History of Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome

Until 1915, the First World War was being fought on the European mainland. In response to attacks from German Zeppelin airships and Gotha Bombers hitting London, however, a ring of defensive aerodromes, including Stow Maries, was built to protect the capital.

1916

In September 1916 the first aircraft arrived at the aerodrome, belonging to 37 (Home Defence) Squadron Royal Flying Corps' ‘B’ Flight.

The first commanding officer at the aerodrome was Lieutenant Claude Ridley, who was only 19 when he arrived at Stow Maries. On the evening of 23/24 May 1917 Ridley, promoted to Captain, and Lieutenant G. Keddie made the first recorded operational flight from the aerodrome in response to a large Zeppelin raid targeting London.

1917

The aerodrome doubled in size in the summer of 1917 when the squadron’s ‘A’ Flight was also posted to Stow Maries.

During the early hours of 17 June 1917, 2nd Lieutenant L. P. Watkins of 37 (Home Defence) Squadron was credited with the downing of Zeppelin L48 at Theberton in Suffolk, the last Zeppelin brought down in Great Britain during the war.

One of the aerodrome’s busiest days was the 7 July 1917 when aircraft were ordered to take to the skies after 22 Gotha bombers were spotted heading to London.

Unfortunately 1917 saw the loss of 2nd Lieutenant Roy Mouritzen in a flying accident and Captain E. Cotterill was seriously injured through engine failure. In 1918 there were more losses including: Captain A. Kynoch in an aerial collision at night, Lieutenant E. Nicholls in a flying accident on the aerodrome and 2nd Lieutenant C. Milburn in an accident near the edge of the flying field.

Lieutenant Nicholls and 2nd Lieutenants Mouritzen and Milburn are buried in the churchyard of St. Mary and St. Margaret, Stow Maries, as is Ridley who died as a Wing Commander during WWII, from natural causes.

1918

The squadron’s Headquarters Flight moved to Stow Maries in the latter half of 1918 and an RAF survey recorded 219 personnel and 16 aircraft being present.

1919

In February 1919, three months after the war ended, the squadron’s ‘C’ Flight moved to Stow Maries; this was the first time the whole squadron had been located at one station, bringing staffing levels to 300 personnel and 24 aircraft.

In March 1919, the entire squadron moved to Biggin Hill in Kent, leaving Stow Maries aerodrome empty.