BE2 in flight


Colchester Institute students reach for the sky

  • John Whittingdale MP trying out the Rocking Nacelle  with Dick Forsythe Chief Trustee WW1 Aviation Heritage Trust Ltd, Robyn Llewellyn Head of Heritage Lottery Fund East of England. Michael Drayton Trustee WW1 Aviation Heritage Trust Ltd, Denis Stretton HiPoint  Visual Ltd, Andrew Payne Colchester Institute, Michael Pudney Trustee Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome Ltd and Philip Clegg Trustee WW1 Aviation Heritage Trust Ltd

  • 3.	Principal at Colchester Institute Alison Andreas with students and staff of  who were involved in the construction of the Rocking  Nacelle

  • 1.	DH2 24 Squadron Officer Commanding Major Lanoe Hawker VC, DSO,RFC

  • WAHT aircraft at Stow Maries


Colchester Institute students have put the finishing touches to a WW1 flight simulator that will form part of the growing list of WW1 attractions at Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome, near Maldon. The WW1 Aviation Heritage Trust has been working on the simulator with the students since the award of almost £10,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund in November 2015.

The WW1 Aviation Heritage Trust (WAHT) has brought three WW1 aircraft authentic to their original designs from New Zealand to Stow Maries to complement the Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome Trust’s ambitious preservation project for returning the aerodrome to its former glory as an active WW1 Home Defence aerodrome. 

New flight simulator at Essex aerodrome museum

The simulator project is known as Project Lanoe after Major Lanoe Hawker VC, DSO, RFC, who was a charismatic RFC pilot and innovator until his untimely death at the hands of Baron Richtofen in November 1916. One of the WAHT aircraft at Stow Maries is an Albatros similar to the aircraft that the Red Baron was flying that day.

In the Great War, the flight simulator was known as a Rocking Nacelle and was an aircraft cockpit shorn of its tail, nose, and outer wings and mounted on a gimbal with the controls connected so that the nacelle responded to the pilot’s input. With a gun on the upper wing it was used on ranges for practice against moving targets.

Clearly, it is not possible to recreate the range aspects today but in an intriguing development once the project was underway WAHT have introduced virtual reality goggles with missions of increasing complexity available for budding pilots to try their hand. The goggles provide 360 degree 3D cover so aerobatics and extreme manoeuvres can be conducted safely and very realistically.

Dick Forsythe the Chief Trustee of the WW1 Aviation Heritage Trust said:

This project really seems to have captured the essence of the Heritage Lottery Fund’s ‘First World War: then and now’ programme in bringing together so many communities and groups in Essex to share their Great War history of the county.

Project Lanoe involved Colchester Institute’s Construction, Engineering and Digital Media students designing and building the ‘Rocking Nacelle’ simulator, integrating the electronics, and providing some of the 3D modelling. The project is a template for the community projects that should soon become the norm at Stow Maries with a STEM Hub and an apprenticeship scheme in the Vision for a fully re-constituted aerodrome.

Alison Andreas, Principal and Chief Executive of Colchester Institute, added: “This has been a fantastic opportunity for students from a number of areas to work collaboratively, to an externally developed project brief to the benefit of the local community.

“As well as putting their vocational skills into action, they have had to interpret a brief, communicate with their ‘customers’, make decisions and work as a team all vital experience for entering the world of work.”

Others involved in Project Lanoe include Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome Trust, the RAF Museums, the Vintage Aviator Ltd, MattPayne-CGI, Hi Point Visual Ltd and Ben Librojo (VR Developer).

Keen to support and encourage the development of the aerodrome as a Centre of Excellence and underscore its importance in the County, local MP and Secretary of State John Whittingdale launched the Rocking Nacelle at a special ceremony to mark the prodigious efforts of the students and contributing organisations on Friday 10 June at 4pm which was followed by an evening show with aircraft flying and living historians.

The simulator is one of a number of new attractions being created at what is Europe’s largest surviving WW1 aerodrome, for its 100th anniversary commemorations. Stow Maries Aerodrome was established in 1916 as the base of the Royal Flying Corps 37 (Home Defence) Squadron, two years after the Great War began. Its role was to defend the nation against raids from Zeppelins and Gotha bombers and the aerodrome remained operational until 1919.

Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome Trust, which operates the site, has lined up an informative and educational programme of commemorative activities, with the opening of the brand new exhibition in May 16, as well as fly-ins, educational events, talks and vintage days throughout the year.

Volunteers have been hard at work creating the exhibition, alongside th­­­­­e existing museum, shop, WW1 airmen’s mess, café and hangars of WW1 replica planes, including those operated by WAHT.

Peter Martin, Chairman of the Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome Trust, said: “The aerodrome is undergoing major conservation and development with the help of our band of volunteers and partners, who are investing their time and money into what is a very important site. The Rocking Nacelle is a fantastic addition to Stow Maries and we thank all those involved in creating it.”

Robyn Llewellyn, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund East of England, said: “The Rocking Nacelle, believed to be the only surviving one of its kind, will give visitors an insight for how pilots were trained for combat before taking to the skies during the First World War. It’s thanks to National Lottery players that we can support projects like this to help more and more people learn about so many different aspects of the conflict. ”

You can follow progress of The Rocking Nacelle and other projects via social media linked to Stow Maries, Twitter and Facebook the WW1 Aviation Heritage Trust and Colchester Institute. The aim is to have the aerodrome fully operational and restored over the next few years.

If you would like to see the Rocking Nacelle for yourself visit Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome near Maldon. 

The aerodrome is open to the public from 10am – 5pm Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holidays. Pre-arranged group visits, including coach trips, are also welcome to visit on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Children under 16 visit free with adult tickets costing £8. More information on opening times and entrance fees.

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