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Waterbeach Military  Heritage Museum

Waterbeach Barracks Denny End Road Waterbeach
Cambridge
CB25 9PA

+44(0)1223861846

Did you know?

Timeline of RAF Waterbeach, Waterbeach Barracks, and Waterbeach Military Heritage Museum

Collections

Waterbeach lost a number of very young men in the First World War. The museum has, on loan from the parish church of St John the Evangelist, Waterbeach, the Day Medals in seven frames. The three Day brothers all lost their lives during the First World War. Two were killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, on 1 July 1916. The third brother was killed in September 1918, just months before the end of the war. The museum has records for each of the men from Waterbeach village who lost their lives in both the First and Second World Wars.

The largest collection of items in the museum covers 514 Squadron, which flew Avro Lancaster bombers from RAF Station Waterbeach between 1943 and 1945. There is a main display as well as several other areas relating either to objects or air crew. One crew (McGowan) crash landed in a wood in France. A book was written about the incident, titled “The Boy and the Bomber”, by Francois Ydier. Also on display is a model of the Lancaster, DS822, flown by this crew, together with a photograph of its presentation to the museum by relatives of George Boanson, one of the crew members. The museum also has parts of the aircraft, including what is thought to be the upper gun turret.

The Lever crew flew their full thirty operations. The museum has much documentation for this crew, covering about a third of those thirty operations, including photographs of the crew and their aircraft. The museum was also fortunate to receive, out of the blue from New Zealand, a set of twenty navigator’s charts and flight logs. One of their operations is featured in the museum, and includes a bomb aimer’s chart of the target.

The museum has been very pleased to be able to welcome, from Australia and Canada, three sets of relatives of the crew members. Many of the 514 Squadron crews came from Commonwealth countries. One was William George Lees, a Canadian, who was a member of the Cossens crew on DS818. Lees’ family were pleased to donate his medals, flying helmet, and photographs. These and other interesting objects make a very good shelf display in the Oliver Merrington Memorial Cabinet.

The museum also has a small display of artefacts and documents from the Observer Corps.

Waterbeach moved into the Jet Age after the end of the Second World War, and the museum has many photographs of the aircraft that flew from the airfield, as well as other items of interest from that pioneering time.

Of the 74 years that RAF Waterbeach and Waterbeach Barracks have been in existence, by far the longest occupation, 46 years, was that of the Royal Engineers. Their main concern was runway repair, as well as building anything anywhere for military and government use. In the foyer of the museum is a model of a girder bridge which is typical of the work of the Royal Engineers. The museum hopes that it will soon be able to acquire a model Bailey Bridge as well. It was unfortunate that when the Engineers left Waterbeach in 2012 they took most of the RE section displays with them, but the museum hopes, after recent contact with the regiment, that some items will be returned. In fact, over the winter of 2019/2020 the Royal Engineer section of the museum is to be remodelled.

The museum has a collection of mine detection equipment on display, and they anticipate more mines will be arriving soon.

Other items of interest include a left-over from the Cold War in the form of a warning/alarm board of an imminent nuclear attack, called the ‘four minute warning’. It is now in working display order, and a BBC archive video of the time will be set up for 2020.

Around the museum are uniforms, flying suits, and flak-jackets. Visiting children love to put these items on, and are always amazed by their weight.

Museum helpers, L-R Mike Barry, David Higgins, Mike Collins
Photo WMHM.

Airman’s flying helmet, jacket, and Mae West survival jacket. Photo WMHM.

The museum

Waterbeach has an association with the RAF which goes back to 1938, in the approaching days to the Second World War. When the Royal Engineers took over the airfield in 1966, that association was continued. Even though the Royal Engineers left Waterbeach in 2013, the association continues to this day in a rather less direct way through the Waterbeach Military Heritage Museum.

The museum was originally established in 1984, but it was closed and put into store in 2012. In 2015, the museum moved back to Waterbeach Barracks, and was officially reopened in 2017.

Waterbeach Station Shield. Photo WMHM.

Interior view of Museum. Photo WMHM.

Interior views of Museum. Photo WMHM.

Recent acquisitions

We have recently acquired a model of a Bailey Bridge. It is now on display in the museum.

Model of Bailey Bridge