04 July 2016

Year 9 trip to Imperial War Museum, Duxford

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For its sheer awe factor on visitors’ arrival, the Imperial War Museum, Duxford is hard to beat. There, often within touching distance (of course, we did not touch) were so many iconic aircraft – the Spitfire, the Hurricane, even a shot down Messerschmitt 109.

Soon after arrival, pupils had the benefit of a superb one-hour talk by a member of the onsite staff. The particular value of the talk was that its purpose interlocked with one of the main aims of our Year 9 course on the First World War. World War I is, in too many respects, a misremembered conflict, so it is important to separate the myths from the realities. While not glossing over the horrors of the conflict, our speaker informed us that, contrary to popular belief, the ordinary soldier’s chances of surviving life in trenches were good; most British soldiers came back. For the young men fighting the war in the air, the statistics were not so favourable, particularly during the phase in which German planes could fire forwards, but British planes could only shoot backwards: eleven days was as long as an airman could expect to live.

The speaker further enlivened an already-lively talk by passing round a fascinating selection of equipment from the trenches. Each pupil had his or her own particular favourite, but joint pride of place went perhaps to the elegant French trench-periscope and the frighteningly-heavy artillery shell which still had its death-dealing steel shot inside its casing.

After lunch, there was time to explore the site. Pupils and staff followed their own particular interests, which ranged from the Battle of Britain display to a demonstration of the processes by which the aircraft are conserved.

Our thanks go to outgoing Head of Department, Dr Yuravlivker, for conceiving and organising the visit. We also thank Dr Drury, Mr. Kiggell, Mr Rands-Webb and Miss Lemaire for accompanying us on what proved to be a memorable day.

David Hall

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