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A day by day diary of the Sopwith Aviation Company and its products through 1918

Summary of Sopwith's status on 1st January 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 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.

Sopwith Aviation have been a prime supplier to the Royal Naval ever since they sold them their first aircraft in 1912 and Sopwith are now by far the most diverse supplier to the RNAS. 

There are 223 Sopwith ‘Baby’ floatplanes in-service in Italy, the Aegean and Egypt and at sixteen locations around the British coast.  An example being ‘Hamble Baby’ N1190(above) at Felixstowe looking quite aggressive with synchronised Lewis gun and large anti-submarine bomb. 

A report on the disposition of RNAS Sopwith “Scouts” at the start of 1918 lists 49 ‘2F1 Ships Camels’, 78 ‘Pups’ & 42 ‘SBIII Folding Pups’, all based in the UK.  The majority of these are at Houten Bay in the Orkneys and East Fortune, Rosyth and Donibristle around the Firth of Forth in support of the Fleet with 9 aboard HMS Niarana and Pegasus.  However there are individual ‘2F1 Camels’ at Grain and Cranwell and 18 said to be “at Brooklands allocated to Fleet duties”.  There are 37 ‘Pups’ at Manston in Kent with 7 ‘2F1 Camels’, 17 ‘F1 Camels’ and 4 ‘Triplanes’.  Yarmouth has 7 ‘Pups’, 5 ‘2F1 Camels’ and 6 ‘F1 Camels’, 4 of those ‘Pups’ and an ‘F1 Camel’ are currently aboard HMS Vindex.  There are 37 ’F1 Camels’ and 2 ‘Triplanes’ at Dover, 12 ‘F1 Camels’ at Walmer and 4 ‘F1 Camels’ at Chingford.   The rest of the 201 RNAS ‘F1 Camels’ are in France with the Seaplane Defence Flight (15), 1(N)Sqdn (12), 4(N)Sqdn (16), 9(N)Sqdn (16), 12(N)Sqdn (16), 12(N)Sqdn (7 plus 11 ‘Triplanes’) whilst 8(N)Sqdn attached to the RFC has 20.(below in the snaoew).   ‘F1 Camels’ with the much preferred 150hp Bentley BR1 engine are concentrated at Dover, Walmer and in France with 1(N)Sqdn, 4(N)Sqdn and the Seaplane Defence Flight.  It is noted that 2 ‘Triplanes’ and 24 ‘F1 Camels’, including 11 without engines, are currently in the Dunkirk Repair Depot.  

The  RNAS still has 89 two-seat ‘Strutters’ and single-seat ‘Strutter Bombers’ in service, 29 in the Aegean, 5 at Otranto in Italy and the rest at Cranwell(15), the Manston War School(12), Eastchurch(7), Yarmouth(4), Dover(4), Mullion(4), Hendon(3), East Fortune(3), Chingford(1), and Grain(1)

Diary

On 1st January 1918 ‘Camels’ B6319 & B6321 each claim a victory shared with B6340, B6354 shares one with B6423, B6447 shares one with B6448 & N6376 whilst B6383 & B6426 claim one each but the pilot of B2513 is taken prisoner after the engine is hit by AA fire.  In Italy ‘Camel’ B6313 claims two aircraft driven down one crashing into a hillside, the pilot of  ‘Camel’ B6414 goes missing in combat and dies of his wounds whilst B2448 hits a tree forced landing after an engine failure. 

On 1st January 1918, eighteen days before his 30th birthday, Thomas Octave Murdoch Sopwith is created a Companion of the Order of the British Empire “in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the war effort”.  Alongside him with that honour is J D Siddeley of the Siddeley-Deasy Company whilst lower down the New Year Honours list among the OBEs are A V Roe, F H Royce and Squadron Commander Harry Busteed who came to England from Australia with Harry Hawker in 1912.

Following a recent successful flight by a ‘Strutter’ from the foredeck of HMS Campania, ‘Strutters’ are to get a new role as the most suitable available two-seat machine for fleet reconnaissance.  It is proposed that 47 will eventually be stationed aboard HMS Campania, Furious, Cavendish and Argus.  With a further 50% in reserve, 50% for training and a wastage of 10% per month, 200 will be needed.  With production lines closed the RNAS will need to acquire most of these 200 ‘Strutters’ from the RFC and/or the French.  They will all have to be converted to ‘Ships Strutters’ with floatation bags, ball tail-skids, lifting slings and possibly hydrofoils. 

From 1st January the company known as Louis Bleriot Aeronautics or Bleriot & SPAD Manufacturing of Addlestone in Surrey becomes The Air Navigation Co Ltd “with no change to managers or staff”.  They have built 100 Avro 504s, 100 SPAD S.VIIs and the first 16 of their orders for 360 SE5s and are joint manufacturer users of Brooklands airfield alongside Sopwith and Martinsyde.  Martinsyde of Woking are also building hundreds of SE5s and have just received a first order for 150 of their new 290hp fighter.

On 2nd January In thick mist and cloud, ‘Camel’ B4609 shares a victory with B6423 and B6228 shares one with B6311 whilst B5665 forced lands in the English Channel near Dieppe after an engine failure on a delivery flight from Dover to St Pol.  At home a trainee pilot from Hooten Park is killed in ‘Pup’ B5972 diving into a river after fainting or losing control. 

On 2nd January W G Armstrong, Whitworth & Co are formally requested to install their own design of arrester gear on the rear landing platform they are currently fitting to HMS Furious.

On 3rd January ‘Camels’ B9141 & N6349 each claim a victory, B9143 claims a first one for 54Sqdn, B3929 shares one with B6372 but the pilots of B2516, B5658 & B9131 are all killed in combat and N6531’s pilot is shot down and taken prisoner.  At home, the Australian pilot of  ‘Strutter’ A5964 is killed in a crash at Ternhill,  the pilot of Throwley based home defence ‘Pup’ B5296 is killed in a vertical nose dive whilst B6031 is wrecked at Cranwell and N6117 wrecked at Grain.  The improved Sopwith ‘Rhino’ triplane bomber arrives at Martlesham Heath for official testing and is now displaying experimental serial number X7.

On 4th January ‘Camel’ B5612 claims two victories, B2492, B3821 & B6285 each claim a victory whilst B6318 shares one with three others.  After sharing a victory with three others, the pilot of B6278 is killed in combat as is the pilot of B2413.   The pilot of B2418 is killed after the starboard wing collapses in a dive on a practice flight.  At home the pilot of ‘Camel’ B2510 is killed diving upside down into a river whilst attacking a ground target.   The pilot of ‘Pup’ B5937 is injured crashing from a steep turn on landing at Upavon whilst B5953’s is injured overturning after a forced landing. 

On 5th January in low cloud and mist ‘Camel’ B5422 claims a victory.   At home, ‘Pup’ N6438 makes a first take-off from the platform on the rear of a gun turret on HMS Tiger with just a 29ft run into an 18 knot wind.  The ship is at anchor in the Firth of Forth.  Meanwhile, ‘Baby’ floatplane N1103 is towed into Grimsby after crashing into the sea and Calshot based N1329 is also badly damaged crashing on landing. 

On 6th January three Australian pilots are killed practising formation flying in 71Sqdn ‘Camels’ B2474, B4623 & B5217 when two collide and fall onto the third.  At home ‘Camel’ B5708 is written off in a crash as is Cranwell ‘Pup’ B5979.   The second RNAS ‘Dolphin’ C3785 arrives at Guston Road, Dover and is photographed(below) complete with upward firing Lewis guns alongside three of their four ‘Strutters’.

On 7th January in continuing bad weather ‘Camel’ B6251 claims a two-seater sent down out of control.  The pilot of Upavon ‘Pup’ B5933 is killed crashing from a low spin.  ‘Strutter’ N5639 is lost after an engine failure and forced landing at sea off Otranto.  The Imperial War Exhibition opens in the Royal Academy Central Hall in Burlington House, Piccadilly.  Admission is 1 shilling with proceeds going to the British Red Cross.  There are many models and other exhibits but just two complete aircraft, a Sopwith Triplane and a German Fokker Eindecker.

On 8th January there are snowstorms in northern France

On 9th January 73Sqdn is the latest Camel unit in France, arriving before the snow starts again in the afternoon.  In Russia they have equipped their sole Sopwith ‘Triplane’  with a broad ski undercarriage.(below)

New orders for Sopwith ‘Pups’ have finally dried up after 2,066 have been ordered, including 100 ‘SBIII Folding ‘Pups’.  However large batches of ‘F1 Camels’ continue to be ordered for the RFC.  The latest for 300 on Boulton and Paul brings their total to 850, matching the total ‘F1 Camel’ orders on Ruston Proctor.  Ruston Proctor have just completed their 1,000th aircraft: 200 BE2s, 350 Sopwith ‘1½ Strutters’ and now 450 Sopwith ‘Camels’.   ‘Camel’ B7380 is their 1,000th machine and they have requested permission to paint it in an elaborate colourful ancient Egyptian style scheme presumably suggested by Colonel Ruston, a keen Egyptologist. 

For some months now 9(N)Sqdn have been un-officially decorating their ‘Camels’ even eliminating the cockades on the fuselage.  B5749, for example, has broad light blue stripes with white edging.(below)

Back in England for rest and recuperation at Walmer since early November, many pilots of 3(N)Sqdn have also decorated their ‘Camels’ with individual outlandish colour schemes.  An example is B3858(above) covered in green and mauve stripes with a large Tudor Rose on each wing.  They have just gone back to active service in France at Middle Aerodrome, Bray Dunes and have so far retained these individual colour schemes. 

In France since the end of December (10N)Sqdn have been painting their Camels.(above)  The engine cowlings and side panels are painted in colours denoting which flight they come from, all superimposed with three horizontal white bands.  A flight are black, B red and C blue. They have also decorated the wheel covers.  The Commander of the Army Brigade to which the squadron is attached has ordered all this to be removed but he is apparently being ignored except that such markings are not being applied to replacement aircraft.  In contrast, RFC ‘Camels’ usually only display their official squadron identification markings like these of 45Sqdn in Italy(below) with a dumbbell on the sides and top of the fuselage and a unique aircraft identification letter.

 

On 10th January ‘Camel’ B5600 claims a victory but the pilot of B9163 is taken prisoner after the aircraft is hit by machine gun fire at 2,500ft.  B6282 claims a victory in Italy.  ‘Dolphin’ C3823 makes a forced landing before reaching Lympne to fly on tomorrow to Beaulieu in the New Forest where No.79 are working up to become the second operational ‘Dolphin Squadron.   

On 11th January in Italy 45Sqdn ‘Camel’ B6372 claims a victory but the pilot of B2436 killed and B2494’s wounded shot down when they are heavily attacked escorting RE8s on an airfield photography mission.  

Deck take-off trials continue from HMS Pegasus.  Today ‘SBIII Folding Pup’N6692 makes the shortest run yet, only 33ft into a 30mph relative wind using a “new pattern tail guide”.  However ‘Pup’ 9944 takes 65ft into a 21mph airflow with the “engine not giving full revs”.  ‘Camels’ N6601 & N6612 take 68ft & 63ft into much lower airflows of 10 and 13 mph and drop their tails before getting off.

On 12th January ‘Camel’ B4628 claims a victory shared with B5244 which delivers the coup de grace.  The pilot of B2354 is taken prisoner after AA fire cuts a fuel pipe and he is driven down with his engine shot up by 4 enemy aircraft.   ‘Triplane’ N6303(above) suffers an engine failure and forced landing at Eastchurch en route from Dover to Chingford whilst ‘Dolphin’ C3861 (below) is one the latest from Sopwith to be tested and accepted by Lt Hollinghurst at No.7 Aircraft Acceptance Park, Kenley.  

 

On 13th January the pilot of B5602 is taken prisoner after being hit by AA fire and then shot down in a spinning nose dive.  The pilot of ‘Pup’ B5303 is injured spinning-in out of control at Stockbridge.   ‘Baby’ floatplane N1122 drops a bomb on a U-Boat in the Aegean.  

By 13th January 19Sqdn pilots have collected at least fourteen ‘Dolphins’ from No.1 Aeroplane Depot at St Omer and flown them to their base at Ste-Marie-Cappel where they area endeavouring to master the differences between them and their Spads.  They are recording the performance and today ‘Dolphin’ C3792 takes 3min 4sec to reach 5,000ft, 5min 4sec to 7,000ft and 9min to 10,000ft at which height the indicated airspeed is 112mph.    

On 14th January in France ‘Camels’ B6412 & B6450 each claim an Albatros downed.  At home the pilot of ‘Pup’ B5952 is killed nose diving from a low spin at Harling Road, whilst 9923 is wrecked crashing at Cranwell and A6245 overturns landing in a high wind.  

On 15th January ‘Camel’ B6364 crashes on landing and B6380 makes a forced landing after an engine failure.  ‘Pup’ N6687 returning from HMS Nairana smashes its undercarriage landing on snow at Donibristle. 

On 16th January ‘Baby’ floatplane N1442 from Otranto attacks a submarine on the surface 16 miles off shore.

On 17th January flying from Imbros in the Aegean ‘Camel’ N6365 claims a seaplane destroyed whilst at home the pilot of B5186 is seriously injured spinning-in after stalling in a low climbing turn.

Following the successful flights of ‘Pups’ from ramps on the top of the gun turrets of HMS Repulse last October many other capital ships are being fitted with this simple low-cost form of aerial self-defence.  HMS Renown now has two turret ramps like Repulse and it is not only ‘Pups’ that can use these.  On 17th January a ‘2F1 Ships Camel’ probably N6617 leaves HMS Renown’s forward B turret platform (below)  

On 18th January ‘Camels’ B2451, B6293 & B6403 each claim a victory as does B4629 but it is dived on by five enemy aircraft and shot down out of control killing the pilot.

On 19th January ‘Camels’ B5416 & B6210 each claim a victory whilst B6369 shares one with B6377 & B6447 but the pilots of B2468 & B6208 are killed in combat.  In Italy the pilot of B2303 is killed spinning-in practising formation flying.   The training pilot in ‘Pup’ B6096 from Shoreham is severely injured spinning down from 3,000ft with controls jammed by his foot whilst at Sutton’s Farm ‘Comic Strutter’ A5259 is wrecked crashing on landing and Calshot based ‘Baby’ floatplane N1973 is wrecked crashing from a sideslip.  Two pilots of 79Sqdn from Beaulieu are killed flying their recently received Sopwith ‘Dolphins’, C3800 crashing in a slow turn on landing and C3860 crashing from a spin.  A third 79Sqdn pilot survives a crash landing in C3817.

Meanwhile in France 19Sqdn’s Major Sanday is preparing a very complementary report of his pilots’ views on their ‘Dolphins’ despite only managing 69 flying hours so far due to the bad weather.  He personally flies ‘Dolphin’ C3828 on 19th January(below) but finds the fuel pressure pump not working.  In this cold weather it has blanking plates around the Peugeot-built water cooled Hispano Suiza engine to keep it up to operating temperature.

At RNAS Grain the prototype Sopwith ‘Cuckoo’ torpedo bomber N74 is on trial with full torpedo gear(below) but will soon be going to Blackburn Aircraft at Leeds.  They are taking responsibility for the development of the ‘Cuckoo’ including substituting a 200hp Sunbeam Arab engine for the 200hp Hispano Suiza engine.

Also at Grain is the very similar prototype Sopwith ‘B1’ bomber N50 reportedly now fitted with a rotary Bentley BR2 engine in place of the V8 Hispano Suiza.  By 19th January it is ready for air bag tests.  Despite the RNAS rejection of the ‘B1’ as a single-seat bomber in favour of the DH4, Grain have continued to experiment with it and have decided to develop the design into a two-seat shipboard-reconnaissance machine.  They are building six of these which are to be known as ‘Grain Griffins’ using the 200hp Arab engine.  

Surprisingly, the Sopwith experimental team are currently completing a second ‘B1’ bomber prototype this time for the RFC and to be known as the ‘B2’.  As always they are extremely busy in the Skating Ring experimental shop.  The latest military visitor reports that the first of the six 185hp ABC Wasp radial-engined Sopwith ‘8F1 Snail’ fighting scouts is completely erected awaiting an engine which is promised by the end of the month whilst the 3-ply fuselage for a second highly-experimental monocoque version of the ‘Snail’ is “nearly finished”.   They also have made major alterations to the fourth ‘7F1 Snipe’ prototype B9965 to take full advantage of the Bentley BR2 engine, which has turned out almost twice as powerful as the Clerget originally installed.  B9965 is currently being test flown from Brooklands and the most obvious modification is longer two-bay wings.(below)

On 20th January ‘Camel’ N6639 crashes taking off in the snow from Rosyth football ground.  At Ternhill the pilot of ‘Pup’ B6089 overcome by nausea, loses control and crashes dying of his injuries whilst the pilot of C213 from Castle Bromwich is injured in a mid-air collision practising air fighting.   In the Aegean it is learnt that the German cruisers Goeben and Breslau holed up at Constantinople since 1915, have emerged from the Dardanelles straights and sunk two British monitors.  All available 2(Naval)Wing aircraft are ordered to the RNAS bases at Mudros on Lemnos and the nearby island of Imbros where the cruisers are headed.  ‘Camels’ escort DH4s and a ‘Strutter’ bombing  the ships as a wireless telegraphy equipped ‘Strutter’ shadows them.  A ‘Camel’ claims two seaplanes downed.  Breslau manoeuvring to avoid anti-aircraft shells being fired from Goeben, has her stern shattered  by a mine, takes a direct hit from a bomb, hits more mines and eventually sinks.  Goeben retreats hitting its third mine and is approached at the entrance to the Dardanelles by two bomb-carrying ‘Baby’ floatplanes escorted by a Greek pilot in a ‘Camel’.  They are promptly engaged by ten enemy seaplanes three of which are driven down by the ‘Camel’ but the pilot of ‘Baby’ N1445 is killed shot down in flames.  The pilot of ‘Baby’ N1424(below over supply ships) at a second attempt drops his 65lb bombs but misses the ship and is then forced to land with engine trouble near a Turkish destroyer.  He manages to taxi the machine around the Cape and beach the machine to await rescue.  ‘Baby’ N1201 drops 2x65lb bombs on a submarine spotted 20 miles south west of Lemnos.

On 21st January the pilot of ‘Camel’ B4620 is injured at Beaulieu stalling in a turn after an engine failure whilst ‘Strutter’ A6910 is wrecked in a ground accident with a DH6 at Cranwell.  In the dark at 6pm ‘Camel’ B6378 attacks a kite balloon on the ground in France and leaves it in flames. 

On 22nd January ‘Camels’ B5598 & B6379 each claim a victory whilst B5214 claims two shared with B2530 & B3890 but N6370’s pilot is wounded crashing probably after being hit by AA fire, B9141’s pilot is killed crashing from a spin and B2463 crashes damaged by ground fire.  The pilot of 19Sqdn ‘Dolphin’ C3826 is killed crashing from a dive after practising a loop.   At Cranwell the pilot of Cranwell ‘Camel’ B5672 is killed spinning-in, B5702 crashes damaging wings and undercarriage as does ‘Pup’ B6034.  The pilot of ‘Pup’ C8654 from Harling Road is injured hitting a tree in a forced landing.  It is one of several “new” Pups built by RFC Aeroplane Repair Sections from salvaged and spare parts.   Bombing of the Goeben grounded in the Dardanelles has been hampered by low cloud and mist but now ‘Baby’ floatplanes N1102, N1122 & N1444 go out on a night bombing raid.  N1444 suffers a forced landing with engine failure but is found the next morning and towed by a Short floatplane and then a torpedo boat to HMS Ark Royal at Mudros.

