Tuesday, 18 July 2017

The RAF Museum at Cosford

I surprised myself with how much I enjoyed our visit to the RAF Museum at Cosford. Exhibits are crammed into three large hangars and despite our being there several hours we only managed to do justice to two of the three. Like York's Railway Museum, Cosford's RAF Museum is free to enter and is a magnificent display. It felt as though we should have paid handsomely for the privilege of walking around!

Once past the cafe and gift shop - to which we returned at the end of our visit! - the first hangar concentrated on a history of the RAF and military flight beginning with a statue of pilots from three eras. Superstitious artefacts including soft toys and a rabbit's foot lay alongside guns and uniforms. The only woman I saw mentioned was Jean Lennox Bird, the first female pilot to be awarded full RAF pilot's wings, and the museum has her St Christopher necklace. From a feminist perspective I was encouraged to see cadet groups touring the museum included significant numbers of girls so women are becoming more equally represented. From a pacifist perspective though I found it difficult to reconcile the museum being located on an RAF base. Its historical bubble swiftly bursts when one realises that the destruction and violence depicted in archived videos are still business as normal in the next door hangars.

The museum has examples of Second World War planes from various countries including the earliest surviving Spitfire and this pictured Japanese Ohka, one of the Kamikaze planes. It's tiny! We also got to view numerous experimental aeroplanes and Dave particularly was appalled at the amount of money spent on creating prototypes that never flew or that became outdated within a very short space of time.

The pride of this museum is its Cold War exhibition housed in a specially designed hangar that is a work of art in its own right! Exhibits here include a variety of airborne and landbased vehicles as well as video and sound installations, contemporary posters, newspapers and magazines, and some great propaganda slogans from both sides. I particularly liked the Albert Einstein quote pictured at the top of this post. With the recent UN resolution to ban nuclear weapons soon to be ratified by so many nations - although not the UK of course - this exhibition depicting how bravado and bullishness had so nearly brought the world to nuclear disaster relatively recently was chillingly relevant.

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