Text & Pictures: Serge Van Heertum - Translation: David Niemegeerts  © sbap 2016

The Royal Air Force Museum of London, commonly called the RAF Museum, is located on the former Hendon Aerodrome, with five major buildings and hangars dedicated to the history of aviation and the Royal Air Force. It is part of the Royal Air Force Museum, a non-departmental, public body sponsored by the Ministry of Defense, and a registered charity.

A second collection of exhibits, plus aircraft restoration facilities, is housed at the Royal Air Force Museum Cosford at RAF Cosford in Shropshire, five miles northwest of Wolverhampton.


In 1962 the Air Force Board formed a committee, under the chairmanship of Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Dermot Boyle, to advise the Board on historical and museum matters. From the committee's deliberations arose a recommendation to establish a Royal Air Force Museum.

A Board of Trustees was formed to look after the Museum's interests, with Sir Dermot Boyle as its chairman and Dr. John Tanner, from the staff of the RAF College, Cranwell, as Director of the Museum. Hendon was chosen as the most suitable site for the Museum as it had a long aviation history and on 15 November 1972, Her Majesty the Queen officially opened the Royal Air Force Museum at Hendon in London. On its opening; Hendon's hangars housed some 36 aircraft.

Over the following years, however, some 130 aircraft had been acquired for the Museum. Aircraft not on display were held in what were called reserve collections at a number of RAF stations around the country including RAF Cosford. Other than on Battle of Britain Open Days at various RAF stations, these stored aircraft were seldom available for public display.

The first Director of the Museum was Dr. John Tanner who retired in 1987. In 1988, Dr. Michael A. Fopp (who had previously directed the London Transport Museum) was appointed Director General of all three sites operated by the Museum.

Retired Air Vice-Marshal Peter Dye replaced Fopp as Director General on Kune 9th, 2010. In October 2014, it was announced that Maggie Appleton was to be appointed as CEO of the museum. Maggie took up the new role in January 2015, a departure from the traditional role of Director General which was held by Peter Dye until his retirement in late 2014.



The Royal Air Force Museum London comprises five exhibition halls:

Milestones of Flight

The Bomber Hall

Historic Hangars

The Battle of Britain Hall

The Grahame-White Factory


As of 2010, it had over 100 aircraft, including one of only two surviving Vickers Wellingtons left in the world and the Avro Lancaster S-Sugar, which flew 137 sorties. It also includes the only complete Hawker Typhoon and the only Boulton Paul Defiant in the world.

Recently added to the museum is a Consolidated B-24 Liberator, which was moved to Hendon from Cosford. It was presented to the museum by the Indian Air Force. In exchange, a Vickers Valiant was sent to Cosford to become part of the new Cold War exhibition. In 2009 the museum took delivery of a FE2b World War I bomber, which had been in production for the museum for over 18 years and is one of the few examples of this aircraft in the world. Sadly for Belgian fan’s the Henriot HD1 disappear from the collection, seems that the aircraft is sold to a Belgian owner.
In April 2009, work began on The Battle of Britain Hall to improve lighting conditions and provide full re-cladding to the exterior of the building. This new form of energy-saving lighting can change color and light intensity while still being cheaper to run. It is kinder to the exhibits because it does not emanate UV light, and light intensity can be increased between each "Our Finest Hour" showing. The hall will also benefit from a new glass fascia overlooking the Sunderland flying boat making it viewable from outside and also providing natural daylight throughout the Sunderland Hall, a section within the Battle of Britain building. Works were completed in August 2009.


Hendon Aerodrome was an airfield located in London and was an important center for aviation from 1908 to 1968. It was situated in Colindale, seven miles (11.3 km) North West of Charing Cross. It nearly became "the Charing Cross of the UK's international air routes", but for the actions of the RAF after the First World War. It was known as a place of pioneering experiments including the first airmail, the first parachute descent from a powered aircraft, the first night flights, and the first aerial defense of a city.

