I read that Duxford is in a bit of trouble for funding, and may have to cut its educational budget. That would be a shame.
Duxford, for those who do not know, was for many years a military airfield, from which spitfires flew in WW2 and various fighter jets during the Cold War, and is now part of the Imperial War Museum. Located just to the south of Cambridge, it hosts regular airshows of historic aircraft. I haven’t been for a while, but the last time I went I saw, among other things, a B-17 and a Fairey Swordfish (which I was pleased about, because my father flew in them in the war).
Here one of the IWM’s historians tells something of the history of the airfield.
We do not send our students to Duxford as a matter of course, but some find there way there anyway (there is a regular bus service from the centre of town). The history of armed conflict between nations is a potentially sensitive issue for a language school (and occasionally a formative one – I have a memory that the Bell School in Cambridge started life as an educational charity in the founder’s conviction that the promulgation of a common language would lessen the chances of conflict in Europe and the world).
Peoples remember their wars as they remember their histories, and WW2, especially, tends to come up a fair bit in conversation. We date things from it – yesterday, I was talking about something or other happening ‘after the War’. Over the years I have found myself apologising for the bombing of Lübeck (‘not to worry’, said the student; ‘we started it’), and to an Italian admiral for the torpedoing of the Italian fleet at anchor at Taranto – an action carried out not by my father, but by my father’s squadron, as it happens. I have also congratulated a Mitsubishi engineer on the excellence of his ‘Zero’ fighters, which sank the HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse of the coast of Malaysia, I think, in 1941.
Duxford is not a museum of war, of course, but of a certain sort of technology. Aeroplanes fascinate in the same way that steam trains fascinate. And if that fascination is tied in with a nostalgia of old men for their youth, then that is passing too. Not many veterans get along to Duxford these days I shouldn’t think. And as memories get less personal, so language schools get less idealistic and political, and more commercial. And that it is a good thing, because doing a bit of trade and business with other nations is often the best way to be at peace with them.
Although, having said that, perhaps I should take the opportunity to apologise again for the Opium Wars.