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Engine find fuels dream of bomber's restoration

By This is Somerset  |  Posted: March 03, 2011

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A Bristol Hercules engine bought on eBay has brought a Coleford aeroplane enthusiast's dream of restoring a Second World War bomber closer to reality.

The Short Stirling bomber entered into service with the RAF in 1941 and was the first four-engine bomber of the war.

It played a major part in the offensive until 1943 when it was switched to transport duties towing gliders taking part in the Arnhem operations.

Not one complete aircraft has survived but Martin Smith is determined that his efforts to restore the nose and cockpit section of what he calls the "ugly duckling" of warplanes will help bring the plane back to life.

He started his collection of Stirling parts 20 years ago but his latest find means that his nose and cockpit restoration is no longer a flight of fancy.

Mr Smith is also a member of the Stirling Project set up in 1997 by a group of similar minded people who are attempting to complete a full restoration.

His fondness for the Stirling comes partly because the machine is rarer than the more well known bombers such as the Lancaster.

He said: "The Short Stirling was almost an ugly duckling but it could outmanoeuvre any fighter at the time.

"Towards the end of the war the bomber was used to drop special operations executives in Europe."

Many of them were stationed around the area at Keevil and towards Bournemouth and Mr Smith is keen to find other plane parts to help towards the project.

He is frequently tipped off by readers about different finds in the fields around the area and he is hoping they will continue to help in this way.

Mr Smith said: "I have parts from about 30 different Stirlings including the front, the possibility is that there are a lot more pieces out there and people do not realise how significant these are.

"There are possibly bits in fields or even picked up and in the back of someone's shed."

As well as help in sourcing parts, he also hopes that similar minded buffs will be inspired to help him.

Mr Smith's hobby has seen him rebuild the control column – probably the only one in the world that is complete. He also has a rear undercarriage and has reconstructed the instrument panel, and is now working on the side panels.

Mr Smith's interest in the Stirling started in 1995 but his love of aviation history started as a boy growing up in Lincolnshire.

When he was eight he found a 50 calibre bullet in a field and then someone told him a Flying Fortress had crashed there.

He was hooked and a few years later was helping to dig up a whole plane from the field.

He also has the fuselage of a de Havilland Chipmunk in his back garden. This particular Chipmunk is the third oldest in the world, another eBay find, and as well as the fuselage Mr Smith has the wings stored safely.

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