Bentwaters Cold War Museum

Bentwaters Cold War Museum
Bentwaters Parks, Building 134
Rendlesham, Woodbridge
Suffolk IP12 2TW
United Kingdom

Tel. +44 (0)7588877020

Opening Hours:
April (Easter) to October
1st and 3rd Sundays of each month

Bank Holidays
Sunday and Monday

10 am - 4 pm


Bentwaters Cold War Museum is based in the United States Air Force (USAF) hardened command post on the former Bentwaters airbase which closed after the withdrawal of the USAF in 1993, and is believed to be the only such building open to the public in the UK and Europe since 2007.

Visitors can experience the Cold War history with guides and talks about the operations of the base with detailed displays of the units stationed at both Royal Air Force (RAF) Bentwaters and nearby RAF Woodbridge since World War II.

The 81st Tactical Fighter Wing operated from 1951 to 1993 beginning with F-86A Sabres to provide air defence for the UK and then nuclear strike with F-84F Thunderstreaks, F-101A Voodoos and F-4C Phantoms. At one time in the 1980's it was home to the largest wing in the USAF with 6 squadrons of the tank busting A-10. Over 120 aircraft were located across the two bases and deployed 24 A-10s to forward operating bases in Germany on a 4 week rotation.

The museum brings alive the story of the Cold War and the urgency with which this conflict was fought even though no weapons were fired in anger and loss of life occurred only in training accidents.

Cold War Interests: 

| The Bentwaters Cold War Museum provides a depository for archive material relating to the RAF Bentwaters and RAF Woodbridge air bases located in Suffolk, England. The material is being collected from both military personnel and members of the public.

| The museum contains many artefacts including memorabilia, documents, photographs, maps, aircraft parts, uniforms, organisational charts, wall art and publications. Aircraft on display include A-10 Warthog, English Electric Lightning, Hawker Hunter, SEPECAT (all upper case) Jaguar, McDonnell Douglas Phantom & British Aerospace Harrier. A section of the exhibition area is dedicated to the history of the Cold War to assist those less familiar with its origins and relevance to the base history. The Command Post is one of several built on USAF bases across Europe in the late 1970's in a hardened bunker with biological, chemical and radiation warfare decontamination facilities. Whilst some of the rooms have been turned over to exhibits, the most important aspects of the building have been returned to original operational condition to depict a state of readiness for war. Using information from first hand witnesses it has been possible to accurately replicate the USAF operations much of which remains outside of the public domain.

| The collection was concentrated on acquiring Cold War airframes that relate directly to the base. Due to USAF policy this has not been entirely possible until recently. After several years lobbying, an A-10 Warthog, which had previously been based at Bentwaters, was loaned in 2016 to the museum and this now forms a crucial part of the museum display area. It is hoped other USAF aircraft will follow in time.

| The Bentwaters Aviation Society provides volunteer guides, some who have been stationed at the base. Tours of the base allow visitors to see a number of hardened shelters and buildings, some with curious shapes created in an effort to shield vital facilities from nuclear attack. Of particular interest is the weapons storage area which includes both conventional and nuclear weapons and the defences installed to prevent attack from insurgents.

| Talks on the history of the bases are given to other organisations like other museums, community groups (such as Round Table, Rotary), clubs etc. These are conducted at venues other than our museum, and is a good way of telling the story of Bentwaters/Woodbridge and the effect of the Cold War.

| Reenactments of operations in the Command Post are conducted throughout the year bringing alive the history of the base.