The Royal Air Force Museum London - History and Facts | History Hit

The Royal Air Force Museum London

Hendon, London, England, United Kingdom

The London Royal Air Force Museum offers a great overview of the history of aviation in combat as well as housing over 100 aircraft from around the world.

Amy Irvine

01 Apr 2021
Image Credit: Wikimedia, Panhard / CC

About The Royal Air Force Museum London

The Royal Air Force Museum (RAF Museum) is located on the former Hendon Aerodrome in Colindale, North London. The museum includes five buildings and hangars which showcase a series of exhibitions dedicated to the history of aviation and which celebrate and commemorate the first 100 years of the RAF and its role today.

History of The Royal Air Force Museum London

The museum site was one of the first civilian airfields, acquired by Claude Grahame-White in 1911. In 1914, the aerodrome was requisitioned for Home Defence during the First World War as part of the RAF Hendon Royal Naval Air Station, training new pilots in the flying schools on site.

Whilst operations ceased after the end of World War One, from 1927-1939 the site housed No. 601 Squadron – nicknamed the ‘Millionaires’ Squadron’ due to the wealth and upper social class of its volunteers.

Following the outbreak of World War Two in 1939, the site at Hendon became an operational RAF station again – home to No. 24 Transport and Communications Squadron. It also briefly served as a fighter station during the Battle of Britain.

On 19 June 1968, the last flight to Hendon by a fixed-wing aircraft took place when the last operational Blackburn Beverley plane was delivered to the museum prior to its royal opening in 1972. Shortly after, the runways were removed to make way for a housing estate. RAF Hendon officially closed on 1 April 1987.

The museum housed on the site today was officially opened on 15 November 1972 by Queen Elizabeth II. Initially the hangars housed 36 aircraft, but the collection has vastly increased since then – aircraft not on display at Hendon were stored or displayed at smaller local RAF station museums.

The site once also housed The Battle of Britain Museum (from 1978-2016) and has since been regularly expanded.

The Royal Air Force Museum London today

Housing a fantastic collection of over 100 aircraft, the RAF museum has an impressive selection of planes including some of the most famous ever to have graced the skies. These include the Avro Lancaster S-Sugar, (which flew 137 sorties), the only complete Hawker Typhoon, a Gnat fast jet trainer of the Red Arrows, a full-scale mock-up of the F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter, and a Westland Sea King helicopter (once flown by Prince William), added in 2018 as part of the RAF Centenary exhibitions.

Also on show are a series of objects and structures from throughout the history of aviation, including two World War One hangars, a World War Two Battle of Britain exhibition, Bomber Command Hall, and a timeline of aviation history, along with multi award-winning First World War in the Air Galleries.

Getting to The Royal Air Force Museum London

The museum is located 10 minutes from Junction 4 of the M1, or 30 minutes from Central London by Tube to Colindale Underground Station. From here the museum is a 7 minute bus ride on route 303, or a 10 minute walk. Mill Hill Broadway is the nearest rail station, a 20 minute walk away.

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