RAF Museum Hendon - Closure / Dispersion of Battle of Britain Hall

Member for

14 years 10 months

Posts: 5,195

I visited the dismantled aircraft in the BoB Hall. All very interesting, but, I am dumbstruck by the fact this wonderful hall is being closed and its items dispersed. The signage gives a false impression that they are just checking the condition of the aircraft. There is no mention that the hall will close, the bombers will go in the bomber hall and the fighters in next to the cafe in the main hall. It does not mention that the Me110 and Ju88 are off to cosford with the defiant, nor that the jungmann will be disposed of. It doesn't say what will happen to the art, the relics, the replica Uxbridge ops room, searchlight mannequins, art, medals and Churchill. All aircraft are effected except the Sunderland. Information is out there in the web, but not that readily available. The hall gives context to the Battle of Britain, it is a national curriculum subject and also covered Evacuees as well as events leading to the war. The film was a big favourite of my non aviation enthusiastic family. One could readily see which were the main aircraft of both sides and the film made it easy to understand for all ages. I don't care that the ju88, 87 and 110 and 111 were later models, they were examples. Besides joe public did not care. How can the BoB be told with the aircraft dispersed? I asked a few visitors what the thought of the hall going. All were surprised. I left a comments slip but it sounds like no one will read it or care. I feel aggrieved that whilst the RAF history is more than the Battle, it was the Finest Hour not only for the RAF but also this country. It was a huge turning point in those very very dark days. Whilst a museum needs to be fresh and appealing to the public (not just enthusiasts), forgetting the Battle is not the way to do it. I would have expected the Battle to be a big part of the RAF 100th anniversary, not hidden away. It would be like the RN forgetting Trafalgar, Tarranto, Jutland etc or the Army forgetting Waterloo etc. When I was a student in the 80s, I spent many days walking around that Hall and reflecting. In the years to today, I would spend at least two days a year there. it is a tragedy that this will no longer be possible Sorry, but the RAF Museum have upset me with this. I cannot believe the wider RAF would be happy. If I am wide of the mark or wrong please correct me. I will post some pictures of what we will be losing. Please keep this discussion on track and not descend to discussion on lighting!
Original post

Member for

8 years 11 months

Posts: 708

Just reading this makes my blood boil, i for one visit Hendon on a regular basis mainly because of the "Battle of Britain Hall" and the aircraft and stories films within it. (is it me or is this very disrespectful) surely if one hall should remain then its got to be the memory to the Few.Like you say Rocketeer wouldn't you of thought the Battle of Britain would of been a big part of the Raf 100th anniversary (strange decision to say the least) When you consider that many schools and the very young Generation visit Hendon on a daily basis,then surely this remarkable and courageous story will be lost.. as how else will the story of one of the biggest battles in our history be told. (This is when im very thankful to the smaller Museums around the country in keeping this Story alive) This will be a big loss to the Museum, lets just hope its a temporary decision.

Member for

8 years 11 months

Posts: 708

Wasn't the Dornier eventually coming to the Battle of Britain hall Hendon?

Member for

13 years 1 month

Posts: 9,689

Whilst I agree that it is a great shame that this unique collection of aircraft is being dispersed I think most would agree that the Battle-of-Britain Hall is well overdue for a serious refurbishment. Collection aircraft seem to move around a lot more between the RAF Museum (and other) sites these days, and the sub-collection in question has been all but static for forty years, so we can only hope that the these aircraft will be reunited in the not too distant future (in a new purpose-built building, perhaps on a Battle-of-Britain airfield, that reflects both the historical value and the unique nature of these aircraft)?

Member for

5 years

Posts: 145

I agree that the hall could have done with some updating but I am greatly disappointed/upset to find it is closing. I too was under the impression when I visited earlier this year that the aircraft were only undergoing inspection. It feels they have been a little disingenious if this is the case. Especially when they have posted the likes of this on YouTube https://youtu.be/nq0era2R_zk

Member for

11 years 10 months

Posts: 1,527

I gave up trying to read that corporate bollox document, my blood pressure was suffering. The list of stake holders missed the biggest player - the tax paying public! Don't give me a digital culture, all that means is even more 'out of order' signs hanging off computer screens on pedestals and dumbed down data on the remaining working screens. Also, if the RAF's Finest hour isn't one of the Core objectives I don't what is. The BoB hall was fine as it was before the film show ruined it and that out of scale statue appeared.