On 23rd January ‘Camels’ B3950, B6241 & B6450 each claim a victory but the pilot of B5663 is killed in combat with nine enemy aircraft when he collides with an Albatros scout and they crash locked together out of control.  There is not much left to see of either machine.(above)   B7184’s pilot is shot down and taken prisoner whilst  B5704 crashes on landing at Cranwell.  In Italy the pilot of B2475 is killed spinning in from 2,000ft on a test flight.  The pilots of ‘Camel’ B2480 and ‘Pup’ B5957 from Castle Bromwich are killed in a mid-air collision.  The pilot of ‘Pup’ B5919 from Beaulieu is injured lost in fog and stalling to avoid a tree.  B2164’s pilot is injured in a turning stall flying from Upavon.  Yarmouth ‘Baby’ N1454 is damaged and capsizes landing at Southwold, the wreckage is towed in by a trawler.

‘Camel’ B2517 is 44 Home Defence Squadron’s second to be modified to a ‘Comic Camel’ with pilot’s seat moved aft and over-wing gun or guns.  Le Rhône engines and parts for twenty more conversion kits have been approved.

The initial report on Martlesham Heath trials to measure the effect of the extra top guns on the performance of ‘Dolphins’ states that a single Lewis  gun with a double drum of ammunition increases the times to reach 10,000ft & 15,000ft by 15% & 18% and reduces the 127½mph & 119mph top speeds at these heights by 5 to 6 mph.  This  will reinforce some pilots’ views that a Lewis gun or guns should not be fitted on normal combat missions. 

The Sopwith design and experimental team continue to develop higher performance two-seaters and bombers to replace the ‘Strutter’ and match their continued success with single seaters.  This takes another set-back on 23rd January when the results of Martlesham Heath trials of the ‘3F2 Hippo’ (below) show it to have good performance fully loaded with four guns, ammunition and crew but not as good as the Bristol F2B.  The report suggests several improvements in cockpit layout, criticises the distance between pilot and rear gunner, heavy lateral control, light rudder and elevator and longitudinal stability requiring weight carefully distributed. 

Some of these issues have already been addressed some months ago in the Sopwith “FR2” two-seat fighter-reconnaissance design project(below) with a Hispano Suiza engine aimed at French orders.  It shows a conventional wing stagger with combined pilot and observer cockpit but this project has not been pursued.

Another private-venture Sopwith two-seater the ‘2FR2 Bulldog’ is presently being modified to have two-bay wings with horn balanced ailerons.  It is to be fitted with the big Clerget engine from the ‘Hippo’ when that returns to Brooklands from Martlesham Heath.  The ‘Bulldog’ is now listed as a contender for the demanding two-seat fighter in Air Board Specification A.2.a which prescribes a 260hp Clerget or 250hp Bentley BR2 engine.  

The Sopwith ‘2B2 Rhino’ triplane bomber X7 with the 230hp BHP in-line engine is finally on test at Martlesham Heath and they are recommending that the private venture licence for four machines be changed to an order.  Sopwith is building the second machine X8 with a Scarff ring-mounted Lewis gun for the bomb aimer/gunner.

‘Camels’ B6218 & B9278 are now in Sopwith’s Experimental Shop being modified as prototype “stop-gap” armoured trench fighters with two Lewis guns angled 45o down through the cockpit floor and the simpler proposal for armour plating, only under the fuselage and around the fuel system.  Sopwith has built a mock-up and is awaiting unhardened armour plates from Firth & Sons which will be drilled and returned as a template for the two hardened sets.  Consequentially Sopwith has now been invited to design a Bentley BR2 engined armoured trench fighter and is proposing a development of the prototype ‘7F1 Snipe’ B9965 with BR2 engine and two-bay wings which has completed testing at Brooklands and arrives at Martlesham Heath today.

Major Sanday’s report on 19Sqdn’s weather restricted first 89 hours flying experience with their Sopwith ’Dolphins’ in France states that his pilots “like the machine very much indeed and speak highly of its performance.  Manoeuvrability and climbing powers are especially notable at height, one pilot looping a machine at 18,000ft.  I am of the opinion it will prove to be an extremely good fighting machine”.  His time-to-height and speed figures do not match the Martlesham Heath tests but with fuel consumption at 10 gals/hour “endurance with average pilots should be 2½ to 2¾ hours”.  He suggest solutions to poor accessibility to the engine for maintenance and requests some significant improvements to radiator, fuel and oil systems as well as cockpit equipment and layout.

On 24th January ‘Camel’ B2527 claims a first victory for 4Sqdn Australian Flying Corps whilst B2447, B6321, B6349, B6378, B6379 & B9138 also each claim a victory and N6356 shares one with three others whilst B3754 crashes on landing.  At home the pilot of B3763 is injured crashing after his foot slips off the rudder pedal.  ‘Pup’ B5365 overturns landing at Hounslow and B5389 overturns taxying in high winds at Upavon. 

On 25th January ‘Camels’ B5414, B5597, B6363, C6702 & N6363 each claim a victory, N6363’s being the first for 13(N)Sqdn but B6348 is shot down and the pilot taken prisoner whilst B9145 crashes on landing.  At home the pilot of ‘Camel’ B4644 is killed in a spinning nose dive as is B7284’s pulling too late out of a dive during gun practice whilst the pilot of ‘Pup’ B5408 is injured hitting a tree after fainting.

On 25th January Ruston Proctor’s 1000th aircraft Camel’ B7380 makes its first flight at Lincoln’s AAP after being photographed(above and below).  Its ancient Egyptian scheme has bright gold feather sunbursts on the wings, a pair of eyes on the cream engine cowl, a fuselage encircled with white outlined bands of light green, dark green and dark blue, two colour undercarriage struts and coloured wheel disks.  The company name is on the nose and wings.

On 26th January the pilot of damaged ‘Camel’ B5219 is injured in a crash landing whilst B5221 is wrecked in a ditch after an engine failure.  At home the pilot of ‘Camel ’ B9233 is killed sideslipping from 50ft during a steep downwind climb whilst the pilot of B5235 is killed after the wings collapse in a spiral dive.

On 27th January the week-long bombing attacks on the grounded German cruiser Goeben in the Dardanelles are halted by winds of up to 90kts.  Without the aerial harassment she is refloated and escapes back to Constantinople.  At home the pilot of ‘Baby’ floatplane fails to return from a North Sea patrol and the pilots of ‘Pups’ B5323 & B6069 are injured in crashes whilst 5(T)Sqdn Australian Flying Corps ‘Camel’ B6433 with their kangaroo insignia overturns on landing at Ternhill.(below being hauled upright)

On 28th January ‘ Camels’ B3809, B6358 & B6379 each claim a victory and B3785 shares one with B6401 & B6408, but the pilot of B5553 dies of his injuries after crashing damaged and C6703’s is wounded in action.  In the Aegean a ‘Camel’ searching for Goeben is hit twice by intensive AA fire.  At home the trainee American pilot in ‘Camel’ B9282 is killed in a crash flying from Shoreham and ‘Pup’ B5307 overturns in a forced landing.  During the evening eight German bombers attack England, three Gothas reach London whilst others attack coastal towns and one of the four 660lb bombs from the lone six-engined Staaken Giant bomber R.12 hits Odhams Press killing 38 people and injuring 85.  In total 8,100lbs of bombs are dropped killing 67 and injuring 166.  On a fairly clear moonlit night one Gotha is picked up by searchlights, chased by two 44Sqdn ‘Comic Camels’ B2402 & B3827 who fire up from either side keeping out of sight to the enemy rear gunner firing down the “tunnel”.  Eventually the Gotha falls on fire and explodes when hitting the ground.  B2402 with two upward Lewis guns and B3827 with one fixed one(below) are firing RTS combined explosive/incendiary bullets. There are 101 other home defence sorties and some interceptions but without result.  A close AA shell burst stops the engine of one ‘Camel’ which hits telegraph wires gliding in to land. The pilot is catapulted out, lands unhurt on railway lines and is aboard another ‘Camel’ within 40 minutes.

On 29th January ‘Camels’ B2438, B2449, B2487, B5640, B6378, B7193 & B9166 each claim a victory whilst B3782 shares a seaplane with B3909, B6407, B6410 & B7186.  The pilot of B5427 is killed when it breaks up diving on an enemy aircraft, the pilot of B3890 is taken prisoner crash landing forced down by four enemy aircraft whilst B9149 is hit by AA fire and the pilot wounded.  At home the pilot of ‘Pup’ B6144 is injured in a forced landing as is the pilot of  ‘Dolphin’ C3856 in a crash landing lost in mist.  In the evening three Giant bombers attack, two bomb London.  One circling in from the NW mistakes Hammersmith Bridge for Tower Bridge killing 10 and injuring 10 people in residential areas between Acton and Richmond.  The Giants get home despite 750 rounds fired at close range by pursuing ‘Camels’ who report many gun problems and some RTS bullets exploding prematurely. 

On 30th January ‘Camels’ B5183 & B5595 each claim a victory, B6401 shares one with B6408 & B6242 but B3857 suffers an engine failure and is wrecked landing in the sea whilst B6386 crashes on take-off with a punctured tyre.  The pilots of ‘Pups’ B5397 & B6145 from Dover and Shawbury are injured in crashes after engine failures.

On 31st January the pilot of ‘Camel’ B7346 is injured hitting a tree forced landing in fog.  ‘Pup’ N6444 flies from HMS Pegasus’ deck on a “wireless experiment spotting for HMS Cardiff” but is soon hampered by engine trouble.

The Sopwith factory increased the output of ‘Dolphins’ by 39% in January to 103 aircraft.  It is little wonder that the resident cartoonist celebrates the effort involved.(above) 

The number of new Sopwith-designed aircraft from other suppliers in January is 380.  These comprise 160 ‘Pups’ from Standard Motors (50) and Whitehead (110); 14 ‘SBIII Folding Pups’ from Beardmore and 393 ‘Camels’ from Boulton & Paul (143), British Caudron (9), Clayton and Shuttleworth (51), Hooper (20), Portholme (16) & Ruston Proctor (138) plus the first one from Marsh Jones & Cribb and the first 15 from Nieuport and General.  There are also 14 ‘Baby’ floatplanes delivered by Blackburn in January and 16 ‘Hamble Baby Convert’ landplanes from Parnall.  These numbers again exclude ‘Strutters’ being built in France.  Nieuport & General have proudly recorded their first 'Camel' deliveries with a photograph of C7 behind Clerget engine crates.(below )  Hooper have also photographed one of their latest machines C1581.(below again)

Sopwith has now lost one of its longest serving loyal employees.  Reg Ashfield has left to join the new Gosport Aircraft Co. working for Percy Beadle on ambitious plans for a range of flying boats.  Local school teacher Ashfield was the Sopwith’s first draughtsman in 1912 and was soon in charge of the drawing office recruiting experienced draughtsmen including Herbert Smith and George Carter.  Hard-driving Smith became Sopwith’s Chief Designer and now with much of his remaining design responsibility taken over by Carter, Ashfield quietly resigns.

On 1st February in thick mist there is no flying in France but ‘Pup’ C234 crashes at Hooton Park.  In Lincoln Major General Sefton Brancker recently appointed Controller General of Equipment on the newly constituted Air Board, addresses the workforce of Ruston Proctor to congratulate them on their achievements.(above)  At the back of the crowd is ‘Camel’ B7380 their 1,000th aircraft.  It has also been posed surrounded by Camel wings but oddly the prevously cream engine cowl and fuselage appear dark coloured.

The latest Martlesham Heath test report on the first two production ‘Dolphins’ C3777 & 78 shows up to 3% differences in performance and notes that their Hispano Suiza engines “have given considerable trouble”.   There is a high priority action to fit reinforced spar boxes to all ‘Dolphins’.  All new machines will have them and replacement boxes for aircraft in service are being issued to all Air Parks and Depots on 2nd February.  It is not clear if this is a result of Farnborough’s ultimate strength sand-bag testing or accident investigations.  Sopwith has also now devised a quick release for the cross-bracing of the centre section of ‘Dolphins’ to allow the pilot to escape sideways if trapped in an overturned aircraft.

Sopwith is now informed that there have been development problems with the first prototype ABC Wasp radial engine so competitors BAT are now getting the second one for their ‘Bantam’ and the third one for Sopwith’s first ‘Snail’ prototype is delayed whilst the crankshaft is replaced.

On 2nd February ‘Camel’ B2461 claims two victories, B6340 claims a victory and a second shared with three others whilst B5428 shares a Fokker Triplane with B9157.  In Italy ‘Camel’ B6423 claims a victory and shares a second with two others whilst B6207 is attacked by three enemy aircraft spinning down and the injured Australian pilot is taken prisoner. 

At home ‘Pup’ N6476 is wrecked landing at Dover while Sopwith ‘Cuckoo’ prototype N74 flies to Blackburn at Leeds to be re-engined with a 200hp Sunbeam Arab after eight months experimental flying at Grain and its recent flight from HMS Furious.   It is now planned that the Sunbeam Arab engine will be fitted to all 150 ‘Cuckoos’ on order from Pegler, Fairfield and Blackburn with Blackburn taking the design lead on the whole project.

An official report on 2nd February 1918 lists one hundred and twelve training squadrons at forty-five different air stations around the country.  This includes fifteen training squadrons with ‘Camels’ and nine now with ‘Dolphins’.  

On 3rd February ‘Camel’ B5243 claims two victories, B2527, B3866, B5432, B6204, B6351 & B6378 each claim a victory whilst B6377 shares a victory, B9139 shares a Fokker Triplane with C6705 and B6430 shares a Triplane with B3781 before the pilot is killed when it folds up after being shot.  The pilot of B6370 is also shot down and killed, B6260 lands in a shell hole after an engine failure, B2419 is badly shot up, B3760 is badly damaged in a crash whilst ‘Dolphin’ C3827 on 19Sqdn’s very first war patrol is wrecked landing after carburettor trouble.  Another of their patrols is attacked by a Camel and Nieuport which open fire on the unfamiliar “hunnish” ‘Dolphins’.  At Montrose the trainee pilot of ‘Camel’ B7344 is killed spinning in whilst the pilot testing ‘Pup’ B5378 is killed when the wings fold up and it crashes and burns.

On 4th February ‘Camels’ B3862 & B5182 each claim a victory but the pilot of C1560 is badly injured landing with an engine failure.  In Italy the pilot of ‘Camel’ B2494 sends an aircraft down before being hit and killed in mid-air by an artillery shell.  

By 4th February Sopwith has photographed the twin downward firing Lewis guns in the cockpit of one of the “stop-gap Camel Trench Fighter” prototypes before it is hidden by the fabric covering.(above)   It shows the gun breaches either side of the pilot’s knees and many other interesting details not least the sturdy ropes of the broad lap-strap.  The first of these ‘TF1s’ B6218 has 5-gauge armour plate under the engine and cockpit, with a deadweight to make up the full weight of 11mm plate.  Its prime purpose is to test the practicality of a periscope-type gun sight.  A mirror for the pilot under the top wing is directed at another mirror at gun angle in the cockpit floor.  The aircraft has been checked out at Brooklands and is going tomorrow to the Armament Experimental Establishment at Orfordness for tests. 

On 5th February ‘Camels’ B5632, B6356 & B7306 each claim a victory and N6379 shares a victory with three others before the pilot is killed when it breaks up diving on an enemy aircraft at excessive speed.  The pilot of B2394 is wounded and with both tanks shot through crashes into a shell hole, C1560’s is badly injured crashing with engine failure whilst B2367’s is injured spinning in after an engine failure.  At Martlesham Heath the pilot is killed after losing control of  ‘Dolphin’ C3779 which has been fitted with a central crash pylon as turnover protection and as a possible different location for a Lewis gun.  At Upavon the pilot of ‘Camel’ B3812 is killed stalling in a turn, whilst B3819 overturns at Manston after a tyre bursts on landing.(below)  Meanwhile Ruston Proctor’s Egyptian decorated ‘Camel’ B7380 flies over Lincoln dropping 5,000 leaflets advertising War Bond Week in March.

On 6th February ‘Camel’ C6706 scores a victory before being shot down and the pilot taken prisoner whilst ‘Camel’ C1552, on loan to an RE8 Squadron for fighting experience, is shot down in flames and the pilot killed.  In Italy ‘Camel’ B5172 claims a victory.  At Cranwell ‘Pup’ 9902 is crashed and damaged beyond repair.   

With Grain now converting the RNAS’s Sopwith ‘B1’ single seat bomber into a two seater as a prototype of their Grain Griffin fleet reconnaissance machine, Sopwith has built a second similar machine ‘B2’ B1496 for the RFC.  It is photographed in snow at Brooklands sometime in the last few weeks and appears almost identical with its 200hp Hispano Suiza engine and internal vertical six bomb rack behind the pilot and fuel tank.(below) 

On a brighter early February day the Sopwith experimental team have rolled-out the second ‘2B2 Rhino’ bomber X8 with its in-line 230hp BHP British engine.(below left)  It also has internal bomb racks, has the advantage of  a forward firing Vickers machine gun and, on this second machine, a scarf ring for a rear protection Lewis gun for the bomb aimer.(below right)  X8 is due to go to the French for trials but X7 at Martlesham Heath is not matching the DH9 in performance trials both of which are suffering from persistent minor problems with their BHP engines. 

On 7th February there is low cloud, mist, rain and strong winds in France.  This continues on 8th February when at Grossa in Italy ‘Camel’ B3840 overturns landing in the mud.  With a damaged wing and no doubt broken propeller it is man-handled carefully back onto its wheels.(below)  At home the pilot of ‘Camel’ B5565 is killed when a wing breaks up whilst flying from the No.1 School of Aerial Fighting at Ayr.  Not far away on HMS Pegasus ‘2F1 Camel’ N6630, after a 50ft flat deck take-off two days ago, has a try with its wheels in troughs into a relative air velocity of 26½knots.  It runs towards the edge of the troughs but gets off in under 2 seconds with the shortest ‘Camel’ run yet on HMS Pegasus at just 26ft.

On 9th February ‘Camel’ B5417 drives down an enemy aircraft whilst escorting a wireless interruption patrol before a tappet rod breaks in the engine and the pilot is taken prisoner after a forced landing.  The Germans photograph it apparently intact except for the missing engine cowl and damaged engine.  It has the latest single white vertical bar marking of 54Sqdn and B Flight aircraft number 11.(below)

The American pilot ‘Camel’ B5423 which went missing on 19th January is also now a prisoner of war.  It too has been captured intact(below) carrying 54Sqdn’s previous identity marking with the squadron aircraft number in front of the roundel and a white bar along the top of the fuselage.

On 9th February ‘Strutters’ A5951 & 52 arrive at Grain from Mullion in Cornwall after seven months anti-submarine spotting to be converted into ship-based reconnaissance ‘Ships Strutters’.

This month Blackburn are delivering the final sixteen of their 191 ‘Baby’ floatplanes.  By 9th February N2121 has gone straight to Albert Docks for an exhibition in New York and twelve others have been crated and delivered.  Six have gone to the RNAS Central Stores Depot at White City to be shipped in the next few days to Calafrana on Malta to serve aboard HMS Riviera and HMS Manxman.  The other six have gone into store at Blackburn’s Brough works “for transfer to a foreign government”, probably Norway or possibly Japan. 

On 10th February it is again overcast with howling westerly winds stopping flying in France.  At East Fortune a fast landing ‘Pup’ swerves at the last moment to avoid a ‘Strutter’ preparing for take-off.  It heads straight through some aircraft shed doors with 4ft of clearance on either side and smashes into three other aircraft.  The pilot is unhurt.

On 11th February Martlesham Heath’s full report on the Sopwith ‘Hippo’ returned to Brooklands last week details changes they had to make in the cockpit layout and considers it to be “very poor” as a two seat fighter with its handling shortcomings and the pilot and passenger unable to communicate easily as they are too far apart.  The ‘Hippo’ is to be officially abandoned as a contender for the BR2 or 230hp Clerget two-seat fighter competition. Undeterred, Sopwith is planning to improve the handling of the ‘Hippo’ hoping for French interest and anyway still has the ‘Bulldog’ in two-seat fighter competition which is currently being fitted with new two-bay wings.

