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RAF Radar Museum

With the motto "we watch over the sky" this museum charts the fascinating history of air defence radar

An Introduction to the RAF Radar Defence Museum at Neatishead

1950's Ops Room
Jaguar
Fighters
WW2 Ops
Cold War

The sign by the door reads "it's bigger than you think" and it is right. This is no small museum (you will be handed a map as you enter!) and it depicts the secret world of RAF defence radar using many exhibits, models, photos, light and sound. It's centre piece is a Cold War Operations Room, left exactly as it was during 1954. There is also a replica operations room from the Battle of Britain and an updated operations room from 1942. But that is only the beginning, as the exhibition goes on to show the role of the Royal Observer Corps, a fascinating showcase of Air Intelligence Photography, a display devoted to Telecommunications. At the end of the museum is a number of rooms dedicated to nearby RAF Coltishall, which sadly ceased flying operations in 2006. The exhibits are housed in buildings attached to RAF Neatishead, established in 1941. You can either wander the labyrinth of corridors and explore for yourself or a volunteer guide will show you around and tell you their story. Things for kids (and grown ups) include button pressing and even a cockpit of a Jaguar Jet fighter that you can sit in. There is a cafe and shop.
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RAF Air Defence Radar Museum Guided Picture Tour


We start our tour of the museum by admiring the outside exhibits, including various vehicles, mobile radar and even a Bloodhound surface to air missile (SAM).
Outside
Mobile Radar
Missile
Bloodhound SAM

The first major display you will come across is the Battle of Britain and 1942 operations rooms. In here you can see the tables on which mainly women from the WAAF would plot the routes of enemy and friendly aircraft. Radar at this time did not control battle situations, but enabled the defending aircraft to be deployed as required without the need for wasteful patrols.
Battle Britain
Battle of Britain Operations Room
1942 Operations
Updated Operations Room from 1942

Meet 2 Battle of Britain ACES!!! Douglas Bader were stationed at nearby Coltishall from 1940 to 1941, flying Hurricanes in which he recorded 12 kills, despite famously loosing both his legs in a flying accident in 1931. You can see his famous rabbit that he carried with him. The other hero is the lesser known Wing Commander John Braham, who recorded 29 kills. In June 1944 he was shot down over Denmark and taken prisoner until the end of the war. The museum is full of stories like these.
Douglas Bader
Douglas Bader and his rabbit
John Braham
John Braham

Other areas of the museum show the history of radar and related items such as cameras, airplanes and shelters.
1950's Operations
1950's Operations Room
Camera
General Purpose Camera
Anderson Shelter
Anderson Shelter
Airplane Models
RAF Airplane Models

The highlight of the museum is the Cold War Operations Room. Following the end of WW2, there was an uneasy peace and during the 1950's the West entered a hostile confrontation with the USSR. Here in this room, Britain conducted surveillance and defensive measures against a very real threat of nuclear attack. This Operations Room carried out a key NATO role in the defence of Britain during this period of world history.
Cold War
Cold War Operations Room
Cold War
Cold War Operations Room

Finally, a new addition to the museum is the Coltishall memorial rooms. Flying ceased in 2006 and these rooms host many exhibits charting the history of the famous airbase just down the road. Fighter Controllers based at RAF Neatishead had controlled the famous fighter aircraft based at RAF Coltishall for nearly 65 years and it is great to see this association retained. The rooms contain all kinds of exhibits, including photographs and even amusing paintings taken from the nose of jets from RAF Coltishall that fought in the Gulf War! In another part of the museum you will find the cockpit of a Jaguar jet fighter based at RAF Coltishall.
Jaguar & Spitfire
Jaguar and Spitfire Fighters from RAF Coltishall
Jaguar Cockpit
Jaguar Cockpit
Sadam Picture
Sadam painting from a Jaguar aircraft stationed at RAF Coltishall during the Gulf War
Girl Picture
Girl painting from a Jaguar aircraft stationed at RAF Coltishall during the Gulf War

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RAF Air Defence Museum summary of what to SEE

The Battle of Britain Room
1942 Final GCI Room
Cold War Operations Room
The History Room
The Serco Exhibition Hall
RAF Coltishall Memorial Rooms
 
The museum can found just north of Horning at Neatishead in the heart of the Norfolk Broads. The museum is open 10am to 5pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays (April to October only), the 2nd Saturday each month and Bank Holidays. Entry costs £4.50 for adults, children £3.50. Tel: 01692 631485

Our Verdict

You only need a slight interest in radar or flying to enjoy this museum. There is so much to see, that it will easily take 3+ hours to explore this fascinating museum - the Cold War room is amazing.
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