In the left foreground we can just make out “the UK’s smallest piloted aircraft”, as advertised in the 1960’s. Still uncompleted, it is the design of Mr M Ward from near Newark. However it is the aircraft on the right that grabbed our attention.
This is a replica of Lee Richards Annular Biplane. Its number is BAPC No.20, or in its entirety British Aviation Preservation Council Number 20.
The aircraft is based on an original design, featuring an annular (circular) wing. It was built for the 1965 film Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines, in which it was ‘flown’ by the character Harry Popperwell, played by Tony Hancock.
Newark Air Museum acquired the aircraft in 1967, shortly before it was due to be destroyed. Originally stored in Newark, it moved to the museum in the early 1970’s where it remained in storage awaiting restoration. In February 2000 it was then placed on loan with the Shoreham Airport Historical association, who then proceeded to restore it to its former glory. After a brief period with it being displayed at their West Sussex site the aircraft returned to Newark in August 2006.
The Gnat was adopted by the RAF’s aerobatic team in September 1964, making their first public appearance at the Farnborough Air Show. Originally named the ‘Yellowjacks’ as their aircraft were painted yellow, the name was changed in 1965 when a new paint scheme was adapted, with a name change to The Red Arrows.
The Gnat remained the Red Arrows chosen aircraft until the end of 1979 when it was replaced by the BAe Hawk.
The Gnat on display is painted in red and white, similar to the Red Arrows colour scheme. This design was used by training command at RAF Valley.
XR534 had an extensive flying career before being reconditioned at Dunsford, Surrey in 1969, followed by major servicing at RAF Kemble, Gloucestershire in early 1974. Overhaul complete and the Gnat travelled to No. 4 Flight Training School at RAF Valley, Anglesey in March of the same year. It served with the School until it was replaced with Hawks in 1977.
To the left of the Gnat is a Gnat Procedures Trainer. This was used to train cadets in basic cockpit drills and escape techniques.
Propped against the hanger wall, in the proximity of the Gnat is this well made stained glass picture of a Lancaster bomber.
I can only assume that this is a memorial to Squadron 617, the Dambusters squadron. There was no information about this piece of work, thus leaving me none the wiser.
At the far end of the hanger are two Lancaster bomber turrets. The rear turret below was built by Rose Brothers Ltd of Gainsborough, Lincolnshire and housed twin 0.5 inch Browning guns with a fifing capacity of 335 rounds per gun.
The Mid Upper Turret would have been equipped with two 0.303 inch Browning machine guns.
Hiding in the corner near the turrets is this Upkeep mine. This test bomb was recovered in June 1997, having been dropped at Reculver in 1943.
The Upkeep mine was one of three bombs designed by Barnes Wallis that were being tested for attacks against Germany. The Royal Navy had shown interest in a bouncing bomb with the idea of using this method for attacking the Tirptiz, codenamed Highball. There was also a smaller version, Baseball. This was to be a bomb that could fire at warships from motor torpedo boats. The whole family of bombs were given the codename “Golfmine”.
With time going against us, we found refuge inside the café for a well deserved cheese and ham toastie before heading back into the shop. Along the back wall was any boys dream with a plethora of model aircraft.
The item that caught my eye was this
now all I have to do is grow so that I’m the size of a six year old. Now that could take some time!