The museum team is very excited to be welcoming a full size replica WWI plane (and her owners!) to the museum this month for our WWI commemoration event on Saturday 25th October. The day will be running from 10am – 3pm with a packed program of activities throughout the day, including interactive ‘living history’ lectures with the Braintree cadets, period music and food, family workshops, and the chance to look round our WWI exhibition – ‘Braintree District at War – 1914-1918’. For more information please see the full itinerary below or download it here.
The plane is a full-size replica of a WWI Bristol M1.C, which visitors will be able to see on a simulator trailer on the museum forecourt. The Bristol M.1 Monoplane Scout was first developed in 1916 by Frank Barnwell. The first prototype, M1.A, took to the skies for its maiden flight on 14th July 1916. It was then purchased by the War Office for testing, and they ordered a modified aircraft, M1.B, which was launched in October 1916. Despite a great performance it was rejected for use on the Western Front because of its landing speed and because there was a widespread belief that monoplane aircraft were unsafe in combat. Despite this rejection a further 125 planes were ordered in a new version, M1.C, the version that is coming to the museum in 3 weeks time. This had a Vickers machine gun centrally-mounted in front of the pilot. 33 M1.Cs served in the Middle East and the Balkans in 1917-1918. The remaining fleet were used for training back home in the UK, and were popular among senior officers.WWI was the first time that aircraft were used on a wide scale. They were more commonly used for reconnaissance than combat. It was quickly realised in 1914 that the cavalry’s traditional success in scouting out the enemy was not as effective against modern guns, causing a turn towards aircraft. Airships, in particular the German Zeppelins, were also used for reconaissance and bombing raids. More information on the Zeppelin raids over Braintree is available here – http://btreemuseum.wpengine.com/war-in-the-skies-over-braintree/ The Bristol M1 was a single-seater monoplane with a wingspan of 20 feet. It was much faster than similar German and French monoplanes, reaching a maximum speed of up to 130 miles per hour. It could fly for up to 1 hour and 45 minutes in one go, reaching heights of 20,000 feet. The Bristol was a ‘Scout’ plane, designed for speed to enable it to escape enemy fire from the ground and deliver speedy reconnaissance reports. The addition of the Vickers machine gun in front of the pilot on the ‘C’ model also made it one of the early single-seat fighter aircraft. A later ‘D’ model was produced after the war.
The museum would like to thank Kearsley Airways Ltd (www.kalair.co.uk), Braintree and Bocking Civic Society (www.bbcivsoc.org.uk), Andrewsfield Aviation and Tesco for their support of this event. We look forward to welcoming you on the day. For further information please visit the event page at www.braintreemuseum.co.uk/whatson/first-world-war-centenary or call us on 01376 328868.
Jennifer Brown, Collections and Interpretation Officer