One of the most famous aircraft to take to the skies during the First World War will be the centrepiece of an exhibition of aviation in the Great War.
An example of the Sopwith Camel, made famous as the plane of choice of fictional hero Biggles, is to be exhibited in a major new exhibition at the RAF Museum in Colindale, which will allow visitors to discover and explore the unique and often overlooked role of air power during the Great War through the stories of the men and women who took part in it.
First World War in the Air, which will open in December 2014, was made possible with a grant of £898,558 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
The Camel first came to Hendon in August 1957, when it travelled to RAF Hendon for storage, and was displayed there in December of that year, on the last day of operational flying at the base.
Restoration of the aircraft began in 1958 but little more than an inspection of the airframe was carried out before it was moved to other RAF bases. It returned to what was now the RAF Museum in Hendon in October 1971, where it has been on display ever since.
The Camel, designed by Thomas Sopwith, was the most succesful fighter of World War One. The single-seat fighter took its name from the hump over the breeches of the two front machine guns.
The first prototype flew in December 1916 and the Camel was used for both daylight combat and as a night fighter and ground attack aircraft. It saw extensive service in home defence, over the Western Front, and in the UK on training and test work until 1923 and in other countries until 1928, a remarkably long career for the time.
Production totalled some 5,500 aircraft and the Camel was held in the same high regard by those who fought in the First World War as the Spitfire was by those involved in World War Two.
With a superb fighting record, it was nicknamed ‘The King of Air Fighters’.