Biggles takes off over England ... Highs in the skies for aviation enthusiasts

England boasts the world’s most lively and compact classic aviation scene in the world. In summer especially, there are air shows all around the country, ranging from the free spectacular in the skies over Folkestone to the epic air shows at Battle of Britain fighter bases Duxford and Biggin Hill, to the year-round displays at the Shuttleworth Collection near Biggleswade and many other museums and collections. Here is a reminder of some of the treats aviation enthusiasts are in for …

BEDFORDSHIRE

In the distance near Caddington the green hangars of Britain’s famous between-the-wars airships stand dominating the landscape. It was here the fateful R101 took off for India, crashing on 5 October 1930 near Beauvais with a loss of 46 lives. The torn RAF ensign of the R101 is in the Church and the victims are buried in the churchyard across the road. The Bell Public House has a photographic gallery depicting the history of the Airships. Their story is told in a book by famed author Neville Shute, who worked on the airships’ design.

CaddingtonAirshipHangarsgeograph-org

Caddington airship hangars.

R101-airship990pxw

R101 airship.

R101-airship-wreckage-1930

R101 airship wreckage, 1930.

Glen-Miller-Major-in-US-Army-uniform

Glenn Miller, Major, in US army uniform.

Glenn-MillerBillboard640pxw

Glenn Miller, Big Band leader.

Glenn-Miller-Band1000pxw

Glenn Miller with Big Band.

Shuttleworth-airfield-landing1050pxw

Shuttleworth airfield landing strip.

bleriotarchive-photo1024pxw
bleriotmarch-2019900pxw

Bleriot, March 2019.

ShuttleworthsatOld-Warden1024pxw

Shuttleworths at Old Warden.

Dorothy-Shuttleworth-and-William-the-pug19521000pxw

Dorothy Shuttleworth and William the pug, 1952.

Richard-Shuttleworthwinning-at-Donington-Park-1934768pxw

Richard Shuttleworth winning at Donington Park, 1934.

Richard-Shuttleworthros-collection1000pxw

Richard Shuttleworth in the freshly refurbished Blériot XI, talking to its previous owner Albert Grimmer.

Shuttleworth-House1050pxw

Shuttleworth House.

swissgardenrhs2020-header

Swiss Gardens at Shuttleworth.

Shuttleworth-Swiss-Garden-and-peacocks700pxw

Peacocks at the Swiss Gardens, Shuttleworth.

Shuttleworth-Visitor-Centre-frontage-20191050pxw

Shuttleworth Visitor Centre.

Shuttleworth-DarrenHarbarAR501Mar2018004-web1050pxw

AR501 at Shuttleworth. Photo by Darren Harbar.

Shuttleworth-Collection-group-tour1024pxw

Shuttleworth Collection group tour.

hangarsall900pxw

Shuttleworth hangars.

Shuttleworth-Hangarage1050pxw

Shuttleworth hangarage.

Shuttleworth-DH88-Comet1050pxw

Shuttleworth Collection: DH88 Comet.

Shuttleworth-drive-in-airshow1000pxw

Shuttleworth drive-in airshow.

CaddingtonAirshipHangarsgeograph-org
R101-airship990pxw
R101-airship-wreckage-1930
Glen-Miller-Major-in-US-Army-uniform
Glenn-MillerBillboard640pxw
Glenn-Miller-Band1000pxw
Shuttleworth-airfield-landing1050pxw
bleriotarchive-photo1024pxw
bleriotmarch-2019900pxw
ShuttleworthsatOld-Warden1024pxw
Dorothy-Shuttleworth-and-William-the-pug19521000pxw
Richard-Shuttleworthwinning-at-Donington-Park-1934768pxw
Richard-Shuttleworthros-collection1000pxw
Shuttleworth-House1050pxw
swissgardenrhs2020-header
Shuttleworth-Swiss-Garden-and-peacocks700pxw
Shuttleworth-Visitor-Centre-frontage-20191050pxw
Shuttleworth-DarrenHarbarAR501Mar2018004-web1050pxw
Shuttleworth-Collection-group-tour1024pxw
hangarsall900pxw
Shuttleworth-Hangarage1050pxw
Shuttleworth-DH88-Comet1050pxw
Shuttleworth-drive-in-airshow1000pxw

Big Band leader Glenn Miller had associations with Milton Ernest village where the US Army Air Force established its headquarters in the village hall. 

The Shuttleworth Collection
2m W off A1 at the Biggleswade roundabout.
Tel: 01767 627288.
Hours: Open all year, 10am-5pm (4pm November to March). Last admission 1 hr before closing. Closed Christmas Eve up to and including New Years Day.
Entry Fee: Admission charge. 
Events: Flying displays are usually held on the last Sunday in the month from April to October, weather permitting.
Established by the mother of Richard Ormonde Shuttleworth in memory of her son. Richard was a keen racing driver, pilot and collector who joined the RAF and was killed in a flying accident in 1940. The first item in the collection was a 1932 de Havilland Moth, and exhibits now include a 1942 Spitfire in flying condition, many cars, cycles and horse drawn vehicles. Flying displays are held throughout the year.


BUCKINGHAMSHIRE

Wycombe-Air-CentreBooker-trial-lesson-cockpit372

Wycombe Air Centre
Wycombe Air Park, Clay Lane, Booker.
Tel: 01494 443737
Take to the skies with one of the UK’s best known flying schools.
There are trial lessons with qualified instructors for anyone who wants to take the pilot’s seat and fly a light aircraft.
Try a family fun flight for a bird’s eye view of Buck. Includes tickets for Blue Max flying museum.

The Blue Max Collection
Wycombe Air Park, Clay Lane, Booker.
Tel: 01494 449810
Hours: Open all year, and in the evenings in summer with an aerial display.
Entry fee: Admission charge, children under 5 free.
A historic collection of classic flying machines that have starred in Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, The Battle of Britain, Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade and many others.
Spitfires and WWI fighters too.

CAMBRIDGESHIRE

Fenland-Aviation-Museum-inside700pxw

Inside the Fenland Aviation Museum.

Fenland_Hawker-Hurricane-Spitfire-propeller

Fenland Aviation Museum: Hawker Hurricane Spitfire propeller.

Fenland-Aviation-MuseumDe-Havilland-Vampire-cockpit

Fenland Aviation Museum: De Havilland Vampire cockpit.

Fenland-Aviation-Museum-exhibits1000pxw

Fenland Aviation Museum: exhibits.

Fenland-A-Mwing-commander-navigator-uniform400pxw

Fenland Aviation Museum: A Mwing Commander navigator uniform.

Fenland-Aviation-MuseumDe-Havilland-Vampire

Fenland Aviation Museum: De Havilland Vampire.

Duxford-airfield780pxw

Duxford airfield.

IWMDuxfordAmerican-Air-Museum001595700pxw

Imperial War Museum: American Air Museum, Duxford.

IWMsiteDuxford001657700pxw

Imperial War Museum: American Air Museum, Duxford.