On 12th February the weather is still bad in France.  At Grossa in Italy there is much activity outside one of 28Sdn’s large canvas hangars.(above)  28Sqdn ‘Camels’ B6313 & B6356 share the destruction of two kite balloons and three closely parked small round balloons but the pilot of ‘Camel’ B2428 falls into a spin attempting a loop at 1,000ft on a practice flight and is killed.  At Manston the pilot of B5654 is killed spinning-in whilst at Upavon the pilot of B4633 is injured in a forced landing after an engine failure.  At Hounslow the pilot of ‘Pup’ B5355 is injured crashing from a spin after his foot gets jammed in the rudder bar during a loop. 

On 13th February there is more mist and rain in France.  At London Colney the pilot of ‘Pup’ B5942 is injured crashing from 150ft in a flat spin.  At Grain the unique landplane version of the Sopwith ‘FS1 Improved Baby Floatplane’ N5 which became the prototype ‘2F1 Ships Camel’ is wrecked after eleven months in service.

The 14th February is the eighth day of bad weather which has stopped almost all flying over the Western Front.  In the low mist the pilot of ‘Camel’ B5416 hits a tree during an engine test and dies of his injuries.  At home the trainee pilot of ‘Pup’ B2236 is injured stalling into trees from 100ft with engine trouble whilst flying from Wye and at East Fortune there is a collision of a 'Camel' with 'Pup' C217 inside the airship hangar.(below)

On 15th February mist clears in the afternoon in France.  The pilot of ‘Camel’ B7355 is killed in a spinning nose dive during gun practice into a pond whilst  Dolphin’ B6871 overturns on landing and C3496 is hit on the ground by an FK8.  At home the pilot of ‘Camel’ B7332 is killed turning upwind after an engine failure and spinning in from 500ft.  At Cranwell ‘Pup’ 9936 crashes and B2181 collides with B2208 which is wrecked.  In Italy ‘Baby’ floatplane N1443(below) drops its underslung bomb on a U-boat off Otranto.

 

On 15th February the second prototype Sopwith ‘TF1 Camel’ trench fighter B9278 is rolled out in front of the Sopwith sheds at Brooklands and makes its first flight.  The photographs (above and below) show the two 45o downward pointing Lewis guns through the hardened steel armour plate under the fuselage.  The Vickers gun hump is faired over but it has a third over-wing Lewis gun.  Sopwith’s direct-reading speedometer is attached to the port wing struts.

There are not enough of the preferred reliable 110hp Le Rhône engines for all the RFC’s front line ‘F1 Camel’ squadrons.  To avoid disastrous obturator ring failures their Clerget engines are only given 15 hours life but the 140hp long-stroke 9BF version of the 130hp Clerget 9B engine more than matches the Le Rhone’s performance and production has been switched to that version.  All 9B engines built since September 1917 can be converted to 9BFs simply by replacing the crankshaft and crankpins.   

On 16th February reconnaissance in the first good flying weather over the Western Front for twelve days reveals a very significant German build-up along the British sections with new aerodromes, dumps, sidings and encampments implying a massed attack.  This triggers the new three layer defence plan which might give some ground but should deny them the vital railway junction at Amiens whilst holding army reserves to protect the Channel ports.  A 65Sqdn ‘Camel’ fires at an Albatros which dives away straight into the ground, B5620, B5593 & B5620 each claim two victories, B2432, B2460, B5621, B6400 & B7297 each claim a victory, B9137 shares one with B9195 whilst B6379 shares one with two others.  ‘Dolphin’ C3822 crashes on landing.  At home the pilot of ‘Comic Camel’  B5192 is killed after it breaks up in the air and ‘Pup’ B5903 crashes at Isleworth injuring the pilot.  ‘T1 Cuckoo’ prototype N74 now fitted with a Sunbeam Arab engine by Blackburn Aircraft arrives at Cranwell and newly converted ‘Ships Strutter’ A6918 is tested with a hydrovane at Grain.  Overnight four Giant bombers attack Dover and London.  One damages a wing on a cable of one of the 9,500ft high balloon-strung London defence curtains but survives.  Another drops the first 1,000kg (2,204lb) bomb on London hitting the Chelsea Royal Hospital believing it to be the City.  12 people are killed and 6 injured.  There are 60 home defence sorties including 20 ‘Camels’ some of them ‘Comic Camels’ and ‘Comic Strutter’ A1100, but no effective interceptions.

On 16th February Sopwith are notified that their ‘7F1’ & ‘8F1’ fighters have officially been named ‘Snipe’ & ‘Snail’.

On 17th February ‘Camels’ B2477, B5448, B5649, B7196, B7305 each claim a victory, B5608 shares one with two others but the pilot of B5207 is killed when it is hit by an artillery shell and breaks up.  ‘Dolphin’ C3789 crashes. 

For the second night running there is a bomb attack on London and this time a single Giant bomber dropping incendiaries causes more damage than the four Giants last night.  21 people are killed and 32 injured mostly at St Pancras railway station and hotel.  The 69 defence sorties include 19 ‘Camels’ and a final sortie by 78Sqdn’s ‘Comic Strutter’ A1100, but again there were a few confused sightings and claims of shots fired but no success.

Martlesham Heath’s full report on the Bentley BR2 engined prototype ‘Snipe’ B9965 states that it was tested with an additional top-wing Lewis gun and weights to simulate the full ammunition and fuel loads required to meet Specification A1(a).  In this form it falls far short of the specification in speed, climb & ceiling and has handling issues which Sopwith are to improve by moving the wings back and altering the incidence of the tailplane.  They report that the Lewis gun is too close to the pilot and consider the tall undercarriage too narrow.

On 18th February ‘Camel’ B4630 claims two victories, B5169, B5599, B6417, B7195, B7198, B7203, B7218, B7320 & B9191 each claim a victory,  B5409 shares a victory with two others. B7188 & B7204 are shot up and pilots killed, N6347 crashes and the pilot dies of his wounds, B2499 crashes hit in the fuel tank and the pilot is taken prisoner whilst B5448’s pilot is wounded in combat.  In Italy the pilot of ‘Camel’ B2455 is injured crashing on take-off.  At home the American pilot of ‘Pup’ B735 is killed in a mid-air collision, B6038’s is killed stalling in a turn and spinning-in whilst B2178’s is injured hitting a fence in a forced landing after its modified cowl blew off. The pilot of a ‘Baby’ floatplane probably N1969 is killed over Hamble falling 5,000ft when a wing breaks away.

On 19th February four Dunkirk Seaplane Defence Flight now 13(N)Sqdn ‘Camels’ including B3773 share a seaplane down in flames.  B5421, B7195 & B9281 each claim a victory, B7202 shares one with B6428, whilst pilots of B9171 & B9185 are killed shot down in flames, the pilot of another 80Sqdn ‘Camel’ is wounded by gunshot, B9171’s is taken prisoner and B6212 “Black Prince” crashes. ‘Dolphin’ C3789 crash lands with engine trouble.  In Italy the pilot of ‘Camel’ B5403 is injured crashing on landing.  At home Cranwell ‘Camel’ B5700 crashes near Doncaster.   

On 19th February at Brooklands the Sopwith experimental team roll-out production ‘Dolphin’ C3858 which they have modified for night fighting.(above)   For more stability it has extra wing dihedral and Sopwith’s patented bottle-jack operated variable incidence tailplane but most obviously steel tube roll-over hoops above the wings.  They take the unique opportunity to photograph this machine alongside their other most recent prototypes before the ‘B2’ bomber B1496 and ‘Rhino’ bomber X8 with its Scarff gun-ring leave for Martlesham Heath.(below)

On 20th February poor weather returns in France.  In Italy eleven ‘Camels’ from 28 & 66 Squadrons bomb an airfield causing much damage, ‘Camel’ B6362 claims a victory but the pilot of B5193 is shot down possibly after an engine failure.  The pilot of ‘Hamble Baby’ N1461 on anti-submarine patrol is killed in a forced landing at sea.

On 20th February Dick, Kerr & Co submit their fourth photographic record of progress with National Aircraft Factory No.2 at Ham.  From the North-East corner it is bricked and windows are going in whilst the other end of the same long north bay shows it roofed but with brick walls still being built and no roofs on the other five bays.

Ruston Proctor have received orders for another 350 ‘F1 Camels’ bringing their total to 1200, more than double the 550 production machines built by Sopwith before switching production in Kingston to ‘Dolphins’.

On 21st February 4Sqdn Australian Flying Corps ‘Camels’ B2531, B5585 & B5552 each claim a victory but the latter is shot down and the pilot taken prisoner, B5623 & B7197 each claim a victory, B5600 shares a victory with a Belgian fighter but C1557 crashes and the pilot is killed whilst the pilot of a 66Sqdn ‘Camel’ B2352 is injured spinning-in from 1,000ft. In Italy the pilot of ‘Camel’ B2514 is killed hitting a tree diving on a ground target.  Responding to a carrier pigeon message from Yarmouth ‘Baby’ floatplane N1461 which did not return last evening, a searching Short seaplane forced lands at sea.  ‘Baby’ N1328 spots it and lands alongside a trawler to direct it to rescue the Short’s crew.  Unable to take off in the rough seas, he manages to taxi to a second trawler and is rescued.  The ‘Baby’ is taken in tow, overturns and sinks.  Fishguard-based ‘Hamble Baby’ N1457 also forced lands at sea and the pilot drowns whilst Seaton Carew’s N1447 driven onto rocks punctures a float.

On 22nd February ‘Camels’ B2443 & B5594 each claim a victory.   In Italy ‘Camel’ B6362 is shot down and the pilot killed whilst the pilot of B4628 is wounded and taken prisoner hit by machine gun fire in a low bombing raid on an airfield and B6238’s is injured crashing with engine failure.  At Montrose a trainee pilot is killed in B4637 diving in during a forced landing after engine failure. 

79Sqdn left Beaulieu as the second ‘Dolphin’ squadron for active service in France on 20th and on 22nd February have reached their base at Estrée Blanche.  87Sqdn are due to follow later in March and are presently working-up at Hounslow.(above)   Meanwhile 19Sqdn has had feedback from London that most of their issues with the ‘Dolphin’ are being or have been addressed but now a spent cartridge case has punctured a starboard radiator and others have been found jammed against the grille so they are temporarily fitting 1in wire netting across it.   

On 23rd February ‘Camel’ B9275 breaks up in a dive during gunnery practice killing the pilot whilst B5718 crashes and overturns seriously injuring the pilot.  The pilot of ‘Dolphin’ C3794 is “shaken” in a similar accident.  At home Manston War School ‘Camel’ B3868 ground-loops swiping off the undercarriage and breaking its back.(below) 

Martlesham Heath now have the second Sopwith ‘Rhino’ bomber X8 for testing and on 23rd February the first prototype X7 moves to RNAS Hendon.  Martlesham’s tests of BR2 engined ‘Snipe’ B9965 are to be delayed whilst the two-bay wings are altered.  Sopwith needs to refine the handling of this machine as competing machines for the BR2/Dragonfly engined single-seat fighter from Austin Motors, Boulton & Paul and Nieuport are all due to start tests at Martlesham by the end of the month.

Both services continue to make their own modifications to ‘Camels’ including removing fabric to create larger cut-outs in the top wing centre section.  Martlesham Heath has now completed tests which confirm that rectangular cut-outs up to 30½ins wide are acceptable  Meanwhile ‘2F1’ Camel N6341 is at RNAS Grain for ditching trials with a single hydrovane on the undercarriage. 

On 24th February in misty weather ‘Camel’ B7317 lands in flames after heavy ground fire and AA fire and the pilot is taken prisoner.  B2459 forced lands as does a Belgian ‘Camel’ which overturns.  At Chattis Hill ‘Pup’ B5255 spins in after take-off and the pilot is seriously injured whilst Yarmouth ‘Baby’ floatplane N1456 suffers an engine failure taking-off in a strong cross wind and overturns but the pilot is unhurt.

On 25th February in Italy ‘Camel’ B2400 is completely wrecked  suffering its third engine failure and forced landing in eight weeks.  At CFS Upavon the pilot of ‘Pup’ B2237 is killed when it dives in after catching fire.

On 26th February ‘Camel’ B5249 suffers engine failure & B9193 is hit by AA fire, both pilots are taken prisoner.  19Sqdn ‘Dolphin’ C3841 claims their first victory but the pilot of ‘Dolphin’ prototype B6871 becomes their first fatality in action crashing after combat with a Fokker Triplane.  In Italy the pilots of ‘Camels ’ B2471 & B6406 are injured in crash landings.  At Cranwell ‘Pup’ N6457 is crashed and wrecked.

On 26th February a Sopwith Board Meeting approves a Labour Control Board with Fred Sigrist as Chairman.  

Without any board meeting record, Sopwith has apparently acquired the Lang Propeller Co of Weybridge in the last few months.  Lang are a major national supplier of propellers not least for most Sopwith designed aircraft.  The photograph(below) shows almost finished propellers in Lang’s Tipping Shop, they are averaging 300 a week.

On 27th February ‘Camel’ N6363 is shot down into the sea in flames after leading an attack on six seaplanes, the pilot clings on but is drowned whilst B2393 crashes on take-off.  In Italy ‘Camel’ B6354 claims two victories and B5638, B6363 & B6424 each claim one victory.  At home the pilot of ‘Camel’ B7244 is injured in a crash, ‘Pup’ B5389 crash lands downwind after losing a control cable whilst B5978 overturns at Cranwell.  At Houton Bay on the Orkneys ‘SBIII Pups’ N6683, N6689 & N6695 are all damaged when a Bessonneau hangar is blown down in a gale only N6694 escapes damage. 

Beardmore has delivered the last 3 of their 100 ‘SBIII Folding Pups’ in February (including N6748 above) but 48 have gone straight into reserve storage at Killingholme.   There are not many suitable ships and SB.IIIs are being side-lined by better-performing simpler ‘Ships Pups’ and now 150hp ‘2F1 Camels’. 

Beardmore has recently designed and built prototypes of two successors to the ‘SB.III’ with 200hp Hispano Suiza engines, folding wings and jetisonable undercarriages.  The WB.V is a conventional design but in the extraordinary WB.IV the pilot sits between the engine and propeller astride the propeller shaft surrounded by bulbous buoyancy chambers.(above & below)

 

Further evidence of the individual colour schemes applied to 3(N)Sqdn’s ‘F1 Camels’ is shown in this line up at Middle Aerodrome, Bray Dunes.(below)  In front is the Canadian Sqdn Cmdr’s B6401 with sunburst tail, a crowned maple leaf on top of the fuselage and King of Diamonds playing cards on the lower wings.

3(N) are to take over from 8(N) tomorrow 1st March as the RNAS squadron attached to the Army on the Western Front at Mont St Eloi.  They may inherit some of 8(N)’s less decorated BR1 engined machines.(below) 

8(N)Sqdn are coming home to Walmer on 3rd March for rest and re-equipment after over 15 months in France mostly on attachment to the RFC over the Western Front.   During that time “Naval Eight” have built an unrivalled record of successes whilst flying Sopwith ‘1½ Strutters’, ‘Pups’, ‘Triplanes’ and now ‘Camels’. 

A ramp on top of a swivelling gun turret is looking to be the best practical option for launching aircraft from capital ships without them having to turn into wind.  However Grain continues to experiment with guided cross-wind take-offs for the heavier two-seat ‘Strutter’ fitting one with solid skids to run in very narrow wooden troughs/slots to keep the aircraft straight until lift off.   A successful flight is achieved with A6911 from the dummy deck at Grain on 28th February(below) and these troughs are now to be installed on the deck of HMS Vindex.

On 28th February in poor weather ‘Camel’ B6357 claims a victory but the pilot of B9300 is killed crashing on a practice fight.  The pilot of Ternhill ‘Camel’ E7312 is injured stalling-in from a turn.  At Cranwell ‘Camel’ B7239 crashes injuring the pilot, B5674 collides with ‘Pup’ C262 badly damaging both whilst ‘Pup’ B6032 also crashes.

In Parliament on 28th February an MP asks why the Treasury won’t sanction Whitehead’s plan to increase its capital by £750,000 by public subscription, the questioner pointing out that Whitehead “already have 325,000 sq ft of factory with wages of £11,000 a week and this new capital money could again double this output in a few months”.  The reply on behalf of the Ministry of Munitions is that “they can meet their requirements from facilities existing and arranged for without further extensions to Messrs Whitehead” adding that “the money asked for is to pay off their liabilities of advances already made by the Ministry”.  

The Sopwith factory produced 95 ‘Dolphins’ in February.  The number of new Sopwith-designed aircraft from other contractors in February is 562.  These comprise 173 ‘Pups’ from Standard Motors (53) and Whitehead (120) and the last 3 ‘SBIII Folding Pups’ from Beardmore.  There were 345 ‘Camels’ including the first ‘2F1’ from Beardmore plus ‘F1s Camels’ from Boulton & Paul (110), British Caudron (11), Clayton & Shuttleworth (38), Hooper (25), Marsh Jones & Cribb (14), Nieuport & General (21), Portholme (22) and Ruston Proctor (103).  Other deliveries were the first 9 ‘Dolphins’ from Darracq and the first one from Hooper, the last 16 ‘Baby’ floatplanes from Blackburn and 15 more ‘Hamble Baby Convert’ landplanes from Parnall.

A further 450 ‘F1 Camels’ and 50 ‘2F1 Ships Camels’ have been ordered from contractors during February. 

The number of aircraft on order for the Royal Flying Corps on 1st March 1918 is 22,463 compared with 10,009 a year ago and ordering is more standardised with 18 types from 8 design teams rather than 39 types from 14 teams.  Vickers and five French companies no longer appear.  There are 7,394 Royal Aircraft Factory aircraft on order of five types mostly FE2s, RE8s and SE5s, AIRCO’s 4,600 are mostly DH6s and DH9s, Sopwith’s 4,164 are mostly Camels and Dolphins with some Pups whilst Avro’s 4,171 are all Avro 504 trainers and Bristol’s 1,379 all F2Bs.  Armstrong Whitworth FK8s, Handley Page 0/400s and Martinsyde S3s are on order in smaller numbers.

These numbers exclude smaller scale but still significant orders for RNAS aircraft including ‘Ships Camels’, ‘Cuckoos’, floatplanes and flying boats.  Large flying boats have joined the types patrolling over the North Sea.  

A large number of Sopwith ‘Cuckoo’ torpedo bombers are needed for a top-secret planned attack on the German Fleet before the end of the year but progress is too slow at Fairfield and Pegler with their orders for 100 and 50.  Blackburn have re-engined the prototype N74 with a 200hp Sunbeam Arab and are now taking on at least 30 of Pegler’s ‘Cuckoo’ order whilst their orders are increased to 100. 

Having taken over development of the ‘Cuckoo’, Blackburn are now in competition with Short Bros to design torpedo bombers capable of delivering the Mark VIII torpedo with twice the amount of TNT.  They are also building a single-seat flying boat in their expanding factory around the Olympia ex-skating rink.(below)

Despite the massive numbers of new aircraft being built in Britain and France, the demand continues to grow.  Now the US Air Service are arriving to support the allies as yet without many of their own aircraft and amongst other types they are arranging to purchase over 500 French-built Sopwith ‘Strutters’.

On 1st March in strong east wind low clouds, B6293 claims a victory before being shot up and forced to land as is B9259 whilst the pilot of ‘Camel’ B5628 is killed stalling with an engine failure on take-off.   At Cranwell ‘Pups’ 9903 & B2211 are badly damaged in crashes whilst N6478 is badly damaged hitting a post at East Fortune.   

On 2nd March there is no flying in France in howling east winds and snow whilst another ‘Pup’ N6444 is damaged on the Orkneys when a Bessonneau hangar is blown down.  ‘Pup’ N6190 is getting special skids for deck arrester gear experiments at Grain in preparation for HMS Furious coming back into service with a rear landing-on deck. 

On 3rd March as bad weather continues in France, the German preparations for a spring offensive continue boosted by resources released from the Eastern Front now that post-revolution Russia has signed peace terms.

