Museum Update: Heinkel Project HE 111 at Hawkinge

Across the country and the world we are adapting to a slightly different way of life at the moment. While we are all quite rightly spending a lot more time inside, in my case rather than going out to look at aeroplanes, I wanted to try and bring some stories to this blog from around the warbird scene while we are all in lockdown.

Today’s subject a great update from the Kent Battle of Britain Museum at Hawkinge. I’ve featured the museum a couple of times previously covering their Bristol Blenheim project, which is still progressing well. This post provides an update on their latest acquisition, long-term Duxford resident Casa 2.111B (actually identified as a Heinkel HE 111H). Thanks go to Dave Brocklehurst at the museum for permission to use the photos included here.

The airframe itself has spent much of its 22 years in this country in the shadows, following a rather dramatic arrival. On the 27th March 1998 slung under a CH-53 helicopter having been airlifted from Spain (where it had spent 30 years as a gate guardian). At the time the airframe was destined for Mark and Ray Hanna’s Old Flying Machine Company (OFMC). Sadly as time went on and OFMC’s operations wound down, the Heinkel remained stored in Duxford’s hangars, without wings or engines for some years, eventually being bought by the Imperial War Museum.

It was always a mystery, wandering round Hangar 5 on a winters day or airshow morning, that such a rare machine (even if a Merlin powered example) with such relevance to a Battle of Britain base as Duxford, was left unrestored and dismantled at the back of a hangar. It certainly seemed as though this state was set to forever be the airframes fate.

Thankfully in September 2019 the Kent Battle of Britain Museum announced that they had acquired the airframe and would soon start the process of transporting the CASA to Kent. Original plans to airlift the fuselage sadly did not come to fruition and the fuselage would have to wait some months to leave Duxford. Nonetheless it was not long before the welcome sight of the 111 being rolled out into the fresh air was posted online.

In early January the wings of the aircraft were loaded at Duxford and transported down to Hawkinge.

As had already been well demonstrated with the Blenheim project the museum’s team of volunteers wasted no time in preparing the wings and in quick time getting them painted up into the Luftwaffe scheme the aircraft is destined to wear (pictured below). It has amazing how quickly the wings started to look brand new with some attention paid to them.

Another couple of months would pass before the fuselage was able to join the rest of the airframe. Being a wide load this had to be transported overnight as a rolling road block, which was completed in the early hours of the 15th March with the fuselage being wheeled into place alongside the Blenheim ready for display. By the end of the day the painted wings were already attached.

The team started work on preparing the fuselage for painting to, stripping paint and repairing patches as required. Sadly before this work was completed the restrictions relating to COVID-19 came in, leaving only Dave himself (who lives on site) to carry on the work. Dave is posting regular updates from the work and as you can see from the latest shot below, is making great progress.

Plans were in place for the HE111 to make its debut at the museum’s planned opening weekend next week. However, with the current lockdown this has currently been postponed to 1st May. I hope that this will be the only delay to the museum’s opening this year and no for certain I’ll be there on that first weekend to marvel at the progress on the Blenheim and the sight of only the second example of the HE111 on display in the UK. I can’t think of a better collection to have rescued this seemingly forgotten bomber and give it the spotlight it deserves.

As you can see Dave and the team post very regular updates and I would encourage you to like the museum on facebook and keep updated and supporting the museum and the work they do to remember those who fought in the battle on both sides.

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