The Royal Air Force Museum ( RAFM, R.A.F.M)

The Royal Air Force Museum ( RAFM, R.A.F.M) Our purpose is to tell the story of the R.A.F through its people and collections. Our ambition is to ensure that the R.A.F's story endures.

Our purpose is to tell the story of the Royal Air Force through its people and collections. - For our visitors, we make our collections and the RAF story relevant and stimulating - For current and former RAF personnel and their families, we preserve, honour and share the stories of their service - For our nation, we help people to understand the impact of the RAF in the world Our ambition is to ensure that the Royal Air Force's story endures and enriches future generations. The Museum occupies two public sites at Colindale in North London, and Cosford in Shropshire, West Midlands. Each site offers a unique experience to the visitor and the exhibits complement each other. Both Museums are free to enter and tell the story of the people who moulded the world of aviation from the daredevil early aviators to wartime heroes and the thousands of ordinary Service men and women who have served in the RAF and whose contribution has shaped the world that we live in today.

During this Conservation week we have highlighted some of the aircraft which are undergoing conservation in the MBCC at ...

During this Conservation week we have highlighted some of the aircraft which are undergoing conservation in the MBCC at Cosford. However, this is only part of the Museum’s conservation work. We have a wonderful team of volunteers who help us with conserving the objects in our collection, both small and big. Today we tell the story of the Large Object Volunteer team.

In order that you, the visitor, can see our exhibits in the best condition, the Large Object Volunteer team regularly clean the aircraft, vehicles, engines and other items. They use long-handled mops, fibre clothes and other tools to clean the exhibits once a month. It is quite a privilege to get up close and personal with such famous aircraft like the Spitfire and be able to see and touch this famous fighter; to see the panels where the machine gun ammunition was loaded, the 1940s colour scheme and in some cases, actual repairs that were undertaken in wartime.

Aside from ensuring that our exhibits are in the best possible condition for our visitors, cleaning is a key part of conservation. Dust, over time, can damage the fragile parts of the exhibits – for example the fabric covered fuselages and wings of World War 1 aircraft.

As easy as cleaning an aircraft may sound, it is imperative that this is done in a safe and non-intrusive manner. And in a practical sense, it is often a challenge to reach every part of every aircraft, especially if they are very large, like the Lancaster or Sunderland, or if they are hanging from the ceiling, such as the DH9a.

Beyond the cleaning of the aircraft, the Large Object Volunteer team assist David Green, the Conservation Technician with the regular checks of the aircraft on display. Sometimes these need to be ‘opened up’ to see if the structure is still sound. As much as we like to see these aircraft as sturdy combat veterans, they suffer degradation as any other object. It is important that we find out any issues on time so we can take appropriate measures and start with an interventive conservation.

Recently, the Team was tasked to make special checks on some of the aircraft displayed in Hangars 3,4 & 5. The focus was on the bolts that secure the wings and tailplane to the fuselage, and ensure they were in good condition. Over several Sunday and mid-week sessions the volunteers removed panels in the appropriate areas, such as wing roots, so that the bolts could be observed. This involved the unscrewing of hundreds of screws, carefully labelling them and keeping them secure and then removal of the panels, to reveal the bolts, nuts, etc. To reach the screws, the volunteers had to safely lay on the floor, or reach up to shoulder height areas, and in some cases, carefully use the walkways on some aircraft inner wings.

The aircraft included the Chipmunk, Thunderbolt, Spitfire F24, Vampire, Meteor, Harvard and Hudson. The team enjoyed this unique experience – being able to get up close to these iconic aircraft, learning about some elements of their construction. The Conservation Manager, Brendan O’Gorman, commented ‘It’s great to have a wealth of responsible volunteers willing to assist in such an important task. By carrying out these checks and flagging any issues, David and the volunteers are ensuring the safety of the objects, as well as the public’.

To find out more about volunteering at the RAF Museum, please have a look at our website

As a Museum sitting in the heart of Colindale we love working and spending time with our local community and those that ...

As a Museum sitting in the heart of Colindale we love working and spending time with our local community and those that live on our doorstep. As we all know things are very different at the moment, meaning we aren’t able to get out and about and see our local community or welcome them into the Museum as we usually would. Over the next three weeks we’ll be reminiscing over the last year of the Museum’s community engagement whilst we plan for time when we can all be together again! This post will focus on activities the Museum has been involved in with local families and children.

