Bits and Pieces
Unique English WWI Airport Gets a Facelift
By Ian Brown, Editor - Bits and Pieces, EAA 657159
At the end of World War I, many small airports in the U.K. were just handed back to the farmers who had hosted them. Such was the case at Stow Maries (pronounced Stoh Mah-rees), near Maldon, Essex. The airport had remained in the family until 2009. The buildings had been used as farm outbuildings and accommodation.
Now two entrepreneurial custom auto builders have taken it over and are developing it as it was almost a hundred years ago, but with the addition of museum exhibits. They are even having the original small-paned windows rebuilt and replaced. Their names are Steve Wilson and Russell Savory and their company, RSPerformance, builds just eight or so cars per year for specific clients. They plan to move their business to the site. They are enthusiasts of aviation, history, and wildlife and these three elements are noticeable in their sensitive reconstruction of Stow Maries Aerodrome.
Stow Maries Aerodrome During Reconstruction
As aviation began to get involved for the first time in WWI, the Great War, German Zeppelins and Gotha bombers began crossing the Channel to bomb London. Flight 37 (Home Defence) Squadron, Royal Flying Corps was formed to defend against incoming attacks. The first commanding officer, Lt. Claude Ridley, was only 20 years old at the time. Try looking around at your local airport for a 20-year old, and imagine him or her commanding the training and missions of younger pilots tasked with defending the country from foreign invaders. The mortality of these young pilots seems to have been entirely as a result of equipment failures and inexperience. The RFC combined in 1918 with the RNAS to form the Royal Air Force.
Gotha G.V. Bomber - 1917
It was the young trainee pilots and their instructors who were tasked with Home Defence. They flew training aircraft and machines that had been sent back from the front because of reliability problems or replacement by newer models. Most of the recorded deaths at Stow Maries were due to training accidents and unreliable equipment. Remember that aviation at the time was risky at best. The Great War ended just 15 years after the Wright brothers' first flight and nine years after Blériot's successful crossing of the English Channel. For most of WWI, both balloons and heavier-than-air aircraft were used for observation and photography. Stow Maries was established only a year before the end of the Great War.
Of interest to aviators, the list of pilots and their number of sorties and total hours flown is available at the Friends of Stow Maries Aerodrome website.