Towards the end of 1943 consideration was given in Germany to possible use of piloted missiles for precision attacks on targets such as warships & other high profile targets like Buckingham Palace & the Houses of Parliament.
Design work was carried out by Deutsches Forschungsinstitut fur Segelfug (German Gliding Research Institute) & the modification of standard V1’s for testing purposes was carried out by the aircraft manufacturer Henschel, under the code name of Reichenberg. Initial test flights were carried out at Larz where the first two aircraft crashed killing the pilots. Test flying was thereafter carried out by Hanna Reitsch & Heinz Kensche.
Two factories were set up to manufacture piloted V1’s, one at Dannenberg & the other at Pulverhof both using slave labour. They produced approximately 175 piloted Fieseler Fi 103R-4’s before production ceased. 70 pilots were under training when the project ceased in October 1944 owing to a shortage of fuel for training & political differences within the German High Command. The operational Fi 103R-4’s were to have been operated by 5/KG200 & was to be known as the Leonidas staffel
The Fi 103R-4 Reichenberg on display at Farnborough in 1945
The Fi 103R-4 was captured at the Danneburg V1 factory in the American zone & returned to the UK in 1945. It was displayed at the German Aircraft Exhibition at the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough from the 29th October to the 9th November 1945.
The Fi 103R-4 then passed through a number of army Bomb Disposal units until discovered by the museum in 1970 stored outside in a very poor condition. The bottom of the cockpit had rusted through & the back of the V1 was broken and it was due to be scrapped. It was acquired by the museum & moved to Headcorn. The museum carried out temporary repairs & did a cosmetic paint job to buy time until the funds & expertise were available to carry out a proper restoration.
The Fi 103R-4 Reichenberg as found by the museum 1970
The Fi 103R-4 moved to Geisenhausen near Munich in November 2007, where the restoration was carried out by Axel Kuncze & his team at Auktionshaus fur historic Technik, the only restoration shop specialising in restoring the V1 and its derivatives anywhere in the world. Work carried out included replacing the nose cone as that was not the original. Some of the skinning on the rear fuselage was replaced & a new wing main spar was fitted as the one we had was of an incorrect size. The wings were recovered in the correct grade of plywood. The cockpit has been fully fitted out & all instruments, electrical fittings etc are original period pieces restored to full working order. The Fi103R-4 has been finished as it was when displayed at Farnborough in 1945.
There are six surviving Fi103R-4’s, the others being located at:-
Flying Heritage Museum, Seattle, USA
Leger en Wapen Museum, Delft, Netherlands
Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, Canada
La Coupole, St Omer, France
Schweizerisches Militärmuseum, Full, Switzerland
This restoration would not have been possible without the following sponsors:-
Dr Peter Haydn-Smith, Guy Thomas, Chris Samson, Ann & Bob McNae, Robin & Alan Glover, Peter Shepherd, Norman Franks, Trevor & Caroline Matthews, Dennis & Jean Wickenden, Michael Hukins, Ann & David Wild, Susan Harris
Headcorn Aerodrome, Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin, Norfolk Line Ferries, Thurston Helicopters, LAWM Trading Ltd, Ramada Hotels Ltd, Skybus Balloons, Luftwaffe Airfield Re-enactment Group, Collection in Memory of Andrew Cresswell
Focke Achgelis Fa 330A-1 Gyro Kite W/nr 100549
Pickett Hamilton Airfield Defence Fort
The world's only fully restored and working example of his World War 2 airfield defence fort.
Although officially known as the Pickett Hamilton Fort, it was more commonly known as a “Pop Up Pillbox and designed to accommodate two or three men armed with rifles. Made of concrete, access was via a metal hatch on the top. The pillbox was 9ft (2.7m) in diameter with a thickness of 9 to 10in (22 to 25cm).
Buried in the ground, the fort consisted of two concrete cylinders : the outer attached to the base section and the inner, which formed the “pop up” element. The inner section was actuated by a compressed air driven jack. Because it was sometimes unreliable, the jack was backed up by an hydraulic ram worked manually by one of the occupants. The main idea behind the forts was to maximise the element of surprise. At the start of any enemy attack on the airfield, they would rise out of the ground, with an all-round field of fire.
Winston Churchill wrote to General Ismay on the 12th July 1940 saying that the forts, “appear to afford an admirable means of anti-parachute defence and should surely be widely adopted. Let me have a plan”. Just over 300 were constructed but, of course, never used in anger.
Of the forts that survived, most were flooded but one at Manston was found to be dry and in superb condition in every respect and was thus worthy of saving.
An approach to 36 Engineer Regiment of the Royal Engineers, based in nearby Maidstone, was made enquiring if they would like to treat removal of the fort as an exercise. With a positive response work was under way on the 18th May 2006 and quickly completed with the fort being subsequently moved to Lashenden. A superb complete restoration was undertaken by Museum members, David Wild and Barry Baker. An important decision was taken not to bury the fort but to site it above ground to enable visitors to gain a better knowledge of how it worked. An observation window was included to allow views of the internal workings of the fort. The top assembly can be raised and lowered by insertion of a £1 coin in a slot machine.
To the best of our knowledge, this is the only complete, restored and working Pickett Hamilton Fort in the country. In addition to David, Barry and 36 Engineer Regiment, special thanks also to our good friend Robin Brooks for his efforts in relation to the acquisition of this fort for preservation.
Junkers Jumo 211 engine from Junkers Ju88 W/nr 140099 of 6/KG30
The collection includes British, German & American aircraft engines. Parts of the first Me109 to crash in this country during World War 2. A large section of fuselage from Me109 W/Nr 3737 the personnel aircraft of German “Ace” Werner Molders that blew up over Marden in 1940 & parts of Spitfires & Hurricanes flown by such well know names as “Ginger” Lacey & Bob Stanford-Tuck.
Rolls Royce Merlin From Supermarine Spitfire X4262 of 72 Squadron
We have items from such rare aircraft as the only Curtiss 75 (Mohawk) & Northrop P61 Black Widow aircraft to crash in the UK during WW2. We also have items that were recovered all over the world, including parts of a Halifax from Norway, a Japanese Zero from Singapore, Me110 from Austria a Russian Shturmovik from Leningrad.
The museum are custodians for the RAF Ex Prisoner of War Associations collection of POW memorabilia & artefacts.
The museum also has items & displays from:-
World War 1, Vietnam War, Falklands War & both Gulf Wars
Royal Observer Corps
Aircraft Armaments & Bombs
The 9th United States Army Air Force in Kent during World War 2
Civilians at War & the Home Front
Remains of Republic P47D Thunderbolt 4276278 of 367FS 358FG
The museum also holds over 200 British, German & American uniforms & flying suits most of which have been donated by their owners with full history.
The museum is always pleased to receive the donation of new items for the collection.
In line with museum policy of exhibit rotation, we cannot guarantee that a particular item will be on display at any time.
The remains of all aircraft which have crashed in military service (whether on land or at sea) are protected by the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986. It is an offence under that Act to tamper with, damage, move or unearth the remains unless the Secretary of State has issued a Licence authorising those things to be done and they are done in accordance with the conditions of the licence.