Bentley Priory Museum 26th February 2016
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Fifteen members left Longwater Retail Park at 7am. We passed Duxford where there were only a few light aircraft outside but we also saw where they are building a hanger for the Battle of Britain Lancaster. Stopping at Royston McDonalds we had our coffee break before setting off for Bentley Priory Museum at Stanmore.

By the car park stood scale models of a Spitfire and Hurricane I (P2921), on plinths amongst the modern apartments and villas. Passing through the Entrance Hall of the Officers Mess, which is now a museum of the old Mansion House, there were several stained glass windows, each one connected with the Battle of Britain and Bentley Priory's history. In the cafe we had a hot drink before being welcomed by our guide who would show us around each room at the museum and tell us the history of Bentley Priory and its various displays.

Starting back in the Entrance Hall we saw the windows and wonderful ceiling which had been white washed over and was discovered during restoration work after a fire in 1979. In the Abercorn Room, the history of the Priory and Hall before becoming owned by the R.A.F in 1926 was shown. An interactive mirror and pictures with certain buttons to press helped do this. Later it became the HQ of Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain and was central to the passing of messages to four Group Commands around England. These would pass the information on to local airfields as to when to launch their fighters. In the second half of the room there were the Crests of different Squadrons etc and desks with typewriters on top and drawers full of model aircraft and RAF Bentley Priory memorabilia. By the entrance to this room and stairs there was a large Battle of Britain Fighter Command panel made of Nottingham lace. This has Battle of Britain scenes such as the bombing of London and various aircraft. It took two years to design, 40,000 punched cards and 26,000 miles of Egyption Cotton.

Next we had a quick look at Queen Adalaide's Room where she spent the last year of her life unwell, before dying with dropsy, currently known as oedema. Later we had a film show near Dowding's Office, about Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding's leadership and the first integrated system of air defence which became known as "The Dowding System". The next room we visited was the wonderful Rotunda with paintings, drawings and RAF memorabilia from pilots during the Battle of Britain. Following this was the Filter Room with a table map with bronze figures each doing their various jobs marking the whereabouts of the hostile and friendly aircraft using markers and rods. In the Operations Room there was a model of how the original filter room would have looked as well as a Spitfire cockpit in which some of our members sat.

After our tour we gave our guide a mug and thanked him for taking us round. Later friendly volunteers were there to answer any questions as well as tell some stories of the pilots. They also showed a couple of us photos of the Cold War Bunker which is sadly filled in. We spent the rest of the time exploring on our own. The museum was officialy opened in 2013 by Prince Charles who is now the patron of the Bentley Priory Trust which was formed in 2006.

At 2:30pm we left. On the way back we passed RAF Lakenheath with its Super Sabre Gate Guard. Then we went via Brandon and Bodney where we saw the Desert Rats Memorial with a Cromwell tank on top. Later we passed where RAF Watton was and through a few other villages before arriving back at Longwater Retail Park.
Many thanks to Peter Wood for organising this most enjoyable trip and driving us there while another Peter drove us back.
By Andrew Elphick
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