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100 Years Ago

This is the amazing story of those young men in the Sopwith Aviation Company who wanted to build themselves better aircraft to fly and ended up designing and building some of the most important aircraft in British aviation history.

These snapshots of key events 100 years ago follow that story as it unfolds and attempt to help us understand the incredible pace of aviation development, their excitement, frustrations, challenges and triumphs whilst exposing the risk taking, their dogged determination and their brilliance in every aspect of operating their business. 

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The day by day diary of the Sopwith Aviation Co Ltd and its products through 1918


The Sopwith factory delivered 849 new aircraft in 1917, more than twice their 374 in 1916 and bringing the total number of aircraft built in Kingston so far to 1,462. The number of new Sopwith-designed aircraft from other contractors in 1917 was 2,902, three and a half times the number built by Sopwith themselves.  The doubling of Sopwith’s own output and this high-volume contractor manufacture brings the number of Sopwith aircraft built in 1917 to 3,751, more than six times the 594 built in 1916 and 72% of all the 5,200 Sopwith-designed aircraft built since the company was formed late in 1912.  The contractors to have built the most Sopwith machines are Ruston Proctor with 350 Strutters and 398 Camels, Standard Motors with 478 ‘Pups’ and Whitehead with 350 ‘Pups’.  None of the other 18 contactors has yet reached 200.

The total number of Sopwith ‘Pups’ ordered by 1st January 1918 has reached 2,066 including 100 ‘SBIII Folding Pups’.  Total ‘Camels’ ordered has reached 2,908 and total ‘Dolphins’ ordered 1,104.  From those totals 1,061 ‘Pups’, 1,525 ‘Camels and 979 ‘Dolphins’ are still to be delivered going into 1918.

Of the 5,200 Sopwith-designed aircraft built so far, many hundreds of ‘Pups’ and ’Camels are in service going into 1918 but only 22 of the 156 ‘Triplanes’ survive and just 227 of 1,383 British-built ‘Strutters’.  Only 17 of the 236 ‘Schneider/Baby’ floatplanes originally built by Sopwith have survived but 206 of the 299 ‘Baby’ and ‘Fairey Hamble Baby’ more recently built by Blackburn, Fairey and Parnall are in service.  Sopwith aircraft are in service with the RNAS and RFC all around the British Isles and in France, Italy, Egypt, Macedonia and the Aegean.