On 4th MarchStrutter’ 9744 attempts to take-off from the ramp on HMS Repulse’s forward gun turret which has been specially extended by a “spring mattress” of flexible wire ropes.  The propeller hits the mattress and breaks and the aircraft just clears the ship before diving into the sea.  The bruised pilot is rescued by another ship.  The wooden ramp is to be extended after deciding that this dangerous contraption is not to be used again.

5th March is a “dud flying day” in France but 65 Sqdn increase their strength from 18 to 24 ‘Camels’ managing to collect 6 from the Aircraft Supply Depot for their six new pilots.  They should now always have a full 18 for patrols even with two pilots on leave at most times.   At Scampton the pilot of ‘Camel’ B7281 is killed stalling-in after an engine failure whilst ‘Pup’ N6021 crashes at Cranwell. 

At the Sopwith Board Meeting on 5th March a bank account is approved for the Workers’ Canteen ready for the occupation of the new timber shed and first-floor canteen building on the south side of Canbury Park Road. 

On 6th March Ruston Proctor ‘Camel’ B7380 with the bold ancient Egyptian colour scheme is sent back from France by the RFC as “not suitable for fighting purposes”.  ‘Camels’ B3903, B5441, B7215, B7349, B9153, B9197 & C1568 each claim a victory.  The pilot of a 43Sqdn ‘Camel’ is wounded in action whilst B9283 is badly shot up, C1569 is damaged by AA fire and a 70Sqdn ‘Camel’ charges into 65Sqdn’s office on take-off.  The pilot of ‘Dolphin’ C3823 is killed when a wing comes off in a vertical dive which is a first fatality for the newly arrived 79Sqdn.  C3891’s pilot is injured hitting a tree, C3836 is damaged in a forced landing after a petrol pipe breaks in flight, C3908 is damaged hitting C3968 on take-off whilst C3966 is wrecked on landing and C3828 is damaged landing short of the aerodrome.   At home the pilots of Manston ‘Camels’ C5734 and B5688 are both killed in crashes.

The two ‘Camels’ modified with down-pointing guns for trench fighting are on their way to France for service trials.  The accompanying report from the RFC Armament Experimental Station at Orfordness explains that the gun arrangement in B6218 is temporary and they developed its mirror gun-sight but it has “proved practically impossible to keep any target except a dead straight line” whilst the armoured B9278 modified by Sopwith has no space for a satisfactory sighting system and it is very difficult to change the ammunition drums in the air.

By the 6Th March all three Bentley BR2 engined competitors for Sopwith’s ‘Snipe’ are undergoing trials at Martlesham Heath.   Meanwhile after further alterations to the handling it is to join the others at a service airfield for inspection by Trenchard, Brook-Popham and other RFC top brass.  Performances are not matching the challenging A1a specification and it is recommended that ABC Dragonfly and Wasp radial engined fighters are developed as rapidly as possible.  It is decided that the sixth ‘Snipe’ prototype is be fitted with the ABC Dragonfly.

The fuselages of the first two Sopwith ‘Snail’ experimental lightweight fighter prototypes are now complete in the Skating Rink experimental workshop in Kingston awaiting their 170hp ABC Wasp experimental radial engines. The version with a monocoque plywood fuselage looks neat and sleek.(below) This is the first time Sopwith have attempted this form of construction. 

Meanwhile the experimental team have built and fitted a set of two-bay wings to the prototype ‘Bulldog’ two-seat fighter and installed the 230hp Clerget engine taken from the ‘Hippo’.  The ‘Bulldog’ is being prepared for flight trials at Brooklands.

 

‘Ships Strutter’ (N)5644 is photographed being hoisted from a lighter alongside HMAS Australia onto the extended ramp on her midships Q gun turret.(above)  On 7th March Fl Cdr Donald flies N5644 from that ramp into a 20mph wind “dropping very little despite a slow revving engine”.(below)  This is the first recorded successful flight of any two-seater from a turret ramp albeit with only the pilot aboard.

In France on 7th March the pilot of ‘Camel’ B4631 is killed spinning-in as are the pilots of B7418, B7420 & B7469 at Ayr including two Americans whilst B3794 crashes on landing. In Italy B5648 claims a kite balloon down in flames.  Lee-on-Solent ‘Hamble Baby’ N1451 is wrecked on landing and the pilot is injured.

Overnight five Giant bombers raid London killing 23 and injuring 39.  Despite clear weather over London some home defence aircraft are grounded by heavy mist and cloud to the east and there are no interceptions.

On 8th March ‘Camels’ B5625, B6419, B7356, B7475, C1627 & C8204 each claim a victory, B3782 & B7222 each share a victory with two others, the pilot of C8241 is killed in combat, B3905 is shot down and the pilot taken prisoner whilst B3759 crashes on landing.   ‘Dolphins’ C3792, C3837 & C3892 each claim a victory including a first for 79Sqdn, the pilot of C3832 is injured in a collision on the ground with C3941 whilst C3844 is wrecked overturning in a forced landing.  At home, Manston ‘Camel’ N6343 forced lands at sea and the pilot is drowned,  N6375 overturns landing at Grain whilst the pilot of ‘Pup’ B2233 is injured when it catches fire in the air and is burnt out after a forced landing.

On 9th March ‘Camel’ B7475 claims four victories, B2411, B5597, B5631, C8212 & C8237 each claim a victory and B3798 shares a victory with B7185.  ‘Dolphins’ C3792, C3788, C3793, C3841 each claim a victory, the pilot of C3895 is injured spinning-in after the engine cuts out  on take-off and C3822 is wrecked in a forced landing after being mistaken for an enemy aircraft and shot up by a 70Sqdn ‘Camel’ (possibly one of B7475’s claims above).  In Italy ‘Camel’ B6313 overturns on landing.  At home, the pilot of ‘Pup’ B5924 overshooting a landing opens up the engine too late and is badly injured hitting an observation tower whilst at Cranwell B6021 is blown-over on take-off and N6472 is badly damaged in a crash.

On 10th March ‘Camel’ B9325 claims two victories as do two others, probably B9209 & B9325, whilst B5572, B6398, B7190, B7220, B7223, B7251, B7291 & B7385 each claim one.  The pilot of B9147 is shot down on a low mission and interned in Holland severely wounded, B7230 hit in combat spins down from 14,000ft but manages to land safely and the pilot is taken prisoner as is C6719’s whilst B6449 is completely wrecked in a crash.  In Italy the pilot of B2377 is killed in combat.  At Nether Wallop the pilot of ‘Pup’ C264 is seriously injured spinning-in.

The BR2 engined competitors with the Sopwith ‘Snipe’ for the next generation air-cooled RFC fighters have all three been at Martlesham Heath for some initial testing over the last 10 days and now are joined by the further improved ‘Snipe’ B9965(below left) at Suttons Farm aerodrome for an inspection by RFC top brass including Trenchard and Brook-Popham.

The Austin AFT3 Osprey (above right) is reported to have good manoeuvrability and ease of production but comes from a relatively inexperienced design team and looks out-dated as the only triplane. 

The Boulton & Paul P3 Bobolink(above left) also comes from a relatively inexperienced team and owes a lot to the detailed design of the Sopwith Camels they are turning out in large numbers.  It has good visibility for the pilot and its speed is somewhat better than the Osprey and Snipe but the Snipe has the best climb rate.  The British Nieuport BN1(above right) is designed by Henry Folland who has already designed the successful SE5 but moved on from the Royal Aircraft Factory after it stopped designing aeroplanes.  He too has focussed on simplicity of manufacture using some SE5 parts but has taken a risk with novel untested single “I” type interplane struts.  The performance and handling of the BN1 seem promising but it has suffered fractures to the engine cowling and two engine failures whilst at Martlesham and there is as yet no measured performance data.  None of the four contestants come near the demanding performance criteria in the A1a specification but the top-brass select the Sopwith ‘Snipe’ for immediate volume production.

The very next day 11th March, ‘Snipe’ B9965 goes to France for service trials whilst the second BR2-engined ‘Snipe’ prototype B9966 is at Brooklands for its initial flight tests.(below) 

The unfortunate Nieuport BN1 is flying throttled back at 1,500ft when a flame appears in front of the rudder bar and slowly spreads through the wooden fuselage.  The pilot lands the machine within two minutes but it is burnt out.

Meanwhile the ’TF1 Camel’ trench fighters sent to France in the last few days have already been flown by several pilots and viewed by senior officers from all brigades using ‘Camels’.  The Orfordness mirror sight on B9278 does give the pilot a view of the ground ahead but is only useful flying in a straight line without any banking making the machine an easy target for the ground gunners whilst the fuselage-side mounted downward firing Lewis gun is virtually impossible to reload.  B9278 is being returned to England.  

It is also almost impossible to reload the ammunition drums in the cramped cockpit of B6218(above) with the twin downward firing guns.  There is no gun sight as yet but again the pilot would have to find and follow the trench line without even a small amount of banking and he has only a top mounted Lewis gun to protect himself against an air attack.  The overwhelming view is that the present steep diving attacks with the Camel’s two synchronised Vickers guns will continue to be the most effective with the aircraft much less likely to be hit than one flying at a steady height obviously following the trench line.  The pilot remains focussed on flying the aircraft and it makes more impression on the ground troops.  Major General Salmond, Commanding the RFC in the Field,  writes tersely “It is not considered that either of these machines are of any practical value.  The present Camel is more efficient in every way for this purpose”.  The idea of armour plating  existing ‘Camels’ is to be pursued but to avoid the extra weight having a significant impact on performance this will be probably only be to protect the pilot. 

Since late January in anticipation of this, Sopwith has been designing a ‘TF2’ armoured version of the ‘Snipe’ with its much more powerful engine and has put six prototypes in hand on the promise of a contract.  The first of these is well advanced with the armour plating being cut and fitted prior to hardening but they will now be instructed to replace the two downward firing guns with conventional twin synchronised Vickers guns. 

On 11th March ‘Camels' B2469, B3879, B6300, B5425, B5627, B6359, B7286, B7287, B7288, B7298, B9161, & C1615  each claim a victory, B7224 shares a victory with three others, B2530 shares a victory with one other and shares a kite balloon destroyed with three others whilst the pilot of B5441 is seriously injured crash landing with choked engine and B3853 suffers an engine failure.  ‘Dolphin’ C3838 overturns forced landing with magneto trouble and the pilot is injured as is C3897’s crashing with an engine failure on take-off whilst C3900 crashes in “a bad take-off”.  In Italy ‘Camel’ B5648 claims two victories and B5190 claims one.  At Cranwell the pilot of ‘Camel’ B7264 is killed in a crash, ‘Pup’ B5980 is destroyed by an engine fire and N6435 crashes whilst the pilot of Upavon’s A660 is killed in a mid-air collision. 

On 12th March ‘Camel’ B7475 claims two victories, B5630, B5633, B6427, B7471, B7473, B7474, C1617 & C8213 each claim a victory, B7226 shares a victory with three others and B6418 claims a victory and shares a kite balloon in flames before crashing with an engine failure.  The pilot of B3845 is killed diving vertically after an engine failure, B9157’s is killed during a ground attack, B9317’s is taken prisoner after being shot down in a ground attack, B5593’s is injured when the engine cuts out in a low dive during a demonstration to machine gunners and B5237 crashes on take-off.  The pilot of ‘Dolphin’ C3897 is injured crashing taking-off for an engine test.  At home the pilot of ‘Camel’ C1625 is killed in a spinning nose-dive whilst ‘Pup’ B5313 crashes on landing.  Five Zeppelins drop their bombs short of their intended Midlands targets, some even at sea, due to cloud obscuring the surface.  They kill one person near Hull and do little damage.

On 13th March ‘Camels’ B7282 & B7386 each claim two victories, B7377, B7388 & B9209 each claim a single victory, whilst B6420 claims a victory but then crashes whilst B9279 shares a victory before crashing with controls shot away.  The pilot of B5590 is killed shot down in flames, an 80Sqdn ‘Camel’ is hit by a shell and the pilot fatally wounded, the wounded pilot of B2523 hit in the fuel tank overturns crash landing in the trenches and is taken prisoner whilst C6705 & B5429 are damaged by machine gun fire whilst attacking ground targets.  ‘Dolphin’ C3828 overturns on landing.  At home the pilot of ‘Camel’ B6416 “The Straffer” crashes in Ludlow Park with an engine failure after a War Bonds drive and Cranwell ‘Pup’ B2204 forced lands also after an engine failure.  Two Zeppelins turn back due to strong winds but one drops 21 bombs on Hartlepool Docks from 16,400ft killing 8 people and injuring 39.  There are only FE2’s in that area and they cannot reach the airship by now at 18,000ft.

 

HMS Furious’ pilots continue to practise flying their skidded ‘Pups’ at Grain.  Taking-off on grass is achieved by rocking back and forth until they get underway.  They are then attempting landings on the dummy wooden deck with its raised parallel fore and aft restraining wires replicating the arrangement now fitted to the rear flying-on deck of Furious.  The skids running between the wires should help keep the aircraft straight and there are horns on the skids(above) to catch under these wires to hold the aircraft down on the potentially rolling and pitching ship’s deck.  Riding up the final low ramp should trap the machine(below) if the friction of the skids on the deck has not already stopped it.  Grain have earlier tried arrester hooks with transverse sandbag-weighted arrester wires but these tended to swing such light aircraft around if not caught dead centre. 

On 14th March off Miramar in Italy ‘Camels’ B5171 & B6424 score direct hits on a tramp steamer causing smoke and flames but the pilot of B6414 is shot down fatally wounded.  In France in poor weather B9187 crashes after engine failure.  At Ayr the pilot of B7465 is killed losing control in a dive and B7373’s is seriously injured in a similar accident at Montrose whilst at Hooten Park ‘Dolphin’ C3965 makes a forced landing. 

After their initial favourable comments, the latest Martlesham Heath’s report comparing Sopwith ‘Rhino’ triplane two-seat bomber X7 and a DH9 both with 230hp BHP engines found the ‘Rhino’ to have a worse view for pilot and observer/rear gunner, to be tiring to fly with no directional stability and to have a worse performance in every way with the same bomb load.  There are other design criticisms and work is stopped on any more ‘Rhinos’.

On 15th March ‘Camels’ B5635, B7233, B7347 & C1603 each claim a victory whilst C1551 crashes landing in the strong winds.  ‘Dolphins’ C3843 & C4017 each claim two victories whilst C3792 & C3899 each claim one.   

There are a number of ‘Pups’ at the School of Aerial Fighting at Heliopolis in Egypt including this elaborately painted one(above) but today the pilot of B6045 is killed in a crash.  At Ternhill ‘Pup’ B2192 forced lands after an engine failure whilst Seaton Carew ‘Baby’ N1434 is found after a search at sea but the pilot has drowned.

In Kingston-upon-Thames Market Place to encourage the public to buy War Bonds there is a battle-scarred “Tank Bank”.  Harry Hawker twice displays overhead in a ‘Camel’ and drops a packet from the Sopwith Aviation Co with an application for £30,000 of War Bonds.(below)

On 16th March ‘Camels’ B6211, B6429, B7225, B7347, B9247 & C6710 each claim a victory, the pilot of B9229 is killed in combat, B5208’s engine fails in combat, and is shot down with the pilot taken prisoner as is B5442’s after being shot up whilst B9139 is shot up and damaged on a low patrol.  In Italy ‘Camel’ B2445 claims two victories and B5180 claims one.  At Croydon B7462’spilot  is killed hitting a house misjudging a dive, at Hursley Park B9320’s pilot is fatally injured crashing from a side-slipping turn whilst at Scampton B7319’s is killed crashing in a spinning nose dive as is the pilot of Tangmere ‘Pup’ C267 after completing a loop and roll. 

On 17th March ‘Camel’ C8270 claims two victories, B5632 & B9277 claim one each but the pilots of B9209 & B9229 are killed in combat, C1651’s is killed spinning-in from hitting another machine’s slipstream whilst B6420 is shot down and the pilot taken prisoner.  ‘Dolphin’ C3902 claims two victories, C3792, C3820, C3829, C3940 & C4017 each claim one but the pilot of C3814 is killed in a flying accident.  At home the pilot of Turnberry ‘Camel’ B9222 is killed crashing in a flat spin, Beaulieu-based C8210’s pilot is killed after stalling in a turn whilst Farnborough rebuild B900 suffers engine failure and overturns landing on rough ground.

 

Re-commissioned two days ago two months earlier than promised, HMS Furious sails from Newcastle to Rosyth on 17th  March.(above)  The new “dazzle” blue, light green, light grey and extra dark grey paint scheme is intended to confuse U-boat crews as to the course, size and speed of the ship and how far away it is.  The bow take-off deck is retained with its hangar, lift and retractable windbreaks.  The new 70ft x 284ft rear landing-on deck also has a hangar under and an aircraft lift.  There are 11ft wide trackways around both sides of the superstructure to transfer aircraft from aft deck to foredeck.  The tall frame behind the funnel was to hold up a net but the net has been replaced by a row of heavy hanging ropes to stop any aircraft not already stopped by the arrester gear.

On 18th March during the bombing of a German aerodrome there is a pitched battle between 50 enemy aircraft and 24 British fighters including ten 54 Sqn ‘Camels’ of which B5241 claims a victory but the pilot of B5421 is killed in combat and the pilots of B5243, C1576 & C6720 are all brought down and taken prisoner.  C1576’s 2nd Lt Lee (below) relieved to have survived, meets his German victor who’s Albatros is in the background.

Elsewhere over the Western Front  B7231 & C8247 each claim a victory but the pilots of B7217 & C1566 are killed in combat and the pilot of 10(N)Sqdn’s B3781’s is sent down and taken prisoner.(above) At Dover the trainee pilot of ‘Camel’ B7476 is killed in a crash as is the pilot of Joyce Green ‘Camel’ B7464 diving-in after misjudging his height in ground mist. 

On 19th March rain sets in over the Western Front.  The pilot of Joyce Green ‘Camel’ C1694 is killed spinning from a stall into a river, the pilot of Harling Road’s B5201 is also killed from a stall but after an engine failure whilst ‘Pup’ B5929 is crashed at Cranwell.  ‘Baby’ floatplane N2088 suffers an engine failure and forced landing in the sea off Hornsea but is picked up by the steamer Hans Just.

On 20th March the pilot of ‘Camel’ C8263 is killed crashing on its delivery flight from Lincoln, D6406 and Cranwell’s B5701 are damaged in crashes and B7353 is damaged in a collision at Dover.  The pilot of Beaulieu ‘Dolphin’ C3848 is killed failing to recover from a dive.  Cranwell ‘Pup’ 9935 is crashed and wrecked whilst C265 & C298 are damaged landing-out, one lost and the other after an engine failure.

At 11.03am on 20th March Sqdn Cmdr Rutland makes the first landing on HMS Furious’ new rear deck.  Slowing to just above stalling speed he yaws and rolls alarmingly in the turbulence of the ship steaming at 12knots into an 11mph wind before landing heavily one wing down and breaking an undercarriage strut.(below)

Later with the ship at anchor he is followed in by Grain’s Wing Cmdr Busteed who lands ‘Pup’ C214 much too fast.  It does not catch in the wires, runs straight over the low ramp and is halted by the heavy rope mantlet.(above)  The propeller and undercarriage are broken, the wings severely damaged and Busteed’s nose is badly cut.

 

This same day ‘Strutter’ A6911 takes-off in a crosswind from the narrow slotted troughs on the foredeck of HMS Vindex (above) following the equally successful land-based trial at Grain on 28th February.  This method of launching reconnaissance two-seaters from capital ships steaming in line ahead may not now be needed if further trial flights of ‘Strutters’ from ramps atop their rotatable-into-wind gun turrets are a success.   