IWMsitedux001575700pxw

Imperial War Museum: American Air Museum, Duxford.

IWMAmerican-Air-MuseumDuxford001592700pxw

Imperial War Museum: American Air Museum, Duxford.

Fenland-Aviation-Museum-inside700pxw
Fenland_Hawker-Hurricane-Spitfire-propeller
Fenland-Aviation-MuseumDe-Havilland-Vampire-cockpit
Fenland-Aviation-Museum-exhibits1000pxw
Fenland-A-Mwing-commander-navigator-uniform400pxw
Fenland-Aviation-MuseumDe-Havilland-Vampire
Duxford-airfield780pxw
IWMDuxfordAmerican-Air-Museum001595700pxw
IWMsiteDuxford001657700pxw
IWMsitedux001575700pxw
IWMAmerican-Air-MuseumDuxford001592700pxw

Fenland Aviation Museum
Bamber’s Garden Centre, Old Lynn Rd, West Walton.
Tel: 01945 585808
Hours: Open Easter to October. Saturdays 10am–5pm. Sundays and Bank Holidays 10am–4pm, Wednesdays 1pm–4pm. Other times by appointment. Closed November until Easter.

Entry fee: Admission charge.
Access: Suitable for wheelchair access.
Displays of aviation memorabilia, uniforms and photographs.
The Vampire TII aircraft is one of the finest examples in the country and has undergone a complete respray and airframe check.
Members of the public are welcome to sit in the cockpit and study the aircraft at close quarters.

Imperial War Museum & Aircraft Museum
 
Next to junction 10 on the M11 at Duxford.
Tel: 01223 835000
Hours: Open all year except 24 to 26 December. Summer 10am to 6pm, and in Winter 10am to 4pm.
Access: Wheelchair access.
Six giant hangars of displays at what was once a Battle of Britain fighter station now housing a wonderful collection of displays and exhibitions from the First World War to the Gulf War.
Aces such as legless pilot Douglas ‘Tin Legs’ Bader served here.
The Showscan motion theatre is a must and where you can experience a ride through space or take part in a dog fight.
Have a look around a Concorde static display. In the Summer historic aircraft take to the skies, especially at weekends.
Unique experiences such as a ride in a two-seater Spitfire are available.
In recent years Duxford has been the scene of some warbird milestones, such as the greatest gathering of Spitfires in the air since World War II – on the day of the airshow, 27 Spitfires chased each other in procession through the skies over Duxford.
 

ESSEX

The-SquadronNorth-Weald-aerial871x335

Aerial photo of The Squadron, North Weald.

North-Weald-Airfieldcontrol-tower

North Weald Airfield control tower.

The-Squadron

The Squadron.

The-SquadronDSC3936-Departing-Aircraft-during-Norweigan-visit-e1382625295961

The Squadron: DSC3936 departing aircraft during Norweigan visit.

The-SquadronNorth-Wealdplanes2b

Planes out front of The Squadron, North Weald.

The-SquadronNorth-Wealdplanes-out-front

Another view of planes out front of The Squadron, North Weald.

The-SquadronNorth-Weald-aerial871x335
North-Weald-Airfieldcontrol-tower
The-Squadron
The-SquadronDSC3936-Departing-Aircraft-during-Norweigan-visit-e1382625295961
The-SquadronNorth-Wealdplanes2b
The-SquadronNorth-Wealdplanes-out-front

The Squadron
North Weald Airfield, Epping.
Hours: Open daily 10am to 5pm
1940s historic aircraft museum in commemoration of the RAF Squadrons based here 1916 to 1960.
Authentic wartime restaurant and bar. Well worth a visit.

GLOUCESTERSHIRE

Jet-Age-Museum-frontage

Jet Age Museum.

Jet-Age-Museum-interior1000pxw

Inside the Jet Age Museum.

jet-age-museum-2-848x500

One of the aircraft in the Jet Age Museum collection.

Jet-Age-MuseumBiggles1024x685px

Biggles on display in the Jet Age Museum.

Gloster-Javelin-FAW800pxw

Gloster Javelin FAW on display in the Jet Age Museum.

37728-jet-age-museum-gloucester-01-1

A view of the aircraft collection in the Jet Age Museum.

Wellington-Aviation-Museumfront1000pxw

The Wellington Aviation Museum.

Wellington-Aviation-Museum-interior

Inside the Wellington Aviation Museum.

Jet-Age-Museum-frontage
Jet-Age-Museum-interior1000pxw
jet-age-museum-2-848x500
Jet-Age-MuseumBiggles1024x685px
Gloster-Javelin-FAW800pxw
37728-jet-age-museum-gloucester-01-1
Wellington-Aviation-Museumfront1000pxw
Wellington-Aviation-Museum-interior

Jet Age Museum (formerly known as the Gloucestershire Aviation Collection)
Meteor Business Park, Cheltenham Road East, Gloucester GL2 9QL.
Hours: Open from 10am to 4pm (café 10am to 3.30pm) on Saturdays, Sundays, the majority of UK Bank Holidays and selected Wednesdays during Schools’ holiday periods. The Museum is closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Allow between one and two hours for your visit.
As an all-volunteer organisation, the Museum cannot guarantee that all the facilities and activities will be available when the Museum is open. Restrictions may also apply when special events are held on public opening days.

Wellington Aviation Art
Broadway Rd, Moreton-in-Marsh.
Tel: 01608 650323
Hours: Open all year, Tuesday to Sunday and Bank Holidays 10am-13.30pm and 2.30-5pm.
A famed Wellington bomber, designed by Barnes Wallis of Dambuster bouncing bomb fame, and other aircraft artefacts, paintings, prints, aircraft sculptures, books and videos.
Unique collection of WWII aircraft history. Paintings, models and prints for sale.

HERTFORDSHIRE

North-Weald-Airfield-Memorial

North Weald Airfield Memorial.

Salisbury-HallDHAMTaerial-shot

Aerial view ofSalisbury Hall de Havilland Aircraft Museum.

Salisbury-HallDH-82A-Tiger-Moth1000pxw

Salisbury Hall de Havilland Aircraft Museum: Tiger Moth.

Salisbury-HallDH-110-SEA-VIXEN1000pxw

Salisbury Hall de Havilland Aircraft Museum: DH110 Sea Vixen.

Salisbury-HallMosquito-B35-TA634

Salisbury Hall de Havilland Aircraft Museum: Mosquito B35 TA634.

North-Weald-Airfield-Memorial
Salisbury-HallDHAMTaerial-shot
Salisbury-HallDH-82A-Tiger-Moth1000pxw
Salisbury-HallDH-110-SEA-VIXEN1000pxw
Salisbury-HallMosquito-B35-TA634

North Weald Airfield Memorial
Ad Astra House, Hurricane Way, Epping.
Tel: 01992 572705.
Hours: Open all year daily 12noon-4pm, except Christmas day, Boxing Day and New Years Day.
Entry fee: Admission charge.
Ground floor fine old house at former main gate of North Weald Airfield. Historic record of the airfield from 1916 to 1964.
A comprehensive and accurate collection of archives, photographs, detailed records of all activities, models, uniforms and equipment relating to Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force, all in immaculate condition and surroundings.
 
