Permanent Battle of Britain exhibition goes on display at RAF Museum Cosford

A new permanent exhibition to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain has been created at RAF Museum Cosford.

Visitor experience assistant Dominic Newton next to a spitfire which features in the new exhibition to commemorate the Battle of Britain on its 80th anniversary
Visitor experience assistant Dominic Newton next to a spitfire which features in the new exhibition to commemorate the Battle of Britain on its 80th anniversary

Unseen objects from the museum's collection have been put on display for visitors to the site to help tell people's stories from that era.

And the world's oldest Spitfire – found at the museum – forms the centrepiece of the display, along with other RAF aircraft and their German rivals.

Touchscreen information is available in the new exhibition

Aircraft recognition cards – teaching pilots how to identify an enemy aircraft – and photographs of key people also feature in the exhibition.

A timetable of the major points of the battle is on display, along with the flying jacket from Wing Commander James Nicolson, who was awarded the Victoria Cross.

Mr Nicolson – who flew the Spitfire on show at Cosford – was the only recipient of the medal, awarded for his bravery during a battle near Southampton.

A flying jacket which belonged to Wing Commander James Nicolson, who was awarded the Victoria Cross

As a flight lieutenant, his aircraft was hit by cannon shells on August 16, 1940, two of which wounded him while another set fire to the gravity tank.

The pilot, who was about to abandon his aircraft, spotted an enemy fighter which he attacked and shot down – causing him to suffer burns to his hands, face, neck and legs, due to staying in his aircraft.

Michelle Worthington, communications manager for RAF Museum Cosford, said "Widely recognised as the country’s finest hour, the new interactive display tells the wider Battle of Britain story, utilising unique objects and aircraft, to explore the stories of the few and the many.

"Home to the world’s oldest Spitfire, the RAF Museum Cosford houses a collection of both British and German aircraft from the Battle of Britain era.

Pilots look through aircraft recognition cards, so they can check the differences between friend or foe.

"The Spitfire forms the centrepiece of the new display, where the RAF’s frontline fighters, the Spitfire, Hurricane, Gladiator and the Wolverhampton-built Boulton Paul Defiant are face to face with their German rivals the Me 109 and Ju88, to tell a coherent story.

"Previously unseen objects from the museum’s collection including a Rhino suit worn by Defiant Air Gunners, Dowding’s jacket, and artefacts from the plotting rooms, will share the stories of the people who helped win the battle, in the air and on the ground.

"A highlight of the new display is James Nicolson’s flying jacket, he was awarded the only Victoria Cross during the battle."

Frontline fighters, such as the Spitfire, Hurricane, Gladiator and Defiant, all feature in the exhibition – "face to face" with German rivals the Me109 and Ju88.

Other objects include a presentation plaque presented to the Wolverhampton Express & Star Fighter Fund by the Ministry of Aircraft Production, commemorating the purchase of Spitfire Vb AB917 – known as The Inspirer.

A plaque awarded to the Express & Star in 1940, for its contribution to raising funds for fighter aircraft, is part of the exhibition.

The Battle of Britain took place from July to September in 1940, as RAF pilots and aircrew defended Britain. More than 500 lives were lost during the battle, which has been recognised as the first major campaign to be fought entirely by air forces.

The interactive exhibition at Cosford opened on September 12 ahead of Battle of Britain Day – in which a large scale aerial battle took place – three days later.

The Luftwaffe launched its largest and most concentrated attack against London on September 15, 1940, in the hope of drawing out the RAF.

A timescale of the Battle of Britain

It saw around 1,500 aircraft take part in the battle which lasted until dusk and saw a decisive victory for RAF Fighter Command.

People wishing to see the exhibition at Cosford have been asked to pre-book their free ticket ahead of visiting, due to coronavirus.

Ms Worthington added: "Members of the public can view the exhibition seven days a week – and there's free entry, too.

Key people involved in the Battle of Britain.

"We're asking people to book in advance – due to coronavirus restrictions – but it's open for visitors to come and see."

To pre-book, visit rafmuseum.org

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