Shell History Trip

Shell Tom Leeson writes: We woke up on a fresh and brisk Wednesday morning and were raring to go to the Imperial War Museum, Duxford.

When we got to Duxford the sun was shining and it felt like summer was upon us; I bet a polar opposite to the fear and terror of the war years. First, we listened to an extremely interesting talk on WWI and looked at original artefacts, including a kettle attached to a pan (to reduce noise), a club for in-trench warfare and a hand grenade that would have been used to clear trenches in order to extend them – rather than the traditional use of an offensive weapon.

After our talk we were given the amazing opportunity to explore a WWI airplane fighter jet and helicopter hangar. It was amazing to experience and look at some of the most iconic planes ever to have graced the sky like the Flying Fortress (Boeing B17) and the legendary Vulcan. My favourite part of this hangar, though, was being able to walk through Concorde, the fastest ever commercial plane, as it was on display in a temporary exhibition — it was incredible to have access to an original.

After lunch we had a talk on WWII and, again, we again we were given original objects to handle and hold. These included a pilot’s helmet with headphones, the same technology in use today, as well as binoculars used by a wingman to spy on enemy bases as they flew overhead. They were also used by plane spotters who triggered blackouts and air raid warnings. After this we visited the original communications room where the Generals would consult on how far their army had moved throughout the day. We all thought it was fascinating to see how the actual room looked during wartime and to learn about the operations system that was used.

After that came the highlight of the day: an aerial display by an original WWII Spitfire and Hurricane. The sound of the Rolls Royce engine in the Hurricane purred as it accelerated down the runway. It was amazing to see what the skies would have looked like in the Battle of Britain. It was simply stunning.

After the wonders of the Spitfire and Hurricane, we went to two different hangars full of WWII planes and boats. It is incredible to see how much technology had moved on since WWI and how much it has moved on since WWII. Boats have changed dramatically; they are now jam-packed with technology, completely different to the war.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Duxford. Apart from all the interesting exhibits, it was fascinating to learn that a number of OSE, including Douglas Bader, after whom the sports hall is named, was based at Duxford.

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