Tuesday 19 June 2018

Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome

On Sunday I was treated to a day out with the family to visit the Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome. I've wanted to come here for a while but the weather always seemed to be bad, or we were too busy, so its taken a while to finally happen. I wasn't expecting to find much here because its a relatively new museum but I was pleasantly surprised by the range of exhibits and the quality of the displays. And unlike some museums they are well set up to keep kids (big and small) happy.

The airfield first opened in 1916 in response to the first Zeppelin raids on London. It was home to B Flight of No 37(HD) Squadron, Royal Flying Corps who remained here until 1919 after the RFC became the RAF. After the First World War the site became a farm again and remained farmland until 2009 when it became a designated conservation area. Finally in 2012 the surviving buildings were given Grade II* listed status. The Museum has received significant Lottery Funding in recent years and is well staffed by volunteers making this a surprisingly well restored site with some very interesting exhibits, replica aircraft and vehicles. They also run site tours throughout the day (included in the entry price) and our guide walked us around the site in a tour that lasted over 90 minutes. 

A series of interactive diorama's show life at the Airfield during WWI. This Pilot is writing home to his family telling them about patrolling for enemy Zeppelins.

Although the Zeppelin raids started off England's first 'Blitz' it was the later use of Gotha bombers and the much larger Zeppelin Staaken R VI Heavy Bomber (capable of dropping up to 4,409 lb of bombs) that did most damage. 

Whether British 'grit' in the first Blitz was real or just propaganda is open for debate.

Examples of the Machine Guns used in WWI Aircraft : MGs (top to bottom) German MG14, German MG06/15, British Lewis Gun, British Vickers MG

Officers uniform

Another interactive diorama showing an engineer working on aircraft engines - Engines had to be removed and completely serviced after roughly 60 hours flight time. 

Many of the building have been restored but there are half a dozen more in need of work. The site reverted to the landowner after 1919 and aside from the ravages of time the site has remained largely untouched since the Great War. 

Replica RFS tender vehicle. There are several replicas around the site. 

The Memorial on site is dedicated the the Pilots that were killed while serving at Stowe Maries. The Memorial was paid for from public subscription. 

Names of the Airfields war dead. Note that of the ten men named, eight were killed in flying accidents. The remaining two were killed in action over the Essex coast but its likely they were actually shot down by our own AA guns!

There are several replica aircraft at Stowe Maries, many of which fly. This Bleriot XI was made for the film Lafayette Escadrille (1958) about an american WWI Pilot and was 'flown' by a very young Clint Eastwood in a supporting role to the main star Tab Hunter. 

A replica Fokker Eindecker - These nimble planes with a forward firing (and more importantly, synchronised) gun gained an early advantage over the RFC between August 1915 to early 1916 in what became known as the Fokker Scourge. 

Arguably one of the best planes of WWI, the Sopwith F1 Camel. The rotary engine produced a strong gyroscopic effect which made this a very difficult plane to master. However in the right hands the twin synchronised MG's were deadly. 

While we were enjoying a picnic this Royal Aircraft Factory SE5 was taken up for a spin. Another replica it circled the site for half an hour before coming back down with a gentle bounce. 

The Pilots Ready Room has also been restored and sits facing the airstrip. This is where all pilots would stop for orders and debrief after a mission. 

This artists impression shows how the site may have looked during the Great War.

Another shot of the SE5 on the ground. Its a surprisingly small aircraft. The SE5 was a stable gun platform but also very manoeuvrable and in the right hands a very capable dogfighter.  

Another excellent British Aircraft (replica) the BE2e. Built by the Royal Aircarft Factory  it was a single-engine tractor two-seat biplane that first saw service before the war and was used primarily as a reconnaissance aircraft.  

As a working airfield the site is used regularly throughout the year and they have a long list of events including a Heritage Day in September providing free entry to the site. If you live near enough I would strongly recommend a visit as there is a lot to see and the site tours are excellent.  


  1. Another fabulous find, what a great looking place.

  2. I had no idea that this museum existed...what a wonderful place!

  3. WWI a favorite of mine. Thank you very much for sharing these excellent photos.


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