East Anglia FOTMM visit
On the appropriate date of 1st April, the EA group mustered by individual navigation at the little known aerodrome of Stow Maries, Essex. – not too far from Maldon and Chelmsford.
This airfields is unique, certainly in Great Britain, and possibly the world, as having been stood down in 1919, and never re-activated. When the (then) RAF left in 1919, they thanked the farmer for the use of his fields for the duration of WWI, and handed over the keys to all the buildings. The airfield had been for use by an ‘interceptor’ squadron – No.37 Sqn RFC – to try to stop Zeppelins and Gotha bombers reaching London. They did cripple two airships during the war.
The first thing the farmer did was to plough up the access road to the airfield and thus isolate it forever. It was only post-WWII that a new concrete access road was constructed for farm use - and for the convenience of the electricity board to get to some pylons.
The photographs show the buildings extant, and all are scheduled for renovation with financial support from English Heritage and the Imperial War museum. Many of the buildings were left completely unused, some were used for farm equipment storage, and a few were occupied by itinerant travellers for some time after WWII.
All the buildings are in need of much renovation of walls, roofs, windows and flooring. The whole site is now Grade 2 Listed. The great thing is that in 1918, in its heyday as a RFC base, many photographs were taken and remain to assist in ensuring the restoration brings things back to ‘original’ standard. In the meanwhile a variety of wildlife has taken up residence – including 4 different types of owl, some birds of prey and numerous field mice and bats.
Cdr Simon Askins is a ‘Friend’ of the airfield and thus brought it to the notice of the group, and then our ever-willing organiser, Margaret Gooch took over and arranged a mailing/emailing to the members and a group of 16 assembled on the day. We started with a presentation and film showing the finding and restoring of the place, followed by a guided tour by a very knowledgeable ‘volunteer’. The tour took in workshops for airframes, engines, and transport. The Aircrew Ready Room – including a camp-bed for the ‘duty pilot’ in case a Zeppelin was reported nearby. The Airmen’s Mess has been refurbished for use as the presentation room and the Officer’s Mess is awaiting renovation – complete with its elegant brick fireplace. The hangar – currently a temporary canvas covered structure – contained a few privately owned aircraft, a 7/8 replica of a Royal Aircraft Factory SE5 and a space model of a Pup (for fun) plus a few 1915 vehicles under restoration e.g a 1915 Fiat electric truck, and a 1915 chain drive 8 litre petrol driven truck. There are also a few ‘look alike’ RFC replica vehicles on more modern chassis.
In the Prince of Wales pub afterwards over a good lunch, everyone agreed it had been a very interesting day seeing a worthwhile project. The FAA Squadron is scheduled to visit the aerodrome towards the end of July, so they too should have a great visit – there may even be some more replica WWI ‘planes there by then.