The de Havilland Aircraft Museum(Formerly known as Salisbury Hall Mosquito Aircraft Museum)
Salisbury Hall, Shenley, London Colney, AL2 1BU.
Tel: 01727 826400
Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday and Bank Holidays 10.30-17.00 hrs (last entry to Museum at 16.00 hrs).
Access: Wheelchairs available, and ramp access to all public buildings.
Entry fee: Admission charge.
Salisbury Hall is not open to the public, but is beautiful moated manor-house, once the home of Sir Nigel Gresley, the great locomotive engineer.
This is the oldest aviation museum in Britain dedicated to the de Havilland Mosquito.
The prototype for this famous timber-built Second World War fighter-bomber was designed and built here.
Other memorabilia relating to the de Havilland aircraft company heritage is also housed here.

LEICESTERSHIRE

LeicestershireAeroparkaerial-image

Leicestershire Aeropark.

LeicestershireAeroparkBAC-Lightning-F53

Leicestershire Aeropark: Lightning F53.

LeicestershireAeroparkAvro-Vulcan-B2

Leicestershire Aeropark: Avro Vulcan B2.

LeicestershireAeroparkaerial-image
LeicestershireAeroparkBAC-Lightning-F53
LeicestershireAeroparkAvro-Vulcan-B2

Aeropark and Visitor Centre
East Midlands Airport.
Tel: 01332 810621
Hours: Aeropark open daily dawn to dusk (except Christmas Day). Visitor Centre open Easter to October, Monday to Friday 10am-5pm, Saturday 11am-4pm, Sunday 11am-6pm. Last entrance to the Aeropark is 1 hour before closing time.
Entry fee: Admission charge.
Disabled facilities: majority of areas accessible, ramp into Visitor Centre, specially adapted toilets and parking areas.
See the action from this 12 acre park next to taxiway at eastern end of the airport.
Exhibits include a Lightning fighter jet, Vulcan bomber, Canberra bomber, Argosy freighter and Whirlwind helicopter.
Viewing mound, themed children’s play area and picnic area.

LINCOLNSHIRE

LincolnshireBattle-of-Britain-Memorial-Flight

Lincolnshire: Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

LincolnshireRAF-BBMFThe-Lancaster

Lincolnshire: RAF, Battle of Britain Memorial Flight: The Lancaster.

LincolnshireMAVCDouglas-Dakota-KG651

Metheringham Airfield Visitor Centre: Douglas Dakota KG651.

LincolnshireCranwell-Aviation-Heritage-Centreexterior

Cranwell Aviation Heritage Centre.

LincolnshireCranwell-Aviation-Heritage-Centreinterior

Cranwell Aviation Heritage Centre interior.

LincolnshireCranwell-Aviation-Heritage-Centreinterior2

Cranwell Aviation Heritage Centre interior.

LincolnshireCranwell-Aviation-Heritage-CentreHunting-Jet-Provost-T4

Cranwell Aviation Heritage Centre: Hunting Percival Jet Provost T4.

LincolnshireBattle-of-Britain-Memorial-Flight
LincolnshireRAF-BBMFThe-Lancaster
LincolnshireMAVCDouglas-Dakota-KG651
LincolnshireCranwell-Aviation-Heritage-Centreexterior
LincolnshireCranwell-Aviation-Heritage-Centreinterior
LincolnshireCranwell-Aviation-Heritage-Centreinterior2
LincolnshireCranwell-Aviation-Heritage-CentreHunting-Jet-Provost-T4

Battle of Britain Memorial Flight
RAF Coningsby. Dogdyke Rd, Coningsby, Lincoln LN4 4SY.
Tel: 01522 782040
Hours: Open Monday to Friday 10am-5pm (last tour 3.30pm from March to October and at 3pm from November to February). Closed Easter, Bank Holidays and for two weeks at Christmas.
Entry fee: Admission charge. Access to the hangar is by guided tour only.
Access: All areas accessible to guests in wheelchairs.
A fascinating guided tour around the Flight’s hangar where a Lancaster, Hurricane, Dakota and four Spitfires can be seen. Because of operational commitments a guarantee cannot be given of the availability of specific aircraft. Please phone for details.
 
Metheringham Airfield Visitor Centre
Westmoor Farm, Martin Moor, Metheringham.
Tel: 01526 378270
Hours: Open weekends and Bank Holidays April to November, 10am-5pm.
Entry fee: Admission free.
Access for wheelchair users.
During the Second World War farmland near this Lincolnshire village was cleared of buildings, livestock and trees to make way for RAF Metheringham and the Lancasters, air and ground crews of 106 Squadron.
A fascinating exhibition of photographs and memorabilia can be found at Westmoor Farm, the site of the domestic quarters, which recalls life on this wartime airfield.
 
Cranwell Aviation Heritage Centre
Heath Farm, North Rauceby.
Tel: 01529 488490
Hours: Open April to end-October, 10am-5pm daily. November to March, 10am-4pm daily (photographic exhibition only).
Entry fee: Admission free.
Access: All areas accessible to guests in wheelchairs.
Photographs, exhibits and archive film portray the history of the RAF College at Cranwell which is perhaps the most famous landmark in RAF history.
Follow the North Kesteven Airfield Trail to discover the other airfield sites in the area.

NORFOLK

City-of-Norwich-Aviation-Museumaerial-view

Aerial view of Norwich Aviation Museum.

City-of-Norwich-Aviation-MuseumNimrod-MR2

Nimrod MR2 at Norwich Aviation Museum.

City-of-Norwich-Aviation-MuseumVulcan-B2

Vulcan B2 at Norwich Aviation Museum.

City-of-Norwich-A-MMcDonnell-Douglas-Phantom-FGR2

McDonnell Douglas Phantom FGR2 at Norwich Aviation Museum.

NorfolkSeething-Airfield-Control-Tower

Seething Airfield Control Tower.

City-of-Norwich-Aviation-Museumaerial-view
City-of-Norwich-Aviation-MuseumNimrod-MR2
City-of-Norwich-Aviation-MuseumVulcan-B2
City-of-Norwich-A-MMcDonnell-Douglas-Phantom-FGR2
NorfolkSeething-Airfield-Control-Tower

City of Norwich Aviation Museum
Old Norwich Rd, Horsham St Faith.
Tel: 01603 861 348
Hours: Open January to end March and from end-April to end-December Sunday only 10am–4pm. May to August also open Tuesday and Thursday to dusk and Wednesday 2–5pm. Bank Holidays 10am-5pm. Closed Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
Entry fee: Admission charge.
Access: Suitable for wheelchair access.
Exhibition building with displays of aviation memorabilia, photographs, models, maps and pictures.
Of interest to Australians and Americans are the RAAF Horsham St Faith display, 8th USAAF display, 2nd Air Division display, and 458th Bomb Group display.
The collection of aircraft include a Vulcan Bomber from the Falklands Task Force.