Member for

13 years 1 month

Posts: 9,689

The list of stake holders missed the biggest player - the tax paying public!
Maybe not in the list of stakeholders but later in the document it describes the 'audience' of the museum(s):
"The Museum's core audiences are local. In London, this means great diversification of backgrounds, origins and ethnicities. For both sites, there is a passing of the militarised generations of wartime and national service to a public with little experience of the RAF. The Museum needs to help them to understand the RAF."
It is an interesting statement that the museum's 'core' audience is local. Surely that is a statement of failure on the part of the museum; the visitors to any museum should come because of what the museum is and not just because the museum is conveniently located? And free.

Member for

4 years 6 months

Posts: 86

It really seems the RAFM has lost it's way. I know they were offered the donation of an immaculate P-40 to replace the dogs breakfast they have on exhibit now. They had no interest at all. I think after the Copping affair they just wanted to duck and cover and were unwilling to have potential comparison if a new P-40 was to arrive for exhibit.

Member for

14 years 7 months

Posts: 2,655

I visited the dismantled aircraft in the BoB Hall. All very interesting, but, I am dumbstruck by the fact this wonderful hall is being closed and its items dispersed.
How has this come as a surprise when we were posting photos of the aircraft in the BoB Hall being dismantled http://forum.keypublishing.com/showthread.php?137720-Battle-of-Britain-Hall-Hendon-23Jan16&highlight=hendon+bob+hall and posted various links at the time to what was going on at Hendon. http://www.rafmuseum.org.uk/london/whats-going-on/news/heritage-lottery-fund-grants-us-1-78-million-for/ Brian

Member for

12 years 8 months

Posts: 1,035

Having spoken at length recently with a member of staff at the museum, the comments historically on here back up exactly what they said. The vast majority of Aviation enthusiasts that visit the museum are gentleman in the 40+ age range who visit in small numbers during the week. Some school visits occur during weekdays as part of their curriculum studies. In far far greater numbers are the visitors at the weekend, and consist almost entirely of families who spend 2-3 hours at the museum and move on. These are mostly Londoners and surrounding areas, with tourists and visitors to the country. In contrast are the visitor stats to Cosford, who do not benefit with the same level of transport accessibility as Hendon does. The current RAFM management are much more in touch now with the majority of its visitors, whereas historically they only saw what occurred at the museum during the weekdays, the new management see and know what their weekend visitors bring to the site. At the end of the day it is a "Museum of the RAF", most of the range of exhibits I say personally fit better in an "Imperial War Museum" environment. I quite agree that a post war Jungmann has no place in the "museum of the RAF". Equally, much as I love the artefacts in the BoB hall, I do believe that the RAF museum should tell the whole story of the RAF, not just a few campaigns. Their aim is to tell this story to little Jimmy who has a maximum attention span of 3 hours, so to go into finite detail of everything will be lost on them, and your previously excited child gets bored. What is the most popular exhibit there? It's not the Lanc, or the super rare machines, it's the knackered old JP fuselage that Jimmy and his friends can sit in and wiggle the controls! As previously said, not everything in the BoB hall is of that period, being more representative of the types used. By spreading the aeroplanes around I believe they are right in raising visitor numbers to Cosford, and a change of airframes in an otherwise fairly stagnant display should be refreshing. The success of the WW1 in the air is set to continue with similar displays representative all periods of the RAF history, including past present and future, including more interactive activities to keep the attention of the young. The museum is not there as a recruiting tool for the military, however the vast majority of the funding does come from the RAF and it's subsidiaries. To look at this thread with fresh eyes makes me think that a few individuals that visit time and time again midweek would rather see the same exhibits they have done for 20+ years than new and fresh material to inspire the young? Times and interests move on, I would personally cut the management slack that they are updating the museum to appeal to the masses and not pandering to the desires of the hardcore enthusiast minority. I know I would rather take any child of mine to a museum that captivates them for the whole trip and interests me than one that captivates me and leaves a child bored never wanting to return. The aircraft you love will still be preserved, you are losing nothing, just think about the next generation for a moment - they don't necessarily want the same as you and they are there in far bigger numbers, often for different reasons. FB
Maybe not in the list of stakeholders but later in the document it describes the 'audience' of the museum(s): It is an interesting statement that the museum's 'core' audience is local. Surely that is a statement of failure on the part of the museum; the visitors to any museum should come because of what the museum is and not just because the museum is conveniently located? And free.

Member for

14 years 10 months

Posts: 5,195

Simple Pen Pusher old chap. I don't have time to trawl all the threads as I work and have limited time and the title is not as attention getting to me. The search facility would not help in this instance and obviously I am stupid.

Member for

19 years 10 months

Posts: 3,409

The purpose of the entire museum is to exhibit the RAF history... so some over paid idiot decided to rip up the Battle of Britain collection to use the hall for an exhibition about the history of the RAF!

Member for

14 years 10 months

Posts: 5,195

I am not a dinosaur FB and know the museum has to appeal to all not just enthusiasts. I am working more and more with education needs and the National Curriculum (NC). The Battle of Britain Hall, in its present form, provides a simple one stop shop for a subject on the NC. It showed where everything fitted what led to it and why it was important. i.e. context. The museum changes will make teaching that part of the NC more difficult. I think revamping the Hall would be a good idea, but removal/dispersion is not.

Member for

14 years 10 months

Posts: 5,195

I should have added that the floor space of the hall was small compared to that of the rest of the museum. So there is plenty of room to display the rest of the history. The Battle of Britain is not only of importance to the RAF, but also to London, the whole of this country and world history. Without it going the way it did, the world would be different today. If there was an equivalent of world heritage sites applied to history shaping events, the BoB would be there. Before you all start, I am aware of other important crossroad events in history - but they are not the subject of this thread!
Profile picture for user Bruce

Member for

19 years 10 months

Posts: 8,399

I think its quite difficult to make a judgement without knowing what it is being replaced with. Clearly the Battle of Britain cannot be ignored, so unless you know how they are going to interpret it for the future, you cannot condemn them out of hand. I have to confess, I agree with Fournier Boy to a point - the Battle of Britain is a subject for the Imperial War Museum rather than for a museum which concentrates on the history of the RAF, even if that was a defining moment. Unless museums like RAFM change, they will die. Hendon has spent a lot of time and effort on adding things of late, without really changing the core offer, which remains exactly as it was when I visited the place as a child. The overhaul is long overdue IMHO. Bruce
Profile picture for user stuart gowans

Member for

13 years 10 months

Posts: 1,988

So in essence the RAFM Hendon will keep changing to accommodate the changing population of London? basically the museum is in the wrong place.
Profile picture for user mmitch

Member for

16 years 8 months

Posts: 1,728

My 'Sad RAF Museum' thread stirred up a lot of 'you were wrong' comments but I had that feeling of a museum running down even to closure. When you see an area being cleared and redecorated like there is a plan then it does at least promise something better. Perhaps they want to build a larger catering area that they can lease it to KFC or somebody. :mad: mmitch.
Profile picture for user Bob

Member for

19 years 10 months

Posts: 3,580

Or sell off what is a prime bit of real estate so yet more houses can be built and disperse the exhibits to other sites/storage...

Member for

9 years 11 months

Posts: 1,203

I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, the decision to break up the collection does seem absurd - the Battle is such a crucial phase in the history of the RAF that it richly deserves its own display. And that the fact that much of it took place over and around London and the South East seems to fit incredibly neatly into the "local interest" agenda. What better way to engage with local communities that trying to tell the story of London as a war zone, all of which happened in the remarkably recent past and yet seems so alien to someone growing up in the capital today? Still, I've always thought that the BoB display could do with starting again from scratch. No, I wasn't a fan of the Beacon (!) but at the very least the displays look tired, the layout of the hall in that awkward "U" shape seems clunky, and the complete lack of natural light made the whole thing seem pokey, however much or little they turned on the artifical lights. The glazing of the end by the Sunderland made a huge difference, why not keep the building in its current purpose, but put some clear panels in the walls, and glaze the other end? I also feel like they could use the opportunity to focus the collection a little bit-the disposal of the Jungmeister definitely seems like the right decision, and to me, the Bf110 would look so much more poignant and powerful displayed with the Lancaster. I'd also swap the Battle for the Blenheim, relocate the CR42 to a new display elsewhere about the Middle East and Western Desert, and have the Gladiator, Stuka and Battle in a separate space at the beginning, setting the scene by telling the story of the disasters and heroism leading up to Dunkirk. Then the remaining aircraft could be re-arranged to tell the story in a more focused way, with the small artefacts, medals, uniforms etc interspersed rather than hidden away in an attic that's always closed. There's a great opportunity here to turn the RAFM into something more widely accessible and improve the display of the exhibits; they look to have made an excellent start with the WW1 exhibition but I can't help feeling apprehensive that they might blow it.