The York Aircraft Museum, Elvington May 1st, 2015

We went to Elvington, near York, and to the York Aircraft Museum which is situated on what was a WW2 Bomber Command base, now shared with a “driving experience” outfit on what used to be the runways, which meant that the soundtrack to the visit was provided by a number of exotic looking (and sounding) sports cars.

Lunch first, in the NAAFI, where a very acceptable beef stew and dumplings seemed appropriate, with a halfway decent coffee. I have long been interested in aircraft and flying. That interest was closer to obsession in my early teens until my ambition to join the RAF as aircrew was bombed by a diagnosis of slight but sufficient colour blindness. The pain of that has long since worn off (well, sort of) but the interest still lurks somewhere in the back of my head.

Most of the exhibits are outside, inevitably. Most of them also are combat aircraft, ranging from the lethal efficiency of a French Mirage (funny how an aircraft can somehow look French!) to the massively voluptuous curves of a Victor tanker. It’s odd how machines that have such a brutal function can look so – beautiful really. I think it has to do with the efficiency of design demanded by good aerodynamics. Even the big Nimrod reconnaissance aircraft just looks right somehow – “fit for purpose”. It might be argued of course that the purpose is defence, rather than offence. That’s the great dilemma of course – is the launching of such massively destructive power the best way of defending our national (or personal) security? Enjoying being in the presence of these lovely, savage machines feels like something of a guilty pleasure, conflicting with the growing notion within me that the only way to rid myself of my enemies is to make them my friends (as someone once said).

In the hangers are many restoration projects, some of them complete, others still works in progress. Here the emphasis is rather more historic; the aircraft being mostly, though not exclusively, from WW2. Some in fact are very old – or are at least replicas of the very earliest attempts at powered flight. These latter tend to be hung up in the roof and so are less early visible, although making an odd contrast with, for instance, a Mosquito and a Jet Provost. The enemy has a little representation here too, in the shape of a Messerschmidt ME109, oddly angular especially when compared to its great foe (and ultimate nemesis) the Spitfire, which in fact stands in solitary splendour outside. The Spitfire remains in my eyes one of the most beautiful of human artefacts, a combination of art and engineering which is just lovely to look at.

We both found the WW2 emphasis a little oppressive, particularly in the informative displays of the history of that conflict which, not surprisingly, majored on the history of the Elvington base and the work of Bomber Command. Stunning as always was the sheer number of the casualties – and their youth. That so many young lives were lost, sacrificed or torn away, depending on ones perspective is beyond comprehension – is it also beyond justification? Presumably not if the defensive objective was achieved ….. but then again …..

So a visit that stirred mixed emotions. I made a lot of images, most of which I’m pleased with from the photographic point of view. Here’s a gallery …….

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