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Fighter plane exhibition reveals city's key role in First World War

PUBLISHED: 16:28 12 July 2019 | UPDATED: 16:28 12 July 2019

Gordon takes a flight over Norfolk in a simulator at the International Aviation Academy. Supplied by: ERM CIC

Gordon takes a flight over Norfolk in a simulator at the International Aviation Academy. Supplied by: ERM CIC

Archant

An aviation exhibition is shedding light on Norwich's pivotal role in the First World War.

Participants view a model of a Sopwith at the Norwich Aviation Museum. Supplied by: ERM CICParticipants view a model of a Sopwith at the Norwich Aviation Museum. Supplied by: ERM CIC

The exhibition, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and called Taking To The Skies, will be at the International Aviation Academy near Norwich Airport and delves into the history of aircraft manufacturers Boulton and Paul.

The firm was founded in an ironmonger shop in Norwich in 1797 but rose to prominence during the First World War as a Sopwith Camel aircraft supplier.

Men's Shed and Pitt Stop participants at Norfolk Heritage Centre. Supplied by: ERM CICMen's Shed and Pitt Stop participants at Norfolk Heritage Centre. Supplied by: ERM CIC

Sopwith Camels were a single-seat fighter aircraft introduced in 1917 on the Western Front, the conflict's main theatre of war.

During the war they shot down 1,292 enemy aircraft - more than any other allied aircraft.

Norwich Boulton & Paul car park, Carrow Bridge, 5th January 1972. Picture: Archant LibraryNorwich Boulton & Paul car park, Carrow Bridge, 5th January 1972. Picture: Archant Library

The biplane fighter aircraft have also enjoyed their moment in popular culture as Charlie Brown and Snoopy's transportation of choice.

And it was at Boulton and Paul's former production site at Mousehold Heath in Norwich where the most Sopwith Camels were manufactured in the UK.

Metail Workers at Boulton & Paul factory in Norwich. Picture: Picture: Archant LibraryMetail Workers at Boulton & Paul factory in Norwich. Picture: Picture: Archant Library

The exhibition will feature models of the Sopwith Camel alongside new research on Boulton and Paul - uncovered in archives at the Heritage Library in The Forum in Norwich.

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It has been curated by members from Pitt Stop, a social group for men, and the Norwich branch of the Men's Shed Association.

Colin Howey, a local historian, said: "It has been so rewarding, and I have learnt so much working alongside the Pitt Stop.

The Boulton & Paul factories at Rose Lane and then at Riverside in Norwich where thousands of men and women worked over the years making goods sent across the world. Picture: Archant LibraryThe Boulton & Paul factories at Rose Lane and then at Riverside in Norwich where thousands of men and women worked over the years making goods sent across the world. Picture: Archant Library

I've really enjoyed seeing them spread their wings and take to their own skies."

Students from The Wherry School in Norwich have also contributed animations.

The idea for the exhibition came from the Eastern Region Media Community Interest Company (ERM CIC) who work with communities to discover their own heritage.

Tim Edwards from ERM CIC said: "This exhibition has seen people from all sides of the community get interested in local history and produce exciting responses to it.

"We were impressed by the interest and engagement of the community.

"It's community looking at the community's own heritage."

The exhibition is free and will take place Sunday July 21 11am to 2:30pm and Monday July 22 11am to 2pm.

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