A new DVD has been released by Primetime Video, featuring One Sky Aviation’s wonderful DH2 Replica, which is based here at Wickenby Airfield in Lincolnshire.
Joanna and Simon White from Primetime Video travelled with the DH2, Chipmunk and RV10, to the Somme area of France last November to record their unique act of remembrance – returning the DH2 aircraft to the skies of the Western Front for the first time in 93 years!
Entitled ‘DH2 – Flying into History’ the film details the short but important history of the DH2 aircraft, which was responsible for reclaiming the skies over the Somme in 1916. The Fokker Eindecker had been an overwhelming force for the German Air Service for too long, and the Royal Flying Corp were desperate to match this threat.
Geoffrey De Havilland had already created his first aircraft for the Aircraft Manufacturing Company (later known as Airco) – the two seat DH1 pusher. He redeveloped it, making it smaller and lighter and mounting a Lewis Gun to the nose so the pilot could fly and shoot simultaneously.
View from the DH2 as it nears French soil
The aircraft was trialled unsuccessfully with No 5 RFC Squadron where it crashed and was captured by the Germans. Despite the enemy’s preview of our latest fighter the DH2 was put into production and awarded initially to Major Lanoe Hawker of 24 RFC Squadron who flew his group of 12 aircraft from Hounslow Heath to Bertangles in France. The DH2 was very successful against the slower and less agile Eindecker. In no time at all 24 RFC Squadron had reclaimed the skies of the Somme – allowing allied aircraft to perform bombing and reconnaissance duties once more.
Today 24 RAF Squadron still remember their first fighter leader warmly and recently erected a memorial to Lanoe Hawker near to his final resting place, at Lighny Thilloy. He was shot down 23rd November 1916, in his DH2, by the up and coming Manfred von Richthofen, after a long aerial battle.
Major Lanoe Hawker
It was 24 RAF Squadron’s Phil Mobbs who invited Wickenby’s DH2 to over fly the unveiling of Hawker’s Memorial last November to mark the 95th Anniversary of his death.
Wickenby’s DH2 was built in 1978 at Lands End in Cornwall. It was commissioned by Thorpe Park who wanted it to form the centrepiece of a 24 RFC Squadron display – to recreate the DH2 Squadron that was stationed at nearby Hounslow Heath. After a number of years on show it was sold to Russavia who converted it to look like a Vickers Gunbus, to feature in the US film ‘Sky Bandits’.
A foggy Thiepval Memorial - 11/11/11
It was sold on many times and flew very infrequently before being rescued by Gerry Cooper of Vintage Skunk Works who brought to Wickenby in 2008. It was soon flying again, sold to Steve Turley and Gerald Cooper of One Sky Aviation, and now forms the centrepiece of Wickenby’s growing collection of airshow aircraft.
The DVD documents every step of the journey of this unique aircraft, as it cruised south to Duxford, then Headcorn. Pilots Stewart Smith (DH2) and Lee Brocklebank (accompanying Chipmunk) were filled with trepidation as they set out across the English Channel, which thanks to a steady headwind took them 30 minutes to cross. But it was all worth it when they passed over French soil again and landed at the Somme airfields of Abbeville and Albert.
Wingtip cam showing the DH2 flying over Lochnagar Crater
The camera team recorded the journey from the ground and from the air – with mini cameras all over the DH2 and a cameraman aboard the Chipmunk recording air to air across the Somme countryside. They also recorded the poignant service at Thiepval Memorial on 11/11/11, where the DH2 was to drop poppies, but the Somme fog had other ideas! The DVD also shows the unveiling of the memorial to Major Hawker and interviews with the DH2 team, historians and onlookers.
You can watch a few snippets from the film below and if you’d like a copy they are available from Fly 365 Ltd in the Old Control Tower or from Primetime Video.
To read more about their journey then visit the Wickenby DH2 to the Somme blog.