Just 11 days after the RFC top brass selected the ‘Snipe’, Sopwith receive an initial  order for 300 and confirmation of the contract for 6 prototype armoured ‘TF2 Salamander’ trench fighter derivatives.  A further 600 ‘Snipe’ are immediately ordered from existing ‘Camel’ contractors: Boulton & Paul get 400 and Nieuport 100 in some compensation for their efforts to design a competitor whilst Portholme also get 100.   With orders on the way for 500 from Ruston Proctor and 150 from new Sopwith contractor Napier the initial commitment is for 1,550 ’Snipe’ aircraft.  The technical experts’ recommendation is that the performance of these machines does not warrant replacing the SE5a/Dolphin class of fighters and the minimum number should be produced to replace 130hp ‘Camels’ whilst Dragonfly and Wasp radial-engined fighters are developed as rapidly as possible.  Sopwith already have the sixth ‘Snipe’ prototype awaiting an ABC Dragonfly engine and an ABC Wasp engine finally arrived two days ago for their first prototype ‘Snail’.

The feedback from ‘Snipe’ B9965’s service trials with the 2nd Brigade in France is much more favourable than the experts’ views.  They consider the ‘Snipe’ to be “vastly superior to any scout at present on the Western Front.  The performance is far better than we had been led to expect reaching 15,000ft in 13½mins and 25,000ft in 45mins.”   They would like better rudder authority, see no need for the top-wing Lewis gun and when fire proof tanks are fitted, want the capacity to be reduced to keep the same weight, providing it is at least 30 gallons. 

With reinforcements of men and equipment from the Eastern Front the German Armies on the Western Front outnumber the allies for the first time.  Knowing the Americans will soon be arriving, a very misty 21st March sees the start of a major German offensive against the British Third and Fifth Armies on a 50 mile front.  Ten ‘Camel’  and two ‘Dolphin’ squadrons make up almost 50% of the RFC’s fighter force on the Western Front ready to do whatever is asked of them including low level ground attack.  By midday the weather clears just enough for the first aircraft on both sides to take off.  ‘Camel’ B2535 claims two victories,  B5229, B5433, B5437, B7228, B7290 & C1663 each claim a victory, the pilots of B9277 & C1641 are wounded in combat, B5450, B6405, B9321, C1558, C1613 & C1627 are shot up and damaged as are B2456 & B9155 which have to be abandoned after a forced landings in front of advancing enemy troops, B5245 crashes on landing.  B9205’s pilot is killed on a practice flight spinning-in as is C1669’s flying into cliffs at Boulogne.  In Italy B5648 & B7283 claim victories whilst B4615 crashes landing with an engine failure and 45Sqdn make their first mission from their new base at Grossa operating over the southern foothills of the Italian Alps but wintry weather is severely restricting operations.  At Shawbury B2521’s pilot is killed spinning-in, at Upavon B7370’s is killed diving too low whilst Cranwell’s B5709 is crashed and wrecked.  In the Firth of Forth one of HMS Furious’ ‘Pups’ flies around the ship but finds the conditions “awfully bad’ and a second ‘Pup’ “exercises around the ship but falls in the sea”.  This is almost certainly N6456 from HMS Pegasus shown in the photograph(below) with the pilot being rescued by a rowed whaler before his aircraft is towed in backwards by a tender and hoisted aboard Furious slung from the propeller.

 

Dick, Kerr & Co submit another photographic record of progress with the building the National Aircraft Factory at Ham.(above & below)

The roof is on and the first three of the six bays are largely complete as seen in the impressive internal image looking into the NE corner.(below)  Alongside every other column is one of the “rocket” heaters to be fed with steam from the four chimney boiler house on the south side.  The 30ft high sliding doors are going up on the west elevation and the free standing mezzanine workshops which will run down both sides can be seen inside.

On 22nd March after thick mist, ‘Camel’  C1619 claims three victories, B7282, C1637, C1659 & C8217 each claim two, B7192, B7229, B7237, B7270, B7292, B7302, C1609, C1611 & C1672 each claim one, B9273 &  C1554 each share one with another machine.  The pilots B7216 & B7219 are killed colliding in combat, C8214 & C8235’s pilots are downed and taken prisoner the first seriously wounded, C1657’s is wounded in action as is B7300’s by AA fire.  C8201 & C8243 both forced land at Nurlu aerodrome with engine trouble and are burnt to avoid capture by the advancing enemy, B5438’s pilot is injured crashing in mist and C1607 is damaged forced landing with a broken tappet.  At home the pilot of Hounslow-based ‘Dolphin’ C4145 is killed after a spinning nose dive from 6,000ft, Cranwell ‘Pups’ B6022 & C232 are badly damaged in crashes, whilst Fishguard ‘Baby’ floatplane N1127 drops a 65lb bomb on a U-boat.  Grain ‘Strutter’ 9390 is successfully ditched with a hydrovane and external inflatable floatation bags in further experiments to support the deployment of ‘Ships Strutters’ with the fleet.

Meanwhile ‘Camel’ C1614 of the Wireless Experimental Establishment at Biggin Hill is involved in air-to-air radio telegraphy experiments as the receiving aircraft for B6303 which has a transmitter behind the petrol tank driven by a propeller-driven generator on the undercarriage and trails 150ft of aerial cable.  The voice messages received by a 199ft trailing aerial wire on C1614(above) are audible up to three miles. This establishment also has ‘Camel’ B6234(below) which gets a star-spangled fuselage and man-in-the-moon face on the fin.

 

On 23rd March ‘Camel’ B2488 claims two victories, B9211, C1559, C1572, C1672, C8205, C8216 & D6407 each claim one victory as does B5247 but is damaged in combat and B5434 crashes taking-off on the next sortie trying to avoid a landing aircraft.  B9149, B5435, B7185 & C1649 each share a victory with others whilst the pilots of C1564 & C8244 are taken prisoner one injured and the other wounded in combat, the pilots of B9167 & C8238 are also wounded in action, as is B7478’s abandoning his aircraft as the airfield is evacuated, B3814’s is injured after an engine failure on take-off and B6391 is wrecked in a crash.  ‘Dolphins’ C3829 & C3940 share a victory, C3798 claims a first victory for 79Sqdn but C3905 is their first shot down in combat with the pilot taken prisoner.  At home the pilot of Hornchurch ‘Camel’ C6726 is killed in a spinning nose dive during aerobatics, Cranwell ‘Camel’ B7242’s is killed in a crash whilst C33 crashes and D6458 forced lands with engine failure.  Biggin Hill ‘Dolphin’ C4018’s pilot is injured in a crash after an engine failure.  At Upavon the pilot of ‘Pup’ A6150 is killed after his propeller hit the tail of a ‘Strutter’ in flight whilst Grain’s ‘Pup’ 9921 & Rochford’s B2194 both crash land at Eastbourne and Wye’s C3503 catches its undercarriage on wires forced landing with an engine failure. 

On 24th March ‘Camel’ C8270 is the first to claim six enemy aircraft in one day, B7322 & D6402 each  claim two victories, C8259 shares two victories with others, B3841, B9261 & C8240 each claim a victory as does D6421 which lands badly shot up and has to be abandoned at Cashy, B7218 shares a victory with the other seven in the flight.  The pilots of C1553 & C1639 are killed in action, B9195’s pilot is killed climbing too steeply and spinning-in, B5437’s is seriously wounded and taken prisoner, B9261 & C1554 are shot up and the pilots taken prisoner, C8204’s is wounded in action, C1615’s is shot down by infantry fire but escapes, B3774’s is shot down at sea but is rescued whilst B5433, B9239 & C1559 are damaged in combat.  ‘Dolphin’ C3829 claims two victories, C3798, C3820 & C3837 each claim a victory, C3799 shares one with C4017 as does C3838 but the pilot is injured crashing on landing whilst C3802 is wrecked in a hangar by enemy bombing.  At home, the pilot  of Hounslow ‘Dolphin’ C4025 is injured stalling after take-off.

On 25th March ‘Camel’ B2489 claims three victories and C8217 clams one but the pilots of B7218, B9223, C1562 & C8216 are all killed in action, C6724’s & B9265’s are wounded and taken prisoner whilst B7303 & C1572 are shot-up but manage to land just west of the lines.  ‘Dolphins’ C3849 & C3850 are both damaged forced landing with engine problems on a travelling flight.  The pilot of Beaulieu ‘Pup’ B6016 is injured landing with an engine failure and hitting a tree with a wing, Cranwell’s B6014 overturns in a forced landing, whilst ‘Baby’ N2101 drops a 65lb bomb on a U-boat south of Hartlepool. 

In the Firth of Forth deck landing attempts onto HMS Furious resume with Jackson making a landing “which was a horrible sight” thrown up 30/40ft at the start of the deck, yawing and pitching then touching half way down the deck before bouncing about 18ins and going over the ramp tearing off a horn and after end of the left skid.  The right horns did not catch any wires.  Accidentally blipping the engine at the first bounce speeded his arrival.  The first photograph(below) shows him over the ramp with engine still running about to hit the rope barrier closely observed by colleagues who are pulling back two ropes to avoid shattering the propeller.  The subsequent photographs show him out on deckwith a wider view of the rope barrier.

HMS Furious pilot McCleery writes that Thyne who came next “just missed death by about 6ins several times and was signalled to fly back to the airfield”.  “It is obvious it is a washout but I suppose they’ll go on ‘till someone’s killed”.   The Captain’s report says that with the ship steaming at 30kts into a 5kt wind Thyne made several attempts but was going too slowly.  On one he stalled but was bumped up 26ft on reaching the rear edge of the deck and might have landed but could not then get the nose down.  This same day HMS Furious’ Log records Sqdn Cmdr Rutland landing a ‘Pup’ on the her unobstructed open foredeck for the first time since Dunning’s fatal accident last August.

On 26th March sees the greatest British air concentration of the war with squadrons called from other areas to break up concentrations of enemy troops and supplies in support of the heavily depleted and dislocated squadrons retreating back from one hastily set-up airfield to the next.  In the afternoon all squadrons are drawn south of the Somme to help stop a rapid German advance splitting the French and British armies.  ‘Camel’ B6389 claims three victories, B3892 claims two, C82788 claims one and B7200 shares a one with three others but the pilot of B9179 is taken prisoner seriously injured, B1568’s is also taken prisoner after being hit in the fuel tank by infantry fire, the pilots of B2478, B7223 & C8255 are wounded in action, C1619 is downed by machine gun fire and abandoned as is C1693 burnt in the retreat after an engine failure whilst D3334 crashes on landing.  ‘Dolphin’ C3792 claims a victory but then forced lands whilst the pilots of  C3790, C3793 & C3859 are killed on low patrols and C3864 crashes.  At home, Freiston ‘Camel’ C27 spins-in killing the pilot, Cranwell ‘Pup’ C301 crashes whilst it is reported for the second day running that Rutland makes a foredeck landing on HMS Furious in a ‘Pup’.  Hornsea ‘Baby’ floatplanes N2078 & N2087 each drop a 65lb bomb on a U-boat off Scarborough whilst N2074 lands a mile out to sea with an engine failure and overturns but the pilot and aircraft are saved. 

On 27th March ‘Camel’ B9167 shares a victory with two others before the pilot is killed in action as are the pilots of C1570 & C8234.  D6459’s pilot is fatally wounded spinning-in, C6733’s & C8219’s are wounded and taken prisoner,  D1798’s is taken prisoner, the pilots of B7311, B7347, B9319, C1637 & C8297 are all wounded in action, whilst B2360 & C8251 are wrecked in accidents and the pilots injured.  C1574 & C1633 are shot down by ground fire with C1574 being burnt.  The pilots of ‘Dolphins’ C4016 & C4050 are killed in action, C3904’s & C4050’s are wounded, C3967’s is taken prisoner, C3798 is shot down by machine gun fire and burnt to avoid capture, as is C3809 whilst C3896 crashes on landing with fuel pressure loss.  In Italy ‘Camel’ B7307 claims a victory.  At home, the pilot of Chingford ‘Triplane’ N5351(or N6151) is fatally injured in a crash and the pilot of Nether Wallop ‘Camel’ C1674 is killed spinning-in, Joyce Green B9231’s is fatally injured spinning-in whilst Dover ‘Pup’ C3502’s is injured hit by an Avro 504 while taxying. 

On 28th March in high winds ‘Camels’ B7382 & D1777 each claim a victory, the pilot of B8270 claims a kite balloon and two victories before being shot up and taken prisoner as is C8259’s hit by ground fire after a victory.  The pilots of B9277 & C8267 are killed in action and D6459’s is killed spinning out of control inverted.   Also taken prisoner are C8224’s pilot who is fatally wounded, D6404’s after being shot up by ten enemy aircraft, D1798’s hit by ground fire and B2395’s after an engine problem.  D1777’s pilot is wounded in action and C1649’s is shot down and injured whilst C1673 forced lands shot-up and ‘Dolphin’ C3839 is damaged in a forced landing.  At Montrose the pilot of ‘Camel’ B7374 is killed spinning-in whilst at Beaulieu ‘Pup’ B6016 is landing downwind when the wind veers, it overshoots hitting a tree and landing hard without an engine.   

Three HMS Furious pilots go ashore to fly ‘Pups’ on to her deck.  Sqd Cmdr Rutland is first and starts with passes just 20ft from the ship’s side at 45/50kts feeling no bumps but when passing fast across the stern deck through the funnel gases is sent into a “quick roll” before the machine levels itself. 

 

Attempting to glide in to land, the machine is bumped over to starboard and in correcting that he drifts to port hitting the low bulwark around the deck.(above)  Fearing it will go over the side, Rutland immediately undoes his belt accidentally releasing the blip switch and to his surprise the engine re-fires.  He leaps clear 30ft down into the sea as the machine topples over the side but amazingly it gets caught up on the ship’s torpedo tubes.  It takes some twenty minutes to bring the ship around and rescue Rutland.(below) 

Rutland’s written report to the Captain states that it appears to be very difficult, if not impossible, to land without drift in the turbulence and funnel gases behind the ship when it is underway, noting that the ‘Pup’ skids do not withstand drift and the present arrester gear does not allow a machine to land with drift.  The Captain’s report to the Admiral Commanding Aircraft lays out these findings and notes the correlation of the turbulence with recent model tests at the National Physical Laboratory.  He concludes that at the very least the deck needs to be longer and the funnel gases reduced during landings and considers that streamlining the superstructure and funnel might help.   Noting that the air is smooth alongside these he suggests that the long-term solution might be to reposition them on one side of the ship to create an unobstructed through deck. 

On 29th March after more bad weather ‘Camel’ C6730 claims a victory, the pilot of B9267 is wounded by ground fire whist D6484’s overturns in a forced landing and is rescued before being captured.  ‘Dolphin’ C3963 is wrecked overturning after losing a wheel in a forced landing with a dead engine.  ‘Camel’ B9307 one of nine Home Defence ‘Camels’ urgently re-allocated to the RFC in France, the pilot has his baggage strapped on the top wing to fly across the Channel today(below) meanwhile B9175 is wrecked en-route.  In Italy ‘Camel’ B7389 claims a victory.    

 

On 30th March ‘Camels’ B7387 & C8290 each claim a victory but the fatally wounded pilot of D6454 runs into a ditch trying to land and D6444 is wrecked crash landing whilst lost out on patrol.   ‘Dolphin’ C3791 is shot down and the pilot taken prisoner(above with port wing roundel cut out as a souvenir), C3893’s is shot up and wounded in action, C3851’s  & C3951’s are injured in landing accidents whilst C3901 forced lands.  In Italy three ‘Camels’ attack four Albatros DIIIs at low level, B7353 claims a victory whilst Lt Jerrard in B5648 claims at least one before being sprayed with bullets head-on and from behind and eventually crash lands swiping off his port wings on a tree, bouncing and breaking off the tail and ending on his nose.(right)  There are 163 bullet holes in his machine including 27 in the fuel tank and 16 in the engine.  He is taken prisoner bruised and shocked and is to be awarded a VC.  At Farnborough ‘Dolphin’ C3806 is again not accepted, recorded as “dud carburettor, engine cut out completely, nbg”.  Killingholme ‘Baby’ N1320 is crashed whilst Seaton Carew ‘Baby’ N2111 drops a 65lb bomb on a periscope spotted in the North Sea.

On 31st March ‘Camels’ B2483, C8292 & D6487 each claim a victory, the injured pilot of B6403 crashes and has to abandon it whilst D1788 crashes on take-off.  Seaton Carew ‘Baby’ N2111 drops another bomb on a U-boat.

There were orders for a record 1,770 more Sopwith designed aircraft in March: 720 ‘Camels’ and 1050 ‘Snipe’.

The Sopwith factory produced 108 ‘Dolphins’ in March.  The number of new Sopwith-designed aircraft from other contractors in March is 543.  These comprise 161‘Pups’ from Standard Motors (47) and Whitehead (114).  There were 382 new ‘Camels’ with 18 ‘2F1s’ from Beardmore plus ‘F1s Camels’ from Boulton & Paul (131), British Caudron (3), Clayton & Shuttleworth (34), Hooper (4), Marsh Jones & Cribb (17), Nieuport & General (39), Portholme (24) and Ruston Proctor (112).  Other deliveries were 19 ‘Dolphins’ from Darracq plus 20 from Hooper and the final 11 ‘Hamble Baby Convert’ landplanes from Parnall.

Over 600 Sopwith ‘Schneider/Baby’ variants have been manufactured by Sopwith, Blackburn, Fairey and Parnall since February 1915 including the 180 Fairey ‘Hamble Baby’ versions.  Small numbers have been exported, some ‘Converts’ are in use as single-seat trainers at Cranwell whilst over 150 floatplanes are still in service around the British coast and the Mediterranean mainly on anti-submarine duties.  ‘Baby’ floatplanes N2118, 19 & 20 have just arrived at Calafrana seaplane base in Malta for use aboard HMS Manxman and HMS Riviera whilst early Schneider 3788 with its top-wing gun is still in use in the Aegean after two years.(below)  This is all a great testament to Harry Hawker’s 1913 ‘Tabloid’ design and the 1914 Schneider Trophy winning ‘Tabloid’ floatplane from which they all evolved.   

Recent photographs(above) have emerged of crashed Killingholme ‘Baby’ N2105 being hauled up the slipway earlier in March and of the extensive anti-aircraft flak damage to 70Sqdn ‘Camel’ B7320.(below)  B7320 has already been repaired at their base and flown back to England for less critical training work at Wye. 

On 1st April the autonomous Royal Air Force is formed by the amalgamation of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service.  Amid some confusion with new titles and ranks especially in the RNAS, the fighting continues unabated.  ‘Camels’ B7198, B7273 & D1817 each claim a victory, the pilots of B3798 & D6474 are killed in action, D1811’s & D6529’s are fatally wounded, C1681’s is wounded and taken prisoner, B9281’s is hit by ground fire and forced to land wounded whilst  B9259’s is injured colliding with a wind indicator on take-off.  At Upavon the pilot of ‘Pup’ B5936 is injured spinning-in at low altitude and Cranwell’s B5988 is damaged forced landing in marshes whilst ‘Strutter’ B2563 from Hythe crashes killing the pilot and injuring the crewman.

On 2nd April ‘Camel’ B7199 claims a victory and shares another, B7250 & C8257 each claim a victory, D6491 shares one with four others whilst D6402 claims three kite balloons destroyed but his spotted camouflage(above) has him mistaken for a German in the heat of combat and it is to be re-doped in standard colours.  The pilot of ‘Camel’ D1780 is killed in action, C8227’s & D6505’s are wounded in action.  The pilots of C8230, C8293 & C8294 are taken prisoner, B7247’s is killed stalling on take-off possibly after a heart attack and B7249’s is injured crashing with an engine failure.  At Lincoln the pilot of ‘Camel’ D6470 is killed from a spin.  At Mudros in the Aegean in failing light the pilot of John Alcock’s A.1 Scout/Sopwith Mouse runs away before a DH4 landing from the opposite direction at about 70kts crashes into it.  It is wrecked(below) but no-one is hurt.