Seething Airfield Control Tower
Station 146, Seething Airfield. Entrance via Toad Lane, Mundham, Norfolk, NR15 1EL.
Tel: 01508 550453
Hours: Open June to October, first Sunday in every month.
Access: Suitable for wheelchair access.
Seething was a B24 Liberator base during World War Two. Renovated USAAF control tower has model a/c room, diaorama of Seething base, 448th Honour roll, display of World War Two memorabilia, and an exhibition of ‘The 448th Bomb Group Collection’. This includes diaries, photographs and personal stories from Americans based here during 1943-1945.


NORTHAMPTONSHIRE

NorthamptonshireCarpetbagger-Aviation-Museum-Harringtoninterior

Interior of the Carpetbagger Aviation Museum.

NorthamptonshireSywell-Aviation-Museum

Exterior of the Sywell Aviation Museum at Sywell Aerodrome.

NorthamptonshireCarpetbagger-Aviation-Museum-Harringtoninterior
NorthamptonshireSywell-Aviation-Museum

Carpetbagger Aviation Museum
Sunnyvale Farm, off Lamport Road, Harrington, Northampton, NN6 9PF.
Tel: 01604 686608
Hours: Open weekends only 10am–6pm, other times by appointment. Car parking; no smoking; all children under 15 to be accompanied by an adult.
Entry fee: Admission charge. Children under 12 accompanied by an adult, free of charge.
Access: Suitable for disabled and there is one wheelchair on site.
The Carpetbagger Museum is housed in the old Administration Building on the site of the USAAF Station 179 and offers a rare look at life on the base of the 801st/492nd American Army Air Force Bomb Group during World War Two.
Photographs and exhibits vividly show the work carried out by the group codenamed ‘Carpetbaggers’ because of their operations in parachuting people and equipment into Occupied Europe.
Next door is the Northamptonshire Aviation Museum with exhibits including the remains of recovered WWII aircraft – parts of a Luftwaffe Junkers Bomber, a Dornier Do 217K Night Bomber and a USAAF Liberator together with instrumentation and other fascinating items of equipment.
There is also a NAFFI for refreshments.

Sywell Aerodrome
Sywell Aerodrome, Wellingborough Rd, Northampton NN6 0BN.
Tel: 01604 670824 (during open hours only)
Hours: Open 10:30am–16:30pm every weekend and every bank holiday between Easter and the end of September. Also open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays 12pm–4pm from Easter until October half-term.
Entry fee: Entrance to the museum and tours are free. Donations are welcome to cover operating costs and fund new projects.
Access: Wheelchair access to hotel and most areas airside.
Founded in 1928, is the UK’s premier classic general aviation airfield, popular for pilot training, vintage and classic aircraft and modern helicopter businesses. There are some 40,000 movements per year, including charter and air taxi operations to European destinations.
Tours start with refreshments in the Aviator Hotel Bar, followed by visits to the Northamptonshire School of Flying, the small Control Tower, Sloane Helicopters, one of the private aircraft hangars with historic aircraft and also Microlight School. Sandwiches, bar snacks and lunch available at the Hotel after the tour.
Tour lasts 1¼ - 2 hours and is free. Children under 14 must be accompanied by an adult and kept under strict control during airside visit.
 Sensible walking shoes recommended; 


NOTTINGHAMSHIRE

NottinghamshireNewark-Air-Museumexterior980pxw

Aerial view of the Newark Air Museum.

NottinghamshireNewark-Air-Museum-hangar-interior

Inside the Newark Air Museum hangar.

NottinghamshireNewark-Air-Museumexterior980pxw
NottinghamshireNewark-Air-Museum-hangar-interior

Newark Air Museum
The Airfield, Winthorpe.
Tel: 01636 707170
Hours: Open all year. March to October 10am–5pm, November to February 10am–4pm. Closed 24–26 December and New Year's Day.
Entry fee: Admission charge. Car park free. 
Access: Wheelchair access.
Aircraft, parts and memoribilia. Book and model shop, exhibition hall. Features aircraft types such as Anson, Prentice, Swift, Provost, Vulcan, Vampire, Meteors, Varsity, Sycamores and more.


SUFFOLK

Suffolk390th-Memorial-Museum-exterior-aerial

Aerial view of the 390th Bomb Group Memorial Air Museum.

Suffolk390th-Memorial-Museum-interior

Inside the 390th Bomb Group Memorial Air Museum.

SuffolkNorfolk-and-Suffolk-Aviation-Museum-outside

Looking towards the hangar at the Norfolk & Suffolk Aviation Museum.

SuffolkNorfolk-and-Suffolk-Aviation-Museum-decoy-sites

One of the displays in the Norfolk & Suffolk Aviation Museum.

SuffolkNorfolk-and-Suffolk-Aviation-Museum-Boulton-and-Paul-hangar

Inside the Boulton and Paul hangar at the Norfolk & Suffolk Aviation Museum.

SuffolkBeck-Row-church-and-graveyard

Beck Row church and graveyard.

SuffolkBeck-RowFSRawdon-Middleton-V-C

Flight Sergeant Rawdon Middleton, VC, lies in  the Beck Row church graveyard, grave location Row D.1.

Suffolk390th-Memorial-Museum-exterior-aerial
Suffolk390th-Memorial-Museum-interior
SuffolkNorfolk-and-Suffolk-Aviation-Museum-outside
SuffolkNorfolk-and-Suffolk-Aviation-Museum-decoy-sites
SuffolkNorfolk-and-Suffolk-Aviation-Museum-Boulton-and-Paul-hangar
SuffolkBeck-Row-church-and-graveyard
SuffolkBeck-RowFSRawdon-Middleton-V-C

390th Bomb Group Memorial Air Museum
Parham Airfield, Parham.
Hours: Open 11am to 5pm on Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays from beginning of April to the last Sunday in October. Also open Wednesdays during June, July and August from 11am to 4pm.
Entry fee: Free admission.
Access: Due to the nature of the Museum Buildings, some parts are not accessible by wheelchair. The tearoom, gift shop and toilets are accessible.
The collection reflects East Anglia’s aviation history during World War Two. Housed in a 1942 control tower of the former USAAF bomber base. Engines and artefacts from many famous aircraft, uniforms and memorabilia relating to the RAF, US 8th Air Force and German Air Force.
The Library and Archives centre is located in a Nissen hut.

Norfolk & Suffolk Aviation Museum
The Street, Flixton, Bungay, NR35 1NZ.
Tel: 01986 896644
Hours: Open April to October on Sunday to Thursday 10am to 5pm; November to March on Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday 10am to 4pm; Closed Christmas period 15th December to 15th January.
Entry fee: Free admission. Donations appreciated.
Access: Wheelchair accessible. Some wheelchairs available to borrow. Wheelchair accessible toilet facility.
17 historic aircraft and other aviation material including the 446th Bomb Group Museum and Memorial and the Royal Observer Corps Museum.

