{Germany} Military History Museum Berlin-Gatow

August 18, 2014

Germany

I’d by no means consider myself a plane spotter, but I do have a soft spot for aviation museums, ever since one of my first projects working for National Museums of Scotland was evaluating the Concorde Experience at the National Museum of Flight. Other evaluation projects at the same museum followed, and ever since it has held a special place in my heart. Berlin’s Museum of Technology has an aviation department which we’ve visited several times, but when I discovered that there was a whole museum at Berlin-Gatow airfield dedicated to nothing else, I simply had to go.

Militärhistorisches Museum - Military History Museum - Aviation Museum - Berlin Gatow - Airfield - Helicopter

The main site of the ‘Militärhistorisches Museum der Bundeswehr’ (Military History Museum of the Federal Armed Forces) is situated in Dresden, which presents a chronological journey through German military history from the Middle Ages to the present day, as well as thematic exhibits such as ‘War and Memory’ or ‘Animals and the Military’. The branch at Berlin-Gatow airfield, on the other hand, focuses specifically on aerial warfare and its history.

Militärhistorisches Museum - Military History Museum - Aviation Museum - Berlin Gatow - plane

Militärhistorisches Museum - Military History Museum - Aviation Museum - Berlin Gatow - child - plane - playing

As a listed site, the airfield itself could be considered the largest ‘object’ in the collection, not only enabling the museum to tell its story  in the context of its historical location, but also providing plenty of space to display all those aircraft – the outdoor exhibition area covers aprox. one million square metres! Make sure you bring along enough time to explore the over 70 aircraft and helicopters on site, alongside dozens of items of defence equipment such as air defence missiles, radar systems and ground support equipment.

Militärhistorisches Museum - Military History Museum - Aviation Museum - Berlin Gatow - planes

Militärhistorisches Museum - Military History Museum - Aviation Museum - Berlin Gatow  - radar

Whilst a visit to the museum is best recommended in good weather, there are also several indoor displays. Of the nine existing hangars on site, there are two at present that you can explore – with others used as workshop and depot spaces, or currently undergoing restoration and alteration to be turned in to future exhibition spaces. As you enter the airfield, Hangar 3 to the very far left presents an overview of the history of German military aviation since the 1880s, with some beautiful aircraft from the early days of flight on display.

Militärhistorisches Museum - Military History Museum - Aviation Museum - Berlin Gatow - historic aircraft

Militärhistorisches Museum - Military History Museum - Aviation Museum - Berlin Gatow - historic aircraft

In Hangar 7, at the very opposite end of the airfield (to your right when entering the site), you will find an exhibition dedicated specifically to the history of the Bundeswehr’s Air Force (‘Luftwaffe’). Here, more aircraft again take centre stage, whilst showcases with smaller objects supplement the displays and several media stations with over 70 film documents – including e.g. interviews and historic film footage – give further insight in to the history of the Luftwaffe since the 1950s.

Militärhistorisches Museum - Military History Museum - Aviation Museum - Berlin Gatow - Air Force - Plane

Militärhistorisches Museum - Military History Museum - Aviation Museum - Berlin Gatow - exhibition

Militärhistorisches Museum - Military History Museum - Aviation Museum - Berlin Gatow

Militärhistorisches Museum - Military History Museum - Aviation Museum - Berlin Gatow

Finally, the airfield’s former Tower has also been turned in to an exhibition space, though you of course won’t find any aircraft here. Instead, the building contains a series of smaller exhibits including insignia and uniforms, various items of equipment, and many documents and photographs. Again, several media stations allow you to watch historic film clips – we were particularly fascinated by the early Zeppelin flights – and there is even a small interactive display with experiments on air tunnels, reaction times and water flow that you can try your hand at.

Militärhistorisches Museum - Military History Museum - Aviation Museum - Berlin Gatow - Tower - exhibition

Militärhistorisches Museum - Military History Museum - Aviation Museum - Berlin Gatow - experiments

The Militärhistorisches Museum Flugplatz Berlin-Gatow is open year round from Tuesdays to Sundays and admission is free. There is a bus that goes there, but it’s probably easiest if you have a car as it’s a bit off the beaten track, as airfields tend to be. If you do approach by car, take note that the signs directing you to it still say ‘Luftwaffenmuseum’ (the museum’s former name). There is a small cafeteria on site in Hangar 3, that sells coffee, juice and the in Germany ever present sausages, but if you are heading there for a day out in nice weather, you could consider taking a picnic along (which is what we did) to eat at one of the outdoor picnic tables on site.

Militärhistorisches Museum - Military History Museum - Aviation Museum - Berlin Gatow  - helicopter

In total, we spent about 3 hours at the museum, including our picnic. #MuseumBaby did enjoy seeing all the planes, watching some of the historic film footage and trying out the few experiments, but keep in mind that unlike other aviation museums you may have visited, this one doesn’t include any aircraft that you can sit in or go aboard – though one member of staff did invite #MuseumBaby to sit in one of the helicopters, but I think that was just because it wasn’t particularly busy, it certainly isn’t part of the standard offer. For plane lovers though, it is most definitely worth the trip out there.

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