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Hangars 3, 4 and 5
War in the Air 1918–1980
In a relatively short lifespan, the RAF has become woven into the history of the UK and the world. Discover the aircraft of the Battle of Britain alongside extraordinary bombers, seaplanes, trainers and helicopters.
The Battle of Britain
The important role of fighter pilots, and the many who support them on the ground, was perhaps best demonstrated during the Battle of Britain in 1940, ‘Their Finest Hour’, when the German Luftwaffe was repelled. In one two-week period 295 Hurricanes and Spitfires were lost, 171 were badly damaged and 231 pilots were killed or wounded. However, Hitler was forced to postpone his invasion plans after losing around 2,600 Luftwaffe aircrew.
In Hangar 3, discover the ‘Fighter Four’ – a Battle of Britain Supermarine Spitfire Mk 1A, Hawker Hurricane Mk 1, Messerschmitt Bf109E-4/B ‘Emil’, Fiat CR42 Falco (Falcon) that all took part in the Battle of Britain. The story continues in Hangar 5.
Downloadable Large Print Guides
- 15 August 1940
- The Battle of Britain
- People of the Battle of Britain (Part I)
- People of the Battle of Briatin (Part II)
During the Second World War, the RAF carried out an extensive strategic bombing campaign against targets throughout Europe.
In Hangar 5, don’t miss the versatile de Havilland Mosquito, nicknamed ‘The Wooden Wonder’, which was used by the Pathfinder Force to help mark targets in Germany.
Probably the most famous, and certainly the most successful, heavy bomber used by Bomber Command was the Lancaster, also displayed in Hangar 5. Explore the story of the Dam Buster’s raid, No. 617 Squadron’s daring attack on three dams in Germany. 19 Avro Lancasters were flown armed with a new weapon – the ‘bouncing bomb’. Of the 133 young men who set out on that mission, 53 died in the attack and three became prisoners of war.
Partnership with Allied countries has always been essential to the success of the RAF in delivering its missions. This was clearly demonstrated during the Second World War in the close co-operation between the US and UK which continues today – and through aircraft such as the North American P-51D Mustang on display in Hangar 5, one of the best fighter aircraft in the world.
Explore early auto-giros to the modern helicopters we recognise today in Hangar 4. Highlights include the Westland Belvedere HC Mk 1 H4 which was the RAF’s first twin-engine, twin-rotor helicopter.
Wings Over Water
In the early days of aviation, airports were few and far between – so aircraft that could land on water were ideal for flying long distances to the far reaches of the British Empire and Commonwealth.
The RAF has also needed aircraft that can spend long periods over water to survey and protect the UK’s coastal areas and to coordinate rescue missions in dangerous seas. The Supermarine Stranraer in Hangar 4, was one of the world’s last biplane flying boats.
Wearing of Facemasks
We strongly recommend that all visitors wear a face covering when visiting our galleries, shop and restaurant* unless they were previously exempt from doing so. You will not need to wear one when outside in our green spaces, unless it makes you more comfortable to do so. We would also ask that when in our buildings that our visitors be aware of others around them and where possible maintain a social distance of 1 metre.
*Except when seated.