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September exhibition to commemorate and explore themes of war and remembrance

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: May 24, 2014

  • The famous Lord Kitchener WWI poster

  • The Sunbeam Bomber, an aircraft built in Wolverhampton by the Sunbeam Motor Car Co

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IN September there will be a 'Craft & Conflict' exhibition held at the Bilston Craft Gallery, and Exhibitions Officer Carrie Slawinska has been in touch with the details and an appeal to Bugle readers.

She told us that old artefacts will be an integral part of the exhibition. "The exhibition will open in September, just a few weeks after the nation has remembered the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War, and it will bring together both contemporary and historical items that commemorate and explore themes of war and remembrance.

"We envisage it will include examples of how local companies and their work forces assisted with the war effort over the duration of the First World War by producing, munitions, protective wear and even service vehicles. Also on display will be work by contemporary craft makers who explore themes of conflict and peace, addressing the human aspect of war and the importance of remembering past conflicts.

"As part of the exhibition we would like to know if any local people have artefacts from that era, in particular any items produced locally, and photographs of family members with perhaps stories and anecdotes relating to their time working in the local factories, describing their important contribution to the war effort.

"We would like to invite anyone who may have something of interest to contact me, Carrie Slawinska, here at the Bilston Craft Gallery, with a view to including the contribution in the exhibition. On the same theme we would also like to talk to any local historians who feel they may be able to contribute to the exhibition, using their knowledge of the area as it was during the First World War. My contact details are car rie.slawinska@wolverhampton.gov.uk, www.wolverhampton.org.uk/bilston, or phone 01902 552506."

In tandem with Carrie's details about the war effort shown by the folks here in the Black Country during World War One, a little research has revealed the enthusiasm shown by the Wolverhampton based Sunbeam Motor Car Company in producing a single-engine, single-seat bomber aircraft in 1917.

Following the outbreak of war in 1914, Sunbeam became a major supplier of licence-built aircraft for the Royal Naval Air Service, which was in addition to its existing work as a designer and builder of aero-engines and motor vehicles. But in November 1916, when the RNAS issued a requirement for a single-engine, single seat bomber, Sunbeam responded and decided to have a go at building their own Sunbeam Bomber, and as a result received an order for two prototypes from the Admiralty.

The first prototype, serial number N515 first flew at Castle Bromwich in late 1917, but unfortunately exhibited a number of problems, including severe vibration from the normally reliable Puma engine.The pilot's position in the aircraft was also less than ideal, giving him a poor view and sitting 8 feet away from the Vickers gun.

When it was formally tested in August 1918, it proved too heavy and carried fewer bombs than its competitor, the privately manufactured Sopwith B.1. But in the end both aircraft were rejected by what was now the Royal Air Force and the Black Country's very own Sunbeam Bomber was consigned to history.

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