Military Provost Guard Service Visit RAF Hendon Museum and Battle of Britain Bunker Uxbridge

Some of you may be thinking ’what is MPGS’ and what do they do? We provide overt armed and unarmed static sentries and roving sentries and vehicle borne patrols.

To provide access control, escort visitors and assist in the physical security duties at nominated locations throughout the UK. All soldiers have served from 3 years up to 22 years regular military service.

The 12 March 2013 was pencilled in as a team bonding day, so I decided to get in touch with the RAF Museum at Hendon to see if they could accommodate 22 soldiers of A &B section MPGS RAF High Wycombe, and with the next breath they welcomed us with open arms.

Next, I decided to give the Battle of Britain Bunker at RAF Uxbridge a call, as many of the section would not realize there was even a Bunker there and what went on within its confines. The call was made and with the same enthusiasm as RAF Hendon, we were booked in for 3pm with a curator.

So the day was upon us and before the section could enjoy the museum, one important task had to be completed, our annual Personal Fitness Assessment! 0915hrs arrived and it was time to set off on our team bonding day. The transit time was roughly 1.10hrs, after battling the M40, Wembley and Hendon town centre we finally arrived at 10.35am.

Hendon Museum
In 1962 the Air Force Board formed a committee, under the chairmanship of Marshal of the Royal Air Force, Sir Dermot Boyle, to advise the Board on historical and museum matters. Arising from the committee’s deliberations came a recommendation to establish an RAF Museum. A Board of Trustees was formed to look after the Museum’s interests, with Sir Dermot Boyle as its chairman and Dr. John Tanner, from the staff of the RAF College, Cranwell, as Director of the Museum.

Hendon was chosen as the most suitable site for the Museum as it had a long aviation history and on 15 November 1972, Her Majesty the Queen officially opened the RAF Museum at Hendon in London. On its opening Hendon’s hangars housed some 36 aircraft.

Over the following years, however, some 130 aircraft were acquired for the Museum. Aircraft not on display were held in what were called reserve collections at a number of RAF stations around the country including RAF Cosford. Other than on Battle of Britain Open Days at various RAF stations, these stored aircraft were seldom available for public display.

The tour started with a team photo, then moving swiftly on, as it was freezing, the first thing of interest we came across was the question; what do you have to do to become a flying ace during the war? (Answers on a postcard to the editor!)

We Listened to Winston Churchill give his ‘Battle of Britain’ speech to a fearful nation from his 10 Downing Street Office. There was a television underneath in its bomb bay showing the gigantic Vulcan Bomber on its epic journey en route to the Falklands and we discovered the amazing heroes, heroines and trailblazers who have contributed so much to the development of flight and the RAF.

Next we came across The Aviation History Timeline, some 50 metres long, which details the development of aviation and the RAF against the background of the key social and political events of the first century of powered flight. It illustrates the key events in World, British and Civil aviation from the early pioneer days before the First World War, when the Wright brothers completed the first ever flight in a powered aircraft, through the Second World War, up to the modern age of flight and today’s jet engines.

The RAF has always recognised the important contribution women made during the War. Its female counterpart, the Women’s Royal Air Force (WRAF) was created on the same date of 1 April 1918 and disbanded in 1920. Princess Mary’s Royal Air Force Nursing Service was established as a permanent branch of the RAF in 1923. The Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF), formed for war in 1939 and continued after the Second World War. It was re-formed as the WRAF, a permanent female peacetime force in 1949 and was fully integrated into the RAF in 1994. Today, complete integration has broken down the barriers further with female pilots now flying operationally on the front line.

Next the Museum’s Battle of Britain Hall told the story of the world’s first decisive air battle – when the Royal Air Force stood alone against the might of the German Luftwaffe during World War Two. Recently refurbished to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, this aircraft collection contains the most comprehensive selection of aircraft from both sides that fought in the Battle of Britain.

Alongside the very planes that fought for supremacy over the Channel, interactive displays give you an insight into the minds and actions of those who experienced the Battle at first hand. New features of the Hall’s recent refurbishment include:

Unseen footage from the 1968 film ‘The Battle of Britain’.

New panels giving added insight into history, key personalities and Battle of Britain operations.

15m high statue honouring Sir Keith Park whose command of Royal Air Force 11 Group Fighter Command was integral to RAF’s success in the Battle.

Our Finest Hour, the Museum’s sound and light show, which explains the Battle.

A permanent exhibition ‘Art of the Battle of Britain’, located on the Hall’s mezzanine level.

Battle of Britain Bunker, Uxbridge
Time to leave RAF Museum Hendon and set off towards the Battle of Britain bunker, located at RAF Uxbridge, for our 3pm appointment with the bunker’s curator Stan.

“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed, by so many to so few.”

These words were first spoken by the Prime Minster Winston Churchill on the 16th August 1940, upon leaving the No.11 Group Operations Room at RAF Uxbridge.

The Bunker housed the Fighter Command No.11 Group Operations Room throughout the Second World War, the room from which most of the RAF’s side of the Battle of Britain was coordinated. Key decisions that would decide the fate of the nation were taken in the Bunker throughout 1940 and it was thanks to the tireless work of the plotters and controllers that the RAF’s fighter pilots managed to keep the Luftwaffe at bay.

The Battle of Britain Ops Room at RAF Uxbridge has now been fully restored as a private museum. The Ops Room was closed in 1958 and locked up until the mid 1970’s when it was restored to its current state; very little restoration was required. At the bottom of the second flight of stairs we found ourselves in a rectangular ring corridor, with most of the rooms accessed from the inner part of the ring. Half way along one of the long sides we entered the Ops Room at the lower floor.

The room is really on two and a half levels. Above is the control room with curved glass panels to cut out reflection and noise, but at the back of the room steep wooden steps lead up to a low balcony overlooking the plotting table. The room has been restored to the state it was in during the Battle of Britain with the large irregularly shaped, angled plotting table taking up much of the floor.

I would like to thank everyone associated with our visit to RAF Museum Hendon and to Stan the curator at Uxbridge, everyone had a fantastic experience.