To celebrate the release of The Sky Above Us, I’m conducting a photo tour of locations from the novel that I saw on my research trip to England and Normandy.
Today—Duxford Air Museum
The Queen Mary (sister ship of the Queen Elizabeth)
In The Sky Above Us, Adler Paxton flies his P-51 Mustang with the 357th Fighter Group based at Leiston Army Airfield in Leiston, England. Today we’re visiting the air museum at the Imperial War Museum in Duxford, England. Built in 1917, Duxford Airfield served as a sector station for RAF Number 12 Group of Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain, and in April 1943 it was passed to the 78th Fighter Group of the US Eighth Air Force, which flew P-47 Thunderbolts and later P-51 Mustangs.
Today Duxford is the home of a complex of excellent museums—from general aviation to the Battle of Britain to the American Air Museum. You can watch restoration in process, and when weather permits, the historic aircraft take to the air.
Many of the airfield’s original structures remain or have been restored. Here are pictures of the control tower, the operations room (which is set up as it was during the Battle of Britain in 1940-41), and the corrugated tin Nissen huts. Since Duxford was a permanent airfield, the airmen were housed in heated brick barracks, far more luxurious than the coal-stove-heated temporary Nissen huts used at other US Eighth and Ninth Air Force air bases.
The Battle of Britain museum houses the RAF Hurricanes and Spitfires that won that pivotal battle, a German Messerschmitt Me 109, as well as an antiaircraft gun and searchlight that were so crucial in defending the British airfields from the Luftwaffe.
Duxford also commemorates the Yanks who invaded the island, with an excellent exhibit in the American Air Museum and loving restorations of B-17 Flying Fortress Sally B and several P-51 Mustangs. Of course, I was thrilled to see two P-51s with the red-and-yellow checked markings of the 357th Fighter Group. They also have on display a “paper” drop tank (actually a paper-plastic composition). These extraordinarily lightweight tanks carried 108 gallons under the Mustang’s wings, could be easily dropped if the fighter needed to engage the enemy, and they extended the range of the P-51 to reach any location in Germany. One of the many reasons the P-51 is—arguably—the best fighter aircraft of World War II.
Just for fun…here are some short video clips I took of B-17 Flying Fortress Sally B and an RAF Spitfire in flight! What a treat it was to see this beautiful planes flying in England!
Please join me tomorrow for a tour of the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California, the sister ship of the Queen Elizabeth, which transported both Adler and Violet from New York to England.