Sunday, 20 July 2014

On Your Bike: A Day Out at the Imperial War Museum Duxford

It might be stating the obvious but we have got a lot of love for the Home Front and World War 2 here at HQ, it's putting it politely to say we are bit geeky about it. So what is a better place to have an office outing, and get our wartime fix, than at the brilliant Imperial War Museum Duxford.

Our first treat was watching a spitfire flight whilst eating our delicious lunch.

It was our first time there, having previously frequented it's sisters in London and would thoroughly recommend it, for all ages and all levels of interest in aviation. We went in early June, just before the D-Day landing's 70th anniversary and spent all day wandering around the brilliant site.

We started our day in the AirSpace hanger which is the largest on site and literally full of planes. It tells the story of aviation history in Britain and the Commonwealth through film, activities, boards and the largest collection of planes, trucks and cars we have ever seen. 

Some of the trucks that we fell in love with.
Inside the AirSpace, where you can get your fill of planes

The AirSpace also has a great exhibition about the Wright brothers flight, an interesting museum about the Parachute Regiment and Airborne Forces, the chance to go in Concorde and much more. Be warned you can lose hours in here, the only thing that got us out was the allure of food.

Next up, after our scrummy lunch (a vegatable flan which was devine in their Mess Resturant) and spitfire entertainment, we strolled up to the furthest point of the site, the Land Warfare, so we could work our way back down. The walk is about 10 minutes and gives you a chance to take in some of the outside exhibits.

On the left is the view from the furthest point of the site and on the left the view on the way there.

From the trenches of World War 1 to the jungles of Malaysia, the Land Warfare building is all about the ground level fighting. This is where, once you've made it through the trenches, you find yourself at the D-Day exhibition and on a landing craft that's hit the shore.

Your call to the shore from the D-Day landing craft.

The exhibition that follows is a really interesting insight to the whole operation through the pages of one mans diary, equipment and vehicles of the time.

It was really interesting to see the amount of machines used and also the huge scale of the operation which is marked out on large maps dotted around.

This is also the place where you can feel the weight of a soilders kit bag (heavy we might like to add) and look at the clothes the soldiers wore, cue a silly picture of our boss, Hatty, in a tin hat on the right and a British Army boot on the left.

After the Land Warfare exhibit, we started to make our way back down the site, with our next port of call being the American Air Museum. This was our favourite building at Duxford with it's huge glass front that can come away when the air craft inside are maneuvered  about.

Stock picture from here 

In here, as you might have guessed, is full of american bits and bobs. It houses the largest collection of US historic military air craft in Europe and also has interesting pieces of american military history dotted around and array of vehicles too. There are also some interesting videos about the different campaigns that the american planes all around you have been involved in.

As you come out of the American Air Museum and turn right, you find, as we did, a little prefab house which is set up inside as one would be from the 1940's/50's.

The picture of the outside comes from here and the picture of the right is from the kitchen.

Each room is set up with furniture and items from the era, many of which we noticed we have matching stored away at HQ.

Behind the house was an Anderson shelter and a victory garden, which being home front geeks we are, we loved seeing the set up. The victory garden gave us loads of ideas for our little spaces at home and answered some of our questions about how easy it would have been to get seeds in the war (It wasn't, many came from last years crop and friendly neighbors and it wasn't till later on in the war were seeds imported from the common wealth countries). We also all agreed the shelter didn't look the most comfortable way to spend a night time raid and we probably would have opted for the Morrison.

The Anderson shelter behind the prefab and a little sneak inside.

The Victory garden which looked mightly scrummy

The next stop on our route back down was to the recently opened, reconstruction of a 1940's Operations room, which would have directed the fighter planes into combat during the Battle of Britain. Although the original fixtures and fittings have long been removed, they have reconstructed the rooms back to how they would have looked...

...using photographs, recollections and documents, down to the smallest details like the tape on the walls to stop the glass going everywhere during a raid.

During the numerous air raids that the building came under, the staff regularly chose to stay at their stations as their job was so important, which are in awe of, we aren't sure how well we would have fared in the same situation.  The actual operations room at Duxford was only hit once during a raid and no one was injured.

