STOW MARIES AERODROME

Renovation work underway

Stow Maries Aerodrome was established in September 1916, on twelve fields belonging to Edwins Hall and Old Whitmans farms, as a London defence aerodrome to deal with raids by Zeppelin and fixed wing Gotha bombers.

The first occupants were the BE 12b flight of no 37( Home Defence) Squadron moved in from their base at Orfordness, Suffolk to establish Squadron HQ at the Grange, Woodham Mortimer. A flight operated from Rochford and C flight from Goldhanger.

The first Commanding Officer was Lt Claude Ridley who who only 19years but had already been awarded the Military Cross and DSO prior to his appointment.

Click here to read a page about the remarkable life of Claude Ridley.

In May 1917 two BE 12a aircraft were equipped to provide night fighter cover from the airfield.

By 1917 A Flight also moved into the airfield from Rochford.

Sopwith Pups and Sopwith Snipes replaced the BE12's in 1918 and later C flight moves to Stow Maries to unite the Squadron.

restored vintage vehicle at the aerodrome

The runway was a constant source of problems mainly from weathering and required attention on a daily basis from the station steamroller to keep it serviceable for the aircraft. On one inspection the aerodrome was called a very good aerodrome with a terrible runway.

As a practice aid a full scale Gotha aircraft shape was cut out of the ground and filled with white stone so that it could be used for target practice.

The airfield covered 15 acres and had 44 buildings at its peak.

By late 1919 the need for air defence had lowered and the use of the airfield was discontinued.

The airfield reverted to farming although the buildings and runways were left intact.

Six pilots from Stow Maries paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Stow Maries Churchyard has three headstones to mark the deaths of Lt Edward Cecil Henry Robert Nicholls , Australian Lt R W Mauritzen and Lt E G Mucklow.

Flying in the Great war was a dangerous task and sadly the three pilots buried at Stow Maries were all killed in accidents at or near the airfield rather than enemy action.

 

At the start of WW2 the site was evaluated to see if it could be used for modern aircraft but it was decided that the heavy clay could not take increased use of modern planes.

This was revisited in 1942 with a view to establishment of a USAF Bomber Station.

The airfield was even allocated an airfield number of USAF 163 but problems at other airfields delayed the start and by 1943 with the prospect of an invasion of Europe the project was abandoned.

The airfield did attract the attention of the Germans who bombed the airfield on several occasions believing it to be an active airfield, it also proved useful in September 1940 when a Hurricane P3715, LE-D of 242 Sqn was able to crash land after damage to its radiator during a dog fight.

The airfield was not suitable for the Hurricane to take off when repaired and it had to be dismantled and return to its base by road.

The airfield was used to house Italians who worked on the local farms immediately at the ends of  WW2.

As a coincidence the author Katherine Peyton ( K M Peyton) visited the area and was stimulated by the name of Flambards Farm to write a novel, which was later televised,  about the RFC called Flambards.

Katherine Peyton was amazed to later find that a real airfield existed as described in her literary invention.

Buildings prior to renovation

 

Although the airfield was not used after WW1 it did see some action in World War 2 when  a Hurricane with radiator damage made an emergency landing on the old airfield. The Hurricane made a safe landing although the undercarriage was damaged and the plane had to be dismantled on site and  removed by road.

In modern times the airfield was been used for farming although the occasional point to point meeting was held and  the runway was used by a model aircraft club to provide a miniature reminder of the old days.

Amazingly over 20 of the original buildings survive making the site probably the best preserved WW1 airfield in the UK. Surviving buildings include the Reception Station, Generator House, Officers Mess, Regimental Institute, workshops, stores, offices and accommodation blocks. The buildings are single storey with brick walls and slate roofs usually with a flue for the heating stove.

A War Memorial has been erected in the memory of members of 37 Squadron.

The aerodrome has now been restored and is open to the public. A visit is highly recommended.

To visit the website click here.

 

 

 

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