One of the highlights of the last year was hosting families from Home Start Barnet at the Museum for Toddler Takeover Day. The day involved the toddlers of Colindale taking on museum jobs and becoming mini curators, conservators and shop staff. Polishing our mini planes, using a pricing gun and whizzing objects around the exhibition using a trolley certainly livened up a morning in Hangar 1.

Another local group that meet a stone's throw from the Museum on Grahame Park is FUSE youth club who we’ve also been working with over the last year. FUSE’s mantra ‘Working with young people living on Estates to show them a world outside of it’ inspired sessions at the Museum focusing on job roles and BAME history. The young people watched a performance of ‘Pilots of the Caribbean’ which highlights the role of African and Caribbean people throughout RAF history and today. The group were encouraged to ask questions and also explore the Museum using our BAME history trail. Another session used RAF uniforms to talk about different roles and skills needed within not only the air force but in other jobs.

Speaking of uniforms, hats were the order of the day when we tried on and created our own RAF hats at Burnt Oak Library. Children explored the different types of hats used in the RAF and designed their own stylish paper hats to take home with them. Getting out and about in local libraries is a brilliant way of meeting new families who haven’t visited the Museum before as well as getting to see some familiar faces who love getting stuck into different activities.

We also worked with Barnet Libraries at East Finchley Library to trial a session where families got to get hands on with some objects from our handling collection and write their own fantasy labels. It was great fun hearing the weird, wonderful and wacky uses the children came up with for each object. We had a ring compass masquerading as a bracelet for a bunny and a Gosport Tube which they decided was a stethoscope. The best part of this activity was that the children were actually

more fascinated with the original uses of the objects than their own ideas; perhaps we have some budding Museum professionals and historians amongst the children of Barnet.

Getting children, families and young people involved with the Museum and sharing the RAF story with them is one of the most important aspects of our outreach and engagement work. We can’t wait to get back to normal and work with all our amazing local families and community partners. For more information about previous community engagement work go to our Community Events page.

Earlier today we shared the video of the webinar which discussed the recovery and conservation of the Dornier Do 17 bomb...

Earlier today we shared the video of the webinar which discussed the recovery and conservation of the Dornier Do 17 bomber. Although a German bomber it has significant relevance to the history of the RAF as it was one of the main aircraft used during the Battle of France, Battle of Britain and the Blitz.

Was the Dornier Do 17 the German Lancaster? Not exactly. It is best to see the Dornier along the lines of the British Bristol Blenheim and Handley Page Hampden light bombers. The legend of the Do 17 is similar to that of the story of the Blenheim as it was originally designed as a fast commercial transport aircraft until it was adopted by the military as a bomber aircraft.

In reality, Dornier knew that the German military wanted a bomber. The reason for the secrecy was that the Treaty of Versailles, officially ending the First World War, stipulated Germany was forbidden to have any air force. In secret, the military was rebuilding an air force. This was accelerated when Hitler came to power. The Luftwaffe, the Nazi German air force was founded in 1935 after Hitler renounced the Treaty. One of its first bomber aircraft was the Do 17.
Like the Blenheim, the Dornier was built with speed in mind. Its long narrow silhouette gave it the nickname ‘the Flying Pencil’. It could carry a bomb load of 1000 kg (2,205 lb), more than the Blenheim but less than the slower Hampden. All three aircraft had a weak defensive armament, though standard for its day. The Dornier relied on its speed and manoeuvrability at lower altitude to get away from enemy fighter aircraft.

The Dornier Do 17 and the Heinkel He 111, of which an original example exists at the RAF Museum London, were the main German bombers when the Second World War broke out. During the Phoney War, the first ‘quiet’ months of the war, the Dornier excelled as a long-range reconnaissance aircraft flying over France and providing valuable intelligence to the German military. As no radar was available, the Dornier was rarely intercepted.

This obviously changed during the Battle of Britain when the deficiencies of the Dornier became apparent. When it entered service in early 1937, it was faster than most fighter aircraft then in service. When confronted with the modern Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire, its slow speed and weak armament became apparent.

Many examples of such encounters exist, but the most famous battle occurred on 15 September 1940, now known as Battle of Britain Day. A Do 17 Z-2 of Kampfgeschwader (Bomber Group No. 76), flown by Robert Zehbe, had developed engine problems and became isolated from the main bomber formation. Although it is unclear what exactly happened, it seems the Dornier was first attacked by Pilot Officer ‘Skeets’ Ogilvie of No. 609 Squadron. He made three attacking passed with his Spitfire. Next up was Sergeant Ray Holmes of No. 504 Squadron. His Hurricane had run out of ammo but decided to ram the Dornier, which came crashing down near Victoria station. Three out of five German crew members died.

