BE2 in flight


The sky’s the limit for Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome students  

  • Rocking Nacelle

  • Rocking Nacelle


As part of exciting centenary commemorations to be held this year at Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome near Maldon in Essex, visitors will be able to take part in their own World War One flight – from the safety of a new flight simulator being built by students at Colchester Institute.

A grant of almost £10,000 has been awarded from the Heritage Lottery Fund to the WW1 Aviation Heritage Trust (WAHT) for ‘Project Lanoe’, with the College’s Construction, Engineering and Digital Media students designing and building the ‘Rocking Nacelle’ simulator and integrating the electronics.

Meanwhile, history students from the Ormiston Rivers Academy in Burnham-on-Crouch will be researching the role of the inventor of the original Rocking Nacelle, Major Lanoe Hawker VC, DSO, RFC, as well as the impact of Stow Maries Aerodrome on the local community.

Dick Forsythe the Chief Trustee of the WW1 Aviation Heritage Trust said: “We are grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund’s ‘First World War: then and now’ programme for helping us bring together so many communities and groups in Essex to share their Great War history of the county.

“The money will be used to create a Rocking Nacelle, like an aircraft cockpit, which visitors can climb into and experience a simulated flight which will help them understand the skills needed and the challenges of aerial combat in WW1 – without leaving the hangar.

“The crews had to get airborne in under-powered, fabric-covered biplanes, open to the elements that required enormous bravery to take-off, let alone fight. This will help us to educate people about the evolution of military aviation and the courage of the crews in the Great War, connecting current and future generations with the foresight and courage of their forebears.”

Others involved in the project include Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome Ltd, the RAF Museums, the Vintage Aviator Ltd, MattPayne-CGI and Hi Point Visual Ltd.

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 Ltd, which operates the site, has lined up an informative and educational programme of commemorative activities, with the opening of a brand new exhibition in the spring, 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 World War One replica planes, including those operated by WAHT. It is planned that the Rocking Nacelle will be unveiled later this year.

Jeremy Lucas, Trustee of the Stow Maries Aerodrome Trust, said: “Owing to the tireless work of our volunteers and partners, a major transformation is under way at the aerodrome. The Rocking Nacelle will form an important part of this and we are extremely thankful to all those involved for their input. As a former headmaster myself, I think it’s fantastic to see the students getting so hands on with this project. It really is an excellent way to bring history to life.”

Andrew Payne, Energy Skills Centre Workshop Supervisor at Colchester Institute, added: “Our staff and students are extremely pleased to have been invited to be part of this exciting project, especially as it marks the centenary of the halfway stage of the Great War. It has been satisfying to note the students’ enthusiasm towards being actively involved in the manufacture of the simulator.”

Robyn Llewellyn, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund East of England, said: “The impact of the First World War was far reaching, touching and shaping every corner of the UK and beyond. The Heritage Lottery Fund has already invested more than £58million in projects – large and small – that are marking this centenary.

“Our new small grants programme is enabling even more communities like those involved in Project Lanoe to explore the continuing legacy of this conflict and help local young people in particular to broaden their understanding of how it has shaped our modern world.”

You can follow progress of The Rocking Nacelle and other projects via our updates here, our Twitter and Facebook pages, the WW1 Aviation Heritage Trust website by clicking here and the Colchester Institute website by clicking here.

The aim is to have the aerodrome fully operational and restored over the next few years.


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