Soldiers of Oxfordshire – RAF Brize Norton: 80 Years of History – until September

Brize Norton: 80 Years of History is a new exhibition at Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum (SOFO) which explores the history of one of the country’s most famous air bases. The exhibition, curated by RAF Brize Norton itself, documents the construction of the base in 1935 through to its use in the present day.

The exhibition includes various items of engineering training kit, including a section of a Tri Star Control unit which children can use.

This includes a look into Brize’s use during WWII as a base for parachute and glider operations – most famously, Brize squadrons were involved in dropping paratroops and launching Horsa gliders on D Day. A reconstruction of a Horsa glider which visitors can sit inside and learn more about Oxfordshire soldiers’ involvement is also part of SOFO’s permanent displays.

The exhibits also document the way in which the United States Airforce (USAF) changed the base when they formally accepted control of it on 16 April 1951. 21 B36 Convair Peacemaker bombers were the first US aircraft to arrive at RAF Brize Norton.

In 1965 the RAF took back control of the base, at which point it became a Transport Command Airfield before a steady build-up of personnel and facilities would see it take on a role as the Strategic Air Transport base for the Royal Air Force. This effectively set the scene for its use during modern conflict and the role the base plays on the world stage now. Links with the USAF were well maintained, however, with the base hosting several large scale tanker deployments, culminating with a major deployment supporting the air campaign in Kosovo.

Brize would play a significant part in the Falklands War, moving personnel, stores and ammunition to the Ascension Islands as well as recovering casualties and repatriations at the end of the conflict. The base’s large tanker force was also instrumental during the Gulf War in 1991.

A significant part of the exhibition focuses on stories the Royal Auxiliary Air Force Squadrons recruited locally and based at RAF Brize Norton in 1982. Namely, No.4624 (County of Oxford) Movements Squadron and No. 2624 (County of Oxford) Regiment Squadron, whose history is told through personal accounts of members’ experiences.

Open now, RAF Brize Norton: 80 Years of History runs until September 2017. SOFO is open Tuesday-Saturday, 10am to 5pm, and Sundays 2pm – 5pm.