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On the Saturday of The Duxford Air Show, IWM Duxford was treated to a visit from a very special guest. Nancy Stannard, nee Bateman was a WAAF who served at RAF Duxford between 1939 and 1941. She worked in the Operations Room as a teleprinter operator.

I had been in touch with Nancy and her family for a while and we had arranged for her to come back to IWM Duxford, selecting September in the hope that the weather would not be too bad. As it was we were treated to glorious sunshine.

It was a great to be able to host Nancy on a return visit to Duxford. The place looked very different, particularly due to all the air show hustle and bustle, but there were some areas, such as the Operations Room that were still very familiar to Nancy.

Over a well-deserved cup of tea, Nancy told me some of her memories of RAF Duxford, the place she says she remembers best out of all the places she served as a WAAF. Nancy was one of the very first WAAFs to arrive at RAF Duxford and she remembers the station not being quite ready for them. So much so that she and the other women, who had arrived with her, were given airmen’s greatcoats to wear as they didn’t have any made for women!

Nancy also said she vividly remembers going to dances in the hangar, dancing to tunes like In the Mood.

Having had a lovely chat with Nancy and really getting to know what RAF Duxford was like for her during the early years of the Second World War, I asked her if she was happy to be interviewed in the commentary box at the air show. Although slightly nervous, Nancy rose to the challenge and gave a wonderful interview. It was so good in fact, it was replayed on Sunday making Nancy’s audience over 33,000 people.

Having worked her very hard, I finally let her and her family relax and watch the air show. It was a great pleasure to meet Nancy and to hear her tales of RAF Duxford. Every time I interview a veteran, the historic site where I work every day takes on a new little detail. I doubt I shall walk through the Operations Room now without thinking about Nancy and the number of times she would have walked down that very same corridor.

A great day spent with one of Duxford’s people.

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Visitor talking to a member of staff

Well, all that hard work paid off. Over the last few months we have spoken to hundreds of you to find out what you want to see in the final exhibition and it was worth it.

We have had some great conversations with visitors, disabled groups, local communities and veterans. All of you have expressed a keen interest in what we are doing and hopefully most of you will be lined up to see the new exhibition when it opens in about 18 months time.

So what did you have to say?

Well, a lot of you felt that to tell the human side of Duxford’s story was really important. The experiences of the men and women who lived and worked here came out as one of the most important things you thought we should cover. That is why we have been reviewing our archive of interviews with veterans. Carl has already posted a fantastic video that features clips from several interviews and there are many more. We have also been adding a few to the collection too. Not only will these be useful for the exhibition but they will add to an extremely important archive that documents, first hand, the memories of the those individuals who served at Duxford.

You also thought that objects were really important to see in the exhibition (hooray!) Many of you felt that they help bring to life the history that you see in a museum and provide a fantastic link to the past. So we’ve continued digging around in the museum collections to find everything we can that relates to Duxford. This is where the expertise of the curators comes in. They know their collections inside out and so can help us find any hidden gems. I will keep you up to date of the things we find. You can also have a look for yourself by visiting our online collections database.

Happy hunting!

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