See the replica First World War plane built in a Norfolk garage

Graham Curtis has been working on a replica First World War bomber in his garage, near Dereham, for several years

Graham Curtis has been working on a replica First World War bomber in his garage, near Dereham, for several years - Credit: Sonya Duncan

We're all guilty of hoarding a few too many odds and ends in our garages. 

But not many of us can say we've got the front end of a First World War bomber tucked between the lawnmower and deck chairs. 

The replica Handley Page O/400 in Graham Curtis' garage in Westfield, near Dereham

The replica Handley Page O/400 in Graham Curtis' garage in Westfield, near Dereham - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Graham Curtis, who lives in Westfield, near Dereham, is the proud custodian of a replica Handley Page O/400, which was used by Britain for nighttime assaults on German-occupied France and Belgium. 

He is a member of The Paralyser Group, whose ultimate goal - since the mid-1980s - has been to build a flying replica of this trailblazing craft. 

"We all worked for Handley Page but, in 1970, the firm went into receivership" explained the 79-year-old. 

Graham Curtis has been working on a replica First World War bomber in his garage, near Dereham, for several years

Graham Curtis has been working on a replica First World War bomber in his garage, near Dereham, for several years - Credit: Sonya Duncan

"We carried on as a group with the aim of making a flying version of this O/400, and started building here five years ago simply because my garage space was available. 

"Five main people have contributed to the construction, and there are more members who have not necessarily had hands-on roles."

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The Paralyser Group's name is taken from a quote attributed to Captain Murray Sueter, director of the Air Department of the Royal Navy, who demanded during the war a "bloody paralyser of an aircraft". 

Graham Curtis, from Westfield, is part of The Paralyser Group which has been active since the mid-1980s

Graham Curtis, from Westfield, is part of The Paralyser Group which has been active since the mid-1980s - Credit: Sonya Duncan

When first built in 1915, the Type O was one of the largest aircraft to be produced in the UK, before being retired in 1922. 

While the group's dream is not dead, Mr Curtis says he has done all he can and the O/400 must move on to pastures new. 

On Tuesday (April 26) morning, it is being transported to the Great War Aerodrome near Maldon, Essex, where it will be displayed in the hope of attracting an investor who could fund the project's completion. 

The steering wheel of the replica Handley Page O/400 in Graham Curtis' garage in Westfield, near Dereham

The steering wheel of the replica Handley Page O/400 in Graham Curtis' garage in Westfield, near Dereham - Credit: Sonya Duncan

"The aim is still there, but it has been a significant undertaking and there is a lot of money required to make this happen," added Mr Curtis. 

"It eventually became evident that we weren't going to be able to do this all ourselves, so we came up with the idea of making a significant portion of the O/400.

"Now, the museum is interested in displaying it for us and we are gifting it to them. 

Graham Curtis has been working on a replica First World War bomber in his garage, near Dereham, for several years

Part of the replica Handley Page O/400 in Graham Curtis' garage in Westfield, near Dereham - Credit: Sonya Duncan

"In a way I'm sad to see it go, but we've done everything we possible can. I suppose it is going to the right place, so that the public can see it."

A giant of the sky

As well as being one of the largest built on British shores, the Type O was one of the biggest aircrafts in the world. 

An image of a Handley Page O/400 bomber during the First World War

An image of a Handley Page O/400 bomber during the First World War - Credit: Sonya Duncan

First came the O/100, of which 46 were built before the model was superseded by the O/400, with its strengthened fuselage and an increased bomb load.

More than 400 of the latter were produced in the UK before the Armistice at a cost of £6,000 each, while another 107 were licence-built in the USA.

At first, the Type O was used for daylight attacks over the North Sea, but the loss of an aircraft to fighter attack in April 1917 resulted in a switch to nighttime operations. 

Part of the replica Handley Page O/400 in Graham Curtis' garage in Westfield, near Dereham

Part of the replica Handley Page O/400 in Graham Curtis' garage in Westfield, near Dereham - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Typically, a single craft would target German-occupied French and Belgian ports, railways and airfields. 

The improved O/400 entered service relatively late in the war, in April 1918, but could carry new 750 kg bombs.

After the war, O/400s remained in squadron service until they were replaced at the end of 1919. No complete example of any original Type O aircraft remains.

An image of a Handley Page O/400 bomber during the First World War

An image of a Handley Page O/400 bomber during the First World War - Credit: Sonya Duncan