Last year saw the unveiling of a new historic aviation organisation in the UK, the World War One Aviation Heritage Trust (WAHT) with the simple message of providing an enduring collection of WW1 aircraft representative of both British and German forces. They hope to keep an increasing collection of these aircraft displaying in front of the public as the anniversary period continues.
The trust entered the airshow circuit in fairly spectacular fashion with the import of two gorgeous BE2es brought over from New Zealand, both fantastic reproductions built by The Vintage Aviator Ltd. One of the aircraft has kindly been loaned to the trust for the anniversary period by German collector Oliver Wulf. This pair are immenseley detailed reproductions, replicas simply doesn’t cover it. The attention to detail is nothing short of incredible.
Following testing in New Zealand both aircraft were shipped to the UK where they were assembled at the Shuttleworth Collection at Old Warden, where the pair also made their airshow debut. It was hoped that these aircraft would eventually move down to Stow Maries, a largely orginal RFC airfield in Essex, however delays in the rennovation process saw the BEs spend the summer with the Shuttleworth Collection. They did however make it down to a number of events and fly-ins at Stow Maries, as well as a static appearance at the Goodwood Revival.
The pair were one of the highlights of the 2014 season, with their almost silent, graceful displays providing a real insight into what the Royal Flying Corps had to work with at the start of the war.
Part of the WAHT’s aim is to educate and remember, this was evident in the impressive attempt to recreate the first deployment to France in August last year. The plan was to fly both of WAHT’s aircraft, together with the “Biggles Bi-Plane” BE2 based at Sywell, across the channel via Headcorn to mark the 100th anniversary of the first crossing.
The original deployment was delayed a number of weeks due to poor weather, sadly this reenactment suffered the same fate, after one day was “Blown out” completeley due to high winds, the second day saw the Biggles Bi-plane make it as far as Headcorn but no further. The decision was taken by the WAHT pilots to not take the aircraft up, with winds gusting over 30 Knots it would not have been wise to take the fragile reproductions up.
Without a doubt WAHT made themselves well known on the circuit and certainly turned a few heads, the end of 2014 saw them finally secure a permanent base at Bicester airfield in Oxfordshire. As mentioned earlier in the piece development of the Stow Maries site was not progressing as quickly as expected so the decsion was made to move to Bicester and both BE2s made the flight down during November. This allowed WAHT to intergrate into a building community at the airfield, known as “Bicester Heritage” which combines classic cars and aircraft all in one place.
2015 Plans – 3 New Aircraft
As we moved into the second year of the Great War commemorations my mind began to wonder what WAHT may have in store for us this year, a number of the aviation magazines had alluded to planned aquisitions but the types mentioned seemed to change in each piece. No sooner had I decided to get in touch with the trust than they had posted a wonderful announcement on their website.
The trust have announced that this year will see the addition of three more First World War aircraft joining the fleet, spread over two airfields. The first to be announced is the first aircraft to join from the “other side” of the trenches, an Albatros D.Va. The Albatros is another aircraft kindly loaned by Oliver Wolf and is nearing completion with The Vintage Aviator. Much like the BE’s this aircraft will undoubtedly be of outstanding quality and attention to detail.
The trust recently ran a Kickstarter campaign, which received over £6000 in pledges, but fell short of its final target. The Trust our appealing to those who pledged to donate the amount they pledged directly to the trust where rewards will still be offered.
The Albatros won’t be the first Vintage Aviator Albatros to grace UK skies, though this example has the promise of a longer airworthy stay than the previous. In the summer of 2012 we were treated to the RAF museum’s Albatros and RE8 reproudctions, these performed at a couple of Old Warden shows as well as a Duxford appearance, before being placed on display at Hendon.
The photo below shows the scheme that will be applied to the new Albatros, it will wear the markings of Hauptmann Baeumer, who flew the D.Va with Jasta 5. He amassed 43 victories and gained the nickname of “the Iron Eagle.” This particular aircraft wears a distinctive Edelweiss flower painted on the side of the fuselage.
