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Imperial War Museum Duxford, Cambridgeshire

Red Arrows Over St Margaret's Bay Near Dover

The first powered flight of a heavier than air flying machine took place on December 17th 1903 in Dayton, Ohio. By the start of World War One aircraft were being used for reconnaissance over battlefields. Aircraft were then given machine guns, and the era of combat aircraft had begun.

The ominous effectiveness of aircraft as weapons was first demonstrated in Somaliland and in Afghanistan. In the early twentieth century Mullah Mohammed bin Abdullah Hassar of Somaliland, mounted a campaign against British rule. Between 1904 and 1918 the British mounted four expeditions against him, using thousands of men, at the cost of millions of pounds. Then on 21st January 1920 a bombing raid was mounted against Hassar at Medishe. The RAF unit consisted of 36 officers, 189 enlisted men, and six DH9 bombers. The raids continued twice daily. Within a month Hassar had escaped to Abyssinia, and the RAF unit was back in Britain. Winston Churchill told the House of Commons that it would have cost six million pounds to mount a conventional operation. The RAF operation cost £70,000. Aircraft provided an effective and cheap way to fight war. A single RAF aircraft had similar success against the emir of Afghanistan in 1919.


Aircraft hastened the move to a new sort of war which had no limits. It was no longer only people on a battlefield who were involved in fighting. Of course there had been sieges since the age of Troy in which civilians had been caught up in war, but generally speaking it had been groups of soldiers who fought each other in limited places called battlefields. With the coming of aircraft this was no longer true.

The Imperial War Museum Duxford has Europe's leading collection dedicated to air warfare. There is also a large collection of other military vehicles and naval exhibits, and a collection dedicated to the United States Air Force, which flew from Duxford during the Second World War.


Opening Times: Please use contact details below.

Address: Imperial War Museum, Duxford, Cambridgeshire CB22 4QR (old postcode CB2 4QR)

Directions: Duxford is in Cambridgeshire, just off the M11 at junction 10. Buses run every half an hour through the day from Bus Stop B in Emmanuel Street, Cambridge. People using the bus service receive discount on their museum admission charge. There is free car parking at the museum. Click here for an interactive map centred on the Imperial War Museum Duxford.

Access: Most of the site has level access. Adapted toilet facilities are available. Guide dogs are welcome, and touch sessions can be arranged on request.


telephone: 01223 835000

fax: 01223 837267


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©2007 InfoBritain (updated 12/12)