Places of interest to visit in Britain with a military theme, including museums managed by one of the armed services.

IBCC – Recognition, Remembrance, Reconciliation

IBCC, Lincoln

In 2015, a rust-weathered steel spire was erected on the skyline above the City of Lincoln.  It is 102 feet, more than 31 metres, high – by no coincidence equivalent to the wingspan of a Second World War Lancaster bomber.  The spire is the dramatic centrepiece of The International Bomber Command Centre, which commemorates the …

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Paying homage to the BBMF

BBMF, Battle of Britain Memorial Flight

It was the only time I ever saw our dour, ill-tempered, Polish foreman remotely happy. As a student one hot summer long ago, I had a labouring job on a new section of motorway. It stretched into the distance, an elegantly excavated scar across the land, punctuated with bridges and bright yellow vehicles. One day, …

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Dunkirk – the miracle in context

Dunkirk, beach

Say “Dunkirk”* to anyone with a modest knowledge of Britain’s recent history and probably the least they will do is to nod sagely; Dunkirk, ‘the miracle of Dunkirk’ or the ‘Dunkirk spirit’, is part of modern British mythology.  If you know of anyone who served at Dunkirk, you are likely to regard them, understandably, with …

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Ten of the best in the west

Polperro, Cornwall

South West England has two main draw-backs: it is popular and, as it’s on the west, it can suffer from wetness – particularly at its extremities.  Other than that, it has pretty much everything, including mystery, prehistory, history, cuteness, grand vistas, impressive buildings and plenty of things to do.  For an introduction, see A Bit …

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Bletchley Park beyond Enigma

Bletchley Park

Part 2 – Lorenz and legacy Enigma was only part of the Bletchley Park story. As early as 1940, listening stations began to pick up enciphered teleprinter messages.  These worked in a completely different way to messages enciphered on an Enigma and utilised two main types of even more sophisticated enciphering machines, the Geheimschreiber (secret …

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Bletchley Park

Bletchley Park

Part 1 – Enigma and Ultra This is Bletchley Park.  To all intents and purposes, it’s a nondescript, somewhat ugly, large Victorian mansion and estate just north of London.  But what went on at Bletchley Park was extraordinary: it changed the course of the Second World War, and the world.  From 1939-46, this was the …

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Boys toys? A visit to Duxford

Spitfire, Battle of Britain, Duxford

Having been weaned on tales of Douglas Bader, Stamford Tuck and Guy Gibson, I get quite excited visiting places like Duxford.  IWM Duxford is home to most of the Imperial War Museum’s collection of rather large exhibits – mainly aircraft.  And, when I say ‘places like Duxford’, to be fair I’m not sure there is …

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The Needles – a tale of shipwrecks, Victorian forts and Cold War

The Needles, Old Battery, New Battery

The Needles, enormous 100-feet (30-metre) high chalk and flint stacks off the most westerly point of the Isle of Wight, are part of the Island’s iconography, and one of Britain’s most recognisable coastal features.  They are an exposed eroded section of a folded east-west band of chalk running through the Island, the remains of which …

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The Cambridge American Cemetery

American Cemetery, WW2, England

Something like 3 million US citizens passed through the United Kingdom during the Second World War.  The Cambridge American Cemetery commemorates almost 9,000 Americans who died while based here, or en route, in those years of conflict.  They died at sea on convoys transporting essential supplies, troops and military equipment, across the Atlantic; they died …

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Battle of Britain Day

Spitfires, Duxford, Battle of Britain

15 September is Battle of Britain Day.  It commemorates the legendary air battle that took place in Britain’s skies, mainly – though not exclusively – over southern England, during the long hot summer and early autumn of 1940.  The conflict has achieved near mythical status in British history.  With the fall of France in June, …

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RAF100 – calling Biggles

RAF, Biggles, Sopwith Camel

Captain James Bigglesworth, known as Biggles, absent-mindedly tapped a fresh cigarette on the back of his hand and anxiously eyed the grey eastern sky.  Algy – the Honourable Algernon Montgomery Lacey – was long overdue from patrol over the lines and his fuel would be getting low.  Just then, the melodic hum of a Bentley …

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The mystery of U-534

U-534, WW2 was in black and white

The sectioned remains of a World War Two vintage German submarine, or U-boat (from Unterseeboot – undersea boat), lie next to Woodside ferry terminal at Birkenhead, on the west bank of the River Mersey. In April 1945, Hitler’s Third Reich was dying.  The Allied armies were inexorably closing in, like the jaws of a giant pair …

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