Reliving the First World War at Omaka, New Zealand…

Last week I posted on Sir Peter Jackson’s amazing ‘Knights of the Sky’ exhibition at the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre, near Blenheim in New Zealand.

This is no ordinary museum. Jackson’s team have brought the world of First World War aviation to life with a succession of dioramas – interspersed with traditional museum displays that house diverse artefacts, including the cap Hermann Goering was wearing in 1945 when he was captured by the US 7th Army. It’s relevant. Goering, before turning into a narcissistic, drug-addled, and very fat Nazi, was a First World War fighter ace. His formal dress jacket, along with some of his log-books, are also on display.

This is a ‘Harry Tate’ – the Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.8, a replica built in New Zealand.

One of the more spectacular dioramas portrays an incredible escape by Kiwi pilot Keith Caldwell over the Western Front. His SE5a was damaged by mid-air collision, leaving it uncontrollable. But he found that by standing out of the cockpit he could – just – balance his ‘kite’ enough to keep it flying, enough to bring it down to a crash landing anyway.

From a distance...and...
Why sit in the cockpit when you can hang on to the side?
And then, from the right angle…Woah!

The exhibition itself is called ‘Knights of the Sky’ – and with good reason. Final part next week. Yeah, this series of posts is a trilogy. What else could it be?

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2016


5 thoughts on “Reliving the First World War at Omaka, New Zealand…

  1. Love the old Harry Tate! As for Keith Caldwell, one has to wonder how that harebrained genius idea came to him. Was he going over the side anyway, or was he half thrown from the airplane, when he suddenly realized the drag force of his body had made the airplane at least partly controllable? Regardless, that’s presence of mind in the face of danger! Wottaman!

    1. It was one helluva story about one helluva guy – and a stunning diorama of the moment! There’s another post next week. And I am very tempted to do one on the 1:1 scale diorama they had of the Richthofen crash site, complete with the Aussies stealing his boots (I’ve seen the boots in the Australian War Memorial in Canberra).

    1. I’m sure it’s Tolkien! The Lord of the Rings was an accidental trilogy (he wrote one book divided into six parts but Allen & Unwin released it in three) but it stuck. There’s also the ‘rule of three’, so there’s a cultural basis somewhere in the mix anyhow.

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