Tuesday, December 9

We visit “First World War in the Air.” RAF Hendon’s new Exhibit

We had the pleasure to be one of the first into the brand new exhibition at the RAF Museum at Hendon recently that re-worked and invigorated their world War One flying machine exhibition. “First World War in the Air” opened on the 4th of December 2014 and was funded partly by BAE Systems and the National Lottery grant we thought you should get a look at the brand new exhibition with a little on each of the more interesting points we saw. “Wing-nuts” will love this collection!

"First World War in the Air"
Report: RAF Hendon’s new exhibition featuring WWI Aircraft 
The Grahame-White Factory & Watch Office is now open!
The Grahame - White Factory is now open with London's first new permanent exhibition for a decade 'The First World War in the Air'.
Eleven years after the first powered flight, aviation emerged as a force capable of changing the face of battle. In 1914 the Royal Flying Corps numbered just 1,500 people. By 1918, when the Royal Air Force was created, this had grown to more than 205,000. The full strategic value of air power had become all too evident - both on the battlefield and on the Home Front.
This compelling story of the First World War in the Air is revealed in a new exhibition in the Claude Grahame-White Hangar.
Inside was the story of the vital work of the Service men and women on the ground as well as the changing roles of those in the air as the essential use of 'eyes in the sky' for reconnaissance was complemented by the introduction of new technologies for bombing and fighting high above the ground.
Many personal artefacts including medals, letters and uniforms will be displayed alongside the finest collection of First World War aircraft bringing both moving and inspiring stories to life - and ensuring that the bravery and sacrifice of these aviation pioneers will never be forgotten.  Key exhibits on display include:

The diary of Major Edward Corringham Mannock VC
Sketch and notes of the Mons Battlefield
A Propeller from a Bleriot XI Cross Channel Monoplane
Report by General Smuts on air organisation
Royal Flying Corps Dog Jacket
As well as the propeller press there were several engines laid out for you to see.
A Large animated map / screen on the ground told the story..
 Old plans of the aircraft were just as interesting...
 A demo showing how the interrupter gear works on early fighters
 This chap seems to have burst his bubble...
RFC Model H Triumph motorcycle
Motorcycles were used in the Royal Flying Corps to swiftly transfer messages between units and headquarters. Their use alongside the aircraft, made the RFC arguably the most mechanised unit in the British Army at this time. This is a 1917 Model H Triumph motorcycle.
On to the aircraft of the museum..

Blériot XXVII 
The early history of this striking yellow painted aircraft is obscure, as it has no authenticated history before 1936, when it was acquired from crated storage at Le Havre in France for preservation by vintage vehicle and aircraft collector Richard Nash for his International Horseless Carriage Corporation. When discovered, the oil tank was still half full.
Originally built as a single-seat racing aircraft, it was unofficially timed at 130kph (81mph) and could be the Bleriot shown at the Paris Aero Show in December 1911. By the outbreak of the Great War in August 1914 it was in store at Le Havre until discovered by Nash, who quickly restored it, only to crash it at Brooklands in June 1936. He rebuilt the aircraft again between 1938 and 1939 and then, in 1953, sold it to the Royal Aeronautical Society along with other aircraft now in the RAF Museum collection, such as the Caudron G3, Fokker DVII, Sopwith Camel and Bleriot XI. All these aircraft were formally purcased by the Ministry of Defence from the Royal Aeronautical Society in 1992 following many years on loan and are now on display at Hendon.

The aircraft underwent further restoration by the Royal Air Force in 1963, and again by the RAF Museum at Henlow in 1967 and at Cardington circa 1974.

Vickers F.B.5 "Gunbus"
The true fighter squadron was born on the 14 February 1915 when No.11 Squadron was formed at Netheravon. Completely equipped with Vickers FB5 aircraft this was the first unit established purely with the intention of destroying other aircraft.
The Vickers FB5 was designed before the outbreak of World War One with the specific purpose of carrying a machine gun. The layout, which placed the engine behind the pilot, was chosen to give a clear field of fire to the gunner in the front cockpit.