Ray Holmes bailed out of his damaged Hurricane and was received by an ecstatic crowd who had witnessed his selfless ramming attack. The RAF Museum London’s Hurricane gate guardian is a replica of the Hurricane that he flew that day. Several parts of the original Hurricane wreck are on display in Hangar 1.

The Dornier which is now at the Michael Beetham Conservation Centre (MBCC) at Cosford was shot down on 26 August 1940 and forced to make an emergency landing on the Goodwin Sands at low tide. The Dornier, flown by Feldwebel Willi Effmert attempted a wheels-up landing and touched down and the aircraft sank inverted. It stayed there for 70 years until the RAF Museum decided to raise it from the seabed.

The careful and innovative process of raising and conserving the bomber is discussed in detail in the webinar we posted earlier today. The museum originally intended to exhibit the Dornier in London. Due to fragility of the airframe structure, which was identified during the conservation process, it has been decided to retain the aircraft at Cosford within a display environment conducive to its long-term preservation. To this end, options for exhibiting the Dornier are now being considered. In the meantime, we hope to welcome you in a future Open Cockpit event at Cosford in which the Dornier will be shown to the public.

From Recovery to Restoration: Bringing World War II's Lost Aircraft Back to Life

The RAF Museum's Head of Collections and Research, Ian Thirsk and Conservation Centre Manager, Darren Priday recently participated in a webinar with The National WWII Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana to discuss the Dornier 17 recovery and conservation.

In this one hour webinar, Ian and Darren give an overview of one of the most exciting and challenging projects ever undertaken by the RAF Museum, the recovery of the Goodwin Sands Dornier 17. Learn more about how the aircraft was discovered and identified, preparations for its recovery, the recovery itself and the challenges in conserving the aircraft.

Click to view:

In 2013, divers recovered the remains of a German Dornier 17 bomber, which had lain underwater since it was shot down during the Battle of Britain in August ...

Today we are celebrating a DOUBLE birthday! On this day, 15 June in 1936, two aircraft made their first flight. Both wer...

Today we are celebrating a DOUBLE birthday! On this day, 15 June in 1936, two aircraft made their first flight. Both were to have a long and versatile career with the RAF during the Second World War. They were the Westland Lysander and the Vickers Wellington.

The Lysander was developed for the army co-operation role. In short, the RAF needed to provide the army with an aircraft capable of directing its artillery fire and providing photographic reconnaissance. Despite its archaic appearance the Lysander was quite advanced. Its fully automatic wing slats, slotted flaps and a variable incidence tailplane made it capable of flying at low speed without stalling.

And yet, when the Second World War broke out, the Lysander squadrons suffered terrible losses at the hands of the German fighter pilots. The Lysander fell between two stools. It was too slow and vulnerable for photo reconnaissance, and it was too big for inconspicuous artillery observation. Withdrawn from France, Lysanders were temporarily used as a patrol aircraft and armed to be used against a potential German invasion, as unlikely that would have been. Some were used for air-sea rescue while others became target tugs to train anti-aircraft artillery units.

It is most remarkable that the Lysander performed its greatest role after its replacement. Its ability to fly at low speed, and land and take off at short distances made it a perfect aircraft to fly special agents into occupied Europe. No. 138 (Special Duties) Squadron was formed for the Special Operations Executive (SOE) to maintain clandestine contact with the French Resistance. Lysander flew several missions, at night, with only the pilot and no navigator trying to locate a crude landing strip in the middle of Occupied France. They would insert or bring back special agents.

One of the best-known agents was Inayat Noor Khan. She volunteered for the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force and was trained as a radio operator, later joining the SOE. In the summer of 1943, she became the first woman radio operator to be infiltrated into occupied France and worked undercover in Paris. She was betrayed, tortured, and executed in Dachau Concentration Camp. She was posthumously awarded the George Cross, Britain’s highest civilian honour. The Museum has the log book on display of the Lysander pilot who flew Noor Khan into France.

The RAF Museum’s Lysander has now been restored to its former glory after undergoing three years of conservation work including a new fabric outer skin and complete repaint. As the only surviving Special Duties variant of its type, the Lysander is now painted in No. 161 Squadron SOE colour scheme, reflecting its service towards the end of the war in non-operational special transport services.