On 3rd April ‘Camel’ D1797 claims two victories before being shot up and force to land, D1791 claims a victory as do B5636 shared with B9211 and C8215 shared with C8298 & D1777.  The pilots of C8230 & C8294 are taken prisoner the former wounded.  Most of these incidents stem from a single hour-long low level fight between 27 Camels and SE5s with some 30 enemy aircraft before being descended upon by a large enemy formation.   At Scampton the American pilot of ‘Camel’ D6472 crashes into an aircraft on the ground during take-off and is killed along with two ground crew,  the pilot of ‘Camel’ B5720 is fatally injured hitting telegraph wires at Redcar racecourse as are the pilots of B7340 & C1684 spinning-in at Beverley and Northolt whilst the pilot of D6472 is killed thrown out  when his safety belt comes undone during a manoeuvre.  Cranwell ‘Pup’ B6063 is crashed for the second day running and B6064 is completely wrecked hit on the ground by a BE2.

Since the middle of 1916 Ruston Proctor have built 350 ‘Strutters’ and the first 750 of the 1,575 ‘F1 Camels’ ordered from them.   They are set to continue as the largest contractor of Sopwith aircraft when on 3rd April  they receive an order for 500 ‘Snipe’.  Boulton & Paul are the second largest contractor having delivered 585 of their 1,270 ’Camels’ whilst recently taking an order for 400 ‘Snipe’.  There are 12 other ‘Camel’ & ‘Snipe’ contractors.

Among all the Sopwith experimental department’s work on top-priority ‘Snipe’ and Snail’ single-seat fighter prototypes they have fitted a set of two-bay wings to the private-venture ‘Bulldog’ two-seat fighter.  After testing with extended balanced ailerons at Brooklands(above & below) these are to be replaced with shorter plain ailerons.  It will then go to Martlesham Heath for performance testing despite as yet having only pillar gun mountings for the observer/rear gunner not a Scarff-ring and RFC having decided to standardise on the Bristol F2B.

The Sopwith experimental team have finally got a prototype 160/170hp ABC Wasp 7-cylinder radial engine and fitted it to their conventional construction ‘Snail’ C4284.  Now at Brooklands and only 20ft long this miniature fighter holds much promise.(below)

It has two Vickers machine guns buried inside the bulbous fuselage alongside the pilot with cabane struts running down outside them to the lower longerons.  Its back-stagger with the pilot’s head through the wing clearly owes much to the Dolphin and the fin and rudder shapes echo the Snipe.(below)

At Biggin Hill the nine 141 Squadron ‘Dolphins’ like C38139(below) modified for night-fighting with wing-tip navigation lights and underwing brackets for Holt landing flares have found to be too unstable and too easy to spin for night flying.  They do not have the increased dihedral of Sopwith’s sample night-fighter ‘Dolphin’ C3858 and rather than wait for conversion kits, the four planned ‘Dolphin’ night fighter home defence squadrons will now be equipped two with Camels and one each with F2Bs & SE5As. 

The ‘Dolphin’ airframe delivered to the French in November has had a 300hp Hispano-Suiza engine fitted(below) “more or less by rule of thumb” with the help of Sopwith personnel.  Obvious differences are the more bulbous nose totally enclosing the Vickers guns, the lowered thrust line of the 50% more powerful ungeared engine and big breather hole.  Harry Hawker has had to go over to Paris to “wring it out” to allay concerns about its strength with this big engine. 

On 4th April after the large scale aerial fight yesterday more offensive patrols are to be sent to “seek out and destroy enemy formations” but weather is bad.  ‘Camel’ D6552 claims a victory before the pilot is killed shot down in flames and C1653 is damaged by ground fire.  In Italy  the pilot of B5226 is killed spinning-in with a choked engine whilst B2454’s is injured in a crash landing.  At Minchinhampton the pilot of ’Camel’ B9248 is killed crashing attempting a roll at 100ft as are the pilots of Montrose ‘Camel’ B7338 and ‘Pup’ B7529 in a mid-air collision whilst Cranwell’s ‘Pup’ B2203 and ‘Camels’ B5699 & C25 are all damaged in crashes.   

In the Firth of Forth ‘Ships Strutter’ N5644 flies off the extended platform on the Q mid turret of HMS Australia for the first time with an observer and full wireless equipment.(above)  This success triggers the fitting of extended platforms to forward turrets on all British battle cruisers for reconnaissance ’Ships Strutters’ with a rear turret platform for a ‘Camel’ fighter.   There is now pressure to complete the conversion of some 15 surviving RNAS ‘Strutters’ and 60 plus ex-RFC ‘Strutters’ to ‘Ships Strutters’ whilst obtaining and converting 70 French-built ones as reserves.  JD8/A5992(below) is an example of an unused late Morgan-built RFC ‘Strutter Bomber’ converted to a two-seat ‘Ships Strutter’.  It arrived at HMS Furious on  these whalers in the last few days complete with Scarff gun ring, internal floatation bags and wings which can be detached fully rigged supported at the fuselage ends by crossed jury struts.  It is reported that Furious already has 18 ‘Ships Strutters’ in her below decks hangars.

 

The latest photograph of progress with the building of National Aircraft Factory No.2 at Ham(below) shows the great height of the lightweight roof structure and gives a good idea of its size, showing just the southern three of the six bays. There are some 30ft sliding doors still to erect and no heating or windows yet on this south side. 

On 5th April mist and rain again stops any flying during another concerted German offensive on the Somme.  At Westerham ‘Dolphin’ C4160 is wrecked in a crash.

On 6th April ‘Camels’ B5440, B7201, B7232, B7267, B7278, D1785, D1792, D3335 & D6525 each claim a victory as do D1815 which forced lands hit by ground fire and D6455 then wrecked in a bad landing.  C8220 shares a victory with C8217, B7189 shares a victory with B7196 & B7187 before 87’s pilot is killed in action.  The pilots of C8252 & C8281 are killed in action and B2431’s is taken prisoner fatally wounded.  The pilots of B2479, C1577, C8248 & D6452 are all brought down and taken prisoner whilst D6501’s is injured crashing after hitting wires.  The pilot of ‘Dolphin’ C3939 is taken prisoner whilst C4164 is written off in a crash landing.  At Stevenage ‘Strutter N5170 is wrecked in a crash whilst Seaton Carew ‘Baby’ N2110 bombs a U-boat in the North Sea from 800ft and sees oil come up to the surface.  

On HMS Furious they are testing an alternative arrester system using a hook under the rear fuselage of skidded ‘Pup’ N6446 to engage with a system of loop ropes attached to a main rope with a “pushing cylinder” to bring the aircraft to a halt.  Two days ago N6446 was taxied at 15mph into the loop system its hook catching the 4th loop.  It travelled about 12ft before stopping but too much pressure in the cylinder broke the hook. 

Yesterday with a temporary iron rod hook attached, the ‘Pup’ taxied up at 10mph and was caught and held by a much lower cylinder pressure(above) but the skids dragged the main rope out of its spring supports. The next try has the Pup arriving faster engaging the first hook and stopping in 20ft but not before the tail skid socket has jammed in a deck groove fracturing a hook wire and breaking a fuselage cross strut.  On the next attempt the aircraft’s starboard skid breaks before it reaches the loops.  Today with a wheeled ‘Pup’ the first loop is engaged but it only travels about 3ft before the hook attachment breaks.  The trials of this arrester system apparently devised and installed by Armstrong whilst fitting the rear landing deck are halted “pending the design of a suitable hook by the aircraft designer estimating scientifically exactly what force the aircraft will stand”.

Also on 6th April ‘Snipe’ prototype B9966 goes to Martlesham Heath for more official tests with wings and tail re-rigged.  However, there is no let up for Harry Hawker and the test and development team at Brooklands.  Whilst the more conventional two-seat ‘Bulldog’ is having its balanced ailerons replaced with shorter plain ailerons, Sopwith’s back-staggered ‘Hippo’ now marked X11 has arrived(below) fitted with a Scarff ring mounted rear gun.  The ‘Bulldog’ and ‘Hippo’ are due to go soon to Martlesham Heath for comparative performance testing.

 

On 7th April ‘Camels’ D1812, D1832, D1833 & D6536 each claim a victory but B5635 is hit by “flaming onions” AA fire killing the pilot and the pilots of B6417, N6349 & D6554 are all taken prisoner.  B5687 & D3336 are damaged by ground fire, D6550 is shot down and wrecked, D1839 crashes with controls damaged in combat whilst the pilot of B6398 is injured hitting a cow on the edge of the aerodrome and ‘Dolphin’  C3867 crashes with engine failure.  At home the pilot of ‘Dolphin’ C8002 is killed in a cross-wind forced landing as are the pilots of ‘Camel’ B7365 spinning-in from 1,000ft and ‘Pup’ B5269 in a collision with an Avro 504 at 30ft.

On 8th April rain eliminated most flying but ‘Camel’ C6730 shares a kite balloon in flames with B7248 and ‘Dolphin’ C3820 is damaged landing   The pilot of Montrose ‘Camel’ B7461 is killed losing consciousness and diving into the sea as are the pilots of C8207 & B5563 from Ayr colliding at 3,000ft and Hounslow ‘Dolphin’ C3845 stalling on take-off.  

This is the final day of the detailed records of take-offs from the sloping foredeck ramp on HMS Pegasus.(above)  There have been 29 by ‘Pups’ and 33 by ‘SBIII folding Pups’ since 2nd September and 23 by ‘2F1 Camels’ since 31st December.  There is little obvious correlation between the air velocity over the ramp and the length of take-off run, it seems more about variation in performance of the rotary engines and the skill in maintaining the ideal angle of attack.   The shortest runs have been under 2secs - 21ft in the ‘Pups’ and 26ft in ‘Camels’.  Most 80hp ‘Pup’ runs were 45 to 70ft and up to 4 secs.  Most 150hp ‘2F1 Camel’ runs were under 52ft and under 3secs.

On 9th April in mist and rain a surprise new German offensive strikes towards the Channel ports sweeping up to 5 miles through the Portuguese line between the first and second British Armies who battle hard to contain the breach but lose some ground.  Nine RAF squadrons are forced to relocate.  Sixteen 8(N)Sqdn (now RAF 208 Sqdn) ‘Camels’ are caught in thick fog on La Gorgue aerodrome.  They are gathered into the centre of the field and burnt before the squadron evacuates by road.  The pilot of ‘Camel’ C8265 is fatally injured spinning-in and B9302’s is taken prisoner shot down by ground fire.  B7395 is shot up and damaged on landing and D1802 crashes taking-off.   At home, Castle Bromwich ‘Pup’ B7501’s pilot is injured hitting a tree.

On 10th April low mist and clouds again restrict flying but ‘Camels’ go out on ground attacks some using the low cloud as cover for sudden precise attacks to avoid being hit by ground fire.  ‘Dolphin’ C4048  and ‘Camel’ B2535 each claim a victory, the pilot of B5649 is killed in combat as are the pilots of C8286 & C8265 spinning-in on practice flights whilst C8275’s is fatally injured after bouncing on the aerodrome, opening up and crashing into a Bessoneau hangar.  B9302’s pilot is taken prisoner, C1661 is shot up and damaged whilst B7191 gets lost and is damaged forced landing on soft ground. 

The first Grain Griffin fleet reconnaissance machine N100 has now arrived at Martlesham Heath for performance tests.(above)  It appears externally at least, to be a straight copy of the Sopwith ‘B1’ N50 which they modified into a two-seater as a prototype last year.  The 200hp V8 Hispano Suiza has been replaced by a 200hp V8 Sunbeam Arab.

On 11th April in continuing poor weather ‘Camels’ C1584, C1700, C8269, D1799, D1800, D3327 & D6462 each claim a victory, B7250 shares one with D3331 and C1691 shares one with four others.  The pilot of B7277 is killed in combat whilst D6486’s is fatally injured hitting another with his undercarriage on landing, C8287’s is wounded by ground fire, D6518’s is injured in a crash, B5750’s is wounded and taken prisoner whilst D1827’s is also taken prisoner.  B2387 is damaged forced landing in a storm and injuring an infantryman, D1786 crashes on take-off with jammed controls, B6409 & D6453 are damaged by ground fire whilst B3817 is wrecked in a forced landing and the pilots of ‘Dolphins’ C3834 & C3837 are injured in crashes.  24 hours after having to abandon and burn their Camels 208 Squadron receive 24 replacements.  In Italy ‘Camel’ B5176 crashes stalling on take-off and near Turnbury the pilot of B9210 is killed crashing into the sea when firing at a raft target.  

Sopwith is pressing ahead with the six prototype ‘TF2 Salamander’ trench fighters despite the views of the Chief of Air Staff, Director of Air Operations and Controller - Technical Department that work should be stopped “as the weight and loss of manoeuvrability would not compensate for the extra protection”.  They are calling for two squadrons of ‘Camels’ modified only by the addition of armour plates and are seeking advice from the field on what protection is needed.  In Sopwith’s Experimental Shop the first ‘TF2 Salamander’ prototype E5429 is being assembled but is delayed whilst new shape petrol and oil tanks are made to accommodate twin forward firing Vickers guns replacing two angled through the floor.   It is looking very much like a BR2 engined ‘7F1 Snipe’ but has few common components as the centre fuselage structure is an armour plate open topped box.(below)

This will house the pilot, a 16gal fuel tank under his seat, 13¾gal gravity fuel tank, 6gal oil tank and ammunition.  It carries frames for mounting the guns and is 11mm plate on the bottom, 6mm on the sides and 8mm on the front which forms the engine backplate.  It has two layers at the rear - 10gauge with 6gauge spaced back 3.75ins – to which the rear fuselage is attached.  The armour plates weigh 656lbs and are joined by ¼in bolts into steel angle strips.

On 12th April it is crucial that the German advance towards Hazebrouck is resisted before reinforcements arrive and Haig issues a special order of the day including “with our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause each one of us must fight on to the end”Virtually the entire air fighting force is thrown into attacks on the enemy in this area.  ‘Camel’ D6402 claims three kite balloons and five aircraft in one day, B7280, C1573, D1869 & D6519 each claim a victory, D3326 shares one with B7270, C1699 claims one but is later hit and the pilot taken prisoner whilst B7202 destroys two kite balloons on a special patrol with seven Camels and five SE5s.  B5580 has a victory before the pilot is killed in action as are the pilots of B5154, B5424, C1559, C1699, D1850 & D6558 whilst D6428’s is wounded and taken prisoner and D6514’s is fatally injured crash landing.  C1603 & D6509 are damaged by ground fire and C8282 is forced to land hit by a shell and then abandoned under fire.  ‘Dolphin’ C3829 claims a victory before the main spar is shot through by AA fire.  At Hounslow the pilot of C4144 is injured stalling with a cut engine whilst C3870 is wrecked overturning near Stanwell.(below) 

The pilot of Dover ‘Pup’ B5312 is drowned after it dives into the sea and B7481’s injured crashing onto a roof with engine failure.  Meanwhile the pilot of ‘Baby’ floatplane N1126 which ran out of fuel whilst on an anti-submarine patrol from Alexandria in Egypt yesterday is picked up by HMS Rowan still clinging to an empty fuel tank he cut away from the aircraft before it sank.  Overnight five of the latest Zeppelin airships set out to attack Britain’s industrial heartland but due to weather forecasting and navigation errors in the cloudy weather their 33,340 lb of bombs kill just seven people falling mostly in open country far from Leeds, Grimsby, Hull, Sheffield, Coventry and Birmingham where they believe they are.  The weather restricts flying by the inadequately equipped northern defence squadrons who make some sightings but cannot get close. 

On 13th April the pilot of ‘Camel’ D6461 is killed in action and D3347’s is fatally injured hit by ground fire.  D1840 is also hit from the ground but the pilot escapes crashing just west of the lines. The pilot of Beaulieu ‘Camel’ B4639 performs several rolls but is killed after the wings fold up in a spinning nose dive whilst at Montrose C11’s is injured spinning-in from low altitude.  In Italy the pilot of ‘Camel’ B5410 is killed when it breaks up on a training flight.  Daily patrols continue from Mudros in the Aegean, today Camel B5680 is up for 1¼hrs going as far as Mt Athos looking for the German battle cruiser Goeben.

Martlesham Heath’s report on the fifth prototype ‘Snipe’ B9966 with its variable incidence tailplane, Badin venturi driven syphon fuel system and revised tail shape reveals only a marginal improvement in performance.

On 14th April more mist, rain and low cloud over France allow very little flying.  The US Navy pilot of ‘Baby’ N2096 is rescued slightly injured after crashing into a rough sea off Bridlington with an engine failure. 

On 15th April the pilots of ‘Camels’ C1573, C1601, D1845 & N6376 are all wounded by ground fire, B3903 is also shot up and damaged whilst D6500 crashes on landing.  At East Fortune the pilot of ‘Pup’ C226 is seriously injured in a forced landing with a goggles problem.  

In the Firth of Forth there are two more attempts at deck landings on HMS Furious.  Fl Cdr now RAF Capt Dickson in ‘Pup’ N6438 takes-off from the foredeck and makes three runs over the rear deck with the ship steaming at 8kts before lining up 700yards astern at 50ft, arriving too low, blipping the engine, landing in the wires at 40kts and stopping at the top of the ramp with one wire engaged on the new centre horn and one on the starboard aft horn.(above and below)

Capt Gallehawk flies in from Turnhouse and makes several runs over fore and aft decks feeling a number of bumps aft but none forward.  He comes over the stern at about 15ft and makes a successful landing, the centre horn catching two wires and the machine stopping in 45ft half way up the ramp.(above & below)  A new feature of the arrester system are the rows of wooden “skittles” lifting the wires above the deck near the stern. 

Furious’ Commanding Officer attributes today’s successes to the low ship speed and light wind but warns that “slow speeds are not always desirable in a ship of this length”.  He plans next to increase the ship’s speed to 15kts.

On 16th April in France ‘Camel’ D1799 is hit by AA fire at 4.000ft and the pilot killed as is D1782’s in an unexplained crash, B7296’s is injured crashing on take-off whilst B9293’s is taken ill contour chasing and wrecks it in a crash landing.  A ‘Strutter’ is flown from HMS Furious angled across the foredeck into the wind and according to the date on this photograph,(below) there is another 'Pup' landing.   Again the newly added centre horns catch but this time N6438 “Excuse me” lives up to its name and runs into the ropes causing much damage not least to the leading edge of the top wing.

On 17th April ‘Camels’ B3872, D1853 & D6569 each claim a victory, the pilots of 54Sqdn ‘Camels D1837, D1848 & D6583 are all killed in action whilst B6365, D6512 & D6523 are damaged by machine gun fire, D6566 is wrecked hitting trees after spinning whilst practising dog-fighting and D6582 crashes on landing.  In Italy ‘Camels’ B6313, B7351 & B7358 each claim a victory whilst the pilot of B6342 is killed in combat. At Turnhouse N6781 is wrecked from a spinning nose dive after “stunting” whilst the pilot of Grain based ‘Triplane’ N5445(below) with twin-Vickers guns and modified tail is injured when part of the engine breaks away.

A senior representative of the Air Board Technical Department (Design) signs a clearance certificate for Sopwith Snail C4284 as “safe to be flown by a service pilot” noting that to save time and get on with testing the Aldis sight, oxygen and electrical heating system are not yet fitted to meet the full specification.   

Sir Hugh Trenchard has resigned after three months as Chief of Air Staff at the Air Council apparently over disagreements on policy.  Aeroplane Journal is amongst others calling for him to be made Commander in Chief of the new Royal Air Force.  This is despite Aeroplane’s editorial misgivings about the logic of creating a single organisation believing that the Air Force should deal with purely flying issues like defence against aerial attacks and strategic bombing whilst “sailors are sailors and soldiers are soldiers” best equipped to understand and develop their own specific uses for aircraft.

On 18th April in low cloud and rain over France Australian Flying Corps ‘Camel’ D6580 crashes on landing and a French pilot stalls the only 300hp Sopwith ‘Dolphin’ in a steep climbing turn just after take-off killing himself and wrecking the machine.  In Italy ‘Camel’ B3972 claims a kite balloon.  In Kingston the Sopwith team receive a remarkable cable from RAF headquarters on Western Front suggesting that they should congratulate the workforce on the recent crucial contribution made to resisting the German advances by the Sopwith Camels.