New aircraft number two is often viewed as the pinnacle of First World War fighter design, I could hardly believe my eyes reading the announcement. Accompanying the Albatros over from New Zealand will be one of TVAL’s Sopwith Snipes. The Snipe was the last Sopwith fighter to enter service during the conflict and features the most powerful rotary engine, a Bentley BR-2. This design was the follow up to the Camel and had such an impressive performance they were kept in RAF service till 1926.
The Snipe has always been one First World War aircraft I have been dying to see, combining aggression and grace in equal measures as so many great fighters do. The Snipe will be the first rotary powered type the trust will operate, another milestone.
Both of the New Zealand aircraft will be shipped over following appearances at the Omaka Classic Fighters airshow in April, so hopefully the Snipe and Albatros will be ready for the airshow season. The Stow Maries marked Be2 will be moving to Stow Maries for the summer, to join their museum collection and take part in events and fly-ins at the airfield. It is hoped it will be joined by the Albatros as well.
The Snipe will be staying at Bicester along with the second BE2.
The third aircraft, which should be joining the trust later in the year, is another of Oliver Wulf’s, a replica RAF Se5a recently imported from the states. The Se5a arrived at Old Warden earlier this month having been deregistered for a number of years. Fitted with a 180hp Hispano this replica shares a very similar power-plant to original SE5s The aircraft will undergo inspection and will then be added to the British register, hopefully joining the fleet later in the season.
These three aircraft can be seen as the second “stage” of the overall plan which will hopefully see a number of WW1 aircraft join the fleet, providing the country with a rich lineage of first world war history. However all of the above is very much in the hands of the public, as funds are required to get these new additions flying.
Planned events, should the fundraising prove a success include appearances at: Waddington, Abingdon, Bicester Heritage, Chalke Valley, Old Warden, Royal International Air Tattoo and the Goodwood Revival.
Obviously this announcement is a wonderful step and looks set to be one of the highlights of the 2015 season, but of course it all comes at an enormous cost. As a result of these costs the trust have started a “Kickstarter” Crowd Funding scheme to cover the costs of transporting and assembling the Snipe and Albatros as well as maintenance and ferry costs for the fleet throughout the year.
The amount that needs to be raised is 11,200 pounds, a modest amount considering the enormous undertaking, but still a large amount to be raised. Hopefully the campaign will prove hugely popular and the Trust will be able to continue with current plans. But every penny will help! As part of the scheme they are offering rewards for differing size donations.
I was able to speak with Dick Forsythe, the chief trustee, earlier in the month to discuss the new plans as well as the fundraising campaign. He explained that if the money was not raised then it is likely the aircraft would not fly and would simply remain static exhibits, which would be a huge shame.
The Rewards Available to claim:
15 Pounds – Photo taken in full RFC clothing with a WAHT aircraft
30 Pounds – Membership to Friends of WAHT with insider benefits and photo days
35 Pounds – Get a silk aviator’s scarf with WAHT and The Vintage Aviator Logos on either end.
75 Pounds – A tour of Biciester Heritage including vintage cars and aircraft
100 Pounds – A visit to Stow Maries including Lunch and the chance to meet a Be2 pilot
750 Pounds – Formation flight in a Be2 with a full video of the experience and all rewards above.
The Kickstarter Campaign has now finished, as mentioned above the pledges clocked in at over £6000, but did not reach the target so the money was not taken. The Trust are appealing for these pledges to be matched as direct donations to allow the aircraft to operate over the next season, the above rewards are still available through this method. Donations can be made via the Trust’s Website:
Operating vintage aeroplanes is not a cheap business, this has been well documented in the past, but the amount being asked here, at least to start with, is fairly modest and, with generous donations from the public the World War One Aviation Heritage trust should be able to put these wonderful aircraft up in the air around the country for us all to see.
More information regarding the trust can be found on their website: