First World War In the Air – RAF Museum – Exhibit Histories

Last week I posted my thoughts on the new First World War exhibition at the RAF Museum’s Hendon site, this post looks at the history of the aircraft included in the display.

Bleriot XXVII – “433”: 

The Bleriot XXVII.

The Bleriot XXVII.

This aircrafts history until around 1965 is not known, though it is highly likley that the aircraft was built by Louis Bleriot himself during the Summer of 1911. After a short flying career this aircraft was packed away in a storage container in 1914 and not seen again until 1936.

Following a return to flight the aircraft crashed at Brooklands in June 1936, after being rebuilt once again the aircraft was loaned to the science museum before being put into storage for the duration of the second world war.

Another View of the Bleriot.

Another View of the Bleriot.

After the war the aircraft made several appearences at air displays and events around the country before becoming part of the Royal Air Force Museum in the 1960’s, the aircraft was then  restored and finally put on display in 2003. In 2010 the aircraft was moved to the Grahame White hangar where it now resides today.

The type was built as a racing aircraft and recorded a speed of 81Mph in 1911.

Avro 504K – “E449”: 

A Close up of the 504K's Engine and propellor.

A Close up of the 504K’s Engine and propellor.

The Avro 504 was used extensivley throughout world war 1 and the interwar years as a training airframe. Hendons aircraft is a composite made using parts of G-EBJE and G-EBKN. These parts weren’t put together until the 1960s when the aircraft was fully restored to flying condition. It perfomed one flight on the 24th June 1966 and after that it was insited that the aircraft was not flown again.

The 504 stayed at Abigndon until 1968 when it moved to Bicester, before finally moving to Hendon in 1971. The aircraft was moved into the Grahame white hangar in 2003.

The Avro 504.

The Avro 504.

Caudron G.3 – “3066”: 

The Caudron C.3

The Caudron C.3

Certainly the most unique looking design in the new exhibition, a French design adopted by the British forces when they were struggling for aircraft of their own. The museum’s aircraft was likley built in 1916, there are no known details of its wartime service.

After a number of years flying in the civllian scene in Belgium the aircraft was flown over to Brooklands. An interesting event the aircraft took part in in 1936 was the official opening of Shoreham airfield.

The aircraft was stored at Brooklands during the Second World War, next appearing at the 1951 flying display at Hendon. The aircraft was loaned to the RAF in 1964 and after moving around a number of sites found itself on display in 1972 at Hendon.

Be2b Replica: 

Be2b

Be2b

This replica started out as a Be2a fuselage frame in 1972, which was transferred to the RAF museum in 1973. The replica was fully completed including a replica engine and original propellor in 1992, when the aircraft was placed on display at Hendon. After being on display in the Bomber Hall for 10 years the aircraft was moved to the Graheme White Hangar in 2012.

This photo shows the original propellor used on the replica Be2b.

This photo shows the original propellor used on the replica Be2b.

Sopwith Dolphin Replica – “C3988”:

The Sopwith Dolphin.

The Sopwith Dolphin.

An aircraft that was certainly new to me when looking round this new display was the Dolphin. A unique looking bi-plane with seemingly no forward vision from the cockpit. Though having looked into the type more it was revealed that the pilots head is actually positioned above the top wing, an interesting arrangement none-the-less!

The Dolphin was the first ever multi gunned single seat fighter and saw Sopwith step away from the rotary engines they had used up until this point. The Dolphin was a late entry into the conflict, flying their first missions in February of 1918.

Rear view of the Dolphin, showing the limited visibility.

Rear view of the Dolphin, showing the unique seating position.

This replica aircraft has its origins in 1967 when the RAF museum aquired a number of Dolphon parts, the construction process began in 1968. The aircraft was construced and restored to varying levels over the years and was eventually rolled out in the excellent condition it is now seen in 2012.

The Vintage Aviator Ltd: 

Hendon is home to no less than three excellent reprouduction aircraft coutresy of The Vintage Aviator company based in New Zealand. In the new exhibition visitors can find a wonderful example of an RE8, an observer aircraft.