Henry Coxwell and James Glaisher were the first to fly from Hendon in a balloon called the Mammoth in 1862; and ballooning at the Brent Reservoir was a very popular spectacle for the crowds gathered on bank holidays late in the 19th century. The first powered flight from Hendon was in an 88-foot (27 m) long non-rigid airship built by Spencer Brothers of Highbury. It took off from the Welsh Harp Reservoir in 1909, piloted by Henry Spencer, and the only passenger was Muriel Matters, the Australian suffragette. The first attempt at heavier-than-air flight was by H.P. Martin and G.H. Handasyde, again at the Welsh Harp. They constructed a monoplane with four engines in the ballroom of the hotel, but were never able to get airborne.

Aerial view of the site in the Golden years

Inspired by Louis Blériot’s flight across the Channel, Everett, Edgecumbe and Co began to experiment with an aircraft to be built at their works at Colindale near Hendon, erecting a small hangar to house it. From 1908 to 1910, their "Grasshopper", as the plane was called, taxied about and left the ground briefly, but failed to get truly airborne, although these attempts attracted quite a crowd.
In 1906, before any powered flight had taken place in Britain, the Daily Mail newspaper had challenged aviators to fly from London to Manchester or vice versa, offering a prize of Ł10,000. The journey had to be completed within twenty-four hours, with no more than two landings. Aircraft and engine design had improved sufficiently by 1910 to make an attempt to win the prize realistic, and both Claude Grahame-White and the French aviator Louis Paulhan prepared for the challenge during April 1910.

The early years

Grahame-White made two attempts, but it was Paulhan who succeeded. He chose a field on the future aerodrome site as his point of departure. On 27 April he flew 117 miles (188 km) from Hendon to Lichfield, easily the longest flight accomplished in the UK at that time. Before dawn on 28 April he took off and reached Burnage on the outskirts of Manchester after three hours 55 minutes in the air, during a period of just over twelve hours. This was the first true flight from the Hendon site.

London Aerodrome

Grahame-White created a new company, the Grahame-White Aviation Company, taking control of more than 200 acres (0.81 km2) of Colindale and converting it into what could be recognized as a proper modern airfield. The first occupants were Horatio Barber's Aeronautical Syndicate Ltd and the Bleriot flying school. From 9 to 16 September 1911, the first official UK airmail was flown between Hendon and Windsor as part of the celebrations of the coronation of King George V.

Many flying school established at Hendon

In 1912, the first Aerial Derby started and ended at Hendon. An estimated three million people turned out across London, forming a human ring around the race circuit to see the aviators fly round the metropolis. An estimated two million of these Londoners had never seen an aircraft in flight before. At Hendon Aerodrome at least 45,000 people paid for admission to the enclosures.

These annual events became as important as the Ascot and Epsom races during the London Season. By 1925, 100,000 people were coming to see the display, and it was so popular that there was talk of having to spread it over a few days. The first fatality at Hendon, reported in The Times in May 1911, was Bernard Benson (aged 23). On 25 May 1911 he fell 100 feet (30 m) from an ASL Valkyrie.

 Another view of the airfield in the early years

A number of flying schools were located at Hendon, including Grahame-White's, and another established in 1914 by the American aviator George Beatty, in partnership with Handley Page Ltd. In November 1916, the War Office commandeered the flying schools, after which the aerodrome trained 490 pilots. Claude Grahame-White and other members of the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) mounted a night defense of London in 1915, constituting the very first aerial defense of London.

After World War I, the first RAF "Pageant" was held at Hendon in 1920, and it soon became a regular event, known from 1925 as the Royal Air Force Display, and in 1938 as the Empire Air Day.

The Aerodrome was briefly active during the Battle of Britain, but for most of World War II, the Aerodrome was mainly used for transport activities, and flying dignitaries to and from London.

RAF Hendon had three crossed runways with magnetic headings of:

QDM 339 - 3975 x 150 feet

QDM 280 - 3000 x 150 feet

QDM 014 - 3060 x 150 feet

These runways were removed by 1969.

