Royal Air Force Museum London

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Royal Air Force Museum London
RAF Museum London 182.jpg
Established 15 November 1972; 45 years ago (1972-11-15)
Location Colindale
London, NW9
United Kingdom
Type Aviation museum
Visitors 345,151 (2017)[1]
Public transit access London Underground Colindale

The Royal Air Force Museum London, commonly called the RAF Museum, is located on the former Hendon Aerodrome, with five major buildings and hangars dedicated to the history of aviation and the Royal Air Force. It is part of the Royal Air Force Museum, a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Ministry of Defence and a registered charity.[2]

A second collection of exhibits, plus aircraft restoration facilities, is housed at the Royal Air Force Museum Cosford at RAF Cosford in Shropshire, five miles northwest of Wolverhampton.


The museum was officially opened at the Colindale (then part of Hendon) London site on 15 November 1972 by Queen Elizabeth II. The hangars housed 36 aircraft at opening. Over the years, the collection increased, and aircraft not on display at Hendon were stored or displayed at smaller local RAF station museums.

The first director of the museum was Dr John Tanner, who retired in 1987. In 1988, Dr Michael A. Fopp (who had previously directed the London Transport Museum) was appointed director general of all three sites operated by the museum. Retired Air Vice-Marshal Peter Dye replaced Fopp as director general on 9 June 2010.[3] In October 2014, it was announced that Maggie Appleton was to be appointed as CEO of the museum.[4] Ms Appleton took up the new role in January 2015, a departure from the traditional role of director general which was held by Peter Dye until his retirement in late 2014.

The Hendon site is being extensively revamped with financial assistance from the Heritage Lottery Fund and other donors to mark the RAF Centenary in 2018. Changes include: new exhibitions and commercial facilities in the hangar that previously hosted the Battle of Britain Collection, a new restaurant facility (in Building 52), a new car park adjacent to Grahame Park Way, relocation of the fibreglass Hurricane and Spitfire gate guardians to the main gate, a new exhibition in what was the 'Milestones of Flight' hangar, and landscaping of the old car park to create a grassed recreational area at the centre of the site. The landscaping work is intended to evoke in the visitor a sense of the former Hendon airfield in what has become a heavily urbanised area. To facilitate the exhibition changes, a number of aircraft exhibits have been relocated on site whilst others been transferred to or from Cosford.


CR 42 Falco at the Battle of Britain hall

The Royal Air Force Museum London comprises five exhibition halls:

As of 2010, it had over 100 aircraft, including one of only two surviving Vickers Wellingtons left in the world and the Avro Lancaster S-Sugar, which flew 137 sorties. It also includes the only complete Hawker Typhoon and the only Boulton Paul Defiant in the world.

Recently added to the museum is a Consolidated B-24 Liberator, which was moved to Hendon from Cosford. It was presented to the museum by the Indian Air Force. In exchange, a Vickers Valiant was sent to Cosford to become part of the new Cold War exhibition. In 2009 the museum took delivery of a FE2b World War I bomber, which had been in production for the museum for over 18 years and is one of the few examples of this aircraft in the world.

There is a large car park at the site, and reasonable public transport links, with Colindale tube station about 600 m away.

The Battle of Britain Museum (later Hall) was opened by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in November 1978, the event attended by many former fighter pilots. Built on land donated by the MoD, the Battle of Britain Museum was funded by public subscription during the Battle of Britain Appeal Fund, which, in addition to many fund-raising activities, also included sales of a small pin badge, and a Hurricane aircraft wall plaque in a presentation case. The inner lid of the presentation case said:

"The Battle of Britain is the only battle in history to have been fought and won in the air, yet in this country, which it delivered from the threat of servitude, there is no national memorial to the victorious forces. As Winston Churchill recorded at the time ‘never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few’, so in 1978, the Diamond Jubilee of the RAF, it has been decided to build a national Battle of Britain Museum on a superb site at Hendon.

The building itself must be distinguished enough to be worthy of commemorating such a feat of arms and large enough to accommodate the necessary collections and displays. The government has generously provided the Hendon site but, in the economic circumstances, has declined to meet any part of the capital cost. Since the Museum must be self-supporting, a Fund of £2 millions is necessary.

Displays in the new building will be created by the same team which has achieved such acclaim through its work for the Royal Air Force Museum, with which the Battle of Britain Museum will be integrated for administration and amenity services. The centre-piece will be a unique collection of British, German and Italian aircraft which were engaged in the battle… [these listed] Equipments, uniforms, medals, documents, relics, works of art and other memorabilia will be included.

The whole will be designed to constitute a permanent memorial to the men, women and machines involved in the great battle of 1940.


Douglas Bader"

£1.7m was raised to pay for the new museum within a year. This created a dedicated museum hall in which a unique collection of aircraft were displayed, along with other objects and artefacts. In April 2009, work began on The Battle of Britain Hall to improve lighting conditions and provide full re-cladding to the exterior of the building. The new energy-saving lighting is cheaper to run, and colour and light intensity can be changed. It is less harmful to the exhibits because it does not emit UV light. The hall will also benefit from a new glass fascia overlooking the Sunderland flying boat making it viewable from outside and also providing natural daylight throughout the Sunderland Hall, a section within the Battle of Britain building. Works were completed in August 2009.

In 2010 the RAF Museum announced plans for a Battle of Britain Beacon, the intention being to house the collection, including the Dornier Do17 bomber raised from the Channel, in a new dedicated building. However, funding was not secured.

On 3 October 2016 the Battle of Britain Hall at Hendon was permanently closed after being in existence for some 38 years. The collection was dispersed, and the Battle of Britain will be presented across both the London and Cosford sites as part of other themed exhibitions within the RAF Centenary's celebrations.

Aircraft on display[edit]

Milestones of Flight[edit]

The Sopwith Camel in the 'Milestones of Flight' hall

The Bomber Hall[edit]

Avro Lancaster R5868 in the Bomber Hall of the RAF Museum London

Historic Hangars[edit]

Battle of Britain Hall[edit]

(Collection prior to closure in 2017)

Junkers Ju 87 Stuka on display in the Battle of Britain Hall

The Grahame-White Factory[edit]

Grahame-White Factory interior, Bristol M.1c and Vickers Vimy in foreground

Engines on display[edit]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°35′56″N 0°14′19″W / 51.59889°N 0.23861°W / 51.59889; -0.23861