Beck Row.
In this churchyard lie the remains of one of Australia’s war heroes Flight Sergeant Rawdon Middleton.  He died at 21 when, the Short Stirling bomber he was piloting was hit during a raid on Turin in Italy in 1942. His Victoria Cross was for the bravery shown, and was regarded as one of the most awe-inspiring feats of the war by a pilot of any country. While seriously wounded himself, losing an eye and sustaining shrapnel wounds to his body as his aircraft was hit, he ignored the crew’s advice to all bail out over Europe and determined to deliver the crew to England, despite the  horrific injuries to himself. Middleton flew the bomber back over England and most of the crew parachuted to safety. It is believed he then flew the damaged aircraft out to sea to avoid crashing into a built up area.  His body was washed ashore at Dover two months later. Grave location: Row D.1.


SUSSEX WEST

Sussex-WestTangmere-Aviation-Museum-aerial-image800pxw

Aerial view of the Tangmere Aviation Museum.

Sussex-WestTangmere-Aviation-Museum-hanger-signage

Tangmere Aviation Museum hangar signage.

Sussex-WestTangmere-Aviation-Museum-Meryl-Hansed-Memorial-Hall

Inside the Tangmere Aviation Museum Meryl Hansed Memorial Hall.

Sussex-WestTangmere-Aviation-Museum-fort-on-grounds800pxw

Explore the museum grounds.

Sussex-WestTangmere-Aviation-Museum-aerial-image800pxw
Sussex-WestTangmere-Aviation-Museum-hanger-signage
Sussex-WestTangmere-Aviation-Museum-Meryl-Hansed-Memorial-Hall
Sussex-WestTangmere-Aviation-Museum-fort-on-grounds800pxw

Tangmere Airfield (Tangmere Military Aviation Museum)
Gamecock Terrace, Tangmere, Chichester PO20 2ES.Tel: 01243 790 090.
Hours: Open February to November, daily. February & November 10am–4pm. March to October 10am–5.30pm.
Entry fee: Admission charge.
Access: Access for the disabled.
Restrictions: Only assistance dogs are permitted in the museum buildings. All dogs are allowed in the grounds and picnic area.
Light refreshments and picnic area.
Not an airfield these days, although much of the concrete runway system of the jet fighter era remain. This is the famed fighter station where Douglas ‘Tin Legs’ Bader led his Tangmere Wing into battle during the Battle of Britain. Bader himself officially dedicated the museum to the RAF and opened it in the 1970s.


WARWICKSHIRE

WarwickshireMidland-Air-Museumaerial-view

Aerial view of the Midland Air Museum.

WarwickshireMidland-Air-MuseumW2-700-engine-1

The Frank Whittle designed W2/700 engine on display in the Midland Air Museum.

WarwickshireMidland-Air-MuseumWhittle-and-his-design-1

Frank Whittle and his jet engine design.

WarwickshireWellesbourne-Aviation-museum-frontage

Entrance to the Wellesbourne Wartime Museum.

WarwickshireWellesbourne-Aviation-museum1

Some of the outdoor exhibits at Wellesbourne Wartime Museum.

WarwickshireWellesbourne-Aviation-museum-grounds

Wellesbourne Wartime Museum grounds.

WarwickshireWellesbourne-Aviation-museumrecce-cameras

Recce cameras exhibit at Wellesbourne Wartime Museum.

WarwickshireMidland-Air-Museumaerial-view
WarwickshireMidland-Air-MuseumW2-700-engine-1
WarwickshireMidland-Air-MuseumWhittle-and-his-design-1
WarwickshireWellesbourne-Aviation-museum-frontage
WarwickshireWellesbourne-Aviation-museum1
WarwickshireWellesbourne-Aviation-museum-grounds
WarwickshireWellesbourne-Aviation-museumrecce-cameras

Midland Air Museum
Coventry Airport, Baginton.
Tel: (02476) 301033 (outside UK +44 2476 301033).
Hours: Open all year. November to March, Monday–Saturday, Sunday and bank holidays 10am–4:30pm; April to October, Monday–Saturday 10am–5pm, Sunday 10am–6pm.  
Entry Fee: Admission charge.
Access: Access ramps and disabled toilet.
Indoor and outdoor displays of aircraft engines and related exhibits, including Meteor, Hunter, Lightning, Vulcan and Sopwith Pup replica.
Upstairs gallery depicting ‘Wings over Coventry’.

Wellesbourne Aviation Group
The Airfield, Wellesbourne.
Tel: +44 121 777 3518Hours: Open Sunday and Bank Holidays 10am–4pm and other times by special arrangement.
Access: Underground exhibits not suitable for the aged and infirm. Above ground museum has ramp and hand rails.
Wartime underground defence headquarters, now housing a museum of relics, posters and photographs.
Above ground display includes a Vampire jet, jet engine, Sea Vixen cockpit and a Piston Provost.
The museum contains aero engines, a Spitfire control panel and a mock-up Blenheim turret.


YORKSHIRE

Yorkshire-Air-Museumaerial-view

Aerial view of Yorkshire Air Museum.

Yorkshire-Air-MuseumPioneers

Yorkshire Air Museum's Pioneers display.

Yorkshire-Air-MuseumHalifax-cockpit

Yorkshire Air Museum's Halifax cockpit display.

Yorkshire-Air-MuseumAir-Gunners-Collection

Yorkshire Air Museum air gunners collection.

Yorkshire-Air-MuseumTornado-cockpit-experience

Yorkshire Air Museum's Tornado cockpit experience.

Yorkshire-Air-Museumearly-aerial-combat-display

Yorkshire Air Museum's aerial combat display.

Yorkshire-Air-MuseumCanadian-Hangar1000pxw

The Canadian hangar at the Yorkshire Air Museum.

Yorkshire-Air-Museumaerial-view
Yorkshire-Air-MuseumPioneers
Yorkshire-Air-MuseumHalifax-cockpit
Yorkshire-Air-MuseumAir-Gunners-Collection
Yorkshire-Air-MuseumTornado-cockpit-experience
Yorkshire-Air-Museumearly-aerial-combat-display
Yorkshire-Air-MuseumCanadian-Hangar1000pxw

Yorkshire Air Museum
Halifax Way, Elvington.
Tel: (01904) 608 595.  
Hours: Open bank holidays and Easter holidays; Summer 10am to 5pm; Winter 10am to 4pm. Please note: Last admission 1 hour prior to closing. Closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.
Entry fee: Admission charge.
Access: The majority of the Museum site is accessible by wheelchair. Wheelchair access is restricted in the upper floor of the Control Tower, due to it’s listed building status and steep staircase.
Once a World War Two bomber base site, the museum has aircraft, authentic control tower, Barnes Wallis Collection, Blackburn Heritage, ROC, Air Gunners and general displays. Plus unique Handley Page Halifax and a de Havilland Mosquito re-build.

#

 

England's ghostly trails ...