Manufacturing at Hendon

Production of airplanes was one of the features of the aerodrome's activities under Grahame-White. During the First World War production increased rapidly. To facilitate the transportation of the 3,500 workers and materials, The Midland Railway built a spur from the embanked main line with a platform close to the main line and a loop around the airfield to the plant. It had been Claude Grahame-White’s conviction that Hendon would become "the Charing Cross of our international air routes", but the Air Ministry took over in 1922, which led to a protracted and ugly legal action lasting until 1925, when Grahame-White left the site.

The end of aviation at Hendon

The use of Hendon as an airfield was under threat even before the war, since it was considered that RAF Hendon would become a target for enemy bombing raids. After the war the airfield was increasingly unsuitable, particularly because the runways were too short, and the proximity of residential areas made matters worse. The RAF argued the military importance of the complex into the 1950s in case future developments in aviation technology might render the base suitable again, but eventually Hendon Borough Council and the London County Council were able to argue that houses were needed more than the aerodrome. The last flying unit, the Metropolitan Communication Squadron, left Hendon in November 1957.

The entrance to the aerodrome can be seen in "the parade" scene in the 1967 film The Dirty Dozen, with at one point a Kirby Cadet glider of the then-resident 617 Volunteer Gliding School of the Air Training Corps launching in the background. Late in 1968, when two of the three runways had been removed, a Blackburn Beverley was flown in to be an exhibit at the new RAF Museum: this was the last aircraft to land in Hendon. The RAF station finally closed in 1987.
The site of the aerodrome is now occupied by the Grahame Park housing estate, Hendon Police College and the RAF Museum which is situated on the southeast side of the site.

 The Blackburn Beverley was the last plane to land at Hendon aifield, the XH124 seen here in 1976 at museum entrance
Visit in the Musuem...
Hawker Hurricane Mk I (replica) Supermarine Spitfire Lf.IX (replica)
Hawker Hunter FR10 Bristol Bloodhound surface to air missile
 Vosper RTTL 2757 Pinnace 63ft Mk.1 1374
The brand new building to commemorate the First World War... ...and the hangar
Fabulous historical giant format pictures on the walls
War effort... ...Women manufactures aircraft canvas
Blériot XXVII Avro 504K
Propeller press from 1918 Rolls Royce Eagle IX
Caudron G3 Royal Aircraft Factory BE2b
Sopwith Dolphin 5FI
Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.8
Vickers FB5
Sopwith F1 Camel
Royal Aircraft Factory FE2b
Heavy bomb loading of the FE2b
Royal Aircraft Factory SE5A
Sopwith Triplane
Fokker DVII
Albatros D.Va (replica)
Bristol F.2b Fighter
Ford model T light tender Airfield camp
The National Socialism is coming up, Sir Neville Chamberlain made the negociations with Adolph Hitler and finaly the War was declared against Germany
Fire brigade Austin K2 Blitz search light
Anti-Aircraft Gun 3.7 Admin room
Radar control post Waiting firmly the invaders
RAF Gladiator pilot, Defiant Polish squadron pilot and German Stuka pilot
Demining in the rubbles London metropolitan
Operations room Hawker Hurricane Mk I (P1375) wrecks
Wonderful and gigantic pilot bronze with the famous airfield scramble bell
Sir Winston Churchill Prime Minister during the Battle of Britain Operations above the chanel
Air Chief Marshal Hugh Caswall Tremenheere Dowding Reichsmarschall Hermann Wilhelm Göring
Gloster Gladiator Mk I de Havilland Tiger Moth II
Boulton Paul Defiant Mk 1
A unique aircraft in the world
Bristol Blenheim Mk IV
Hawker Hurricane Mk I Supermarine Spitfire Mk Ia
Messerschmitt Bf 109E-3 Heinkel He111H-20
Junkers Ju88R-1 Messerschmitt Bf 110G-2
Fiat CR42 Falco
Junkers Ju87G-2 Stuka CASA E3B
V1 flying bomb V2 Missile
Daimler-Benz DB605A Fordson Sussex barrage baloon truck
Westland Lysander Mk III Supermarine Seagull Mk V
Short Sunderland MR5
A majestic aircraft from the Coastal Command
Inside the giant
Into the bomb compartment Sunderland bomb rack detail
In the structure of the body Rear gun turret
The Sunderland exhibed outside in 1976
Simply interesting ! 