This machine was built in New Zealand in 2011 and made use of some original parts, folowing flight testing the aircraft was shipped across to the UK in 2012 and took part in a number of displays at Old Warden and Duxford before being transported by roard to Hendon later that year.

The impressive close up view of the Re8's cockpit.

The impressive close up view of the Re8’s cockpit.

The impressive RE8 replica.

The impressive RE8 replica “A3930”.

The other TVAL aircraft in the hangar is the wonderful Albatros, sureley one of the better looking first world war designs. This aircraft was also built in New Zealand, flying in 2011 it uses an original Mercedes engine from the RAF museum stores. The aircraft was shipped over with the RE8 and also performed at a number of airshows before being transported to Hendon in October 2012.

Albatros D.Va.

Albatros D.Va “D.7343/17”.

An example of the wonderful detailed restorations carried out by the Vintage Aviator Ltd.

An example of the wonderful detailed restorations carried out by the Vintage Aviator Ltd.

The third TVAL project at Hendon is the Sopwith Snipe replica, which can be found in the historic hangars. Unlike the other two New Zealand machines the Snipe was never intended to be airworthy. The aircraft features around 40% original materials and is a rare complete example of the type, with only two others remaining in North America. This particular example has a number of post war modifications to represent an inter war example of the type.

Snipe at Hendon.

Sopwith Snipe “E6655”.

Bristol F2b “E2466” Cutaway: 

The cutaway F2b.

The cutaway F2b.

Another striking exhibit is the sight of the half covered Bristol Fighter sitting in the corner of the hangar, a wonderful sight showing the impressive amount of work that goes into these machines.

A wider view of the cutaway f2b.

A wider view of the cutaway f2b.

Based on a fuselage built in 1919 the Hendon example slowly aquired newly built parts over the years between 1965 and 1986 when the aircraft was finally put on display at Hendon. The aircraft was always displayed in this half finished state to display the deatail underneath. In early 2014 the aircraft was dismantled and moved into the new exhibition.

SE5a – “F938”:

Se5a.

Se5a.

Hendon’s SE5a – F938, was built in 1918 by Wolesley Motors, the aircraft did not make it to the front line before the armistice. Its civilian flying career began in 1924 when it was registered as G-EBIC. The aircraft was one of three used for Skywriting during the 1920s. The other aircraft F904 and F937 are now with the Shuttleworth Collection and the Science museum respectivley.

The RAF museum and Science museum examples exchanged a number of parts over the years so it is open to debate which identity each should claim. Following a civillian flying career the aircraft, like others in this collection ended up being stored at Brooklands for the duration of the second world war. The aircraft underwent restoration during the 1960s and was given to the RAF museum in 1992.

Sopwith Triplane – “N5912”:

Sopwith Triplane.

Sopwith Triplane.

The museum’s triplane was produced in 1917, the aircraft was handed over to the royal flying corps and was used as a training aircraft throughout 1918. The aircraft was struck off charge in 1919 and the passed through a number of hands. Ending up with imperial war museum the aircraft was stored in poor condition in the basement of the science museum between 1924 and 1932. The aircraft was eventually found on a dump in 1936 and was restored by the RAF for a display that year.

Another view of the Sopwith Triplane.

Another view of the Sopwith Triplane.

The aircraft then went into storage for the duration of the war. Post war the triplane ended up at Hendon in 1945. The next public appearance would be a static display spot at the 1950 Farnborough airshow. After passing through a number of hands during the intervening years including the Fleet air arm and science museums the aircraft was put on display at Hendon in 1971.

Vickers FB5 Replica – “2345”:

Vickers FB.5.

Vickers FB.5.

The FB5 is an excellent example of the early Pusher designs favoured during world war one. It was one of the first aircraft to be designed with having a machine gun in mind. The construction of this replica started in 1965 when the first wood was cut.

The FB5 replica first flew in June 1966. The aircraft performed at airshows around the country with its final appearance being at Abingdon in 1968. The aircraft was then moved to Hendon where following some restoration work it has been on display since 1982.

