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Old 03-29-2020, 11:05 AM   #1
Gabriel
 
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Default SE5a - A Propeller's Tale

For a long time I have been searching for an SE5a propeller. Recently, towards the end of last year, an opportunity came to purchase one.

I had been looking for an SE5a propeller for a number of years and in mid-November 2019, after a quiet period when I had taken my eye off the ball, my wife asked if we were ever "going to get something we can hang on the wall". So, with low expectation and anticipating more disappointment, I looked again on the internet - imagine my surprise when literally within a few minutes I found one for sale! Not just an SE5a propeller, but a four blader exactly as I wanted. The viewing, purchase and collection are a story in themselves involving more than a little luck and coincidence, but I finally got the propeller home at the end of December.

With the help of various individuals both on this forum and externally, and a bit of research, I have managed to put together a moderately comprehensive history of my particular prop together with some associated photographs. To that end, I have planned to make several posts in chronological order with the relevant details, I hope they will be of interest.
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Old 03-29-2020, 11:10 AM   #2
Gabriel
 
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So it starts here with the data stamped on the prop boss:

G64 N61
T28096 LH
D2362 P3340
200HP
HISPANO SUIZA
SE5

Most of it is standard information, the regular four bladed T28096 pattern to fit the 200HP Hisso engine. The relevant bit for my particular prop is the batch number and date (the G and N numbers), with many thanks to Bob Gardener for supplying the following information:

"G64 relates to a series of batch numbers introduced by the Air Board in the summer of 1917, prior to the formation of the RAF from the RFC and RNAS in April 1918. It describes a batch of 100 props ordered for the SE5A aircraft. It probably dates from early in 1918."
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File Type: jpg D46421C7-0796-40BD-9FC4-F024FE7E1EFB.jpg (97.7 KB, 9 views)

Last edited by Gabriel; 03-30-2020 at 05:01 AM.
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Old 03-29-2020, 11:21 AM   #3
Gabriel
 
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My propeller has no marks on the boss or hub to indicate it was ever fitted to an aircraft. Given it was manufactured in early 1918 and the SE5a was withdrawn from RAF service shortly after the Armistice, it is likely to have been placed in storage until disposed of in the early 1920's.

In fact, my propeller was sold in the mid 1920's, into the rapidly growing aircraft industry in the golden age of aviation, for the handsome sum of 5/-. For those of you not familiar with old British currency that is five shillings, or £0.25 GBP in modern money.

This is my actual prop on the wall of a workshop at somewhere called "Cloud House". The aircraft under construction is a Granger Archaeopteryx, the photo is circa 1928.
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File Type: jpg P1070712.jpg (96.1 KB, 10 views)

Last edited by Gabriel; 03-29-2020 at 12:29 PM.
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Old 03-29-2020, 11:26 AM   #4
Gabriel
 
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So the prop remained in the Granger family hanging on the same workshop wall and passing to the previous owner from his father, when they moved house the prop moved with them. (Although interestingly the workshop is still in use and coincidentally being used to rebuild the same original Granger Archaeopteryx aircraft back to flying condition!) The prop lived for a number of years on the wall of his garage, along with a host of other bits and pieces until he sold it to a local antiques dealer in November of last year.
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File Type: jpg SE5 Prop 003.jpg (96.5 KB, 11 views)

Last edited by Gabriel; 03-29-2020 at 12:40 PM.
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Old 03-29-2020, 11:47 AM   #5
Gabriel
 
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As I mentioned in the first post, I found the prop on the internet and went to meet the dealer directly. Iím pleased to say we agreed a price that, while above that of a private sale, left us both happy and I finally got the prop home at the end of December.

On examination it was a bit unloved, very dirty and the wood was quite dry.
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Old 03-29-2020, 11:56 AM   #6
Gabriel
 
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So, washed with a weak solution of soap and water, a quick wipe with a damp cloth soaked with denatured alcohol (methylated spirits for us in the UK), followed by multiple coats of natural (no silicon) beeswax polish.

If you look closely at the second photo you can see the dowels which were used to hold the overlapping laminates together during manufacture. This technique fell into disuse towards the end of the war, given my prop was manufactured in early 1918 it must have been one of the last props to use it. The fabric is original and, to the best of my knowledge, exactly in accordance with the Royal Aircraft Factory pattern.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg 05514A83-86DA-4A31-99BF-0D4A3748B8B1.jpg (81.4 KB, 11 views)
File Type: jpg 9289E88E-1487-461A-87B6-DD439F877449.jpg (97.1 KB, 13 views)

Last edited by Gabriel; 03-29-2020 at 12:41 PM.
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Old 03-29-2020, 11:56 AM   #7
JR44
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Watching....
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Old 03-29-2020, 12:00 PM   #8
Gabriel
 
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And finally, here it is. To give you an idea of scale, the prop is 2.3m in diameter and the top of the ceiling is 21ft high (apologies if you are offended by mixing of imperial and metric units).

Even with the gaps of a few years here and there, I don't think there will be many propellers that have such a complete history for 102 years, I hope you have found it of interest.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg 79CC98D5-0196-4FE9-8388-1F24A3092A4A.jpg (88.3 KB, 11 views)

Last edited by Gabriel; 04-03-2020 at 04:52 PM.
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Old 03-29-2020, 12:06 PM   #9
Gabriel
 
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So thatís the propeller, I hope you will indulge me a little more with some back-story.

Hereís how it all started. This is my grandfather who flew Bristol F2B fighters and SE5a aircraft in the First World War, initially in the Royal Flying Corps and latterly with the Royal Air Force after it was formed on 1 April 1918. The cloth wings are his originals, and above is a white gold RFC sweetheart brooch.

Iím pleased to say he survived, demobbed in 1922, and died in the the summer of 1966 after many years as chairman of the local branch of the Royal Air Force Association.
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File Type: jpg 81DE223C-6001-41EC-B9A0-02AAFB3C497F.jpg (92.0 KB, 9 views)

Last edited by Gabriel; 04-03-2020 at 04:53 PM.
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Old 03-29-2020, 12:19 PM   #10
Gabriel
 
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And lastly, for those of you with a sense of the ridiculous, check this out.

At the same time as the propeller was originally purchased for 5/- there was also the hull of a Felixstowe flying boat bought for £7.

It was delivered by train one Sunday, fitted with a small aero engine and propeller at the front and used to drive up and down the river until one day almost decapitating a lock keeper, at which point everyone lost their sense of humour and it was banned.

What happened to the spirit of adventure?
Attached Images
File Type: jpg 2006 093.jpg (87.0 KB, 14 views)
File Type: jpg 2006 084.jpg (95.0 KB, 16 views)
File Type: jpg 2006 098.jpg (88.2 KB, 14 views)

Last edited by Gabriel; 03-29-2020 at 12:54 PM.
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