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The Royal Aircraft Establishment at Bedford

Bedford Aeronautical Heritage Group (BAHG)

After the site closure of the RAE (later DERA and eventually, Qinetiq) at Bedford, a number of former employees established an association, calling on their personal experiences and memories of their working lives, to preserve the history and many remaing artefacts related to the site and its achievements. In 2008 this team formally became the Bedford Aeronautical Heritage Group (BAHG).

Further insight into BAHG may be found on the Newsletter Page, particularly BAHG Newsletter 1. Although matters have moved on considerably from the date of this Newsletter, leaving many of the links out of date today, it conveys the ideals and motivation of the Bedford Group.

The BAHG Team

Alphabetically: – Nick Cooke; Mike Dobson; Peter England; Reg Harlow; Tony Manning; Ken Moreton; Barry Moulang; Gerry Shanks; Barry Tomlinson.

… and many other supporters and former RAE employees.

The Archive

The archive managed by the Group consisted mainly of photographic material but has been progressively augmented with RAE reports and other papers. These have now been transferred to the FAST Archives.

The photographic archive included approximately 70 000 negatives (glass plate to 35mm) dating from 1955 together with about 2000 movie films (16mm and 35mm) depicting aspects of the research undertaken. Fortunately, many of the original photographers’ record books, listing the subject of the photos and the date taken, were available to the Group.

There were also many hundreds of loose prints, particularly of the Establishment’s early construction period in the 1950s; considerable effort has been given to listing and cataloguing these items. BAHG also possessed a near-complete collection of RAE News from 1957 onwards, but with significant gaps from 1952-56. Fortunately our colleagues at FAST had a complete set and have scanned all the early issues, for the period 1948 – 1962.

Also included in the archive, are scans of numerous Log Books from former test pilots and observers. The information these contain has added significantly to knowledge of the research undertaken.

The first step, a major task, was to assess the numerous negatives for quality and content, and to document this review. Many of the best pictures feature in the books BAHG has published, such as Wings Over Thurleigh, and have been used to illustrate our talks to interested parties. We have also viewed a high proportion of the movies to assess their quality and content.

BAHG members have regularly given talks and presentations relating to the history of RAE Bedford, and similar topics, to local societies and organisations. These talks were often well supported with visual material from our collection of images and movie film.

Themes available have included:-

  • RAE Bedford – An Outline History
  • Aviation History in Bedfordshire
  • The Evolution of Bedford Wind Tunnels

We have given these talks to many organisations, including the following:-

  • Bedford Architectural, Archaeological & Local History Society
  • Hampshire Aviation Society
  • The Institute of Mechanical Engineers
  • RAeS Branches at Weybridge, Bedford, Cardiff, and Farnborough
  • UK Probus groups
  • A number of RAF Association Branches.

Part of the Bedford Archive, before transfer to the FAST collection


Saturdays, Sundays and
Bank Holiday Mondays
10.00am - 4.00pm


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FAST Talks have now resumed, please see FAST Events for details.


Trenchard House
85 Farnborough Road
Hampshire GU14 6TF

Tel: 01252 375050
(Office manned Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays & Bank Holiday Mondays)

Arts Council Accredited Museum