The Fb.5 as it may have been seen by the troops in the trenches.

The Fb.5 as it may have been seen by the troops in the trenches.

Royal Aircraft Factory FE2B – “A6526”:

The Fe2b dominates the overhead.

The Fe2b dominates the overhead.

The Fe2B pusher aircraft was introuduced as a fighter in 1915 and was one of the more succesful pusher designs, the aircraft had a crew of two; one pilot and one observer/gunner. The pusher design allowed for excellent visibility all around, the FE2b reamined in active service right through until 1919. Though initally brought in as a fighter, German advances meant that the FE2b was moved onto night bombing missions, which is what the Hendon example represents.

A Closer look at the wonderful Fe2b.

A Closer look at the wonderful Fe2b.

The museum’s example is based around the naccelle/center section of which was left over from the production line in 1917-18. The museum aquired this center section in 1976 and began the process of construcing the rest of the airframe in 1987. The construction includes a fully restored original Beardmore engine, the aircraft was finally completed and unveiled in 2009. In October 2014 the FE2b was suspended from the roof of the Grahame white factory to provide a central point to the new Exhibition.

Fokker D.VII – “8417/18”:

Fokker D.VII

Fokker D.VII

The last two aircraft in this display are old adversaries and both have a similar history from the 1930’s onwards. The Fokker D.VII was built in Poland in 1918 and is not believed to have been issued to the front line. It was left in Ostend, Belgium in November of that year.

It is likley the aircraft was then used in training services for a number of years. Between 1931 and 37 the Fokker flew on the civillian register in Belgium before being bought by well known WW1 aircraft collector Richard Nash who moved the aircraft to Brooklands in 1938.

An underside view of the D.VII with the Camel in its sights.

An underside view of the D.VII with the Camel in its sights.

Following storage throughout world war 2 the aircraft broke cover again at the 1950 farnborough air display. After years of being moved around various airfields for static display restoration to flying condition was carried out in 1966 at RAF Henlow, though the aircraft never flew. Following a number of years in storage with the RAF Museum another restoration was started in 1993, finally being put on full time display in 1997.

Sopwith Camel – “F6314”:

The Sopwith Camel was an unlikely early carrier aircraft.

The Sopwith Camel was an unlikely early carrier aircraft.

Without a doubt the most famous aircraft in this display. The Sopwith Camel was the highest scoring fighter of the First World War. Hendon’s example, F6314 was built in July 1918, though there is some confusion as two camels were produced with the same serial number.

It was placed into storage in 1919 and purchased by Ex camel pilot Grenville O’Manton in 1923 as and engineless airframe. Manton had the ambitious plan to replace the Camels rotary engine with a lower powered radial to make it a more docile machine. However as it turned out it was very underpowered and only flew two times. Manton sold the aircraft shortly after, which led to a move to Wales.

The Camel mixing it with the Fe2b.

The Camel mixing it with the Fe2b.

The aircraft then reappeared in 1935 near Hornchurch in Essex, now owned by a D.C Mason, who hoped to fly the aircraft. Mason never did fly the aircraft and in 1936 it ended up in the hands of Richard Nash, much like the Fokker and a number of the other Hendon aircraft.

In 1939 the aircraft went on display at the Science museum along with the Bleriot XXVII and Fokker D.VII. Once again the aircraft was placed into store for the duration of the second world war. Following a number of post war static appearnces at airshows and another restoration the Camel was put on display at Hendon in 1971. The aircraft is now displayed suspended in the Grahame White Factory.

That concludes the history of the Hendon WW1 collection, many and varied stories, what I found fascinating is that the Bulk of the original aircraft that ended up with museum only really got there thanks to the efforts of Richard Nash in the 1930s who ensured these aircraft remained in good condition, particularly during the war years. otherwise there may well be alot more replicas in this collection.

Information regarding the histories of these aircraft comes from the Royal Air Force museum website. http://www.rafmuseum.org.uk/research/default.aspx

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