19 May 2017
The Duke of Gloucester joined volunteers at Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome near Maldon to mark the centenary of the first ever, medical evacuation by air and of the first operational flights from the airfield.
To mark the casualty evacuation by a BE2 aircraft from the Sinai desert in 1917, a period ambulance and a BE2 staged a re-creation. A Tiger Moth took to the skies to commemorate the first flights from the airfield, Europe’s largest surviving WWI aerodrome, and a low-level flypast by a Hercules C-130 aircraft marked the modern era of casualty evacuation.
The Duke officially opened the Aerodrome’s new 37 (Home Defence) Squadron Museum, which tells the stories of the servicemen of the Royal Flying Corps who made the exciting – and sometimes terrifying – journey from the beginnings of flight at Stow Maries. The Museum also highlights the early years of the RAF and WRAF through to the closure of Stow Maries in 1919.
The Duke joined more than 200 guests as they soaked up the atmosphere of the Great War aerodrome. He spent time talking to Mrs Betty Hay, daughter of Captain Steven Hay GM AFC, Flight Commander, 37 Squadron, Stow Maries 1918, and Mr John Guiver, Nephew of Amy Guiver, WRAF, RFC Stow Maries.
Mrs Hay said, “He was the Flight Commander, and he flew a Sopwith Camel and a BE2. The Germans used to come up the Thames and the Royal Flying Corps intercepted them so they didn’t get to London. Because they were in an open cockpit, when they came back they were frozen solid, and had to be helped out of the aircraft.”
His Royal Highness also spent time talking to volunteers and curatorial staff who have worked tirelessly to create the new museum.
RAF and Royal Army Medical Corps personnel on the ground gave a variety of impressive displays, as well as Parsons Period Presentations delivering a living history display on Great War first aid. An ensemble from the RAF Honington (Volunteer) Band played during the afternoon.
Chief Executive Ian Flint, said, “We were highly honoured to welcome The Duke, and it is wonderful to show the Aerodrome at its best. Seeing not only the RAF and RAMC on site, but also having a chance to thank our supporters – such as the WWI Aviation Heritage Trust – is wonderful. Not forgetting our amazing volunteers, who make it all possible.”
Stow Maries Great War aerodrome is open to the public every day except Tuesdays from 10am-5pm, with last entry at 4pm, Pre-arranged group visits, including coach trips, are also welcome. Its first event of 2017, Wings & Wheels, takes place on Sunday, 21 May, when vintage aircraft will be joined by classic cars, motorcycles and military vehicles.
For more information about visiting Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome please visit www.stowmaries.org.uk.