Returning at the end of May was the Wings and Wheels event at Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome. Stow Maries is the best preserved First World War aerodrome in the UK with several beautifully restored buildings situated alongside a working airfield in the heart of the Essex Countryside. Wings and Wheels opens the summer events programme for Stow Maries bringing together a classic car meet and a garden party style flying display.
Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography by the author.
As we found in 2021, Stow Maries is really one of the stand-out locations in the UK when it comes aviation and First World War history preservation. Its staff and volunteers have beautifully and sympathetically brought its original buildings back to life telling the story of early years of UK air defence. Aside from preservation efforts, the Aerodrome also hosts a number of events each year including two which include flying displays; Wings & Wheels and A Time for Essex.
Wings and Wheels does pretty much what it says on the tin. As well as the museum and re-enactors, the event brings together a number of classic car clubs together with a garden party style afternoon flying display. Sadly, compared to 2021 the weather was not so kind with mostly cloudy skies, a few showers and a very cool breeze. However, the organisers did managed to squeeze in the flying display between the rain showers although the skies remained threatening throughout.
The display was opened by the Red Sparrows Display Team, but in a very different form than usual. For their opening display of the 2022 season, the team of Nigel Wilson, Tom Turner and Alex Lewton presented a mixed and colourful formation of Slingsby T67M Firefly, de Havilland Super Chipmunk Mk22 and Yakovlev Yak-52. After some opening formation passes the three aircraft performed their own short solo displays. 1930’s military training was marked later in the display by David Bramwell flying his Miles Magister in a solo routine.
Much of the display was devoted to Great War flying machines. First of the World War One aircraft to fly was the stunning Bristol Scout reproduction flown by David Bremner. The Scout is usually kept at Old Warden but was not flown to Stow Maries. Instead, David and his support crew trailer to Scout around the country and re-rig the aircraft to fly.
The display stayed with the Great War theme with a pair of aircraft from World War One Heritage Aviation Trust; the RAF BE2e and Albatross DVa. Both these aircraft are incredibly authentic reproductions produced by Peter Jackson’s The Vintage Aviation Company in New Zealand and are based at Stow Maries. The BE2e is particularly closely associated with Stow Maries as 37 Squadron used the type as a night fighter in the defence of London against air raids by Zeppelins and Gotha Bombers. However, the pairing of BE2 and Albatross together was a reminder of the air battles of the Battle of Arras in 1917 where Royal Flying Corps BE2s were engaged by superior Imperial German fighters and suffered grievous losses. Completing the World War One flying displays was John Gilbert flying his Nieuport 17 replica which he flew with great panache under an increasingly dramatic cloudscape.
The Tiger Club made a significant contribution to the event with not only flying displays by their aircraft, but also flying in a number of their club aircraft from nearby Damyns Hall including a Tiger Moth and Stampe SV4. In the flying displays, their Mudry CAP10C was put through an eye-catching and very energetic routine by Christophe Simon. Christophe is one of the UK’s newest display pilots and was mentored by the Tiger Club and Pete Kynsey.
Closing the show was one of the UK’s longest running display teams, the Tiger Club Turbulent Team. Many display pilots have started their careers displaying with the team which flies a classic barnstorming sequence of formation flying, limbo flying, flour bombing and balloon bursting in their colourful little Druine D31 Turbulents.
The changeable weather did not dampen the garden party feel to Stow Maries which provides a wonderfully different day out to some of the larger airshows on the display calendar. There is another chance to sample an air display at Stow Maries later this year on 14th August.