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189. Stow Maries

18/08/2015

Stow Maries is a magical place. Set in one of the most rural parts of Essex, it’s a collection of buildings that have remained unaltered since they were put up in 1916 to form one of the cahin of home defence aerodromes to protect the UK against attack by Zeppellins and German bombers.

The buildings themselves are nothing remarkable, but as you drive into the airfield, there’s a very strong sense of the presence of those airmen in their BE2s, taking off, often at night, and trying to locate the unseen enemy with nothing more than the Mark 1 eyeball to help them.

Theo and I arrived with the trailer on Friday evening, met with the twins, Ed and Ant, and put it in the hangar for the night, then met up with Rick and Marian and Sue at the Purleigh Barns B&B, where Richard and Tilly made us feel immediately at home, and happily allowed Rick and Marian to camp on the lawn.

We rigged up on the Saturday morning and were soon joined by the aircraft of the WWI Aviation Heritage Trust; a BE2e, and the newly acquired Sopwith Snipe and Albatros DVA, together with a 7/8 scale SE5A and a static Sopwith Pup replica.

Scout, SE5A, Sopwith Snipe and Albatros DVA in the picture. The BE2 is behind the Albatros.

Scout, SE5A, Sopwith Snipe and Albatros DVA in the picture. The BE2 is behind the Albatros.

 

It was a fine lineup, and although the wind was to strong to allow any flying on the Saturday there was a huge turn out – 200 vintage bikers and coachloads of visitors, all of whom were well informed and very interested in all the aircraft.

Bevan Dewes, Gene deMarco’s young Kiwi protegé, was there to fly the BE2, and had managed to wangle a flypast of the Bristol Blenheim, flanked by a couple of Spitfires, which was much appreciated by all those there.

 

Bristol Blenheim flanked by two Spitfires

Bristol Blenheim flanked by two Spitfires

We all started our engines in turn, and everyone had a great day out.

With Bevan Davies in the cockpit, John Munn gives instruction on starting the Albatros, while Rick andTheo watch and learn!

With Bevan Dewes in the cockpit, John Munn gives instruction on starting the Albatros, while Rick and Theo watch and learn!

 

David gave the Scout a really vigorous swing!

David gave the Scout a really vigorous swing!

On Saturday night, we ate at the Purleigh Bell Inn, where we had a really great meal, and the proprietors, Julian and Kirsten, took a great interest in the Scout and promised to come and have a look the following morning.The Sunday promised calm fine weather, and so it proved. Young Bevan from New Zealand got the BE2 out first, its V8 RAF1A engine producing only around 80hp like ours, and it’s a lovely soft sound from those enormous cylinders. It made stately progress round the countryside. there was something very special to see it flying past the Stow Maries water tower for the first time in 99 years.

BE2e flying above the water tower at Stow Maries

BE2e flying above the water tower at Stow Maries

Soon after that, John Munn got the Sopwith Snipe readied, and in fact Rick got to swing the mighty 230hp BR2 radial engine into life. Although it’s so very much bigger than our puny little 80hp, the starting technique is much the same, and it’s still possible for one man to pull it over successfully. The sound of the Bentley is quite different – there’s  an authoritative bark to it, and in the air it’s very nippy.

The crowds started to build again, and later in the morning, the BE2 and Albatros circled the airfield with a Piper Cub housing a cameraman for air-to-air photography.

Bevan Davies, the young Kiwi who flew the BE2, being interviewed by Dick Forsuthe, chairman of the trustees of the WHAT which operates the BE2, the Albatros and the Snipe

Bevan Dewes, the young Kiwi who flew the BE2, being interviewed by Dick Forsuthe, chairman of the trustees of the WHAT which operates the BE2, the Albatros and the Snipe

I explored the small museum they have there, and discovered a propeller which had been hit by 0.303 bullets from a Vickers machine gun mounted on a Sopwith Camel with the synchronising gear mistimed. The effect must be pretty much identical to 1264 when the gun was fired at any time.

P1060123 (800x600)And just as I was leaving, a wonderful lady introduced herself to me. She said we both had grandfathers to be proud of, but in truth hers was far, far more distinguished. she is the granddaughter of none other than Horace Short, who, with his four brothers, set up the first aeroplane factory in Great Britain, and went on to become one of the most distinguished aircraft manufacturers in the world, specialising in seaplanes. It was a real privilege to meet you, Madam!

The granddaughter of Horace Short

The granddaughter of Horace Short

 

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One Comment
  1. Errol Cavit permalink

    Thanks for the great report, wish I could have been there.
    There is an interview with Bevan from late last year on Warbirds Radio
    http://rnzaf.proboards.com/post/218625/thread

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