 

The latest builder’s phtograph of the National Aircraft Factory at Ham(above) shows the front, east wall of the building complete with windows and the mezzanine floor already occupied by women fabric workers under training on large numbers of ‘Dolphin’ wings and two ‘Dolphin bare fuselage structures have been brought up from Canbury Park Road.  With this extra factory Fred Sigrist plans to more than double the company’s workforce to 3,500 by recruiting mostly women, injured soldiers and older men as dilutees, each quickly trained to do one or two skilled tasks. 

By law all recruitment has to be done through the Labour Exchange to stop companies poaching employees from other local companies already engaged on war work.  The lightweight roof structure is evident as are the overhead crane rails, the one in front of the doors already carrying chain blocks starting to bring in the hundreds of assembly jigs and fixtures which are being made to enable production of up to 40 aircraft a week.  

There is confused correspondence between the Air Board, Munitions Works Board and the Director General of Land about whether this factory will be temporary as promised to the local councils, run on for 3 or 6 years after the war or be permanent and for how long Sopwith will want to lease it.  On 19th April the factory is valued to inform a meeting to resolve all this and decide how much rent Sopwith should be charged.  The Government valuer’s seven page report details the construction of the 500 x 570 ft 6½ acre main building on the 38 acre site with its 6in concrete floor covered in tarmac and a roof of “asbestos composition slabs covered in Ruberoid with glass lights giving exceptionally large headroom”.  The  boiler house, electric sub-station, pump house and canteen buildings are complete but the machine shop and timber stores on the south side and office building and garage on the north side are hardly started.  With 481,500sq ft ground floor area a rent of 9d per sq ft/£18,000 p.a. would cover his estimated cost of the land and buildings and 10% interest on that investment.  However he declares the value as only 6d per sq ft “on the open market in normal times after the war” recognising “1) the absence of any rail connection, 2) the river here only being suitable for barge transport and 3) the position of the works i.e. practically in the country with no tram or rail facilities for workers”.

On 19th April the First Lord of the Admiralty and an Admiral come aboard HMS Furious.  A ‘Strutter’ and a ‘Pup’ are flown from the foredeck within 3 minutes before the ‘Pup’ attempts a rear deck landing now with the addition of transverse arrester wires simply restrained by sand bags.  It lands right at the start of the deck with its engine choked and does not reach any of the arrester cables but does avoid going over the edge.  An hour later another ‘Pup’ flight and landing is “a fine one ending right at the top of the ramp” with a port skid horn caught under a wire whilst a centre horn has caught and broken at least one of the sandbag weighted transverse wires.(below)

With the risky landings on Furious’ rear deck and a long wait for the flat-top HMS Argus all manner of ideas are being suggested for recovering aircraft to ships without ditching.  Grain’s Busteed is quick to dismiss the idea of hooking onto a cable slung under a 40/50ft boom at right angles from a ship’s side but is prepared to experiment at Grain with a wire stretched between two such beams which might be deployed in the smooth air alongside any large ship.  Another proposal is to land onto a “mattress” of parallel wires stretched alongside ships.

In France on 19th April amid wind, snow and hail storms ‘Camel’ B7406 claims victory and B5214 is damaged by ground fire but ‘Dolphin’ C4048 is mistakenly attacked by 208Sqdn ‘Camels’ and the pilot wounded before landing in the French trenches.  ‘Baby’ floatplane N1028 is totally wrecked crashing on landing at Port Said.

On 20th April ‘Camels’ B3818 & B7407 each claim a victory, the pilot of D6439 is killed in combat when his petrol tank is hit and explodes, a similar event sets B7393 on fire wounding the pilot who is taken prisoner, the pilot of D6475 is wounded in combat, D6513’s is injured crashing on take-off, B3782’s & B7412’s injured on landing whilst  C6911 crashes after hitting telephone cables.  The pilot of ‘Dolphin’ D52017 is fatally injured stalling from 100ft on landing.  At home the pilot of Sutton Farm ‘Camel’ C6717 is killed spinning in when “engine fails to pick up while blipping”, as is the American pilot of Scampton’s C8209 when it breaks up in a spin whilst ‘Dolphin’ C3806 suffers yet another engine failure at Farnborough.

On 21st April ‘Camels’ B5680, B6319 & D6587 each claim a victory as do replacement 208Sqdn ‘Camels’ D1852 & D1854, B6350 drives down a Rumpler and lands alongside before it explodes killing several Belgians as the German crew are taken prisoner whilst B3858 shares a victory with B7200 & D3338.  Meanwhile D3328 is being chased down by Manfred von Richthofen who is dived on by Capt Brown in B7270 who claims the victory but Australian ground fire is the likely cause of the Red Baron’s fatal crash.  The pilots of B9315 & D6579 are killed in combat, B3795’s is fatally injured side-slipping and spinning-in while formating, B4617’s & B7245’s are wounded in combat, D3358 crashes on take-off and C63 has an engine failure on take-off crashing into the side of a hangar.  ‘Dolphins’ C3799, C3833, C3899, C4017 & C4019 each claim a victory.  At home the pilot of Montrose ‘Camel’ C6 is killed stalling and spinning in from 500ft, the pilot of Beaulieu ‘Dolphin’ C8096 is also killed crashing from a stall whilst the pilot of Harling Road ‘Pup’ B5306 is fatally injured “flying into the ground”.

On 22nd April ‘Camel’ D3363 claims a victory, the pilots of B6428 & N6377 are killed in combat, the Australian pilot of D6584 is killed when he gets too close to the ground diving at a target, pulls up sharply and the aircraft folds up whilst the pilots of B7228 & C1584 are wounded in combat and B6350’s is injured crashing on take-off.  ‘Dolphin’ C3796 claims a victory, C4045 claims two victories but the pilot is wounded and forced to land with AA damage, another ‘Dolphin’ pilot is wounded in action as is C4048’s forced landing with engine failure.  At home the pilot of Castle Bromwich ‘Pup’ B5943 is also killed failing to flatten out diving on a ground target, both crew of ‘Strutter’ A8231 from 1(Observers)School of Aerial Gunnery at Hythe in Kent are lost when it goes missing over the Channel and Wye ‘Camel’ B7760 suffers an engine failure and forced landing.

In the midnight hours the Royal Navy executes a postponed plan to impede the enemy’s access to the North Sea from its destroyer and submarine base at Bruges by blocking the canal mouth at Zeebrugge with sunken warships and attacking land installations with Marines and aerial bombardment.  Targets include Zeebrugge mole with its base for some 60 German seaplanes which are in regular combat with aircraft from Yarmouth and Felixstowe Naval Air Stations.  This assault is not wholly successful but will be a morale booster at home.

On 23rd April when weather clears after 5pm ‘Camels’ C1670 & D3329 each claim a victory whilst D1829 & D6511 are shot up and damaged.  ‘Dolphin’ C3796 claims a victory and shares one with C3799, C4017 claims one as does C3940 but overturns on landing.  87 Squadron arrives in France from Hounslow equipped with ‘Dolphins’.(below) 

In Italy ‘Camel’ B5238 claims a victory but B5401 is downed by AA fire and the pilot taken prisoner.  At Lopcombe Corner the pilot of ‘Camel’ C1648 is killed when the wings break up in a dive from 2,000ft on a ground target.  ‘Baby’ floatplane N2078 “The Jabberwock” forced lands in fog off Scarborough and the pilot is injured.  The private venture Sopwith ‘B2’ bomber B1496 finally leaves Brooklands for testing at Martlesham Heath making room for three new prototypes to arrive from Kingston. 

On 24th April with more misty low cloud over France ‘Camel’ D3331 claims a victory, the pilot of ‘Camel’ B6311 is killed in action and D6436’s fails to return and is taken prisoner whilst ‘Dolphin’ C3788 crashes landing from a test flight.  At home the pilot of Beverley ‘Camel’ D9537 is killed “diving in“ and at Joyce Green a 159th US Aero Squadron mechanic is injured by the propeller of ‘Pup’ B6138.   

The sixth prototype Sopwith ‘Snipe’ B9967 which has been awaiting a prototype 360hp ABC Dragonfly engine, finally arrives at Brooklands.(below)  The cylinder heads of the large static radial engine are exposed for cooling but it is otherwise enclosed in a one-piece cowl with a typical Sopwith style securing cable.  To balance the additional weight and side area of the engine the ‘Snipe’ fuselage has been lengthened by 1ft 10in.

Also just arrived at Brooklands is the prototype 170hp ABC Wasp static radial engined ‘Snail’ C4288 with the smooth monocoque plywood fuselage and similar but smaller engine cowl.(below)  It looks very different from the conventional construction ‘Snail’ with the slimmer fuselage and conventional wing stagger putting the pilot lower down behind the top wing. 

Both of these are being prepared for maiden flights.  With the prototype Sopwith ‘TF2 Salamander’ trench fighter also about to arrive from Kingston, Sopwith and the Ministry Technical Department decide to hold a general inspection of all three next-generation Sopwith fighter contenders at Brooklands this coming Saturday before they are dispersed for official testing.   

On 25th April in continuing low cloud and mist ‘Camel’ B9211 shares two claimed victories with C1575 & C1671, D6517 also claims a victory but the pilot of D1776 is shot down and taken prisoner fatally injured, D1819’s is killed when it folds up during target practice, B6231’s is fatally injured failing to pull out of a dive on a target, whilst D1801 is forced to land shot up and D6448 crashes.  At Dover the pilot of locally rebuilt ‘Camel’ B8830 is killed rolling into the ground coming out of a dive in the mist, B9230’s is killed hitting telegraph wires at Lilbourne whilst the pilot of ‘Pup’ D4079 is killed in a mid-air collision with an Avro 504 at Wye and ‘Baby’ floatplane N2099 crashes at South Shields landing from a routine patrol.

On 26th April there is thick mist all day over France.  The pilot of ‘Camel’ C13 is seriously injured stalling on take-off at South Carlton, the pilot of Beaulieu ‘Pup’ D4075 is injured in a crash as is the pilot of Freiston Gunnery School ‘Pup’ B6021 after colliding with a BE2 at 100ft.  A ‘Pup’ flies from HMS Furious but crashes on the deck.

The prototype Sopwith ‘TF2 Salamander’ trench fighter E5429 is now assembled at Brooklands ready for the tests tomorrow.(below)  The fuselage is tapered back from the circular BR2 engine cowl to the flat sides of the armour plate cockpit area and it sports a streamlined headrest.  Sopwith has already agreed to improve the position and ease of filling of the ammunition boxes in the cockpit as requested by the Air Board Technical Department.

On the left of this photograph is the steep Brooklands test hill built in 1909 and on the right the Vickers aircraft factory on the east side of the airfield beyond the race track which was bought from the Itala car company in 1915.  Still based in Knightsbridge and Crayford, Vickers’ aviation department have used the Weybridge factory to build 75 BE2c, 50 FE8, 50 Vickers FB9 Gunbus, 50 Vickers FB14 and up to 65 Vickers FB19 fighters but none of those Vickers types have seen much operational service.  The factory is now building around 100 SE5s a month.

The Sopwith Board Meeting on 26th April wastes no time in confirming a 6% dividend for preference shareholders for the half financial year to 31st March 1918.  Seven new patent applications get the Company Seal, six of which are in the joint names of the Company and the employee inventors Pollard, Kauper, Heyland, Treacey, Shirley and Birchall covering an attachment for clearing Vickers gun jams, a device for indicating level of liquids, improvements in ammunition boxes, an improved inclinometer, improved clips for wires and cables plus a three-way fuel cock.  They also confirm three earlier applications for Sopwith, Mills and Ide for radiator shutters, turnbuckles and deviation indicators.   

Following the four Blackburn-built Sopwith ‘Baby’ floatplanes delivered to the Norwegian Naval Air Force by November 1917, they now make first flights in Norway with three more F108, (below)  F110 & F112 and have two more on order.

On 27th April  flying is again almost impossible over France but ‘Camel’ B6257 claims a victory and 87Sqdn’s ‘Dolphins’ have now arrived at Petite Synthe from St Omer.  At Hooton Park the pilot of ‘Pup’ B1742 is killed in a crash whilst Seaton Carew ‘Baby’ floatplane N2106 is driven onto a sandbank by strong winds whilst taxying before capsizing on take-off and sinking but the pilot is rescued.

Meanwhile outside the 1915 RFC hangar at Brooklands the Sopwith team line up their latest prototypes for a grand inspection by military and Air Board staff and very probably Granville Bradshaw of the ABC Company in nearby Hersham who designed both the 7-cylinder Wasp engine in the monocoque ‘Snail’ C4288 and the 9-cylinder Dragonfly engine in the ‘Snipe’ B9967 although the production of both engines has been handed to other companies.

To the right is one of the Belfast hangars now built on the site of Brooklands’ original aviation village and the burnt-out Bluebird Café.  The Bentley BR2 engined ‘TF2 Salamander’ trench fighter makes its first flight and attention turns to the Wasp engined ‘Snail’ as it also takes to the air in the competent hands of Harry Hawker.(below)  Thomas Sopwith watches in the light suit with hands in pockets.

However it is the 360hp ABC Dragonfly engined ‘Snipe’ which attracts the most attention.(below)

 

Harry Hawker takes that for a first flight.(below)  It is confidently expected that the performance will be remarkable with so much more horsepower than the already excellent BR2 engined ‘Snipe’.

Other manufacturers are racing to design aircraft around the new ABC radial engines.  BAT and Westlands already have Wasp-engined competitors for the ‘Snail’.   Armstrong Whitworth, BAT, Nieuport and Sopwith each have a contract at the design stage for prototype single-seat high-altitude fighters with Dragonfly engines.  Sopwith’s drawing signed by Herbert Smith dated 20th April(below) shows a similar configuration to their fast climbing high-altitude ‘Triplanes’ of 1916/17 but with a nominal 360hp in place of 130hp, a monocoque plywood fuselage and more conventional interplane struts.  It has officially been named the ‘Snark’.  The team are also designing a biplane around a very similar fuselage.

Meanwhile a second Sopwith ‘Bulldog’ X4 is being built to take a Dragonfly engine which will be in direct competition with the Dragonfly two-seat fighter prototypes being designed by Austin, BAT, Bristol and Nieuport.

The Sopwith team also considering a design for a bomber with two Dragonfly engines.  Both Avro and Boulton & Paul already have contracts for three prototype twin Dragonfly engined bombers.

Orders are being placed for thousands of these radial engines despite currently being down on power, overweight, high on fuel consumption and unreliable.

On 28th April is another day of thick mist over France.  At Beaulieu the pilot of ‘Camel’ B9234 is killed stalling and turning into the ground.

On 29th April despite low cloud and bad visibility ‘Camel’ D3366 claims a victory but C1617 hit by ground fire spins down in flames killing the pilot,  B3809’s pilot is killed hit by flak and B7195 is damaged by AA fire.  Both crew of ‘Ships Strutter’ A5986 are killed at Donibristle turning sharply in a gusty wind, losing speed and crashing.

On 30th April more bad weather prevents flying but after the intensive fighting and air activity yesterday the Allied Armies start regaining ground gained by the Germans in their spring offensive.

In April the Sopwith factory produced 119 ‘Dolphins’.  The number of new Sopwith-designed aircraft from other contractors in April is 443, 100 less than last month with ‘Pup’ production coming to an end.  These 443 comprise 66 ‘Pups’ from Standard Motors (40) and Whitehead (26) plus 338 new ‘Camels’ with 23 ‘2F1s’ from Beardmore and ‘F1s Camels’ from Boulton & Paul (115), Clayton & Shuttleworth (40), Marsh Jones & Cribb (1), Nieuport & General (39), Portholme (29) and Ruston Proctor (91).  There were also 49 non-Sopwith ‘Dolphin’ deliveries, from Darracq(24) and from Hooper(15).  

In April orders on Sopwith Aviation for ‘Dolphins’ and ‘Snipe’ have both increased by 200, bringing ‘Dolphin’ totals to 1,400 plus 400 on two other manufacturers and ‘Snipe’ totals to 500 plus 1,250 on five other manufacturers.  Camel orders on all twelve suppliers remain at 4,468 of which 2,841 have now been delivered.

One unusual delivery is Sopwith-built B3772 for the RNAS which was transferred to the RFC for the US Air Corps  but has now arrived at the Canadian Air Force’s No.4 School of Military Aeronautics at the University of Toronto.(above)

On 1st May there is more low cloud and mist over France but in Italy ‘Camel’ B5220 claims a victory.  At Wye the pilot of ‘Camel’ B7334 is killed falling out of his machine when inverted.  ‘Baby’ floatplane N2101 bombs a submarine south-east of Sunderland but short of fuel has to immediately return to base whilst N2110 suffers an engine failure overturning and sinking in the forced landing but the pilot is rescued by a torpedo boat.  Prototype ‘Snipe’ B9965 is returned to Brooklands from Martlesham Heath for Sopwith to fit an experimental large propeller spinner.  At Grain they have been testing the acceleration of prototype Sopwith ‘Cuckoo’ N74 with gradually increasing loads in anticipation of deck take-offs with a torpedo.  The extra weight of the Sunbeam Arab engine has made it rather nose heavy.  It is now reported that the propeller shaft eventually broke and the propeller flew off damaging the front spar of the left wing before a safe forced landing from 1,000ft.

On 2nd May in poor visibility ‘Camels’ B6411, B6431, B9297, C8231, C8256, D1876 & D3345 each claim a victory, B6421 shares one with five others but the pilots of C1685 & D6546 are killed in action, B2482’s & B7276’s are taken prisoner, B5583’s is killed diving into the ground on a practice flight whilst C8296 is shot down and B2419 crashes.  ‘Dolphins’ C3829, C4017 & C3899 each claim a victory, C3796 shares one with C3843 but the pilot of C4126 is killed in action whilst C4044 hits C3944 on landing and both are damaged whilst C4030 & C4154 are damaged crashing after engine failures.  In Italy ‘Camels’ B6413 & B7383 claim victories but the pilot of B3840 is fatally injured nose diving into a tree.  The pilot of Northolt ‘Pup’ B5356 is seriously injured overturning after the wheels strike rising ground.

At Brooklands the conventional fuselage ‘Snail’ C4284 is awaiting rectification of its Wasp engine including new carburettors, and monocoque fuselage ‘Snail’ C4288 is being  readied for testing to Martlesham Heath when Air Board Technical Department reports on their design and manufacture arrive.  The criticisms of the  gun installation can be addressed especially the lack of blast tubes to avoid igniting any petrol vapour in the cockpit but there is concern over the complexity and practicality of the welded engine mountings which include the front undercarriage strut sockets.(below) 

The report on the monocoque ‘Snail’ is not encouraging stating that “this machine is not to be considered a sound manufacturing proposition, the construction of the fuselage being on lines which do not lend themselves to production”.   The fuselage construction as built up of 3/32 inch thick three-ply planks about 6 inches wide butt jointed in the cockpit area where the skin is double and lap jointed elsewhere, all attached by some 7,000 copper rivets to a series of 30 ash hoops at 6 inch spacing six of which have plywood formers attached.  It is estimated that 60lbs of copper nails have been used, half of which has been wasted cutting to length before burring over.  The whole fuselage is fabric covered and doped.  The Sopwith experimental team have built another three conventional ‘Snail’ fuselage and wing sets which await engines and are now building a second monocoque fuselage.

On 3rd May ‘Camel’ B2356 claims two victories, B3786, B3855, C1637, D6476 & D6572 each claim a victory but the pilots of D6536 & B7357 are taken prisoner fatally wounded, D6480’s is taken prisoner, C1677’s is killed in a crash, B5585 & D3360 are badly shot up and forced to land whilst D6434 crashes into a ditch landing lost.  The fabric strips from his upper starboard wing ‘Dolphin’ C3828 which is then attacked with the wounded pilot taken prisoner whilst C4047 crashes following a burst oil tank in combat and C3843 forced lands.  In Italy ‘Camels’ B5187, B6273 & B7354 each claim a victory.  The pilot of Upavon ‘Pup’ B1845 is killed crashing from a low loop.

