For the 80th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain, IWM Duxford expanded its portfolio of events in the Autumn with a varied listing of talks and special access to the Museum. A highlight of this min-season of event was Duxford’s first themed nightshoot using some the based airworthy aircraft with links to the air war in 1940.

Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography by the author.

‘Battle of Britain 80: The Nightshoot’ was an event that was not helped by the poor autumnal weather. The event was originally scheduled for the first weekend in October. Following a truly dire forecast of persistent heavy rain and high winds it was postponed. Then when it was rescheduled the weather looked like it may play ball right up to a day or so before. That changed in last few days before the event with the promise of a heavy band of rain and associated gusty winds passing over Duxford just at the wrong time. Unfortunately, this change to the forecast was at a time beyond the point of no return for the organisers.

To their credit, the Imperial War Museum Events team were very honest with the gathered photographers. They would go ahead with an event, but it was not going to be the event that they advertised. The conditions would not allow any photography out on the airfield as originally planned and instead the aircraft due to participate would stay in or close to their hangars. The aircraft included the Bristol Blenheim 1F and Westland Lysander III from the Aircraft Restoration Company, the Fiat CR.42 Falco and Curtiss Hawk 75A-1 from the Fighter Collection, the Historic Aircraft Collection’s Hawker Hurricane XII and the IWM’s own Supermarine Spitfire Ia. There was also ‘out-of-hours’ access to the American Air Museum to compensate for the last-minute changes. Refunds were also offered to those who did not feel they wanted to attend the reconfigured event.

Battle of Britain 80: The Nightshoot, IWM Duxford - Image © Paul Johnson/Flightline UK

The photographic opportunities started well before sunset with various ‘set-ups’ around the participating aircraft and the two Spitfire replicas which sit outside the hangars. These not only involved the aircraft was also a group of very patient classic car owners and re-enactors who created various scenes. A surprise addition to the opportunities on the night was a chance to see the Historic Aircraft Collection’s Supermarine Spitfire Vb being prepped by Clive Denney and his Vintage Fabrics team for a repaint.

Particularly credit should go to the Fighter Collection team who placed the Hawk 75 outside of their hangars and their precious CR.42 Falco as close to outside as they could risk. They also repositioned Falco during the evening allowing for some different angles on what was the possibly the biggest draw for the assembled photographers.

Despite some truly appalling weather as the evening progressed and not being the event that was advertised, it was still a very enjoyable opportunity laid on by the IWM, re-enactors and the private operators. Hopefully it has sown the seed for further such events at Duxford next year and beyond with the scope to cover a wide variety of different themes.