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Aircraft of the Great War

de-havillandIntroduction

There is a well-known saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. It is equally true to say to see something ' in the flesh' is worth a thousand pictures.

For those who are interested in the aircraft of the Great War, whether as a serious student, researcher, or 'just plain interested', the Royal Air Force Museum at Hendon, in north-west London, has exhibits of many of the 'key' aircraft that participated in the air-war of the Great War.

Of course, the collection of aircraft at Hendon is just not restricted to the military aircraft of the Great War. It covers all of the era of British Royal Air Force, from it inception as the Royal Flying Corps (RFC), and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) to the present day Royal Air Force (RAF). The collection also has examples of the aircraft used by its Allies and enemies.

It is entirely understandable that the Great War enthusiast may drift away from the Great War exhibits to experience sensations such as the awe of standing beneath the amazing bulk of the British Avro Vulcan B2 Bomber of the Cold War era (1945-1990) in the Bomber Hall.

Another of many sources amazement that are to be experienced amongst the exhibits, is the larger size of the WWII (19139-1945) Avro Lancaster1 Heavy Bomber when compared with that of the American equivalent, the Boeing B17G (Flying) Fortress Heavy Bomber. This quite unexpected and notable difference in size can be readily appreciated since they stand side by side in the Bomber Hall.

The presence and sophistication of these more modern aircraft, only help to accentuate the apparent frailty and vulnerability of the Great War exhibits.

Also, a careful examination of the almost entirely wooden airframe of the WWII de Havilland Mosquito B35 Light Bomber (Milestones of Flight Hall) is warranted. It gives some indication of the impressive development that took place in the short period of time between the appearance of the purpose built wooden framed Great War aircraft and the introduction of the almost all wood Mosquito in 1942. It will be seen that the development of the wooden-framed aircraft reached its acme of perfection in the very fast Mosquito.

The Great War aircraft exhibits.

Four of the five exhibition halls house Great War aircraft: the Milestones of Flight Hall (MoFH), the Historic Hanger Hall (HHH), the Bomber Hall (BH), and the Grahame-White Factory (G-WF) buildings.

As will be seen from the Table below, currently - (mid-2004)* - the Milestones of Flight Hall displays three Great War aircraft, the Historic Hanger Hall another two and the Bomber Hall one more. The remaining 11 Great War aircraft in the collection are housed in Grahame-White Factory building.

*NB: The following list of 17 Great War aircraft, and their current location, is only intended as a guide; the actual location of the exhibits may change from time to time.

List of Great War aircraft at RAF Museum, Hendon 

Type

  Nationality 

  Mark/Model 

  Number 

  Location 

Avro

British

504K

E449

G-WF.

Bleriot

French

XVII

433

G-WF.

Bleriot

French

XI

164

MoFH.

Bristol

British

F.2B Fighter

E2466

HHH.

Bristol

British

M.1C

C994

G-WF.

Caudron

French

G.III.

3066

G-WF.

De Havilland

British

DH.9A

F1010

HHH.

Fokker

German

D.VII

8417/18

MoFH.

Hanriot

French

HD.1

75

G-WF.

R.A. Factory

British

S.E.5A

F938

G-WF.

Sopwith

British

1.1/2 Strutter

A8226

G-WF.

Sopwith

British

Camel

F6134

MoFH.

Sopwith

British

Pup

N5912

G-WF.

Sopwith

British

Tabloid

168

BH.

Sopwith

British

Triplane

N5912

G-WF.

Vickers

British

FB.5

2345

G-WF.

Vickers

British

Vimy

F5814

G-WF.

Aircraft types are currently (mid-2004) under restoration/rebuild: the German LVG (Luft-Verkehrs Gesellschaft) G.VI, and the British R.A. Factory FE2B and Sopwith Dolphin.

One aircraft type is held in storage: the French Farman F.141.

In addition, some of the dismounted aircraft engines used in the Great War aircraft are also on display in the G-WF building and elsewhere. Rotary engines are particularly well represented.

Information about the Great War aircraft on display

Each exhibit has its own information card that details the general facts about it. In the Grahame-White Factory they are straightforward, stand-alone, written cards. But in the Milestones of Flight Hall, these cards are supplemented by an interactive computer screen display. Using a simple 'Touch Screen' technique, one can access a whole range of additional illustrated and textual information on items such as 'Technical' (details), 'History' (of the actual aircraft on display), and so on. There is also a five-question quiz on each of the aircraft.

A coloured representation of each of the aircraft can be viewed in a 360 degree moving panorama.

The two aforementioned Great War aircraft - the British Sopwith Camel and the German Fokker D.VII - in the Milestones of Flight Hall collection are also given this more sophisticated treatment.

In the Milestones of Flight Collection Hall, there are 10 of these strategically located computer terminals, each of which covers all the aircraft on display in the Hall. So, even on busy days, visitors are assured of ready access to a screen.

Access routes

The RAF Museum, Hendon, in north-west London, is readily approached by:-

Public Transport

  • Underground Northern Line at Colindale Station.
  • London Transport Bus No. 303 to Grahame Parkway.
  • Mill Hill Broadway Railway Station.

Road

  • M25/M1 then A41 or A5. Follow special brown and white signs reading RAF Museum (Hendon).

Parking

There is ample on site free parking for coaches and private cars.

Opening times, entry fees and facilties

  • Open every day from 1000 - 1800 hours (10am to 6pm) except 24th to 26th December inclusive, and New Year Day.

Times of Grahame-White Factory are 1200 - 1700 hours, (mid-day to 5pm) but also see Warning below.

  • Entry to all the buildings of the Museum is free.
  • There is a fee to use the Flight Simulators in the Historic Hangers and Milestones of Flight buildings.
  • A guide and illustrated brochure are available at modest cost from the Reception Desk in the main building.
  • An excellent selection of souvenirs, memorabilia, books, VHS cassettes (in both European and American standard formats) and CD's is available at the on-site shop located in the Milestones of Flight building.
  • There is a restaurant with bar (Wings) and two cafés (Aces and Wessex). Opening times and days vary somewhat, best enquire on the day.

Time required and on-site access

  • The RAF Museum guide lists a two-hour recommended short itinerary.
  • A good study of just the Great War exhibits would take a similar amount of time. A really satisfying schedule covering most, if not all, of the exhibits in the Museum would require around five hours, including a leisurely lunch and a tea-break. Obviously, more than one visit is required to see and study the complete collection and to use all the facilities, including the cinemas and the Aeronauts Interactive Centre.
  • Comfortable shoes are advised as the site is fairly extensive.
  • Access for disabled visitors is excellent.
  • Guides are available for parties of 12 persons or more; fee payable is £20.00.

Warning

The Grahame-White Factory building that houses 11 of the 16 Great War aircraft in the collection, is not always open when the rest of the Museum is.

Therefore, it is always prudent that the Great War enthusiast should telephone the Museum at (00 44 [0] 8205 2266) in advance to ensure that the Grahame-White Factory will be open on that day. And to ascertain at what precise times, so the visit can be scheduled accordingly.

It seems special arrangements can be made for groups if the Museum is warned in advance.

Publicity

The Museum has a very interesting and informative web site: www.rafmuseum.org. It gives full details of the collection, and vibrant colour illustrations of many of the exhibits.

Conclusions

The RAF Museum is a must for Great War enthusiasts and approaches an earthly paradise for all afficinados of the aircraft of the Great War and the associated paraphernalia.

The more active of the younger visitors are also well catered for, by the additional technical delights of the aircraft simulators and the Aeronaut Interactive Centre.

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 18 February 2009 04:07 )  

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