BE2 in flight

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Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome in Essex

Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome was established in September 1916 as a base for 37 (Home Defence) Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, which also operated from aerodromes at Rochford (today London Southend International Airport) and Goldhanger (long since disappeared).

For two years it played a pivotal role in helping to defend the British mainland from attacks by German Zeppelin airships and Gotha fixed-wing bombers during World War One.

37 Squadron transitioned from the Royal Flying Corps to the Royal Air Force on 1 April 1918 when the independent air service was formed and it remained on station until 1919 when it transferred to RAF Biggin Hill.

Thereafter the aerodrome reverted to agricultural use, leaving behind a unique collection of historic buildings still in their original form, surrounded by abundant wildlife. The farmland was owned by Flambirds Farm, reputedly the inspiration for K.M. Peyton’s ‘Flambards’ books and subsequent television series.

During the interwar period the wooden buildings were removed and in subsequent years a handful of brick buildings were demolished or collapsed. The site fell increasingly into disrepair and was largely forgotten until the late 1970s when local historians and military aviation enthusiasts recognised its importance. The Royal Commission for Historic Monuments (England) carried out a survey of the site and published its report in 1997.

Change of ownership

In 2007, the 79-acre site and all the 24 crumbling buildings (the only ones surviving out of the 47 from 1919) were purchased by a small commercial company building and maintaining high performance sports cars, run by Russell Savory, a former motor racing engineer.

They renovated the RFC Engine and Doping Workshops  for their business use but the pull of the site's history was too strong just to do that so work began conserving other buildings and reinstating the grass landing strip. In addition a small museum was created and the Airmen’s Mess Hall was conserved to support the museum and provide a centre for community use.

In December 2010, a memorial to those killed in the line of duty was erected at the aerodrome, paid for by public subscription. The site was designated a Conservation Area in 2010 and in August 2012 the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport approved the listing of all 24 buildings Grade II*. 

Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome Ltd

In late 2012 the site was again put up for sale and a campaign was launched by Russell Savory, supported by Essex County Council and Maldon District Council, to acquire it for the nation and ensure its long-term preservation.

In December 2013, Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome Ltd completed the purchase of the site, with support from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, English Heritage and the two councils.

Now a major conservation project is under way. Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome Ltd has charitable status (Charity no. 1151099), with the objectives of preserving the fabric of Stow Maries World War One Aerodrome for the public benefit and advancing the education of the public in the history of the aerodrome, World War One and the natural history of the surrounding countryside.