Uniforms make museum display one of the best

Mark Branagan THE other services may have mocked them as The Brylcream Boys but the image of the Spitfire pilot jumping into his cockpit in flying jacket, helmet, and goggles has become one of the most enduring images of the Second World War.

Now the Yorkshire Air Museum, at Elvington, near York, is hosting one of the world's finest displays of how servicemen around the globe were dressed for the war in the air.

Museum chiefs say several additions to the Uniform Display have created an exhibit they believe to be unrivalled. The collection covers the history of the Royal Air Force from its formation as the Royal Flying Corps.

But there are also examples from many other nations including Second World War uniforms from France, Poland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, America and, importantly, South Africa.

Such items are much sought after, particularly from former occupied countries such as Poland and Commonwealth nations like South Africa, the museum says.

But the collection has been boosted by strong links with the Aircrew Association, which has designated the Yorkshire Air Museum as its official archive.

More rare uniforms from South Africa have been received through the association. These were used by the former South African Air Force prior to independence in 1994.

There are few, if any, examples of these uniforms on display outside South Africa and this has taken the exhibition to a new level of international importance, says museum director Ian Reed.

"We are immensely proud of the Uniform Display here at the Yorkshire Air Museum which now must rank as one of the best in the world.

"It is a subject that many of our visitors find fascinating, particularly those that are more interested in the social history of the armed forces."

mark.branagan@ypn.co.uk