News release - Issued by Yorkshire Air Museum
On 1st July 2016 the imposing Thiepval Memorial in Picardy, northern France is to be the setting of one of the largest international commemorations for the First World War.
Recently acknowledged by the European Union as “The Allied Air Forces Memorial”, the Yorkshire Air Museum at Elvington near York has been invited by the Government to display its AVRO 504 biplane fighter plane and exhibition, to represent the hundreds of pilots of the Royal Flying Corps who took part in the famous battle. On return from France, the AVRO 504 will form part of a specific First World War display, which will include a further three WWI aircraft from within our collection and information boards on the history of air services during the Great War.
With an 11m wingspan, the Museum’s AVRO 504 represents the fragile wood and canvas aircraft, which were in service during the time of the Battle of the Somme, and the Museum will carefully transport it and an exhibition unit by lorry via Hull Docks and North Sea ferry, on through Belgium and into Picardy.
The delicate logistical exercise will be undertaken by 8 Museum staff who will re-build the aircraft in France. It is expected they will also be accompanied by a TV crew for this unique event.
Museum Director, Ian Reed said, “The Allied Air Forces Memorial & Yorkshire Air Museum is deeply honoured to have been invited to represent the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Services on the launch day of the Commemorations of the Battle of the Somme, in France – we owe a great debt to those young men of 1916”.
The Battle of the Somme. One of the most infamous and hard fought battles of the Great War, its very name epitomised all the worst of that period in our history.
On the first day alone, 1st July 1916, a staggering 57,000 British soldiers were killed or wounded. By the end of the “Somme Offensive” on 18th November 1916, over one and a quarter million British, French and German soldiers had been killed, wounded or captured.
During the Battle the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service lost over 800 aircraft – pilots and aircrew were not issued with parachutes at this time and many died in horrific circumstances. The aircraft were used as bombers but mainly for reconnaissance where they took over 19,000 photographs of enemy positions.
Thiepval is probably the largest Memorial of its type in the world, and, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, it stands at 45 metres high, on a ridge just south of Thiepval village, overlooking the 150 000 graves of Commonwealth Servicemen, buried in some 250 military and 150 Civilian Cemeteries. Its 16 stone piers bear the names of all who gave the ultimate sacrifice. The 100,000 who were never found or identified, are honoured on the walls of 6 further Memorials, known collectively as the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme.
The Museum has acknowledged experience with transporting and displaying historic aircraft around the UK and at the beginning of the World War One Commemorations in 2014 even displayed two biplane aircraft in the Headrow, Leeds, one of these being ‘live’ and engine running.
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