The Sunderland-based North East Land Sea and Air Museum (NELSAM)’s 1916 Morane Type N ‘Bullet’ replica project was displayed at the Great War Steam Fair at the North of England Open Air Museum in Beamish, County Durham over the weekend of 5-8 April, and proved so popular at that it was invited back the following weekend for the Beamish Horses at War event.
The replica has been built with reference to original drawings obtained from France. With the warmer spring weather forecast it was hoped to start covering the fuselage and wings at the end of April. Its construction has been undertaken with the aid of young engineering students from Sunderland College and cadets from No 2214 (Usworth) Squadron, Air Training Corps, who have had the opportunity to see how much progress has been made in aviation over the past 100 years. It will be painted in the markings of a Morane flown by Sunderland resident Claude Alward Ridley with No 60 Squadron in France. Ridley won the Military Medal and Distinguished Service Order for conspicuous gallantry while engaged in home defence, attacking Zeppelins and Gothas while commanding No 37 Squadron — at the age of 19 — at Stow Maries, Essex. He also flew spies into enemy territory by night in a Morane Type P two-seat ‘parasol-winged’ reconnaissance machine.
The Morane will also act as a tribute to the 170 pilots from the north-east who fought in the First World War, and 5,000 individuals from the region who served in various roles in the Royal Flying Corps and later the RAF. The ‘Ridley’s Aeroplane’ project has been made possible through a £10,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
NELSAM trustee John Stelling says, “Little is known of the region’s contribution to aviation in the First World War and we hope this project highlighting one relatively unknown 19-year-old pilot will be able to bring out more information on the achievements of the region’s airmen and women. Since the start of the project we have provided information to guides at Stow Maries airfield about his previous service, and Claude has also been recognised by the city of Sunderland with a blue plaque on Mere Knowles House where he was born”. Claude Ridley died of natural causes in London during 1942.