Visit to the RAF Museum Reserve Collection at Stafford, 2nd February 2009
This visit had been arranged at reasonably short notice as an early season "warm-up" to shake off the winter blues. As it turned out, we set off from Suffolk in the worst winter weather for 18 years! However, not to be put off with a little snow, we headed north to our appointment at the Stafford. As is well known, the RAF Museum Reserve Collection is not located near the main gate of the massive RAF Stafford logistics complex, but a couple of miles behind it, and our visit members duly turned up here at roughly the right time.
After arrival we were guided round the storage facility by an incredibly enthusiastic curator who seemed very pleased to have an excuse to get a break from a two year stint at collating old RAF clothing! His knowledge of almost every item in the collection seems astonishing when you consider the incredibly vast number of items that are housed here.
Initially, we were shown round the whole facility, with many interesting and important items being shown to us in a most informative manner. Then, we were left to our own devices, allowed to wander at will and photograph whatever we liked.
The staff were always on hand to answer any of our questions, and I don't think that we ever managed to stump them, no matter how obscure our queries were. They really do seem to take a lot of pride and enjoyment in their work, and have amassed a fantastic amount of knowledge.
The Reserve Collection houses a number of aircraft as well as a massive collection of items that are not currently needed for display at the main RAF Museum locations (Hendon and Cosford). There are also items here which duplicate things already displayed, and items which may be "swapped" with other Museums if needed. For example, the collection has a number of JP233 runway denial munitions. This type of weapon was used during the first Gulf War by RAF Tornadoes, but has now been removed from the inventory. An exchange of one of these was arranged by the USAF Museum, in return for an F-111 fighter bomber for the Cold War Exhibition at Cosford. The Aardvark was duly delivered to the UK inside a C-5 Galaxy, but when the JP233 was sent in the other direction it was impounded by US Customs as it was now an "illegal" weapon as it dispensed time-released munitions. It took some weeks of negotiations before the obviously de-commissioned was finally released for display in the US.
Another example of this "swap" policy can be seen as the Reserve Collection here has no less than FIVE Spitfires here, and one of them is earmarked for despatch to Australia shortly in exchange for a much sought after Boston, which has been a long term acquisition target for the RAF Museum, filling a significant gap.
Our members spent the morning wandering around the collection at will, and I am sure many of them would still be wandering around this "Aladdin's Cave" even now, exploring and investigating all the exhibits. Eventually at lunchtime we had to depart, and leave the staff to get back to their normal work. One of the tasks being undertaken was to clear some space in anticipation of the imminent arrival of a few new aircraft from another location.
Each of our visiting members contributed to a collection, and a cheque for the full amount collected was sent to the RAF Museum.
Thanks must go to the staff at the Reserve Collection for their invaluable assistance.
Listed below are the aircraft noted during our visit:-
|J-1172||Vampire FB6||Ex Swiss AF|
|P7816||Spitfire II||Boxes of parts|
|R9371||Halifax II||Very small cockpit section|
|LK488||Stirling BIII||Major sections|
|PM651||Spitfire PRXIX||Coded X|
|RW393||Spitfire LFXVIE||Coded 4D-V|
|ZJ493||Jindivik||Also RAAF A92-814|