We kept the Home Front in mind as we moved on and entered the Battle of Britain hanger, which documents our "Finest Hour"

There are several machines on show including a replica of a German plane that crashed into a field, reconstructed even to include the Home Guard who watched it and its exact bend in its wing. You can also look at the planes which protected the skies, the ambulances and movable canteens that worked tirelessly during the air raids and also a shelter with a model family inside, confirming our suspicions about crampness during the raids.                                                                                                                                             You can just see the german plane on the right


The picture to the right is of ambulances and canteens used during world war 2 and an Anderson shelter complete with cramped family inside

There was also a lot of information about the war time campaigns and their accompanying posters, games to test your home front knowledge (9/10 just in case you wanted to know) and films and pictures all about the sacrifice "so few" made for "so many". Probably our favourite building of the day (apart the gift shop, of course)

Just outside the Home Front hanger is a new little room all about the history of the airfield which is very cool. There are videos about all the guys and gals who used to work there, loads of artifacts from Duxford's history and even a place to try on some of the RAF uniforms which of course we did. It's really interesting to learn a little more about the place.

That was the last building on our visit and we started to make our way back when we got our last treat of the day, the spitfire we watched flying earlier was being taken back to its storage hanger so we got the chance to have a really good look at the gorgeous flying machine.

Finally we finished up in the gift shop where we wanted to buy it all, there are books on all parts of aviation history to the Home Front, cute flying goggles, posters for all the Home Front campaigns and even ration chocolate and really so much more, we recommend leaving a lot of time for it.

And that was where we finished, tired, purses empty (blame the shop) but having thoroughly enjoyed our day, we most definitely recommend it :)

Top Tips
1. Wear comfy shoes, you will be doing a lot of walking so make sure you have something on your feet that's kind to them

2. Bring enough money to by the whole gift shop, we have never walked in somewhere where we have wanted to much.

3. Give it the whole day. We had plans to pop in to Cambridge after we had finished but we spent all day at Duxford and still didn't fit it all in.

4. Take an umbrella. Although nearly all of the exhibits are inside, if it looks like rain take a brolly as you do have to walk a far way in between the hangers.

This blog falls into our On Your Bike series which is all about adventures whether it's out on your bike, a vintage train day or even a themed day. It also has bike maintenance, hair styles for your adventures and more. Find out more about this series and our others at on our Overview blog or find more in the same series by pressing the "On Your Bike" tab at the top of the page. 

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Our Updates - A New About Us

At What’s your tale, Nightingale? our dastardly plan is to look back through the past and find the best parts of it to bring to you. We want to revive the ideals of Home Front Britain, discover the clothes from swinging sixties, breathe new life into the furniture from the atomic 50’s and round up all the rest we find along the way. We then bring them to you on our website, at fairs and online and show you how you can seamlessly add all of them to the modern day.
Vintage items are unique, well made and the best part, they have a story. From a dress worn on a first date to jumper worn at every beach trip, you know you'll be getting something that has lived a life before. We want to bring these gorgeous pieces to you and show you how you can add those items into your wardrobe today.
Nightingales was started with sustainability at its heart, we wanted to bring back beautiful items to be reloved and reused again and when we started to look back, we realised that it wasn't just the pieces that could blend so easily into today. The ideals and campaigns of Home Front Britain got us through two world wars and gave everyone the sense of purpose they needed to keep going with grace and style. We want to revive some of these lost ideals to make today a little brighter. We know we don't have a common enemy we can put a face to or real bombs raining down on our heads each night but we do have shared problems that need to be worked out. So we want to bring back those campaigns through blogs and pin boards and show you how you can reduce your impact in a fun easy way.
And now we've got you hooked on our way of thinking, you can find us trawling the country with our mobile shop at several vintage fairs and festivals or pop online at our website or come see our little shop downstairs at Ruby's tea room Colchester.
If you want to keep up to date with the rest of dasterdly plans, follow us on Twitter at @WYTNightingale and on Facebook at

This blog falls into our Our Updates series which is all about keeping you up to date with our dastardly plans. Find out more about this series and our others at on our Overview blog or find more in the same series by pressing the "Our Updates" tab at the top of the page.