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RAF 100: Royal Air Force’s museum throws open doors to new exhibits following £26m makeover

PUBLISHED: 11:00 11 July 2018 | UPDATED: 10:02 13 July 2018

RAF Museum boss Maggie Appleton. Pic: RAF MUSEUM

RAF Museum boss Maggie Appleton. Pic: RAF MUSEUM

IAIN DUNCAN

The capital’s RAF Museum has welcomed visitors to new galleries for the first time following a £26million makeover.

The RAF Museum in Hendon. Pic: Benedict JohnsonThe RAF Museum in Hendon. Pic: Benedict Johnson

The June 30 reopening coincided with the RAF’s centenary year and came after the museum’s trustees decided the attraction – based at the former RAF Hendon airfiled in Grahame Park Way, Colindale – needed to focus more on the service’s story.

Museum boss Maggie Appleton said: “We’re delighted to be relaunching. Our new exhibitions not only explore the RAF’s extraordinary history and people, but give visitors the opportunity to look towards its cutting-edge future.

“The transformation is a celebration of the RAF’s breadth and diversity.”

The revamped museum, promoted as an ideal family day out, includes a flight simulator, the capital’s only exhibit of a Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter and more than 500 objects.

The RAF Museum in Hendon. Pic: Benedict JohnsonThe RAF Museum in Hendon. Pic: Benedict Johnson

These include a signed collar given to bouncing bomb inventor Barnes Wallis by Dambusters raid leader Guy Gibson.

“The objects tell amazing, powerful stories,” Ms Appleton said.

These include sand taken from Stalag Luft III, the Nazi prisoner of war camp made famous by film The Great Escape.

Ms Appleton, whose father was a bomb loader in World War II, explained how in the past the museum strayed from its purpose focusing too much on technology and losing sight of “the amazing stories” of the people who make up the service.

The RAF Museum in Hendon. Pic: Benedict JohnsonThe RAF Museum in Hendon. Pic: Benedict Johnson

Stories including that of wartime heroine Noor Inayat Khan whose pacifist family moved to England at the approach of the Second World War.

Khan – keen to fight against Nazi aggression – joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force before being drafted into the special operations executive as a wireless operator.

She was dropped into occupied France where she managed to evade capture for three months before she was betrayed and caught by the Nazis. She was executed at Dachau concentration camp on September 13, 1944.

“Part of our mission is to tell that story,” Ms Appleton said. “It’s a great example of how people from different walks of life contributed to the war.

The RAF Museum in Hendon. Pic: Benedict JohnsonThe RAF Museum in Hendon. Pic: Benedict Johnson

“It’s about paying tribute and doing justice to the amazing men and women of the RAF.”

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