Header image: The BBMF Visitor Centre at Coningsby, Lincolnshire. (All photos: Clive Rowley)
The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) Visitor Centre had an exceptionally successful year from April 2018 to the end of March 2019, with over 32,000 people visiting the Flight’s home at Coningsby, Lincolnshire.
Originally opened to the public in April 1986, the BBMF Visitor Centre has now been an important part of the BBMF’s engagement with the public for 33 years. In a unique partnership arrangement between the RAF and Lincolnshire County Council, the Visitor Centre allows visitors from all over the UK, and indeed the world, to view and to learn about the BBMF aircraft on guided tours of the Flight’s hangar.
The BBMF Visitor Centre itself houses a small exhibition area with various displays and has a well-stocked shop selling an extensive range of aviation and BBMF-related items. There is also a café offering a selection of sandwiches and cake, and hot and cold drinks.
Entry to the BBMF hangar is by guided tour only. The knowledgeable and enthusiastic volunteer guides, who lead groups around the hangar, provide visitors with details of the individual aircraft histories and tell inspirational stories of the men and women who operated these types of aircraft during World War Two. All the guides have their own favourite stories and place their own ‘slant’ on their tours, so each visit is different and repeat visitors are very unlikely to feel that they’ve heard it before.
The BBMF Visitor Centre is normally open Monday to Friday from 10.00am to 5.00pm. There is free parking in the Visitor Centre car park across the road. Hangar tours are available from 10.30am and run throughout the day, with the last tour starting at 3.30pm March - October (3.00pm November - February). Entry to the main Visitor Centre, its exhibitions, the shop and the café is free of charge.
Members of the RAF Memorial Flight Official Club (and members of the Lincolnshire’s Lancaster Association) can claim free admittance to hangar tours on production of a valid membership card. For everyone else there is an admission charge for hangar tours. Current admission charges can be found on the BBMF Visitor Centre website.
For obvious reasons the presence of specific aircraft cannot be guaranteed and occasionally, due to Service commitments or stand-downs, access to the hangar may be denied by the RAF. It is always best to check before making a visit. It should also be noted that bags of any sort are not permitted in the BBMF hangar and there are no storage facilities within the Centre. Photography is permitted in the BBMF hangar as long as the images are not for commercial purposes.
If you have never visited the BBMF then it is definitely worth the trip. If you have been before, then why not make another visit? Further information can be found on the BBMF Visitor Centre website, by telephoning the Lincolnshire County Council Customer Service Centre on 01522 782040, or by emailing [email protected].