The Imperial War Museum Duxford – Review!

At the end of the half term holiday we took a drive out to Cambridgeshire to visit the Imperial War Museum at Duxford. Jimmy had asked if could see aeroplanes and as his wish is my command – ha ha, (and it’s not too far to Duxford) I wanted to make it happen.

I’d not been before but love the Imperial War Museum in London so I was very much looking forward to the history, especially the WW2 element, which is something I have always been interested in. For the children it was simply the idea of seeing aeroplanes, namely a Lancaster Bomber (which was open especially for the school’s break) and getting to go on board which was the lure.

Climbing aboard a Lancaster bomber – something that volunteer Derek told me the people who work there absolutely adore themselves. He said they would all happily volunteer every day if it meant they got to go on this plane!
Looking at the tail end of the Lancaster bomber and the tiny tight space a young man would have sat with a gun. Derek told us a veteran of 96 visited when he first started who told the story of being 14 but having enough stubble for the officers to let him in the army and turn a blind eye. He went on to say this war hero had been promoted and promoted throughout his career but had refused the final promotion many times because he knew they would then find out that he’d lied about his age and take it away from him anyway. I talked with the children about how this man had been just a boy when he went to war.
We also got to go on board one of the first made test versions of Concord. Here you can see its nose just in front of the Lancaster bomber wing!

It was definitely a museum more geared up for Jimmy’s entertainment but Florence really enjoyed the experience too and it was a great way to explain to her some of the history behind the planes. I think both children were most impressed by the American hanger which showed the vast differences in how glamour played or didn’t play a part in the second world war. She noticed that everything from the uniforms to the artistry on the plane noses was just a little bit more flash when it came to the US versions and it was an interesting way to explore that side of history with her.

Outside the US hanger at Duxford!
A US plane which caught all of our eyes!

It wasn’t just planes at Duxford but all sorts of war history documented in a really physical way. I especially enjoyed looking through the windows of a prefab bungalow originally built for post WW2 housing shortages and then looking around the garden adjacent and the bomb shelters. We decided perhaps bomb shelters might have been more of a means to make people FEEL safe even if they weren’t. Again it was a history lesson for the children but delievered in a hands on way.

More WW2 planes!

And although we didn’t get the chance to look at EVERYTHING because Duxford is so huge (there’s a LOT of walking involved) what we did see we really spent time on and actually learned something. Not just the children but myself too. Lots of the museum is rather sobering and it’s such an important thing to go and see.

Next up we had to stop for lunch which was absolutely delicious in the cafe. Home cooked, good food (and it tasted it too) and at £38 for two kid’s meals and 3 adults meals with 4 drinks I don’t think that’s bad value. The drinks were in fact the most expensive part and at nearly £2 for a bottle of water that would be my only complaint. I do think it’s a bit of shame when drinks are marked up so drastically but the food more than made up for that I absolutely guarantee. It was a real treat in fact!

On the left a salt beef bagel and on the right is a kid’s sausage and mash – both were delicious!

After lunch we decided to watch some planes taking off (you can book over head tours which the children were eager to do but our budget wouldn’t stretch to for that day – another day we will go back and do that) and then we hit the aeroplane themed play ground.

Watching the planes was lots of fun and this was just viewing the tour planes taking off and landing. In fact they have lots of air shows at Duxford and on my birthday will be having one so we may well go back for that as my birthday day out!
And the play ground is awesome too!

Of course no trip out with the kids is complete without a trip to the museum shop and although lots of places like this can be full of tat that no body wants the museums in London are absolutely fantastic. As part of the Imperial War Museum Duxford is no different. I could have browsed the shop for hours and hours and easily bought most of it and found a place at home for it to live.

The children found lots to like in the The IWM Shop too OF COURSE, and came home with build you own Spitfires and some other aeroplane toys. Then, because my Mum was with us she also treated them to a couple of little pocket money bits which they were thrilled with. Luckily my Mum occupied them as they browsed so that I could do the same and here are some of my favourite pieces from the shop.

I just love these prints which are taken from original WW2 posters!
I NEED this! I didn’t buy it but I’m going to get it on line (you can do that and don’t actually have to visit)! Don’t you think it will look fab on our downstairs cloakroom door!
JOnny was rather taken with this pilots hat and there were some matching leather jackets which were awesome too although perhaps slightly out of our price range at nearly £700, owch! Saying that, for a birthday present they’d be fantastic and the hat is far more pocket friendly!
Some best bits from the top ‘Victory Kitchen’ oven gloves, an IWM Duxford cap, cute war time style egg cups, a GORGEOUS medical tin and those fab tin cups which would be perfect for camping!

But my favourite item in the shop at Duxford had to the be the kid’s jackets which were super reasonable at just £30 each. I LOVED these and would like one myself truth be told!

Love these bomber jackets!
Jimmy was of course most enamoured with his build your own Spitfire which he couldn’t wait to build with Daddy! Apparently it’s an aeroplane for his Lego Batman… Ok! 

All in all we had a great (but tiring – remember all the walking I mentioned) day and it was super educational in a non boring way for the children. We are looking forward to an air show in the summer and I’m going to get saving my pennies to make lots of purchases in the shop!

A family ticket for two adults and two children is £49.90 (Children under 5 free) and there are other family ticket options for differently sized families. Please see the website for more information.

We were offered complimentary entry to the museum only in return for an honest review.

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