From Bleriot to Eurofighter...
de Havilland Mosquito B35
North American P-51D Mustang
Hawker Hart II
Percival Mew Gull
Messerschmitt Me 262A-2a Schwalbe
Hawker Tempest V
Gloster Meteor F9/40
Sikorsky R-4B Hoverfly 1
BAe Harrier GR3
Missile Scalp MBDA Storm Shadow
Lockheed Martin Joint Strike Fighter (JSF-1) F-35
Percival Prentice T1 de Havilland Canada DHC-1 Chipmunk
Supermarine Spitfire Mk XIVE “Grand Slam" bomb
Consolidated B24L-20-FO Liberator Handley Page Halifax II (III) “Friday the 13th”
Handley Page Halifax W1048
W1048 TL-S took off from RAF Kinloss in Scotland for her last sortie on the April 27th, 1942 to attack the famous German Battleship "Tirpitz" which was moored in Faetenfjord in Norway. After dropping her mines, the aircraft was hit by flak setting the port wing alight. With few options, the pilot PO Don MacIntyre chose to crash land the stricken bomber on the frozen Lake Honkingen and a successful wheels up landing was achieved. All the crew escaped the crash alive. The aircraft sunk some time later to where it lay until the June 30th, 1973. S for sugar was raised and as you can see, it now resides in a mostly unrestored state in the Hendon Museum.
Nose section Right wing flaps
Original colours Tail section
Simply incredible...
Avro Lancaster B1 12k "Block buster" bomb
Are you sure Herman ?
Fairey Battle Mk I Avro Anson Mk I
Panavia Tornado GR1B Hawker Siddeley Buccaneer S2B (First Gulf War colours)
Airspeed Oxford Mk I Avro Vulcan B2
Messerschmitt BF109G-2/Trop Heinkel He 162A-2
Focke Wulf Fw190A-8/U-1 North American TB-25 J "Mitchell"
Boeing B17G Flying Fortress
UASAF crew ongoing for a day mission The bomber is ready
Part of the secondary gun bulkhead of the "Tirpitz"
German Fritz X missile Austin K2 ambulance
AEC Mandator with Blue Steel Missile Daimler Ferret scout car
Interior of the Handley Page Victor nose section Mk 16 Hose drum unit for flight refueling
Avro Rota Bristol Sycamore HR12
Westland Belvedere HC1 Westland Whirlwind HAR 10
Westland Wessex HCC4 Westland Gazelle HT3
European Helicopter Industries Merlin EH101
Supermarine Southampton Supermarine Stranraer
Lockheed Hudson IIIA Bristol Beaufighter TFX
Bristol Beaufort VIII 18 inch Mk Xii torpedo
Sopwith Snipe Bristol Bulldog MkIIA
Forward fuselage of Gloster Gladiator Mk II Slingsby Cadet TX3
North American Harvard IIB de Havilland 9A
Westland Wallace II Hawker Hart Trainer
Republic P-47D Thunderbolt II Hawker Tempest II
Curtiss Kittyhawk IV Taylorcraft Auster 1
Hawker Hunter FGA9 Supermarine Spitfire Vb
Supermarine Spitfire Mk XVI Supermarine Spitfire F24
Gloster Meteor F.8 de Havilland Vampire F3
English Electric Canberra PR3 British Aircraft Corporation Jet Provost T5A
McDonnell Douglas Phantom FGR2 Panavia Tornado F3
British Aircraft Corporation Lightning F6
Ventral gunning alimentation Red Top air to air missile
Martin Baker Mk.2 Martin Baker MK-16A zero-zero
Martin Baker Mk.7
Hucks starter Ford model T Austin K9WD
Alvis Mk 6 Salamander Humber MkIIIA armoured vehicle
Slingsby Type 38 Grasshopper
Time to go to the souvenir shop... ...and why not? Bought a splendid model !

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