Another of the real gems housed in the Australian War Memorial collection is one of just seven remaining original WWI manufactured, Royal Aircraft Factory designed SE.5a aircraft. The aircraft is currently displayed in the in the exhibition of WWI Aviation at the AWM. The aircraft is finished in the colors of D6950 2SQN AFC which Lieutenant Francis Howard was killed in action over Tournai while on an offensive Patrol at 0655 on 27 October 1918. The SE.5a is beautifully restored and preserved by the AWM team and displayed with the rest of the AWM WWI collection of aircraft and artifacts Including Avro 504, Pfaltz, Albatross DV and DH.9.
This aircraft was produced under license by the Bleriot company at Addlestone, Surrey UK. In 1919 the company became the Air Navigation and Engineering Company Limited and its wartime records are often listed under this later company title. This aircraft has no Australian Flying Corps (AFC) record, having served with the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) although its WWI service records are somewhat elusive at present.
The aircraft was actually built under a UK Government contract No AS20367 for 200 SE.5a’s dated May 1917 and was delivered in August 1918. The Batch of 200 aircraft (Serial No C1751 to 1950) also included C1831, C1837, C1934, C1948 All of which flew actively with 2 Sqn AFC and C1924, C1925, and C1926 all of which served at AFC training Sqn No6 at Minchinhampton UK but so far there is no record coming to light of when and where C1916 served in WWI.
Post WWI the SE.5a was allocated to storage and in 1920 it was gifted to Australia as part of an allocation of aircraft which were intended to form the new RAAF called the Imperial Gift. This comprised 128 aircraft being 28 X D.H.9, 30 X D.H.9a, 35 SE.5a and 35 Avro 504 aircraft. Amongst the SE.5a aircraft was C1916 along with sister ship C1917. The aircraft were stored until required and some were never used owing to their poor state. C1916 was however deployed to the RAAF after storage at No1 Air Depot (1AD) in 1926 and serialed A2-4. A2-4 then commenced duty at No1 Flying Training School, Point Cook in July 1926 where it was utilized as a fighter and fighter training aircraft. During its service with 1FTS the aircraft was involved in a number of accidents including a forced landing 20/10/27 near Ankie Victoria (crew Cpl G E Douglas), another forced landing on 16/11/28 at Laverton (crew Cdt G W Boucher), a forced landing on 12/12/28 west of Werribee Victoria (crew Plt Off F N Wright) due to broken oil pipe and a forced landing on 20/02/29 at Point Cook (crew Cdt C McK Henry). By 1929 most of the SE.5a s had been written off and destroyed but A2-4 was acquired by the AWM on 31/07/29, and displayed in Exhibition Buildings, Melbourne. In 1936 A2-4 was looking very tired and was sent to its old unit, 1 AD 06/36 for restoration. The aircraft was then displayed at the AWM from 1936 until 1970 in its RAAF Silver doped color scheme with red, white and blue rudder.
Then in 1970 A2-4 was repainted to represent C9539 in Khaki green and the incorrect damaged landing gear was replaced with a correct item. The squadron’s marking during the period January to March 1918 was a white boomerang painted on the fuselage side immediately forward of the tail plane, with individual markings carried in front of the boomerang. The AWM Memorial’s S.E.5a is thought to be the most original of the seven surviving examples of the SE.5a.
The SE.5a has now been refinished in 2008 as another AFC aircraft D6950 again a 2Sqn AFC operational aircraft.
The SE5a Scout C1916 – per AWM website
“SE5a Scout / Fighter. It is a single-engined wood and fabric single-seat aircraft. Powerplant – Wolseley Viper V8 200 hp, Serial No. 74908, (installed) stationary 8 cylinder, upright 90-degree Vee water-cooled, poppet-valve. Direct R.H. Tractor/L.H. pusher drive. Engine dry weight – 500lbs. Markings stamped into propeller hub area: G1399 N II Other side: 62 RH, Hispano – Suiza, Wolseley Viper, D – 2400: P-1750.”
© John Parker 2017