THE BENTWATERS COLD WAR MUSEUM
The Bentwaters Cold War Museum (BCWM) opened it doors to the public for the first time in May 2007. This was the culmination of a project that began some six years prior.
The original idea was for a room in the control tower to be set aside for memorabilia and photos but this idea was subsequently changed to something that was on a much larger scale. The new plan saw the former hardened Wing Command Post as the base for the Museum, a building that itself has a very interesting history. The Command Post was the nerve centre of the Bentwaters and Woodbridge ‘Twin-Base’ complex during exercises (and in the event of war). In April 1986 the Command Post was manned for Operation El Dorado Canyon (the United States Air Force raids on Colonel Gadaffi’s headquarters in Libya. The building’s last operational milestone was during the first Gulf War in 1991, which saw it manned for the duration of the conflict in support of the A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft that were deployed to theatre.
Operated and administered by volunteers from Bentwaters Aviation Society (a registered charity), the BCWM portrays the history of RAF Bentwaters and RAF Woodbridge from the Second World War through to when the USAF withdrew from both bases in 1993. The most important period of operation of the ‘Twin-Bases’ was during the Cold War and, as the Museum’s name suggests, this is the main focus of the exhibits. Two key rooms in the Command Post have been restored to an operational appearance. These rooms are the Battle Cabin and the War Operations Room. Although unmanned during normal day-to-day operations, they would have been the two most important rooms during exercise and wartime. Additional rooms have been turned into ‘themed’ exhibitions. These cover the history of Bentwaters and Woodbridge in general, Special Operations units at Woodbridge, the ‘Aggressor’ unit at Bentwaters and a miscellaneous exhibition room which includes a Cold War timeline. The Museum also includes a multimedia room where visitors can expect to see video presentations and film shows.
VIEW THE BCWM ROOM BY ROOM
The acquisition of a small number of airframes is considered important to promote the future growth of the Museum. Initial plans dictated that priority would be given to USAF airframe types that were once based at Bentwaters and Woodbridge (e.g. F-84F, T-33, F-4C/D, A-10 etc.), Working closely with the USAF Museum’s (USAFM) loan programme has enabled us to have an A-10 on loan that is currently on display in the main museum compound.
The Museum currently has numerous aircraft undergoing restoration and re-building. These include a Gloster Meteor F.8, English Electric Lightning F.53, Hawker Hunter GA.11, Sepecat Jaguar GR.1A, BAe Harrier GR.3, Lockheed T-33, Republic F-84, Fairchild A-10A and a McDonnell Douglas F4 FGR.2 The Museum also has an ex-USAF International Harvester bus that has been restored to running condition, as well as a Dodge Dakota, Coleman MB4 Tractor, USAF Flightline Tractor and several other ground units such as LightAlls, a LOX cart, and a USAF Tool Trolley.
With the Cold War receiving more prominence, both in school curriculums and in general, the BCWM has proved to be a popular educational venue and visitor attraction.
THE BENTWATERS AVIATION SOCIETY
The Bentwaters Aviation Society (BAS) was formed in 2002 by a group of enthusiasts wishing to keep alive the memory and record the history and heritage of both the Royal Air Force and United States Air Force activity at RAF Bentwaters and RAF Woodbridge. Members of the Society also administer and operate the Bentwaters Cold War Museum, which opened to the public on Sunday 27th May 2007.
If you can help with information or donations for the Museum, we would like to hear from you. Please use the contact page to send us a message. Membership of the Society is open to anyone, and by joining the Society you will be actively supporting the Museum.
We have monthly meetings with guest speakers, slide shows, quiz evenings, and visits to sites of aviation interest.
The primary aim of the Society is to preserve the history of the ‘Twin bases’ of RAF Bentwaters and RAF Woodbridge, including over 40 years of occupancy at the bases by the USAF 81st Fighter Wing. The Society records the complete history of all activities at both airfields, and this is on display in the Bentwaters Cold War Museum.
The Society has a monthly meeting on the 2nd Thursday of each month at 19.30 in the meeting room of the Bentwaters Cold War Museum. The meetings are varied in subject matters with guest speakers, quiz nights and slide/film shows. Meetings are open to Society members only.
Trips and excursions to locations of interest to members will be arranged during the year. We are always open to suggestions, so if you have any ideas for a visit, then please let us know via the contact page or at one of our meetings.
The Society is a registered UK charity and is managed by a board of nine Trustees. Further information on the Society can be found on the Charity commission’s website here
CAN YOU HELP THE BCWM?
As a registered charity, the Bentwaters Aviation Society undertakes numerous fund raising events throughout the year, but also greatly appreciate donations from the general public that allow us to maintain, run, and improve the Bentwaters Cold War Museum.
Should you wish to help us by making a donation, you can do so using the button below. All donations are extremely gratefully appreciated.