Museum Reviews Fleet Air Arm Museum Yeovilton Somerset UK

At first glance it may appear that a small village in Somerset, with a population of just six hundred and seventy may have little in the way to offer when it comes to tourism. The village though is Yeovilton. To many the name itself may mean nothing but the village is home to the Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton, also known as HMS Heron.

Even this though may mean nothing to many but the base, as well as being only one of two Fleet Air Arm bases still in operation is also home to the Fleet Air Arm Museum. The Fleet Air Arm may not be a common term but is the branch of the United Kingdom’s armed forces that deals with the operation of aircraft within the Royal Navy. The Fleet Air Arm also has a history that predates that of the Royal Air Force, and at the commencement of World War One operated more aircraft than the Royal Flying Corp.

Yeovilton’s Fleet Air Arm museum though is more than just a museum dedicated to the Fleet Air Arm though, although that plays a central role, but has a wide selection of military and civilian aeroplanes and helicopter.

The first thing to say about the Fleet Air Arm museum is that it is relatively easy to find, and situated just seven miles north of Yeovil, the museum is clearly signposted from many miles further away.

The Fleet Air Arm museum is home to almost one hundred different aircraft, displayed in four large halls, although not all of the aircraft may be on display at the same time.

Hall One is the first hall in the museum tour and is dominated by the aeroplanes from the earliest days of the Fleet Air Arm. There you will normally find a Sopwith Camel, Albatros, Fokker DRI and other First World War aircraft standing side by side. It should though be noted though that although the Sopwith Baby and Short 184 are original, the other aircraft are replicas of originals. Hall One is also home to exhibits relating to the Fleet Air Arm’s work during the Interwar period as well as the Falkland conflict.

The second hall, Hall Two, consists of aircraft that fought during the Second World War, including the Supermarine Seafire and Fairey Barracuda. There is also a display particularly focusing in on the Kamikaze pilots of Japan, with models of ships and aircraft, as well as an original Yokosuka Ohka. The hall also plays hot to more modern aircraft from the Korean War, a Russian Mig, as well as models of British aircraft carriers.

Hall Three is different to many halls found in museums around the country, and that is because the whole hall has been made up to look light the flight deck of HMS Ark Royal. As such you can see British aircraft as they would have looked on the flight deck of one of the Royal Navy’s aircraft carriers. There is a good range of aircraft from the Hawker Sea Hawk, De Havilland Sea Vixen through to the McDonnell Phantom. Additional exhibits are to be found in smaller rooms that have been made up to look like rooms in the conning tower. These exhibits contain interactive displays and videos of life on board an aircraft carrier.

The last of the main halls, Hall Four is home to arguably to the Fleet Air Arm museums main attraction, and that is of the second prototype of the BAC Concorde. Visitors get to see into the cockpit of the first Supersonic passenger jet. The hall is home to the leading technological advancements in aviation history, and as such there are also a Sea Harrier, a Bristol Scout and a De Havilland Vampire on display amongst others.

In between the main halls there are also numerous smaller displays arranged, including many of the museum’s most interesting models, and interactive exhibits.

Additionally there are also normally restoration projects being undertaken by the museum as the collection grows. Current projects will normally be on display, from a distance between Halls Three and Four. The Fleet Air Arm museum also caters well for those looking to do research of the individuals and machines that fought within the Fleet Air Arm. These records can normally be viewed by appointment. Being next door the HMS Heron as well there is often good opportunities to see the helicopters and other aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm landing and taking off.

The Fleet Air Arm museum is also part of the whole National Museum of the Royal Navy, with the Royal Navy’s museum also including the HMS Victory, the Submarine Museum, Royal Naval Museum and Royal Marines Museum.

Entrance price is comparable to Bovington, the Dorset Tank Museum, and admission for adults is GBP10.50 whilst children will pay GBP7.50. Entrance days though change depending on the time of the year. During the summer the Fleet Air Arm Museum is open daily from 10am through to 5.30pm. In the winter time though, the museum is only open from 10am through to 4.30pm, Wednesday through to Sunday.

In addition to the exhibits the Fleet Air Arm Museum also houses a licensed restaurant, the Swordfish Restaurant, and caf. Children can also be entertained in the large adventure playground, and the museum’s shop is also a great way to pass the time. Within the shop there is a huge selection of merchandise relating to the British armed forces, including models, books and DVDs.