Fancy roaming with the restless ghosts of England? Some people take trips that give them the creeps... literally. Ghostly trails in England are some of the best to be found, and no wonder, with such a grisly history laced with witches and warlocks, martyrs and murderers, hillocks and hangings, kings and killers. Unreal's managing editor, Mike Sullivan provides some clues as to where to find England's most sociable ghosts in this digest.

OLD WIVES TALES... or are there threads of truth in these unexplained sightings? It's hard to know, but if you have a passion for history – morbid history, at that – finding your way among the ghostly trails of England can be a fascinating experience.

Just being in places where momentous deeds have taken place, both good and evil, adds a spine-tingling element to your travels.

There are established ghost walks in most major towns of England, and some may be a trifle ridiculous and touristy. Others, however, are genuinely creepy.

To get to these small towns, there are few alternatives other than a car. Apart from the transport, it's good to be able to get back to your safe, warm car and turn the heater up to stop yourself shaking from the... er, cold.

Cambridgeshire

If there is such a village as a nice place to be hanged, then WARBOYS in Cambridgeshire is probably it. Warboys is, in fact, where the last hanging of a witch (at least, an alleged witch) in England took place.

The clock tower in the heart of this lovely village has a gabled roof and a stunning weathercock on top. The 13th century church has a wonderful tower and the spire is one worth seeing. It would be easy to see, too, from where the gallows once rested.

WISBECH is a town worth walking through. Some say the ghosts already do, and that's why it has a regular ghostly trail walk named Ghosts, Legends and Folklore operated by Polly Howat (Tel: 01945 870421). Contact Polly Howat to visit famous local haunts and hear stories of ghosts, witches and cursed monks that will make your skin crawl. Those who study such paranormal activity say the tales of extraordinary phenomena in Wisbech are among the best you will find – or hope not to.

In later years, Wisbech has become better known as the birthplace of Thomas Clarkson and his brother John, who were important figures in the abolition of slavery. The Clarkson Memorial tower in the town is 68ft high and dates from 1881.

Cheshire

CHESTER probably has quite a population of ghosts, if its history is anything to go by. It is England's most complete walled city, founded by the Romans 2000 years ago as a major garrison during their occupation of Britain.

Deeds both foul and fair have dominated Chester ever since. Relics abound with archaeological digs still going on. The Roman amphitheatre is the largest in the country.

A must is to take a walk through the Roman graveyard at Grosvenor Museum, which has many other Roman artefacts. Those interested in the ghosts of Rome will try the Dewa Roman Experience, located off Bridge St (Tel: 01244 343407). It is a Roman Fortress built almost 2000 years ago and it now lies under the beautiful bustling city. There are shop fronts displaying their wares – even a sleeping centurion. It is a fascinating tour and wonderful to witness some of the Roman, Saxon and Medieval remains.

But the best ghosly action in Chester somes, naturally, at night: the Ghosthunter Trail. This is a terrifying night-time journey around the eerie haunts of Chester's mysterious past. The cost is under £30 for about 1.5 hours of fun and chills.

The Rows at The Cross is a picturesque corner of Chester, the township renowned for its black-and-white houses. However, Chester is also renowned for its grey world of ghosts and spirits and has some of the creepiest walks in England.

You may think you are seeing a ghost when you witness the Roman Legionary Wall Patrol. Patrols occur in June to September on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 11.30am and 2.30pm (Tel: 01244 324324). Walk the Fortress of Dewa with a real life Roman soldier in full battle dress. This interesting walk into history takes about an hour, and you will receive a Diploma of Military Service signed by the Emperor!

Kent

BIDDENDEN is a place where congenital misfortune has paid off. The sign on the village green depicts the two sisters known as the `Biddenden Maids' who were born in the 16th century. They were said to have been Siamese twins, joined at the hip and shoulder.

Eliza and Mary Chilkhurst lived like this for their entire 34 years. Even though gruesome stories abounded about them, they were actually great benefactors for the area. The Biddenden Maids left 20 acres of land to provide bread and cheese for the poor of the village. The tradition of handing out bread on Easter Monday in their honour is still carried out.

IGHTHAM MOTE, near Sevenoaksis 'home' to Dame Dorothy Selby, a restless soul. She warned Lord Monteagle not to attend Parliament on November 5, 1605. Her whispered words led to the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot. Guy Fawkes had her imprisoned in a concealed room where she later died. Visit the village, not far from London, to walk in the trail of this ghost who saved lives, but suffered for it.

PLUCKLEY is possibly the best-known haunted village in England. There are some 14 restless spirits, according to local legend.

Included is a Cavalier murdered by the Roundheads. A gypsy woman who fell asleep while smoking her pipe and burned to death. A highwayman caught and pinned to a tree. A brickmaker who fell into his claypit and smothered. The others, you'll have to catch for yourself.

Leicestershire

LEICESTER is one of the few towns in England that can trace its development and growth from Iron Age settlement to modern industrial city. At the heart of this 2000 year history is Castle Park, an area of gardens, churches, riverside walks, fine buildings, ancient walls and gateways, interesting shops and museums, an area where the city's long and colourful past can be explored and enjoyed. They say that some from that past still do!

Leicester has ghost walks to help you discover the past first-hand. There is the Designer Thrill Walk to keep up your spirits and the annual December Christmas Ghost Walks (Tel: 0116 265 0555). Be there on October 30 and 31 for special ghost walks and Designer Thrill Walks are available September, November and December.

Norfolk

BROOKE is a place said to be babbling with ghosts. No wonder they keep coming back, as it is a charming little village. Brooke's Post Office has bow windows matched to an equally charming butcher shop, newsagent, farm shop and two grocery shops which serve this little village lying either side of the Norwich to Bungay road. The attractive meres in the centre are home to a rare fungus. A wood in the village has the haunting name 'Shrieking Woman Grove', and the ghost of a lady is said to walk at the back of Brooke Lodge.

Northants

NORTHAMPTON is a busy place, both in this world and the next. A Cromwellian soldier and murder victims are among the residents of haunted locations here. You can find out details from the tourist Visitors Centre at Mr Grant's House, 10 St Giles Square (Tel: 01604 22677).

Maybe the ghosts come to see the world's largest collection of shoes and boots at the Central Museum? Discover Northampton's boot and shoe heritage, reflecting the reputation as Britain's premier shoemaking town.

Or perhaps it is in sympathy with Thomas a Becket, who has Becket's Park named after him here. It commemorates the escape of Thomas a Becket from his trial at Northampton Castle in the mid 1600s.

Castle Mound is all that remains of the second most important royal centre in the kingdom in the 12th and 13th centuries. Part of the fortified walls of the town, the castle was the site of the trial of Thomas a Beckett. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built here in 11 by the Earl of Northhampton, Simon de Senlis, who did so to mark his safe return from the Crusades in the 1100s. Some say the souls came with him .. . and stayed.

ROTHWELL, on the A6, 4m northwest of Kettering, has nothing to do with the town of similar name, Roswell, of UFO crash fame in the US. It has its own tales of the bizarre to live up to. 

Holy Trinity Church, Squire's Hill, is an inspiring 13th century church with an awesome secret. Its Bone Crypt contains the remains of some 1500 people and is an eerie, chilling sight to behold in such a majestic building.