The Vickers Wellington was designed as a twin-engined bomber together with the Armstrong Whitworth Whitley and the Handley Page Hampden. What made the Wellington unique was its geodetic structure – a kind of basket weave framework developed by aeronautical engineer and bouncing bomb inventor, Barnes Wallis.

According to Darren Priday, the manager of the MBCC in which the Wellington is undergoing restoration, ‘the easiest way to think about it is like an airship construction brought into the fixed wing world’. This structure was then covered in fabric, Irish linen treated with a chemical called dope. Fabric was easy to apply and to repair, and obviously cheaper than a metal sheet covering. The only limitation of fabric covering is that it restricts the maximum speed.

Several squadron were equipped with the Wellington. Several missions were flown against German naval bases, but it quickly became apparent that the slow Wellington was too vulnerable against German Messerschmitt fighter aircraft. The decision was taken to switch to night attacks. In this the Wellington proved its worth. It could carry a bomb load of 4,500 lb (2,000 kg) over a very long range, which was far superior than that of the other twin-engined bombers.

The Wellington was Bomber Command’s main bomber aircraft during the first half of the Second World War. It was gradually replaced by the Handley Page Halifax and of course the Avro Lancaster, which with their four engines could carry a heavier load at higher speed. This was not the end of the career of the Wellington. It remained in production until the end of the war at which time it was used in various roles – from anti-submarine duties with Coastal Command to airborne radar for Fighter Command and Air Defence of Great Britain.

Over 11,400 were produced but today, only two remain and the one at Cosford is the only complete example of its type. Since its arrival at Cosford in June 2010, the Wellington has been stripped of its linen outer skin so that work to repair small amounts of corrosion to the geodetic framework could take place. The wings are now free of corrosion and have been painted in a protective layer and the fuselage will soon undergo the same treatment. Following this, the aircraft will then be re-covered in Irish linen, doped and painted in its Bomber Command colour scheme.

Darren Priday reflects on the role of the MBCC which is ‘to make sure that in 50 or 100 years time, families can still come into a museum and see Spitfires, Hurricanes, Messerschmitts or anything else that we've got in our collection.’ Both the Lysander and Wellington will go back on display in the near future.


Grahame Park Way

General information

The Royal Air Force Museum hosts a unique collection of iconic aircraft at two main sites, Colindale in North London and Cosford near Birmingham in the West Midlands. Admission and Parking to both sites are free, and both sites host throughout the year a series of free family orientated events. For further details, please visit the What's On section of our website


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Is there any interest in that?
I wonder if anyone might have any information about the raf on the ards pennisula in norther n ireland in ww2 ...a couple of airfields at kirkstone, ballyhalbert and ards airfield...also stationed in mount stewart along with the American s. Grateful if anyone could shed a bit of light on this ...
Wish I was on your side of the Pond so I could visit.
Every time I visit, half the museum is closed off and the half feels like it's suffering from a power cut it is so dark. I have given up going.
Can anyone tell me where R Group, No 3 Depot were based during WW1 please?
why on ur leaflet do u have postcode WV7 3EU AND TF11 8UP? I followed satnav for one of these and there was nothing there .!!!!!!!
I love visiting this please, but come on £2.35 for a 330ml can of pop absolutely attrocious. I dont mind supporting a charity but at a fair price.The catering facilities here are very poor now. Must remember to bring my own in future, if there will be one.😞
Open this Sunday from 12 - 4pm, free entry tea and coffee available, lift and wheelchair friendly :)
Short visit but amazing! Fantastic collection of fantastic aircrafts!
In 1919, civil rights activist W. E. B. Du Bois wrote that America’s Black soldiers were returning from WW1 to fight for democracy at home – civil and human rights. What of the Black experience in the Caribbean at this time? Here, a Black Jamaican WW1 veteran recalls the grinding poverty faced by returning Black soldiers in the British Caribbean. See his on-camera testimony in Mutiny - now available on Amazon Prime, and, Vimeo On Demand. Please visit our website for details – #AAAM2019 #BlackHistoryMonth2019 #blackhistorymonth #oralhistory #blackexperience #slavestocitizens #newnegroes #caribbeanstudies #windrush #blackrenaissance #ww1 #firstworldwar #westindies #caribbeanhistory #diaspora #turningpointr&d #sweetpatooteearts
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