I am lucky to live in a country that has a very rich and long history. It is so long in fact, that much of it has passed into myth and legend such as the tales of King Arthur. Despite this heritage, many people in the UK don't appreciate our heritage today and that makes me sad. History teaches us not to make the same mistakes twice, it gives us a link to the past and to our ancestors. It links us to the land that we call home. That is why I love events like the Festival of History that I went to recently. This is a massive multi-period event with live action re-enactments of battles, trading stalls, living history villages showing traditional skills and ways of living and lots of other events. One of the most impressive sights was a recreation of a World War I dog fight.
The group responsible for this are called 'The Great War Display Team' and they were incredible to watch. On the day that I was there they staged a WWI dog fight with nine planes taking part. I had my camera with me so I did my best to take photo's as they flew past and I have also done my best to identify the planes. The photo above is of a British RAF SE5 bi-plane showing the emblem of the Royal Flying Corps which later merged with the Royal Naval Air Service to become the RAF. The plane in the photo below is of a German Junker CL1 which was introduced right at the end of the Great War. It had two cockpits, the rear one being for a gunner, which was a dummy for this display.
It was an incredible sight to watch these planes perform and they all flew under 1000 ft so that the crowd could easily watch them as they turned, dived and performed their aerobatic display. Two things struck me. The first was that these planes are so slow compared to modern planes. Engineering has come a long way. The second was how maneuverable they were with some of the planes seeming to turn on a wing tip. I loved the heavy thrum of the engines too, so unlike the loud wall of noise that hits your ears with modern jets.
The aircraft danced in the air while a very amusing commentary played out for the spectators. It took the form of an interview with some British pilots who were reliving memories of dog fights with flying aces such as the famous Baron Von Richthofen also known as the 'Red Baron'. British flying ace Albert Ball battled with the Red Baron and when he died in combat he had 44 victories. The plane in the photo below is a Sopwith tri-plane which was flown by the British.
The plane in the photo below is a Nieuport 17 which was a French aircraft. This is the type of plane that would have been flown by the 'Lafayette Escadrille' as shown by the Squadron insignia (The Indian Brave) on the side of the plane and was largely composed of American volunteer pilots. They were recently the subject of a really good film simply called 'Flyboys' which is well worth a watch. (If you look closely you will see the pilot waving to the crowd!)
At the start of the Great War, aeroplanes were used for reconnaissance flights only to observe the movements of the enemy. Soon the pilots saw the merit in being armed and started to carry rifles, revolvers and other weapons so that they could attack enemy aircraft and troops on the ground. Later, larger guns were mounted on the planes themselves and this signified the birth of air fighting which is the WWI equivalent to the medieval duel. Often flying Aces would duel in the skies with each other and would often know each other by reputation.This last photo was taken at the end of the display when the planes that had been 'hit' released smoke canisters. The top plane in the photo is of a Fokker dr1.
The display was an incredible sight and the whole crowd were stood with their heads tilted to the skies to watch those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines. I have more photos from the Festival and will post about a Viking v Norman battle soon.