An eerie and captivating building associated with the Bone Crypt is Rushton Triangular Lodge (at Rushton 2m northeast, Tel: 01536 710761). Through this extraordinary building, architecture is used to express religious beliefs.

It was built by Sir Thomas Tresham, a devout Catholic in 1593, who also built Lyveden. The lodge symbolises the Holy Trinity, playing on the number three with three sides, three floors and trefoil windows. Reputed to be the meeting place of the Gunpowder Plot conspirators. It is difficult today to understand the full meaning but the building is nevertheless quite beautiful.

Nottinghamshire

NOTTINGHAM has spirits of a literary kind roaming its streets, playing host to the tales and trails of Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Nottingham Castle exists, of course (Tel: 01602 483504, admission free weekdays), and there is the exhibit The Tales of Robin Hood on Maid Marion Way (Tel: 01602 483284) which has an admission charge. Playing on the whole legend is The Sheriff's Lodge in Canal St (Tel: 01602 240088) at which you can even hire costumes purportedly of the era.

It makes sense that ghosts are a hot topic in Nottingham, with a distinguished list of famous people having graced its ramparts over the centuries such as Lord Byron, Jesse Boot, Graham Greene, Thomas Humber, Little John, D.H. Lawrence, Harry Wheatcroft and it is also home to the Salvation Army. If that isn't enough spice for a spirited town, remember, this is also where HP Sauce comes from.

A highlight is sure to be the Ghost Walk from Nottingham Castle Gatehouse, which gathers on Saturdays at 7pm and includes a visit to the centre of the sandstone caves under the city. It is in these caves that a mysterious little girl can often be seen, although the story behind her appearances remains a mystery.

Contact Nottingham Information Centre: 1-4 Smithy Row (Tel: 0115 947 1661) or County Hall (West Bridgford), Loughborough Rd (Tel: 0115 977 3558).

Suffolk

THE TINY village of ACTON has a morbid claim to fame. It is here that 17-year-old Catherine Foster poisoned her husband in 1846. She became the last woman hanged publicly in Bury St Edmunds. The village pump adjoins three thatched terrace cottages and on the end wall of the last cottage is a picture of her. Does her troubled spirit still wander the village? There's only one way to find out...

ICKLINGHAM's church of St James, in the centre of this tiny village, harbours a ghostly tale that is guaranteed to make your skin crawl. Even if it doesn't, the thrill of having the locals tell it to you at the local 'Plough Inn' – and they will – makes the trip to Icklingham worthwhile. After all, how often can you tuck into a meal in a village mentioned in the Domesday Book?

Sussex East

TALES of heroism and bloody death abound in BATTLE, where the Battle of Hastings took place in 1066. The Battle of Hastings 1066 is probably the best known date in English History, as it marks the site of the victory of William the Conqueror.

Battle Abbey was built by William the Conqueror in thanks for his victory over King Harold. Legend has it that the high altar marks the spot where Harold died from an arrow through his eye. It is said that to this day Harold's gruesome soul wanders through the site as though in search of his Norman enemy.

Make sure you visit the 14th century Gatehouse which contains an exhibition, that brings alive the wealth of this monument's history. There is a good view of the battlefield from the terrace.

Information Centre: 88 High St (Tel: 01424 773 721).

Sussex West

THE RUINS of Bramber Castle in BRAMBER are all that remains of the home of William de Braose. Because he signed the Magna Carta he became an enemy of the King. The family were imprisoned at Windsor, where they starved to death. It is said that here you can hear the echoes of the once happy family – and the eerie cries of the four murdered children.

West Midlands

IN BERKSWELL, the Stocks have five leg holes. Legend has it that there was once an old character in the village with just one leg, who was constantly in trouble with a couple of his pals, so the stocks were designed for them. Is that the cries of the men you hear in the wind... or is someone pulling your leg?

Warwickshire

Warwick Castle, not far from Stratford-on-Avon, is one of the most resplendent castles in Europe. It attracts many visitors, including, it is said, a headless knight, a wandering woman in a nightgown, and the apparition of an old man who strolls through castle walls.

Wiltshire

Littlecote House, between Hungerford and Ramsbury is said to be one of England's most haunted homes – with 20 ghosts. `Wild Darrell', the 16th century owner, who threw his illegitimate baby into a fire, was killed years later when he fell from his horse. The horse, it is said, reared up when frightened by the `pale shape' of a baby. Many visitors claim to have seen Wild Darrell, at the stile where he met his fate.

At AVEBURY, near Swindon, there is a bizarre Stone Circle. When there is a full moon, it is said that small figures dance among the stones re-enacting their pagan rituals. And nearby, the Tudor manor house is haunted by a White Lady, said to be forever grieving for her lover killed in the Civil War.

 

ends

London's Spy Trail

London is such a popular travel destination, it is hard to believe it has any travel secrets left to give up. Wrong. Any aficionado of spy stories knows that when it comes to tales of espionage, all trails lead to London. Here is an introduction to discovering the secret world of London, in fact and fiction. To follow up 'on the spot', search Movie and Literary locations in the London area using UNreal Britain’s URP Explorer.

LONDON – Bond lives here. James Bond. Some people think they've even named a street after him …

CasinoRoyalecoverSo does ‘The Saint’ Simon Templar, John Le Carre’s George Smiley, Len Deighton’s Harry Palmer, Sapper’s Bulldog Drummond, British Television’s The Avengers and countless heroes and anti-heroes of espionage created by other authors including Ian Fleming, Frederick Forsythe, Robert Ludlum, John Buchan, Stella Rimington, Eric Ambler, Leslie Charteris and John Gardner. Even Agatha Christie has a delve.

Not to forget former British SAS soldiers Andy McNab and Chris Ryan, who cannot resist including London in spy action plots they now devise as thriller writers.

Those who follow such things closely know that James Bond – agent 007, British Secret Service, licenced to kill, and thrill – actually lives in the charming suburb of Chelsea, in a small, comfortable flat in a tree-lined square ‘off the King’s Road’.

Simon Templar, the Saint – though not strictly an intelligence operates, but certainly in ‘the business’ – has an apartment in Piccadilly, not far from The Ritz. Seeing he was 32 years of age in 1936, if he still inhabits his flat, he’s sitting on a fortune as a centenarian plus 15 years and counting.

One of the many models for Ian Fleming’s James Bond, Bulldog Drummond, also happened to live and operate in London’s West End.

Original Cinema Quad Poster - Movie Film Posters John le Carre, ever the stickler for realism, even goes so far as to name George Smiley’s address from his ‘business card’ in the novel The Spy Who Came In from the Cold: Mr George Smiley, 9 Bywater Street, Chelsea.

WHERE IT ALL SECRETLY BEGAN

It is all part of a rich fictional pageant of secret adventure staged in London. Through London, beneath its royal veneer, runs an undercurrent of mystery. This city, where intelligence became a formal occupation in the late 1800s, has long been the inspiration and setting for tales of heroism, derring-do and dark deeds.

