or was it the third? I think it depends on which direction along the A46 you’re travelling. Anyway, it was a last-minute, almost last-second decision to follow the brown tourist sign that said “Air Museum” thereby making a detour on our journey. “It’s not far is it?” I was asked. “No,” I replied “I saw it close by on the map” (not mentioning that I had glanced at the map the day before and wasn’t 100% certain.) I wanted to break the long journey and this looked hopeful.

So that is how we came to visit the Newark Air Museum in Nottinghamshire.view of hangar 1 For one adult and one child it cost us £12.10 including gift-aid and two little vouchers to spend in the cafe. Entering through the shop was a bit unusual (you did “exit through the gift shop” too).

I got the impression that the place was run by willing volunteers. Yes, it was neat and tidy, the planes were laid out with plenty of space and the risk assessments had clearly been done. Among the things it lacked (which I did not miss) was a proliferation of shiny advertising, primary-coloured displays and relentless references to sponsors and many and varied retail opportunities. It did feel “tired” in places but I’m not sure if that was due to the gloomy sky overhead or that many of the exhibits were in need of refurbishment – or may be they were simply presented “as is” and what you saw is what you get when decades old aircraft are left lying outside for years at a time.

The cafe was of the “cuppa and a plate of sandwiches” variety and, as it was what it “said on the tin”, I’m not complaining. The chain mail curtain did its job of keeping the wasps out.

One of my favourite aeroplanes is the Vulcan bomber. Now, I am an almost-pacifist and hate the thought of dropping bombs on anyone. However, the raw power of its engines feels exciting and its delta-wing shape has an attraction to rival that of Concorde. I am not particularly keen on machines (don’t ask me to tell the difference in make between one car and another) but there is a kind of beauty in those noisy brutes. And, yes, I do understand that there are prettier and worthier topics to wax lyrical about.

Later, seeing an old BEA (British European Airways) plane reminded me of holidays as a child in the channel islands. We flew there in a Viscount, or was it a Vanguard, and I remember being told that those ‘planes were originally built during World War II. Then they were used in combat and were better known as Wellington bombers. A design used in war to drop bombs was turned in peace time to carrying holiday-makers. The phrase turning “swords into ploughshares” (Isaiah chapter 2 verse 4; Micah chapter 4 verse 3) comes to mind. That is not exactly what the museum was about (it included a number of civilian aircraft among its displays) but it went someway towards it. What used to be part of Bomber Command is now a place of remembrance and education; a celebration of human ingenuity, engineering, perseverance and courage; a reminder of the cost of war.

This is the season that marks the anniversary of the Battle of Britain which began in August 1941. September 15th is Battle of Britain Day but few people seem to notice. To be fair, I would probably not have given it a second thought until I visited a museum in Kent which listed all of the allied pilots who flew in that Battle. It really struck home that the “Few” really were a few: all their names could fit on the one wall. It made me wonder and it made me feel sad. And perhaps it was not tiredness that I noticed at the Air Museum the other week. Perhaps it was regret, sadness or the like for the lives lost in battle, for the lives cut short, for lives not lived.

More ploughshares please.

inside hangar one  Vulvan bomber

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