There is a museum in Bucks where children can climb inside a plane’s cockpit and try a 1940’s shooting experience – but few people in the Vale know it even exists.
The Trenchard Museum boasts free entry and is based at RAF Halton.
But unlike other attractions, parents have to register beforehand and wait in the airbase’s guard room before being escorted to the site.
Inside it shows how life in The RAF has changed, how helicopter and plane engines work and gives an insight into the weapons used by recruits.
Francis Hanford, a volunteer at the museum for the last 16 years who worked at the airbase until 1996, said: “Children of all ages enjoy it. In this museum we have the advantage that you are allowed to touch things.”
Youngsters can pick up ‘recognition books’ showing the types of aircraft to look out for during the Second World War – the sort of thing a 1940’s child might spend their pocket money on.
There are also examples of a 500lb bomb, machines guns and basic infantry rifles.
Well-behaved youngsters can even try a 1940s shooting experience, which is an ammunition-free way of seeing if you can line up a rifle to hit a target.
Currently 6,000 visitors a year look around the museum, which was opened in 1999 by the grandson of the ‘Father of the RAF’ Viscount Trenchard.
Most of the visitors are parents of recruits who come to see what life is like at the airbase.
The museum has a display comparing a current trainee’s quarters with the rooms of the 50s and 60s.
It also lists special events in the airbase’s history – such as the time bosses invited the head of the German airforce to come and have a look around in 1937 (as a means of showing Britain was ready for war).
The airbase’s proud sporting history is also on show in a section aboutDon Finlay, dubbed ‘the greatest athlete you have never heard of’. Finlay trained at the airbase and returned as an instructor, after captaining the British Olympic Team at the Berlin Games in 1936 and winning a silver medal.
There are also tributes to the 116 Halton-connected pilots who flew during the Battle Of Britain and examples of how recruits used their spare time in the 30s - where it was common to take part in am-dram shows or learn to play an instrument.
The museum is open on Tuesdays and on other days by appointment. For details call 01296 656841 or visit www.trenchardmuseum.org.uk