Closing Event for the ‘First in France 1914’ Project

Friday 12th August 2016

The ‘First in France’ Project

On Friday 12th August 2016, 150 members and invited guest gathered at Montrose Heritage Centre to help celebrate the conclusion of the ‘First in France 1914’ project which had taken volunteers two years to complete.

The project spanned several areas including the erection of a new building to display our WWI artifacts and facilities to archive our collection of photographs and documents. To many though the star of the project was the building of a replica B.E.2a as flown by Lt. Harvey-Kelly when he was the first to land in France at the start of WWI.

Chairman Alan Doe welcomed everyone before handing over to our Honorary President, Air Marshal Sir David Walker, to give the opening speech. Speeches were then made by:
Air Vice-Marshal Ross Patterson, Air Officer Commanding RAF Scotland.
Wing Commander Roger Elliot, Officer Commanding No.II(AC) Squadron, RAF.
Mr Simon Burke, grandson of Lt.Col. C.J. Burke DSO. First C.O.of No.2 Sqn. RFC.
Mr Myles Kelly, great nephew of Major Harvey-Kelly DSO

There were two performances of the play ‘Falls the Shadow’ written by Elizabeth Doe and directed by John Binnie and an aerial display from a replica Spitfire.

Videos of speeches

The concept behind the ‘First in France 1914’ Project

In 2013 the Heritage Centre Curator, Dr Dan Paton, came up with the idea of the ‘First in France’ project. It was to be called First in France as No.2 Squadron, who were based at Montrose in 1914, were the first aircraft to land in France at the start of WWI.
At 06:20hrs on Thursday 13th August 1914, No.2 Squadron took off from Dover to cross the English Channel into France. At 08:22 the first B.E.2a aircraft, of the British Expeditionary Force, piloted by Lt. Harvey-Kelly landed at Amiens, France.

The ambitious project was to see the erection of a new building to house our WWI exhibits and aircraft. One of these aircraft was to be a full size Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2a constructed by our volunteers using copies of original plans.

The Heritage Lottery Fund were approached for a grant which was successful.

During July 2014 the new building was erected and was officially opened by the Lord Lieutenant of Angus, Mrs Georgiana Osborne, on Sunday, 3rd August 2014. On that day 100 years ago, No.2 Squadron left Montrose and flew South to go to war. They were never to return.

Project Aims:

  • Build a new Centre for First World War Scottish Aviation History at Montrose.
  • Create a permanent exhibition in wall mounted posters and case displays which would tell the story of military aviation at Montrose and Scotland during the First World War.
  • Build a A full-scale replica of a Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2a as flown at Montrose in 1914.
  • The new building would also house a purpose built Archive Office where our large collection of photographs and documents could be digitally scanned and stored securely.
  • Create a digital Roll of Honour for the many men killed in training at Montrose or subsequently at war.

2nd–3rd August 2014 – Launch Event for the ‘First in France 1914’ Project

On 3rd August 1914, No.2 Squadron RFC left Montrose and flew South to war. On the 13th August they took off from Dover and crossed the English Channel becoming the first of the RFC to land in France at the start of WWI.

The Heritage Centre received a grant from the Heritage Fund for a ‘First in France Project’ which would run until August 2015.
The project would see the erection of a new building to contain our World War One exhibits and the building of a full size replica of a B.E.2a aircraft.

On Saturday 2nd August the Heritage Centre was open free to the public and was well attended. Please see the day’s programme below.

The Event held on 3rd August 2014 was to see the official launching of the project and the opening of the new building by The Lord Lieutenant of Angus Mrs Georgiana Osborne. The event was organised by the Heritage Centre in partnership with the Western Front Association and the RAF. Please see the day’s programme below.

On both days there were two performances of the play ‘Falls The Shadow’ written by Elizabeth Doe and directed by John Binnie. The play has been extended by the author to bring in the character of Major Burke. Please see the play programme below.

As part of the commemorations marking the centenary of the start of World War One a wreath was flown in a replica SE5 from Montrose Air Station to RAF Leuchars. On 13th August it was then taken to Amiens, France.

The whole weekend event was supported by grants from Angus Council and Museums Galleries Scotland.

The B.E.2a – Volunteers build a full size replica of the 1914 aircraft

Volunteers have built a WWI aircraft as flown by No.2 Squadron in 1914.
The video gives information about the B.E.2 and photos from the first year of its construction.
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