ORGANISERS of a new Southend airshow have received a massive boost after an historic First World War airfield was given a £1.5million grant.

The National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) has announced plans to restore the historic Stow Maries aerodrome in north Essex, which will play a major part in the Echo-backed Southend Airshow and Military Festival 2014.

The airfield will be used by Southend organisers for sending up planes and providing aircraft from the Great War when the show is brought back next September.

The show will celebrate the centenary of the Great War and the Stow Maries team will be looking after the section of the show which will commemorate that conflict. With access to a grass airfield secured, the airshow will now be able to feature a range of First World War aircraft only capable of landing on grass runways.

Airshow organiser Tom Curtis said: "The whole airshow team could not be happier that Stow Maries, our partner for Southend Airshow and Military Festival, has secured the funding it needs to make this iconic aerodrome available to future generations."

Stow Maries, in Hackmans Lane, Purleigh, is believed to the only Great War airfield left intact anywhere in the world, boasting three aircraft hangers, barracks and dozens of other Grade II listed buildings.

Thanks to the grant and additional support from Essex County Council, Maldon District Council and English Heritage, it can be saved from disrepair and returned to its wartime condition.

It was built in 1916 as a response to increased attacks by German Zeppelin airships on British mainland and was home to the 37 Squadron, Royal Flying Corp.

The Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome Trust now intends to restore the airfield to its former glory and open a museum commemorating the men who flew here. It will also host workshops, teaching the old skills of aircraft construction.

Dame Jenny Abramsky, NHMF chairman, said: "Stow Maries gives us fresh insight into the pivotal new role that aviation played in the First World War.

“With the centenary starting next year, our trustees felt Stow Maries had to be secured now for future generations."

Jeremy Lucas, Stow Maries Trust chairman, said Stow Maries will host a commemoration to the wartime stories over the next five years. This year’s Southend Airshow was cancelled after the council said it could no longer afford to pay £130,000 to run it.

The Echo is campaigning to support Mr Curtis, 29, of Honiton Road, Southend, and John Delaney, 53, of Chesterfield Crescent, Eastwood, in their efforts to bring back the show, which attracts crowds from across Essex.