A new film produced in North Ayrshire will tell the tale of one of the most pivotal figures in the history of aerial warfare, a largely forgotten hero of the First World War.

Lanoe Hawker can be credited as the first fighter pilot in history, having devised a method of firing a machine gun from a moving aircraft.

His story will be told in new film, Hawker, produced and directed by Daniel Arbon and filmed in and around Dalry.

Mr Arbon tells The Herald: "I kind of accidentally fell on the subject when I was researching my previous film.

“I realised the story about Lanoe Hawker was a huge gap in my understanding.

“I didn’t know anything about it, so I found it personally quite fascinating researching it all.

“I did the normal thing of looking because I’d love to see a film about it, then realising there wasn’t one.

“That was the flash of idea for me, if there isn’t a film maybe I should see about making one.”

The aerial dogfights of World War I became legendary, and it was Hawker who devised a method of using a machine gun to attack and shoot down enemy aircraft, for which he received the Victoria Cross.

Previously the risk of the gunfire shattering a pilot's own propeller made such a thing impossible, but the pilot came up with a method whereby the weapon would be mounted at an angle which would avoid the arc.

President of The Great War Society, Air Vice-Marshal (Rtd) Peter Dye, OBE explains: "All sides in the First World War saw aircraft at the beginning as machines which could do photography, acts of bombing, reconnaissance.

“It’s only when they kept on encountering each other they came to the view that actually it was just as important to stop the enemy doing what you were doing as anything else.

“That’s when they started arming aircraft, but it took them more than a year to realise that they needed dedicated fighter aircraft.

“It was a squadron of dedicated fighter aircraft which Hawker brought out to France in the early part of 1916, so you could probably argue he was the first fighter squadron commander."

Mr Abron made his film independently for just £20,000, building most of the props from scratch.

The Herald: Director Daniel AbronDirector Daniel Abron (Image: Middle Realm Productions)

Much of the flying footage was filmed using a replica Bristol Scout, owned and operated by David Bremner and Theo Willford, to recreate the aircraft flown by David’s grandfather, Capt. F.D.H. Bremner, in World War 1.

Mr Abron says: "It was only ever going to be low budget when I’m doing it myself, so the big question was how I’d do the aerial scenes.

“I had it in mind to use a real plane if I could but it still left a lot of questions of how I did close-ups and how I got the German machines because the aeroplanes in question have no flying replicas.

“I wanted to do it right, so really it was a case of looking at miniatures, CGI, building cockpits – everything.

"We moved back to Scotland at the end of lockdown and I bought a house that was a bit of a fixer-upper, it’s an old Victorian cottage.

“I realised that we could use that, because it was in a state of being redeveloped I could knock some more holes in the walls and make it really run down!

“It could pass as a Belgian farmhouse, because that’s what they did – they just requisitioned properties which were beside a big field and said ‘right, this is now squadron HQ’.

The Herald:

While Hawker and the British army were at the cutting edge when it came to the battle for the skies, the Germans were not far behind.

Their own legendary flying ace, Manfred von Richtofen, known as the Red Baron, killed Hawker with a bullet to the back of the head aged 25.

Mr Dye says: "The Germans caught up very quickly. Although the First World War is rightly regarded as a hugely expensive war in terms of men and materiel there was a huge amount of invention and counter-invention going on.

“Once the Germans saw at the Battle of Somme how they were swept from the sky by the Royal Flying Corps they introduced their own faster, more manoeuvrable fighter aircraft.

“They had their own fighter aces in Oswald Boelcke and Von Richtofen, and by the time Hawker was shot down by Von Richtofen in November 1916 his aircraft was well outclassed by what the Germans had deployed.

“Hawker didn’t have to fly because squadron commanders were valuable individuals, they weren’t meant to go out into action.

“But he did and he was brought down by an equally good fighter ace, but one flying a much faster more manoeuvrable machine.

“In a way he was the victim of his own innovation.

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"Von Richtofen died only around 18 months later, he was brought down in air combat and there’s a big debate about whether he was killed by someone firing from the ground or in the air.

"I think the point about Hawker is what he might have offered to the British air services if he’d lived, because he would have become a senior commander and then who knows?

“But he died very much as he lived, at the front of his men fighting for what he saw as liberty.

“He was an admirable figure, but sadly one of the many, many who died in the First World War.

The Herald: An image from Hawker

"He’s one of nearly 1,000 British airmen who died on the Western Front and are buried somewhere but we don’t know where.

“The Great Royal Aviation Society which I’m part of erected a memorial at Saint-Omer in 2004 which commemorates Hawker and all those who flew and fought on the Western Front.

“Every November 11 the French, and often the Royal Air Force, lay a wreath there. So he’s not forgotten even though there’s no grave for people to pay their respects.”

Hawker will be released on the anniversary of his death on 23 November 2023.

The 23-minute film tells the story of a pivotal few days in World War 1 when airmen were transformed into fighter pilots for the first time in history.

Mr Abron says: "I think it’s a pivotal moment in history, and it’s a time when pilots first became fighter pilots.

“There’s a line in it: ‘what choice do we have?’ and I think that’s the thing I take away from it.

“I think it was a very profound moment when you realise Hawker,in creating fighter pilots, was also creating his own passing.

“So it is just that inevitability and that overall question of warfare: what choice do we have?”

Hawker will be available on Vimeo, where it can be streamed for £0.99 or purchased for £1.99. Links will be posted on social media at Facebook /TheGreatWarAviationSociety and /Hawkerfilm or Twitter @GWAS1914_1918.