One of the most unique events commemorating the centenary of the beginning of the First World War took place in the grounds of Knebworth House on 5 July as part of the Sonisphere rock festival. As a prelude to Iron Maiden’s set, and incredibly involving the band’s lead singer Bruce Dickinson piloting his Fokker Dr.I Triplane, nine reproduction British and German First World War fighters displayed in a dogfight over the estate. Their appearance was introduced by a short film played on the big screens of the aircraft apparently starting up and departing their airfield bound for Knebworth and backed by the band’s song titled Paschendale – itself an epic track based around that WWI battle.
Dickinson is an experienced pilot and bought the Fokker Triplane earlier in the year, following which he joined the team which displays at airshows and in commemorations, and who are particularly busy in this centenary year. The aircraft operated for the event from Henlow and after returning from Knebworth Dickinson journeyed back to Sonisphere by road to take to the stage with Iron Maiden as the headline act for that night of the three day festival.
The tens of thousands of heavy metal fans who had gathered early by the main stage area especially for the display – supported by Maiden’s Trooper beer brand and titled ‘Fokkers at 6 o’clock’ – were clearly appreciative of the unique occasion, especially when commentator Stephen Slater highlighted Dickinson’s parts in the complex routine!