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SE5 - Rebuilt by Apprentices at the RAE

This is another superb image from Dick Delaney's personal collection.

This air-to-air photograph shows the SE5 in flight during the 1970s. Those wanting to see a more detailed larger image of the aircraft please click here.

The SE5 WW I fighter aircraft was designed at the Royal Aircraft Factory, later becoming the Royal Aircraft Establishment and later still the Royal Aerospace Establishment, by a team led by Henry Folland. The aircraft entered service with the Royal Flying Corps in 1917 and played an outstandingrole in the turbulent air-fighting over the Western Front in the first great War of the Air. Over 200 SE5s were built at Farnborough and the aircraft pictured above was rebuilt by RAE apprentices and is still flying.

In fact the rebuild of the aircraft took place over a somewhat prolonged period of time commencing in the late 1950s. If my memory is accurate the aircraft was damaged quite badly during landing sometime after the first rebuild and was subsequently rebuilt for a second time. After the second rebuild it was demonstrated at numerous air displays throughout the UK during the 1970s. More often than not the pilot on these occasions was David Bywater, at that time a Wing Commander and Flying CO at the RAE - and also my neighbour in Fleet during the 1970s. It is tempting to assume that David is flying the aircraft in the photograph above.

A further item of interest, at least it is to me, is that I made the undercarriage brackets for this aircraft during my apprenticeship. It was during a four week period spent in the Forge and was I recall in 1957. Thereby hangs a funny tale - at least it seems funny now but at the time it was a quite terrifying experience. There I was standing in front of a monstrous Drop Hammer with a pair of tongs in my hand holding a piece of near white hot metal. At the drop control of the hammer was what appeared to be a very large gorilla-like apparition. I was truly terrified when the gorilla calmly said "position the blank over the anvil and just nod your head when you want me to drop the hammer". The truth is I was shaking so much that it was impossible to tell if I was nodding my head or experiencing another fear convulsion. The result of all this was that the hammer was dropping in a completely random manner keeping time with my fear convulsions - a total disaster. How we ever manage to shape the said undercarriage brackets remains a mystery, I assume that my apprentice master came to the rescue. Nonetheless, by means fair or foul, we did eventually make it, the brackets were completed and the aircraft eventually flew successfully.

I just hope that my undercarriage brackets didn't contribute to the crash landing which initiated the second rebuild!

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