Fokker D VII
The Fokker D.VII was the equal of, if not better than, the British SE5s, Camels and French SPADs and is considered to be one of the outstanding fighters of World War One. It was so successful that it was the only aircraft to be singled out by the Allied Powers in the Armistice Agreement section which detailed war material to be handed over: "In erster Linie alle Apparate D.VII (especially all first line D.VII aircraft)".
Late in 1917 design work began on an aircraft which could win back for the Germans dominance over Allied fighters on the Western Front. The prototype was sent to Berlin's Adlershof airfield for trials in January 1918 together with thirty competing aircraft. The D.VII won and was put into mass production at three different factories, including two belonging to Fokker's great rival the Albatros.
The success of the D.VII lay in its handling characteristics. Unlike the British Camel it was fairly easy to fly and was said to turn a mediocre pilot into a good one. Forty-five German fighter units received these agile machines during 1918, but it is doubtful that all were completely re-equipped. Most of the late First World War German aces flew the type.
At a time when Allied aircraft were still largely made of wood, the Fokker DVII introduced a welded steel tube fuselage frame, a concept which was not copied by other countries for some years. Using mass production techniques pioneered in the American automotive industry, the Germans attempted to turn out as many of these first-class fighters as possible. Its qualities were so admired by the Allies that in the Treaty of Versailles it was the only item of military equipment mentioned by name to ensure the entire stock was passed to the victors.

Avro 504K
The Avro 504 was produced in larger numbers than any other aircraft of the First World War. Due to the variety of engines installed in contemporary training aircraft, Avro fitted the 504K with an engine mounting that adapted to carry any power plant that was available. As well as becoming the standard Royal Air Force trainer, the 504k was pressed into emergency service as an anti-Zeppelin fighter in early 1918.

Caudron G.3
The Caudron G.3 was a French aircraft used in small numbers by the Royal Flying Corps during the early years of the war. During the early months of war the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service had to find replacement aircraft wherever they could be found. They naturally turned to the native French aircraft industry to supplement the inadequate supplies of aircraft from Great Britain.
The G3 was one of several French designs adopted by both British flying services. It was used initially for reconnaissance missions, but was gradually withdrawn from front-line duty to become a trainer.

Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2b
The B.E.2b was an aircraft used by the Royal Flying Corps early in the war for reconnaissance. It proved vulnerable to attack by enemy fighters and was withdrawn from front-line duty in 1915 to become a training aircraft.

Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2b
The F.E.2b was a pusher biplane which began its career as a fighter aircraft. Outclassed by the German Albatrosses by the autumn of 1916, the F.E.2b was evolved into a bomber and equipped the first night bomber squadrons of the Royal Flying Corps in February 1917.

Sopwith F1 Camel 
"So famous the Arabs named an animal after it" J.M. Ramsden
"Waspish, wilful, intolerant" J.M. Bruce
The Camel, designed by Thomas Sopwith, was the highest scoring fighter of World War One. This single-seat fighter took its name from the hump over the breeches of the two front machine guns; the nickname given it by one of the squadrons was rapidly adopted as the types' name.
Its handling characteristics were a gift to the skilful pilot but could kill the slow or unwary. This made the Camel ideal for daylight combat but versatile enough to allow it to be used as a night fighter and ground attack aircraft. The shipboard 2F1 Camel also saw some success operating against German airships and seaplanes over the North Sea.
The Camel saw extensive service in home defence, over the Western front, in the UK on training and test work until 1923 and in other countries up until 1928 - a remarkably long career for the time. This aircraft was held in the same high regard by those who fought in World War One as the Spitfire was for those involved in World War Two. With a superb fighting record it is hardly surprising it was nicknamed "The King of the Air Fighters".

Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5a
The S.E.5a was one of the first aircraft to use the Constantinesco interrupter gear. It was a robust fighter and a steady gun platform, allowing its pilots to engage an enemy at longer ranges with minimal loss of accuracy. Along with the Sopwith Camel, the S.E.5a was instrumental in gaining Allied air superiority from mid-1917.

