of the older generation just shy of 70, when I visit Hendon and the B of B hall I like the principle players all there on hand, so I can judge one against the other compare the aircraft sizes etc. its a story so you need everything there at hand. If on a school visit little Johnnie says to teacher" my great granddad mended Spitfires after the Germans broke them, which aircraft are they sir". So teacher tries to explain that is the Spitfire but you will have to go to Cosford or so and so to see the nasty hun aircraft that caused your great granddad to work over repairing it...


                          this post may contain grammatical errors...


                          • trumper
                            Rank 5 Registered User
                            • Aug 2003
                            • 6718

                            Originally posted by CADman View Post
                            As with most collections we can not show them all, and some of the German types may well be better displayed at Cosford, or indeed the IWM Duxford. Reports by the new CEO early this year indicated that some exhibits could be loaned out, the Typhoon has already gone to Canada, how long before the Gladiator goes to Belguim, or the Me109G goes to Germany. Losing these, all be it temporarily should be of more concern than the name of the tin shed they live in.
                            Is Hendon still free? if these get moved to Duxford you are looking at a large price to get in to see these.

                            The whole idea of having the aircraft from the BoB period is to see them together ,where else can you see a Stuka,Heinkel,JU88 ,Me110,Me 109 etc in one place telling one large story of the RAF,probably the most famous part of the RAF.


                            • Pen Pusher
                              Rank 5 Registered User
                              • Mar 2005
                              • 2657

                              And where at Duxford would they go? Little enough room for their own exhibits.

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                              • Orion
                                Rank 5 Registered User
                                • Jun 2009
                                • 701

                                I 've just got back from Hendon, not been there for two years or so.

                                Most of the museum has been improved over that time but the Battle of Britain Hall, never my favourite part of the museum, is just a mess. I think they should get on with the changes, they can only bring improvement.

                                On a lighter side I picked up a second copy of Thetford's German Aircraft of World War 1 for 15! On the open market it's worth at last twice that.

                                The book apart I had a good afternoon, the changes to the museum have improved it a lot, and there were lots of visitors which can only be a good thing too.

                                David Mylchreest
                                Steam and Model Railway videos
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                                • Binbrook 01
                                  Rank 5 Registered User
                                  • Dec 2004
                                  • 608

                                  Did everyone rush to criticise the IWM at Duxford after the rebuild of the Super Super hangar as much?

                                  I have yet to look back for comments about the Cold War thing they builtt at Cosford

                                  As for a refresh the FAA Museum and the MoAF probably could do with a refresher...

                                  Just a tuppence worth



                                  • Lazy8
                                    Adrian Constable
                                    • Apr 2012
                                    • 563

                                    I would not wish to be seen as an apologist for the RAF Museum. I have my own issues with the way they do things and have personally had, or been party to, several major differences of opinion over the years. Before you ask, no, I will not go into detail. On the other hand, for the most part the individual members of staff are wonderful. Under-resourced, overworked and overstretched, but pretty damned good all the same.

                                    I am as perturbed as the next man that the BoB Hall is to be closed, 'repurposed' or whatever. I find the 'vision statment' in the strategy document slightly chilling. I can't argue with their wish to "engage, inspire and connect", or to be "relevant, friendly, inclusive, respected, collaborative". Being "secure" would seem to be obvious. "Entrepreneurial" bothers me significantly: they are there to tell a story. Hopefully not at a loss, but entrepreneurship carries connotations of 'profit at any cost' which I don't think sit well with their apparent raison d'etre. Maybe I'm just becoming an old f**t, but I don't want museums to be exciting. 'Not boring', certainly, but 'exciting' is another word that carries connotations of deliberately overdoing things.

                                    However, it seems to me that there are some alternative viewpoints that need to be put here, to ensure we have a balanced argument.

                                    The 'core audience' of any museum is surely those who come back again and again. Whilst you might expect the majority of your visitors, in numerical terms, to be tourists and interested people from further away, for the most part they will visit just the once. They will come simply because you are there, not because of this or that new exhibition or exhibit, although either of those might be the reason they visit now rather than next year or last. Your returning audience will broadly fall in to three groups:
                                    > Locals, for whom a 'friendly and inclusive' museum will become part of the local landscape.
                                    > Schools, from a wider, but still generally fairly local area, but it will be the school - maybe the teachers - who are the returning entity, with different kids each time.
                                    > Enthusiasts - including veterans - who will feel, for one reason or another, a draw to the place and what it represents.

