Duxford is very lucky to have an active veterans association. The ‘Old Dux’ are ex-Duxford personnel of all ranks and trades. They meet twice a year, here at Duxford, and communicate regularly via a newsletter.
I am very pleased to say that the Old Dux have given us permission to put some of their stories here on our blog for everyone to see. Many of them have been included in the newsletter over the years and I have really enjoyed going through them and picking out some extracts to share. The stories of the men and women who served here are vitally important to Historic Duxford and so it’s only fair they feature on the blog too!
I thought this poem was a good way to start:
Go pin your medals on; be proud they’re yours to wear,
Pull your shoulders back a bit and let the youngsters stare.
They are yours by right of war; by service to the crown.
They are symbols that you did not let your side down.
Wear them proudly on your chest and let all who will deride.
They are yours by right of war, so carry them with pride.
It is not known who wrote this poem but it reminded me how behind every set of medals worn by a veteran is a wealth of stories and experiences. Duxford’s veterans are no exception.
Do you know anyone who served or still serves in the armed forces? What are their war and peacetime stories?
The north side of the site here at Duxford is where people lived, ate, slept and socialised. It is separated from the technical side by the A505.
Now most of the buildings are occupied by museum departments and other companies but the feel of the place is amazing!
Did you know there was a cinema there which is still kitted out with stage, screen and seats (although not the originals)? Like all RAF station cinemas, it is called the ‘Astra Cinema’. This is taken from the RAF motto “Per Ardua ad Astra” which can be translated in different ways, but in relation to the RAF is often reported as: “Through Struggles to the Stars”.
The building that housed the cinema was also used as a gymnasium and church. It was built in 1940 and extended in 1941. An annexe, to house the projection equipment for the cinema, was added in 1955. In more recent years, many staff remember it as being a rather grand location for meetings and presentations!
If you want to see this intriguing place for yourself then you can book on an ‘Unseen Duxford – North Side tour’. It is well worth a visit and the guides that conduct the visits have some great stories to tell!
Sarah pointed out some time ago how often dogs appear in photographs of Duxford. Dogs and other animals were a key part of station life.
There are lots of accounts and photographs of pets and mascots at Duxford: the unnamed First World War donkey (below), the Station Commander’s horse, Flash the Alsatian (above), Rangy the Spaniel and No. 609 Squadron’s famous mascot “William de Goat” to name a few.