Crikey, has it really been 4 weeks since my last post? Between a little bit of work, a little bit of play and re-learning how to knit (yes, I've tentatively picked up the needles again after a near twenty-year gap - more on that later!) I've not had much chance to blog lately, for which I again apologise. Now's the time to get going again, though, with this excellent article about a First World War airfield right here in my home county of Essex.
WWI airfield Stow Maries to be restored
With the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War less than a year away now, the wheels have already begun to be set in motion to mark this important centenary. The B.B.C. has announced over 2,500 hours of related programming and the government has pledged £50,000,000 to remembrance commemorations, with commenters from every corner of the country discussing what should or shouldn't be done and how the money should be spent. (Personally I'm delighted to see the Imperial War Museum London earmarked to get even more "massive" improvements and major events all around the country mooted too. Not to mention the all-important educational aspect as well. It all sounds good so far!)
Stow Maries WWI aerodrome saved by £1.5m grant
|RFC Stow Maries, c.1914|
One of only ten remaining from the total 250 RFC stations built during the war, Stow Maries is the most complete example in Britain with all of its buildings still intact - more than 24 in total, many with their original windows and other features still intact as you can see in the accompanying clip. Built for one of the new Home Defence squadrons - otherwise known as "Zeppelin Busters" - to counter the new menace of aerial attacks by airships and Gotha bombers, Stow Maries was ideally placed to allow quick interception of zeppelins bound for London, Southend and northern towns. Along with Suttons Farm (later RAF Hornchurch and from where Lt. William Leefe Robinson became the first pilot to shoot down a zeppelin on the 2nd-3rd September 1916), Hainault Farm (RAF Fairlop), North Weald and Rochford aerodromes and also Joyce Green aerodrome in Kent, Stow Maries made up part of the London Air Defence Area.
Stories still abound of zeppelins bombing Southend and Purfleet, being spotted over Canvey Island and perhaps most famously being shot down in Billericay so it is wonderful to see this locally and nationally important historical site preserved and restored for future generations. Already there is talk of using it as the base for some flying WW1 exhibits at future Southend airshows and the plan to have it as a place to teach the restoration skills needed to keep these aircraft airworthy is inspired. I can't wait to see what else Stow Maries has in store!
By remaining unused (save for the occasional farm storage purposes) and overgrown from the end of the Second World War until only four or five years ago Stow Maries has managed to survive miraculously untouched. It was on the market only a year ago with the very real risk of being redeveloped but it is now in the safe hands of aviation & history enthusiasts and successful businessmen, the Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome Trust and the Friends Of Stow Maries Aerodrome. Thanks to the National Heritage Memorial Fund it is now in a position to begin realising its full potential as a fully restored First World War aerodrome, working museum and of course a lasting memorial to all the brave men (and women) who fought and served in the "war to end all wars".