For a little bit longer.
So here comes the end of the June 2015 Travel Saga with the last few stops on our strange whirlwind World War II tour: London.
While we did the regular stops when passing through London—the theatre and strolling through the city—we had three final stops which we couldn’t pass up: The Battle of Britain War Memorial, Duxford with a stop in Cambridge and a day in Bletchley Park.
Each of these trips were scheduled as day trips and in panning your days, I would recommend taking the whole day to explore each of the sites as well as the surrounding areas—they each really have enough to do that and you’ll want the whole time!
Our day out was exploring the Battle of Britain War Museum
If you are out this way and a fan of history, it is a stop you can’t miss. Besides the great views—you can see the Cliffs of Dover from the outcropping as well as visit them if you have the time—and WWII vehicles you can look at around the grounds, the new Interactive Wing, and Scramble Experience really makes the visit.
There are interactive games, activities, and read along screens around the room which makes this a great learning stop for all ages and plays a great show covering the battle. It’s recommended you watch this twice to get everything and they happen regularly enough that it’s not off putting. I’d recommend hanging out at the main table to get a great a real view of each side.
There’s also an area in the back where you can try on bomber jackets and officer coats—sneak in a few pictures—though this is really meant for children so sizes are pretty limited.
With everything you can watch/read/do within this building, it’s easy to lose track of time which is another reason I really recommend keeping the rest of your day free – you don’t want to miss out.
The one thing that made this stop difficult was getting here.
The train was simple enough, but we had a truly difficult time figuring out which bus—and which bus stop—would take us to the memorial. When you do get on the bus—and it’s a bit of a ride, so grab seats if you can!—the easiest thing is to talk to the driver. Ours was very nice and called back to us when we got to our stop so we couldn’t miss it.
Day two had us out near Cambridge to explore the huge area which houses the Imperial War Museum, Duxford.
Duxford airfield is absolutely huge and there were no audioguides when we visited. Things can get a little confusing if you go out of order and it’s not hard to get lost, so pay attention to where you are.
For us, this was a lot of review so if you want the overview of the war, I’d make this my first stop and then hit the Battle of Britain War Museum for something deeper.
Still, there were interesting parts such as wandering an active air field and looking at retire planes of all types and sizes.
One thing to mention is watch the eating times. Some of the cafes only serve hot foods at specific times and they do keep to that schedule; therefore, if you plan to eat, plan it out!
One of my favorite parts of this day trip was wandering through Cambridge after we left the airfield. If this is your plan—once again—I really recommend talking to the bus driver. Ours gave us an impromptu tour and told us which stop to get off at as well as which direction we’d want to head to get to campus.
We seemed to be there around graduation, so a lot of areas were closed for that, but we did go punting down the Cam which was absolutely beautiful. This whole area made me wish I’d looked a little longer before picking a grad school but, alas, this is one stop I’ll be hitting again before I wrap up my stay in December!
Our last excursion had us cracking codes at Bletchley Park.
If you’ve seen The Imitation Game you will already know some of the history of the place and how important the work done here was. For me, it was fascinating learning about the amount of women working here as well as the way in which information moved—some buildings used chutes and brooms to pass work between them!
This is another great venue with interactive aspects—mostly in the main building—which teache you some of the coding and, before you leave, you should definitely stop in and see the explanation and demonstration with the Bombe—the code breaking machine shown in the film.
While they do have great audio guides, don’t fully depend on them or you will miss out on some gems. Throughout the green areas, hidden speakers play scenes which you might have witnessed when this was an active war site, from the sounds of children playing to a couple’s first date, which shows how alive this area was—it wasn’t all work!
Also, there is a walking tour which I recommend. The guides all seem great and we were lucky enough to find that ours was a writer on one of the period television shows my mom watches, so you are never sure what or who you will discover.
While we spent a good deal of the day here, we did not have enough time to see the whole thing, however, luckily the ticket allows you to visit for an entire year so that will be in the cards, along with another site nearby with other cryptography items.
If you are looking to visit WWII themed historic stops while you are in London, there are so many places I haven’t mentioned, but you can find out more by looking through The Imperial War Museum website as well as doing any other basic search you would undertake in your travel prep.
And that was our WWII tours conclusion and the end of my mom and sister’s visit which of course means the hardest part of travel—getting back to reality.
This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.