The Pathfinder Collection, RAF Wyton

(NOTE 17 March 2018: please see foot of page for new details on how to visit the Collection.)

We are delighted to be undertaking joint projects with the Pathfinder Collection at RAF Wyton, near Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, in particular the Black Thursday exhibition which is centred around the Deverill Collection.

The Pathfinder Collection at Wyton is dedicated to No. 8 Pathfinder Group of Bomber Command, the RAF’s only officially recognized elite force.

During the Second World War, RAF Station Wyton was the main Pathfinder airfield. It was very close to Huntingdon where Pathfinder Headquarters was situated, and Air Commodore Donald Bennett, the commander of the Pathfinders, had his marital home on the station.

The idea for a Pathfinder museum at RAF Wyton took root in the summer of 1995. A temporary display for Pathfinder Sunday (an annual event each August for the benefit of the Pathfinders and their families) generated overwhelming interest, which led to the creation of the museum.

Subsequently named The Pathfinder Collection, the museum has evolved and grown considerably since those early days when it was set up by Chief Technician Pete Stanley. It has also changed premises several times, perhaps its most memorable early site being the former Roman Catholic Church (later sadly demolished due to structural failure).

The collection is now housed in the RAF Wyton Heritage and Conference Centre, which contains all the various heritage collections as well as a station history timeline.

The Pathfinder Collection has always been staffed by highly dedicated volunteers, who have a real passion for the heritage which they are preserving.

RAF Wyton is still very much a working station, and the Pathfinder Collection has grown with the support of successive Station Commanders. Because the Collection is on a military base, admission to visit it is by appointment only. Whilst this process may seem somewhat daunting to the uninitiated, all visitors are assured of the friendliest of welcomes by curators who know their subject inside out.

Pathfinder Collection - PFF eagle

The Pathfinder Collection: Wyton Heritage and Conference Centre, Royal Air Force Wyton, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire PE28 2EA

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Please note: the RAF are currently completely revamping their whole website and, as part of this, the Pathfinder Collection page is no longer accessible. Whilst we are more than happy to pass on contact details, you may wish to follow the route below, which is a link and other information provided by John Clifford.

THE PATHFINDER COLLECTION AT RAF WYTON

To arrange a visit to the RAF Wyton Heritage Centre please complete the online Visit Request Form.

 

For your info, the centre comprises 3 historical collections:

 

  1. The RAF Wyton History Timeline. This covers the history of RAF Wyton from its beginnings as a Royal Flying Corps station in 1916 to its present use as the HQ Joint Forces Intelligence Group.

 

  1. The Photo Reconnaissance Collection. This collection was previously the JARIC History Collection formerly housed at RAF Brampton and recently expanded to cover all aspect of photo reconnaissance/imagery intelligence.

 

  1. The Path Finder Collection. This is the most comprehensive collection of RAF Path Finder Force memorabilia which was started in 1996 and has grown considerably over the years.

 

In order to do this full justice you should allow at least an hour for each collection.

 

The RAF Wyton Heritage Centre is run by a small group volunteers so any visits are dependent on their availability. Our preference is for group visits of between 6 & 30 people, but we try to be flexible. Individual visitors may be asked to join other group visits to make best use of our time.

For groups of 10 or more visiting on weekdays there is an option for a buffet lunch in the Heritage Centre, please ask for details.
Security

The Heritage Centre is inside the Wyton base, which operates at a high security level. Access to the unit is at the discretion of the station commander and is dependent on security checks. Visits may be cancelled without notice for service reasons.

All visitors must bring some form of photo identification. Visitors may be subject to searches and will be escorted at all times. Photography is strictly prohibited except inside the Heritage Centre building.

 

We require 14 working days notice of any non-UK nationals wishing to visit and they must provide their date and place of birth, passport number and expiry date.

 

 

RAF Wyton, Wartime Buildings

RAF Wyton has a large number of historic buildings which were there at the time of the Pathfinders. One of the most important buildings is a very small one, the Gunnery Dome, but a selection of other striking buildings can be seen here.

The Gunnery Dome at RAF Wyton

The gunnery dome at Wyton
The gunnery dome at Wyton

The gunnery dome at RAF Wyton is an extremely rare survival of a type of wartime RAF building which was once common; although wrecked inside at the time of the photograph (2007), the exterior was well preserved. It is believed that this is now a Listed building.

See the diagram below for how it was used for gunnery practice. The drawing was made by Frank Phillipson, by whose kind permission it is reproduced. Frank Phillipson emailed this website on 12 June 2014 to say that the Wyton gunnery dome’s: ‘outer covering of chipped stone is as it was originally specified and therefore I believe is unique amongst the surviving 40ft diameter RAF Concrete Domes.’

Frank Phillipson also wrote: ‘You might be interested in the following link to a 1951 Pathe newsreel clip of the “Portobel” Dome (similar to the Wyton type) showing what it was like inside under training’:

http://www.britishpathe.com/video/dome-trainer

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