York Cold War Bunker, Yorkshire Air Museum, and Eden Camp Modern History Theme Museum

A trio of fascinating WW2 / Cold War themed museums in Yorkshire, must visits for anyone interested in the history of that period. The York Cold War Bunker is run by the English Heritage, while the other two are examples of independent museums at their best.

My personal favourite was the York Cold War Bunker, two miles from the centre of York. This is the last remaining of 29 regional headquarter bunkers built in the early 1960s to detect and monitor the detonation and fallout from nuclear weapons. They supported around 1,500 small three man bunkers across the country. The goal was in the event of a nuclear attack to save a third of population but 10% was more likely, a sobering thought.

The bunker was designed in 1957 and operational between 1961 and 1991. It was manned by volunteers, who would spend their evenings and weekends in the self-contained bunker. There would be up to 60 at a time working eight hour shifts, with a third working, a third resting, and a third sleeping. The bunker was designed to be self contained for 30 days, with sufficient food, air, water and power (via mains and a generator). At the height of the Cold War in the 1960s there were 25,000 volunteers involved nationally. Although the whole thing was done on a budget, with volunteers rather than paid staff, each headquarter bunker would have still cost ~$1m each in today’s money.

Less than twenty minutes from York the Yorkshire Air Museum is Britain’s largest independent air museum, and a must for anyone interested in planes, in particularly those from WW2 and the Cold War. It had the largest collection of British jets I’ve seen in one place, from the first, the Gloster Meteor to the Panavia Tornado.

It is situated at the RAF Elvington airfield, a former WW2 RAF Bomber Command station. There is a powerful exhibition and rotation of films on the role that Bomber Command played during WW2.

There are about 50 planes on display, and various related vehicles and pieces of equipment, some housed in one of the former hangers, the rest outside.

Finally, on the way back from Whitby to York we stopped at the exhaustive and exhaustingly comprehensive Eden Camp Modern History Theme Museum, primarily focused on WW2 but also covering WW1 and conflicts from WW2 up to Bosnia in the late 1990s. It is housed in a WW2 prisoner of war camp, that held over a thousand German and Italian prisoners.

The 29 huts have been repurposed to bring to life what WW2 was like for people in Britain, including the sights, sounds and smells!

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