Sunday 30th June 2013
Twinwood Airfield near Bedford
At the risk of a bad pun this place wasn’t on my radar, but Dad’s a proud member of the National Service (RAF) Association, and they organised a day out here. My job was to drive, and plug the postcode into the satnav.
Being ex-forces, and therefore organised, the trip included lunch at the RAFA club in Bedford before a cavalcade of cars made the short trip via the village of Clapham ( a point learned- I thought the only Clapham was in London!) to the airfield.
The base was RAF Twinwood during World War II and is best known for being the airfield where in 1944 Glenn Miller boarded a Norseman aircraft, bound for France, and was never seen again. It seems slightly odd that a museum to him is in the control tower, the last place anyone saw him, but it is a fascinating insight to the time and to a man who, at least initially many thought of as a coward, until it was proven that his concerts were so valuable to morale, it more than outweighed any potential use he would have been as a fighting soldier.
That however isn’t all that’s on offer; there’s more museums on the site, based around the time of the Second World War, including a reconstruction of a WAAF’s hut. That caused a few smirks amongst the veterans,
“We’d have never got away with the stove like this!”
“My blankets were better folded…” and so on.
For those of us with no memory of that time the Summer of 44 museum is a wonderful collection of the mundane, the scales, the pots and pans, and the posters of the time. On their own these things mean nothing, together and in context they offer a viewpoint to the past.
There’s also the only Wartime Fire Service museum in the UK here, it takes the form of a 1940’s utility station inside one of the Nissen huts, and comes complete with fire truck!
A poignant section is the museum dedicated to aircraft recovery. You see the bent propellers and twisted engine parts, but what stops you in your tracks is the little photo of the pilot and crew with their ages. Few seemed to be over 25, it was something to reflect upon over a mug of tea in the NAAFI.
For me, as is the case with a lot of what I do, its the little things that resonate most with me. Be it the book on 300 ways to cook an egg, or the ARP warden’s hat, these are the things that with a little imagination put you right in the position of those people less than a century ago. That included the black edged postcard sent to inform a wife than in fact she was now a widow. That reminded me that in any war people on both sides suffer, and I have too many German friends to look at it any other way.