                                    The RAF and it's precursors have more than a hundred years of history already. It is a rich and complex history, intertwined with other British and foreign organisations at various points, and spanning the globe. You simply can't tell that in three hours or less. What you can hope to do is to plant the hooks that draw people back for a deeper look at this or that aspect later. Whether They are coming back because (Great-)Grandpa flew Spitfires or (Great-)Grandma delivered Lancasters, or because a more distant relative flew Vimys in the Middle East, or because Daddy flew Phantoms or just because their imagination has been sparked, it has to be those people who you try hardest to connect with. Fail them and you loose something tangible. Fail those who would not come back anyway, and what happens? They don't come back. Yes, you have to worry about reputation, about your ratings on Trip Advisor or whatever, but if you want to convince people to give you money one of the key things to talk about is how many people come back.

                                    Yes, the Battle of Britain is an important part of British and RAF history. As a school governor, I feel I should have more sympathy with the idea that the BoB Hall should stay as it is because of the National Curriculum, but I'm afraid I don't. Schools hundreds of miles from Hendon apparently teach modern history perfectly acceptably without a visit to the museum. It's a 'nice to have' in that regard, nothing more. If it were not so, then there would be a bun-fight going on between the MoD and the DfE over funding. (Perhaps there is, but I haven't seen any mention of it...)

                                    There are plenty of other aspects of RAF history that have more immediacy and/or more chance of engagement with any definable audience, than the Battle of Britain, no matter how important it is . There are the two World Wars, of course, but it's not just about them. Thirteen years recent involvment in Afganistan; the Gulf Wars (bet they keep quiet about those until everyone's read the Chilcott report, but they're important and recent just the same); Bosnia and other 'peacekeeping' activities; humanitarian and disater relief operations in various parts of the world. Going back a bit further, there are record-breaking activities (more a Cosford display, perhaps); our presence in the Far East and Middle East, and how well (or not) we played out the withdrawal from each; the RAF's involvement in developing air mail and passenger routes across the British Empire... These and many more aspects could stand their own equally fascinating display, perhaps occupying all of a hall that size. Unless funding can be found for another hall or two in which to do those, why would we keep one big hall with the same display ad infinitum, no matter how good or important it is?


                                    • farnboroughrob
                                      Rank 5 Registered User
                                      • Dec 2008
                                      • 617

                                      I am shocked by this news but thinking about it the BofB halls needs a revamp. Although the BofB was the RAF's finest hour, and it needs to be featured,does it make sense to have a 1/4 of the museum(not floor space but buildings) dedicated to a conflict that lasted a few months out of a hundred years of history? I'm at the younger end of the enthusiast visitors (46) and for those younger they will have little personal reference to WW2 let alone the BofB. My dad was bombed out in the blitz ,aged 1 but people in their 20's/30's and younger are unlikely to have living relatives from WW2.
                                      So how about a BofB corner rather than a whole building? This may sound like heresy but why not return the likes of the CR42, He111 (not a BofB aircraft after all) to their home land? This would leave Spitfire, Hurricane, Gladiator, Me109 and JU88 in a Bob exhibition? In return the RAFM would have funds to fill some of its gaps.
                                      Away from the BoB collection Hendon completely omits Transport Command. Foe me a Dakota is a must for any revamped Hendon. Would also been good to see more of the non-European theaters of WW2. If only somebody knew where we could get a desert air force survivor?!


                                      • hampden98
                                        Rank 5 Registered User
                                        • Sep 2009
                                        • 2546

                                        My immediate reaction was "preposterous", but then I sat down and decided maybe it's a good thing to change the BoB hall.
                                        It's dusty, dark, tired and worn. Only five of the aircraft are representative of actual Bob aircraft in my opinion. The Stuka and 111 would be more suited to a Russian Front diorama and the 110 and 88 Bomber Command Hall (and what about a Bomber Command hall?).
                                        Providing the battle is still represented in the main hall I think it would be refreshing to have a new exhibit.
                                        Maybe a Gulf War and Afghanistan setting?
                                        We seem to forget it's an RAF museum not a WW2 museum.

                                        Come to think of it most museums are WW2 focussed. Perhaps time to move on?
                                        Last edited by hampden98; 1st June 2016, 17:15.


                                        • scotavia
                                          • Nov 2005
                                          • 2812

                                          The changes are in progress and not finished,perhaps it is fair to let the plans settle in. I like the idea of exhibits of aircraft size move across the Uk and even overseas.The RAF museum should not be considered in isolation in the Uk,there was a time in the 1960s when very few museums had displays of aircraft and artefacts.In fact the RAF museum was overwhelmed with donations ,turned items down, and as a result other places became better places to view certain aspects in detail such as the displays at Newark ,Doncaster,East Kirkby,Kent Bof B museum,Duxford.

                                          As for young people not being interested I think that is not 100 percent true,many play games with graphics showing air battles and take part in re enactment groups,join cadets and later the regular forces.

                                          We are fortunate(at the moment) to have a very active Uk museum scene and changing displays do help get items out of storage.


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