Visiting the Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum, Flixton, England: a view on several decades of aviation conflict
A window on the Cold War past
This engaging collection of aircraft and other aviation artifacts has been known by various names over the past 40 or more years. Set up in 1972, it was first known as the Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Society; today it is known officially as the Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum; it is also sometimes known as the Flixton Aviation Museum, from Flixton, Suffolk, where it is located.
Being in East Anglia, which has a long aviation heritage especially dating back to World War Two, Flixton as a place for an aviation museum should come as no surprise, since at one time 70 years ago almost every other East Anglian village seemed to have an air base used either by the British Royal Air Force or the USAAF. Subsequently, a number of these bases continued to be used during the Cold War.
The Museum possesses many, interesting and historic aircraft on display, especially those of British manufacture which saw service in the Royal Air Force in the decades following World War Two. Some of the aircraft include:
The English Electric Canberra; which was first used in the 1940s, but which survived as an active aircraft type for several decades;
The English Electric Lightning, capable of reaching Mach 2;
The Gloster Javelin, which served as a fighter in the 1950s;
The Westland Wessex, for decades used as an air-sea rescue helicopter;
The Hawker Hunter, which in its day in the 1950s, was seen as an advanced fighter-bomber, which was active during the Suez Crisis of 1956;
The Vickers Valetta, a military transport aircraft.
The Lockheed Super Sabre, a reminder of the United Kingdom's decades long military alliance with the United States, which after World War Two continued to maintain air bases in the country.
One of the more intriguing airframes on display at Flixton is the Argenti Pucará, an Argentinian attack aircraft of a type which saw service against British forces in the Falklands War in 1982.
I found the Museum, with both open air displays of airframes and indoor exhibits housed in Nissen huts (1), to be a most absorbing. It is interesting to reflect that not only are most of the aircraft types on display at the Museum now obsolete, but in many cases their manufacturers have also long disappeared from the commercial scene: a reminder of the inexorable influence of economies in scale and globalization.
January 15, 2015
(1) Designed by Canadian-American Major Peter Norman Nissen (1871-1930), huge numbers of these huts were built during the two World Wars. In the US Army, a similar structure was known as a Quonset hut.
Also of interest
Also worth seeing
In Flixton itself, the ruins of a Priory are visible near Abbey Farm, south of the village of Flixton.
Thorpe Abbotts (distance: 15 kilometres) has air museum housed at a former USAAF air base dating from World War Two.
2nd Air Division Memorial Library , Norwich (distance: 28.8 kilometres); commemorating the thousands of American aviators of the 8th Air Force who died in World War Two, popular with aviation and history enthusiasts. Norwich's fine Medieval Cathedral and Castle are very worth visiting, as are other sights such as Pull's Ferry, the Old Guildhall and Elm Hill.
Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial , Madingley (distance: 108.5 kilometres), opened in 1956, contains the graves of thousands of American military dead from World War Two, plus details of many who went missing in action. Among the ancient colleges of nearby Cambridge (distance: 86 kilometres) are King's, Clare, Trinity, and St. John's. The oldest college is Peterhouse, dating from 1284, and among the Pilgrim Fathers on the Mayflower was Peterhouse alumnus William Brewster. At Emmanuel College a plaque commemorates John Harvard, founder of Harvard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Churchill College is a national memorial to Sir Winston Churchill, containing copious archives relating to this distinguished figure. At the Backs, on the Cam River, the punt is the usual, though slow, method of propulsion.
How to get there: United Airlines flies to London Heathrow Airport, where car rental is available. Diss (distance from Flixton: 22.6 kilometres) is served by rail from London Liverpool Street Station. Flixton is 198.9 kilometers from Heathrow Airport. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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