Sopwith 5F.1 Dolphin
The world's first single seat multi-gun fighter the Dolphin represented a departure from traditional Sopwith fighter design. In place of the rotary engines so characteristic of the Triplane and Camel the Dolphin was equipped with a stationary 200hp geared Hispano-Suiza in-line engine.
The Dolphin's unusual wing layout with its 'backwards stagger' was designed to provide the pilot with excellent all round visibility. This was achieved by placing the upper wings low on top of the fuselage, the pilot being positioned with his head in the centre where he was afforded a clear and uninterrupted view. Dolphins flew their initial front-line patrols in February 1918 and eventually equipped five RAF squadrons. During the German offensive of 1918 Dolphins conducted ground attack operations, bombing as well as machine gunning enemy troop concentrations.
Popular with its pilots the Dolphin was a highly potent fighting machine but its success was limited due to problems afflicting the geared Hispano-Suiza engine. Dolphin production ceased in August 1919 and the type was declared obsolete in September 1921.

This flying reproduction, in No. 9 Squadron colours, individual code B, was built in New Zealand by Wellington-based The Vintage Aviator Ltd (TVAL) in 2011 (constructor’s number 0002) using original RE.8 rudder, wing and fuselage parts held by the RAF Museum as patterns. These parts of an unidentified airframe were found in a Coventry garage in 1966 and recovered by the Northern Aircraft Preservation Society. The Vintage Aviator Ltd (TVAL) reverse engineered and constructed the air cooled RAF4a engine, the only one currently operating in the world.
Nick-named the ‘Harry Tate’ after a music-hall comedian, this inherently stable reconnaissance/artillery spotting aircraft entered limited service in late 1916, and 4,077 were built, of which just two originals survive, one in Belgium – the Belgian Air Force had some 22 examples with Hispano-Suiza engines from July 1917. After rectification of the tendency of early production aircraft to spin, as the RFC/RAF’s most widely used type of Corps reconnaissance aircraft from 1917, it served with some 21 Squadrons, and as well as the Western Front. R.E.8s operated in Italy and Palestine, and, finally, in Egypt until November 1920.

Bristol F.2b Fighter
The Bristol Fighter was designed in 1916 as a replacement for the B.E. two-seaters. No.48 Squadron received the first production aircraft and introduced them into service during the Battle of Arras in April 1917. Flown in the tight defensive formations normal to two-seaters at the time, this baptism of fire was unsuccessful but it became an excellent fighting machine when the tactics were changed to allow it to be flown in the more aggressive manner of a single-seater. By the end of the war the type had been used for offensive patrols, photographic reconnaissance, escort fighting and ground attacks.

Having shown such versatility during the war it was one of the designs chosen by Hugh Trenchard to equip the peacetime Royal Air Force. Despite increasing age and poor flying conditions in many parts of the Empire, where it helped to establish the Royal Air Force's role as aerial policeman, the Bristol Fighter soldiered on until 1932.
This particular example has been re-built to represent the aircraft flown by Captain W.F.J. Harvey and Captain D.E. Waight, No.22 Squadron, from Agincourt on 1 July 1918. The aircraft was modified, by the squadron, to take an extra Lewis machine gun on the centre section of the top mainplane.

Built by Wellington, New Zealand based the Vintage Aviator Ltd (TVAL); constructor’s number 0083, as the third airworthy example of this type built by TVAL. The aircraft incorporates an original Merceds DIII engine from the Museum’s collection. Nathan Pugh, an apprentice from the RAF Museum’s national award-winning scheme, recently spent time in New Zealand, at the invitation of TVAL, employed on the manufacture of these aircraft.

Sopwith Triplane
The Sopwith Triplane went into service with the Royal Naval Air Service in 1917 and served mainly on the Western Front. It proved difficult to repair and eventually became established as an advanced trainer. However, the German Military were so impressed by the Triplane that they got Fokker to design them their own Triplane.
Adam Norenberg.

The RAF Museum at Hendon in North London is free to visit and it is open from 10am - 6pm [last entry 5:30pm]