World War I was the galvanising event for modern espionage. It was in this conflict that communications, counter-surveillance and secret codes came to the fore. The cypher became an art form and concealment systems and equipment for the modern espionage professional developed.

The nomenclatures MI5 and MI6 (the MI standing for Military Intelligence) came into being and has stuck ever since, even when the post-war official names became so much more alluring: Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) and British Security Service (MI5).

London was one of the main focuses of espionage and, when Jules Silber took a job in the Office of Postal Censorship in London in 1915 and began passing on unreleased information to Germany via the US, he demonstrated how vital an inside agent could be. Silber was never caught, by the way, but later outed himself in an autobiographical book, The Invisible Weapons in 1932.

I SPY FACT OR FICTION

These spy rings and how they functioned are presented factually in the book by H Keith Melton, The Ultimate Spy Book (published by Dorling Kindersley Ltd, 1996). Both spy history and explanations of spy craft make this a fascinating read, but shhhh, you may have to keep some of these techniques to yourself.

Ian Fleming with Sean Connery.

If you prefer a more fictionalised approach to the birth of espionage in London, try John Gardiner’s book, The Secret Generations – with large parts of it deliciously set in London. A former Royal Marine commando, Gardiner, of course, was the author chosen by Ian Fleming Publications Trust to continue the James Bond book series after Fleming’s death, penning 14 new Bond novels and adaptations of two Bond movie screenplays.

Probably the world’s best-known espionage author of certainly the world’s best-known agent – Bond, James Bond – Ian Fleming himself worked for Royal Naval Intelligence during World War II, and was thought to still be in the business as he travelled the world working as a newspaper and news bureau correspondent in later years.

 

In fact, many of the characters he developed for the Bond novels were borrowed from people he met in those times, notably the British Secret Service operative Dikko Henderson from You Only Live Twice, who was fashioned after his journalist friend, Australian Richard Hughes, based in Hong Kong.

It is this experience that gives Fleming’s fantastic tales large shots of realism.

According to Fleming, who ought to know, James Bond’s office is in a rather mysterious grey building near Regent’s Park, northern London. His ‘firm’ goes under the alias of Universal Exports.

Presumably Bond worked from this office until the Secret Service moved to a more accommodating modern new-build premises on the River Thames in 1995, at 85 Albert Bank, Vauxhall, on the opposite bank from Westminster.

M takes Bond to dinner at his club, Blade’s, located at Park Place, off St James’s Street. Blades is most likely an amalgam of several clubs Fleming himself frequented, particularly Boodle’s, Portland Club, White’s and Brooks’s. In fact, there is an entire chapter on this club in Moonraker in which we learn the heightened culinary awareness of Bond (and in this respect, he is quite like his creator).

Bond likes to eat lunch and reflect on things at Queen Mary’s Rose Garden, Regent’s Park. You can go there too, for free, today and try to spy that mysterious grey building Bond speaks about … take your sandwiches and Thermos and get in a few chapters of Fleming. But keep your eyes peeled for shady characters.

BEYOND BOND

Thriller writer Frederick Forsyth has created many characters in the clandestine world – and most of them either live in London or their various missions take place in the London streets where the real work gets done. Forsyth is renowned for pacing these streets of London to arrive at his meticulous accuracy – and it is said that he has been advised by ‘friends’ who are actively engaged in MI5 and MI6 intelligence work. 

The clever thing about Forsyth’s novels is how he weaves real intelligence incidents and people into works of believable fiction. For instance, in his nuclear-threat novel The Fourth Protocol, we read letters from Communist defector Kim Philby, who is assisting the USSR in staging a ‘nuclear accident’ at a US Air Force base in England, which will cause great political chaos between Britain and the US.

For those on the London spy trail, the scenes in which MI5’s ‘watchers’ are tailing suspects through the streets of London are some of the most thrilling in The Fourth Protocol. You can even read the novel in those locations and get a real feel for what the clandestine world is like.

“ … The Londoner left his Belgravia apartment every day at the same hour, walked to Hyde Park Corner, turned down Constitution Hill and across St James’s Park. That brought him to Horse Guards Parade. He went across this, traversed Whitehall and straight into the Ministry … ”

Forsyth is known to meticulously check his plots, to the point of pacing out the routes he describes, planning each scene for realistic action by going to the spot, observing, measuring and taking detailed notes. Who knows, on one of your walks around London, you may run into him?

(Forsythe’s attention to detail in The Fourth Protocol also provides one of the best descriptions of the differences between the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) and the Security Service (MI5). The hero of the tale, John Preston, works for the Security Service’s F Branch, which investigates extremist political parties in Britain. Forsyth casually mentions locations of so much espionage-related detail, down to where British ‘listening’ and communications sites arelocated. Take a look. You can be sure that if Forsyth is right, they will be watching you too.)

For a quick fix, you can watch the movie of the same name, starring Michael Caine as Preston and a certain young fellow named Pierce Brosnan as a very convincing Soviet agent.

Caine previously played agent Harry Palmer in the movie adaptations of Len Deighton’s novels, while Brosnan certainly changed his stripes when he later joined the Bond movie franchise from Goldeneye onwards.

 

Skyfall poster

PROFESSIONALS APPROACH

Many 50-something visitors to London today will want to seek out some of the more noteworthy street scenes of the television equivalent of MI5: The Professionals.That’s right, remember Bodie and Doyle of the shadowy agency CI5?

From a time when a V6 European Ford Capri racing around London streets was the height of TV espionage action, there are innumerable places that, as you walk around, will suddenly spark your subconscious … haven’t I seen this place before?

Chances are, yes you have. Bodie and Doyle (played by Martin Shaw and Lewis Collins) managing to skid around most parts of London throughout the series’ 57 episodes produced by London Weekend Television from 1977 to 1983. There are still a few of those evocative Ford Capris getting around today as well, by the way.

A poignant place to conclude this introduction to the London Spy Trail is the headquarters of all this intrigue, the Secret Intelligence Service Headquarters on Albert Embankment, right beside Vauxhall Bridge, within visual surveillance distance of the Houses of Parliament.

How can you spot the headquart3ers of the world’s most famous secret service organisation?

For a start, we originally saw it right up there on the big screen in the Bond movie, Goldeneye. Rather cheekily at the time, when Bond returns home after a mission in Russia, we are shown directly to the building which houses his office.
Then, in Tomorrow Never Dies, Bond returns from a successful mission to find he has been duped into bringing an explosive device onto the premises which blows a hole in the front of the building for all to see …

And from that point onwards the building plays a pivotal role in further Brosnan Bond plots and on into the 21st century’s energetic exploits of Daniel Craig’s James Bond.

It is said that action set in and around that headquarters is encouraged by SIS/MI6, to give the service a recruiting edge.

So it’s the real thing.

Or is it? Would a secret intelligence organisation really be based in such a publicly recognisable building?
You might just have to snoop around London some more, and find out for yourself.

Check out UNreal Britain’s movie location URPs.