On the Western Front 73Sqdn have cut away the rear of the top wing centre section of a ‘Camel’ “greatly improving visibility without effecting handling or performance”.  They are authorised to modify all their aircraft. 

Following last week’s impressive demonstration of Dragonfly-engined ‘Snipe’ prototype B9967 at Brooklands an order is confirmed on Sopwith Aviation for 30 production machines with the official name Sopwith ‘Dragon’.

On 4th May in thick mist and rain ‘Camel’ C8300 claims a victory, C1643 shares one with two others but the pilot of B5629 is killed in action whilst the USAS pilot of B5651 is injured stalling and spinning-in from 50ft on landing.  The ‘Dolphin’ C3818 is involved in a friendly fire incident with a ‘Camel’ whilst C3795 & C3835 both suffer forced landings.  In Italy ‘Camel’ B2497 claims two victories.  The pilot of Scampton ‘Camel’ B4625 is killed overturning on take-off, as is South Carlton ‘Pup’ B1706’s in a crash whilst Lilbourne B7535’s is injured stalling and diving-in.  At Seaton Carew ‘Baby’ floatplane N1446 is wrecked colliding with a buoy landing in fog.

Meanwhile presumably at Woking, the Martinsyde Football Club munitions workers play the Kingston Aircraft Works (Sopwith) munitions workers in a football match kicked off by Mrs Handasyde.  The teams include players from Brentford FC, Brstol City, Manchester City and Southampton FC playin in blue or maroon shirts with "white knickers".

On 5th May with low cloud, mist and rain there are no combats over France but the pilot of Feltwell ‘Camel’ D9544 is killed in a spinning nose dive and B9258’s is seriously injured stalling with a choked engine at Ayr.

On 6th May with low cloud, mist and rain until the evening ‘Camel’ B7254 claims a victory, B9299 shares one with four others but the pilot of B7200 is injured crash landing after a panic with a runaway gun and D3374 forced lands with ailerons shot away by AA fire.  ‘Dolphin’ C4165 claims a victory whilst C4156, C4157 & C4163 share the first victory for 87Sqdn.  In Italy ‘Camel’ B5212 claims a victory whilst in Macedonia immediately after 150Sqdn arrives C1587 claims the first victory for a ‘Camel’ shared with Bristol M1c C4963.  At Biggin Hill the pilot of wireless telegraphy trial ‘Camel’ B6303 is killed spinning-in from low altitude.

On a rainy 7th May in France the pilot of ‘Dolphin’ C3841 is killed in a crash on a practice flight as is the pilot of ‘Camel’ B4621 at Montrose.

On 8th May ‘Camels’ B7252, C8266, D1813, D1845, D1860, D1864, D1867, D1873, D1928 & D3364 each claim a victory but the pilots of C8298 & D1852 are killed in action, whilst B6276 is shot up and damaged and D6594 crashes with a choked engine.  ‘Dolphins’ C3799 & C4017 each claim a victory but the pilot of C4149 is killed stalling on take-off, C3784 is wrecked and C3835 is damaged hit by a landing DH4.  In Italy the pilot of ‘Camel’ B7358 is wounded by trench rifle fire.  At home the pilots of Feltwell ‘Camel’ B4640 and Lopcombe Corner’s C1640 are killed spinning-in as is Hainault Farm D6649’s pilot crashing into a building.(belowt)  The pilot of Croydon ‘Pup’ B6093 is injured also from a spin whilst Killingholme ‘Baby’ floatplane N2097 suffers an engine failure on take-off, hits a fence and is wrecked.  

HMS Furious’ primary role is in aerial reconnaissance and air defence for the Grand Fleet now based in the Firth of Forth closer to any German Navy foray.  They did steam out recently but too late to catch the retreating ships.

On 8th May there is an opportunity for a further landing attempt onto the rear deck this time with a skidded two-seat Sopwith ‘Strutter’.  The photographs show the array of fore and aft wires now lifted above the deck towards the stern by the wooden ‘skittles’ as well as the transverse restraining ropes and their sandbags.(above) The approach is good but as usual the disturbed air over the deck throws the aircraft around and it lands heavily.  The under-fuselage hook does not engage with the transverse ropes but some skid horns do.  DJ3 tows some sandbags before stopping on the ramp short of the rope barrier with wrecked undercarriage and crumpled nose.(below)

 

This is the thirteenth attempt to land on Furious, all have been fraught and ten have damaged the aircraft. However Armstrong shipbuilders who installed their hook into loops arrester system in Furious’ deck during the rebuild are determined to have that properly tested and have come up with a design for a stronger hook which will not break like the first attempts but do suggest that the aircraft designers must ensure the airframe is then strong enough to absorb the arresting loads.  Those have now been calculated by the Air Board Technical Department for various landing speeds and hook positions for both ‘Pup’ and, surprisingly, ‘Snipe’ aircraft.  It seems that they expect the exclusive use of Sopwith designed types for shipboard flying to continue.

On 9th May ‘Camels’ C66, C8253, C8272, C8280, D1921, D6440 & D6562 each claim a victory, C62 shares one with two others, C8261 shares one with his whole 4Sqdn AFC patrol, D6590 & B7280 both shares one with one other before a forced landing but the pilots of D1821, D3375 & D6576 are killed in combat whilst D1790’s is taken prisoner, D6576’s is killed looping too near the ground and hitting a wood pile.  The pilot of B2309 is injured stalling on landing as are D6588’s after being hit by AA fire on a practice formation flight, B5445’s with a choked engine on landing and D3364’s after a Verys pistol explodes in the cockpit.  ‘Dolphin’ C3878 claims a victory but the pilot of C4047 with a fuel problem is injured stalling and overturning.  In Italy ‘Camel’ B2430 claims a victory and the pilot of B2356 is injured crashing on take-off as is B7389’s crashing forced landing whilst lost.  At home ‘Camel’ C70 forced lands with engine failure near Saxmundham whilst Eastbourne ‘Pup’ B6100 makes a crash landing and then collides with an Avro 504.  The design of the Sopwith ‘TF2 Salamander’ trench fighter has now been approved for service trials by the Air Board Technical Department but prototype E5429 has been delayed since its first flight on 27th April by a fractured piston.  A new Bentley BR2 engine and new propeller has now been fitted and it is photographed on 9th May leaving for service trials in France.(below)

This is a another busy day for the Sopwith team at Brooklands because monocoque ‘Snail’ C4288 is also leaving.  It is going to Martlesham Heath for formal comparison testing with the BAT Bantam and Westland Wagtail.

On a misty 10th May ‘Camel’ B6297 claims a victory, D6481 claims one and then shares another with C1523, D1787 shares one with five others, D6591 claims a triplane before being forced down behind a German outpost by three others but the pilot escapes, the pilots of B2463, D6419 & D6619 are killed in combat, D6457’s is taken prisoner whilst B7322 & B9243 are damaged in combat   ‘Dolphin’ C4780 is damaged forced landing after an engine cut.  At home the pilot of C83 from the No.2 School of Aerial Fighting and Gunnery at Marske is injured hitting telephone wires whilst ‘Baby’ floatplane N2109 from nearby Seaton Carew drops a 65lb bomb on a U-boat 4 miles out to sea.

At Grain they have replaced the broken Sunbeam Arab propeller shaft in prototype Sopwith ‘Cuckoo’ N74 and have started trial take-offs from their dummy ship’s deck in anticipation of the first production machine arriving from Blackburn later in the month.   

On 11th May there is thick fog over the Western Front but some flying in the evening when ‘Camels’ B5646, D1879, D3348 & D3354 each claim a victory as does B7252 before being damaged in a forced landing, D3351 shares one with D3357, D1863 shares one with two others before hitting a tree landing in the mist but the pilots of B7192 & B7480 are killed in action, D3377’s is killed in a foggy forced landing, B2455’s is taken prisoner  wounded whilst D1884’s, D3380’s & D3382’s, are injured crashing in fog.  ‘Dolphin’ C4131 claims a victory but the pilot of C8019 is injured and C3827, C3830, C4020 & C4786 all suffer forced landings.  At home the pilot of Lilbourne ‘Camel’ B9242 is killed from a spinning nose dive as is South Carlton C1618’s pilot stalling on landing whilst Ternhill ‘Pup’ C221’s is injured losing control and spinning-in.

The first report of the service pilot test flights of ‘TF2 Salamander’ trench fighter prototype E5429 at St Omer is generally positive on manoeuvrability and balance but “more rudder control would be an advantage”.  “The view for fighting is good although the headrest cramps the backward visibility”.  He reports “120mph near the ground at 1350 revs and  a Camel was easily out-distanced but was quicker on the turn”.  “She takes up speed quickly in the dive but there is ample time to fire a destructive burst at a target.  Diving down from 400ft to 50ft her upward climb is equal to the height lost.”   Meanwhile the Dragonfly radial-engined 6th ‘Snipe’ prototype B9967 arrives at Farnborough designated ‘Snipe Mk.II’ and is posed before test flights.(below)  Performance at Brooklands has been very promising with very rapid rates of climb and reports of speeds approaching 150mph at 10,000ft and 130mph  at 21,000ft.   

On 12th May there are low clouds all day but ‘Camel’ D1906 claims a victory.

On 13th May ‘Dolphin’ C3812 crashes and overturns on landing before rain stops all flying over France.  In Italy ‘Camel’ B5238 claims three victories whilst B2379 claims one and shares another with B2426.  At home ‘Baby’ floatplane N2108 suffers an engine failure and after a forced landing at Seahaven will have to be dismantled for its return to Seaton Carew.  Martlesham Heath publish a comparison of the performance of the Sopwith ’Hippo’ and ‘Bulldog’ two-seaters.  Despite using the very same 230hp Clerget engine and propeller and having a 100lb weight disadvantage, the back-staggered ‘Hippo’ is inexplicably some 5mph faster and 10mins quicker to 15,000ft but the ‘Bulldog’ now with unbalanced ailerons and two pillar mounted rear guns(below) is considered “much superior for manoeuvrability”. 

The 14th May is overcast but in the gaps ‘Camels’ D3385 & D9577 each claim a victory, D3406 claims one but has its tail shot away in an attack by five enemy aircraft, B5213 claims one but is also damaged in combat, D1818 claims one but the wounded pilot is taken prisoner whilst the pilot of B3910 is killed in a crash.  ‘Dolphin’ C4178 is shot-up and wrecked.  At home the pilot of Throwley ‘Camel’ D6625 is killed falling out of control from 2,500ft.

On 15th May ‘Camel’ C1655 claims three victories, B2522 & D1825 each claim two victories, B5687, B5749, C8217,  D6578 & D6585 each claim a victory as does D3373 with its pilot wounded in action, C61 & C8204 each share one with one other, D3376 shares one with five others but the pilots of B5666, B6257 & D6438 are killed in action as are B7160’s & D3385’s when D3385 collides with the other possibly after being hit by AA fire.  The pilot of D6607 is injured stalling in a turn, as is D6516’s hitting a DH9 on take-off and D6607’s spinning-in from a low turn, C1643’s is injured crashing on landing whilst D3342 crashes into a hangar after having its ailerons shot-up in combat.  ‘Dolphin’ C4132 claims two victories but C4146 overturns in a forced landing lost on a practice flight and C4167 is wrecked after an engine cut.  At home the pilot of Northolt ‘Camel’ B7396 is killed stalling turning downwind.  Meanwhile Sopwith production of ‘Dolphins’  continues to expand.  After a record 119 in April they plan to deliver 6-a-day through May.  Their 596th ‘Dolphin’ D3671 is photographed on a Sopwith lorry(below) on just one such trip from Kingston.  Assuming that is a Molesey reservoir in the background it is on its way to Brooklands not the Aircraft Acceptance Park at Kenley where most have gone to date.

On 16th May ‘Camels’ B7248, D1794, D3350, D3387 & D3410 each claim a victory, B3884 shares one with the whole flight,  but the pilot of D1866 is fatally wounded in action, D3353’s & D9540’s are taken prisoner and D3341 is badly shot up whilst Ltn Otto Kissenberth of Jasta 23b uses a captured 3(N)Sqdn ‘Camel’ marked with German crosses(below) to shoot down an SE5a. (This might be ‘Camel’ B7184 or B7230.)

‘Dolphin’ C4056 claims a victory, C3818 shares one with C4132 but the pilot of C3869 is injured crashing with an engine problem on take-off and C4046 overturns hitting a ridge on landing.   At home pilot of B9192 is killed spinning-in at Wye whilst ‘Baby’ floatplane N1471 has an engine failure on take-off, lands heavily bursting a float and is beached at Hornsea Mere.

On 17th May ‘Camels’ B7346 & D6442 each claim a victory, D3365 shares one with D3391, B6408 shares one with B7197, D3362 & C61 but D3362 & C61 are damaged in this combat with fifteen Fokker Triplanes and the pilot of B6408 is killed shot down in flames.  The pilots of C8242 & D1791 are both taken prisoner whilst B7471 is  damaged by ground fire and B2529 crashes into the sea trying to land with a faulty engine.  ‘Dolphins’ C3902 & C4043 each claim a victory.  In Italy ‘Camel’ B3872 claims a victory.  At home the pilot of Dover ‘Camel’ is killed stalling from a climbing turn and D6672’s is killed spinning-in at Montrose.

There are more reports of test flights of ‘TF2 Salamander’ trench fighter prototype E5429 by service pilots in France.  73 Squadron confirms that the machine needs more lateral control and suggests duplicated control wires and armour protection for the pilot’s head.  3 Squadron agreeing that “the view is good enough” also want duplicated flying wires “owing to the way low flying machines are shot about” and would like balanced ailerons and “an adjustable rudder bar to suit tall and short pilots”.  “Her climb and zoom, considering her weight is good.”  A Flight Commander of 70Sqdn concludes that “the machine appears to be very suitable for low flying, though a pusher type would get better results”.

There is a rash of new ‘Camel’ orders on 17th May making 650 this month on seven existing contractors partly it seems to keep those factories busy whilst new types are introduced.  Total ‘Camel’ orders have reached 5,118.

In Lincoln the “Ruston Munitionettes” have been photographed(above) wheeling wingless ‘Camel’ D8185 through the cattle market to a women’s rally to help recruit women into the Land Army.

There has been a high-level meeting at the Ministry of Munitions with the Treasury and other government departments to try to agree the terms, duration and rent for Sopwith’s lease of the National Aircraft factory at Ham in the light of the promise to the Local Authorities that it is temporary but it seems to have been decided that such an expensive facility has to be permanent.  However the legality of any long term lease is in question as they do not own the land having requisitioned it under the Defence of the Realm Act and the Treasury are reluctant to purchase land only needed during the war.  The meeting requests more information including the value of the land.  A response from Sir Howard Frank Director General of Lands on 17th May gets them no further forward.  He implies that it should always have been permanent and emphasises he had nothing to do with the decision to declare it temporary.  After meeting the protesting Authorities last year he put the matter before the Minister, Mr Churchill, who decided that policy.  He concludes that if it is to be permanent the land should be purchased from Lord Dysart now “but in proposing that are we not breaking faith with the Local Authorities?”  

On 18th May ‘Camel’ C8278 claims two victories, B5181, C8264, D1781, D1901, D1919, D3410 & D6608 each claim a victory but the pilot of D3390 is killed in combat whilst D3391’s is taken prisoner as are B7178’s & C8256’s after being hit in a combat with twelve Albatros, C8261’s is wounded hit by AA fire whilst D6413 is also damaged by AA fire and D1926 crashes on landing.  ‘Pups’ are back in France at the ex-RNAS Training Establishment at Vendôme which has received seven new Standard Motors built machines in the last few weeks, however C325 is badly damaged today “drifting on landing due to a gust of wind” with the report surprisingly listing two people aboard.  At home the American pilot of Turnberry ‘Camel’ B9218 is killed stalling in a low turn whilst the pilot of one of HMS Galatea’s ‘Ships Camels’ N6766 is killed striking a tree landing at Donibristle.   The pilot of ‘Dolphin’ C8023 is killed stalling from a turn at Lincoln whilst the pilot of ‘Pup’ N6160 is fatally injured in a mid-air collision at Freiston School of Aerial Fighting and Gunnery whilst B7485 overturns landing with an engine failure. 

The first Grain ‘Griffin’ N100 is being modified at Grain as the next two N101 & N102 are completed ready for testing.  The last of Sopwith’s order for six ‘Snipe’ prototypes B9966 goes to Martlesham Heath for performance trials after nine weeks of development flying at Brooklands, it has a Bently BR2 engine.

On 19th May ‘Camel’ D3371 claims a victory, B6239 shares an Albatros which has just shot down a kite balloon with C65, C1655 shares one with D6433 but D6433’s pilot is then killed shot down in flames, B2429’s is taken prisoner wounded whilst the pilot of D3402 loses control taxying out and crashes into B7199.  ‘Dolphins’ C3796 & C3843 each claim a victory but the pilot of C4017 is taken prisoner and C3865 overturns on landing.  In Italy D1911 claims three victories, D1913 claims two in five minutes and B6363 claims one, Lt Wilson’s eighth in this aircraft.   After test flights of ‘TF2 Salamander’ trench fighter prototype E5429 by 65Sqdn in France they consider it “very handy” but note that it reaches a tremendous speed with the nose slightly down and they are concerned that “it will be impossible to dive at anything approaching vertically as the speed obtained would be too great”.  The tests are brought to a halt when it crashes on landing with the pilot trying to avoid a tender crossing the aerodrome to a crash.  All the squadrons’ suggested improvements to “Salamander” are forwarded to the Air Board by the Commander of the RAF in the Field now Major General John Salmond.

After two uneventful days going as far as Jutland Bank with HMS Glorious, light cruisers and torpedo boats, HMS Furious takes on three more ‘Ships Camels’.  Each arrives on a whaler with the tail section of the fuselage separated by undoing the four turnbuckles.(below an unusually marked  machine being taken aboard last month)

Late on 19th May after a ten week gap there is a massed bombing raid with 28 Gothas and 3 Giants reaching Britain escorted by 2 Rumplers for weather reconnaissance.  On a clear moonlit night  twin-Vickers ‘Camel’ D6423 claims an incoming Gotha at 8,500ft within ten minutes of taking off.  19 bombers reach London killing 49 and injuring 177 whilst the others scatter bombs around Essex and Kent.  Two more Gothas possibly already damaged by an SE5 and a Camel are brought down by Bristol fighters, two are shot down by AA fire over Dover and Shoeburyness and one crashes unable to restart an engine.  There are other less successful interceptions including persistent attacks on what was probably a Giant with drums of armour-piercing and RTS incendiary/explosive ammunition from the upward firing and forward firing Lewis guns of ‘Comic Camel’ B3816.(below, a similar 44Sqdn ‘Comic Camel’).  Assuming it to be a Gotha the pilot may have been misled by the size of the Giant and out of range at times although he gets bullet holes in a wing and bullet damage to his propeller.  The four-engined 138ft wingspan Giants are almost twice the size of the 78ft span twin-engined Gothas but have a similar silhouette as the engines are in tandem in two pods.  This same night a heavy German bomber raid on French railway and ordnance  installations kills 214 and injures over 700.

On 20th May ‘Camel’ C1583 shares two victories with C6729 & D6497, D1893, D1909, D1959, D3332, D3386, D3389, D3411 & D6506 each claim a victory, D6418 claims a victory plus two kite balloons destroyed, B9253 shares a victory with D6418, D6630 shares one with D8118 but the pilot of D1876 is killed in combat and D6499’s is injured crash landing surrounded by smoke after a Very flare he fires to “wash-out a practice” hits a strut and bounces back into the cockpit whilst D3366’s is injured on take-off running into a DH9 standing between two hangars and D1796 is in a mid-air collision with D1851 but both land safely. (Damage to both below)

The pilot of ‘Dolphin’ C3807 sends an aircraft down in flames by ramming it before continuing to fight two others.  His is a first victory for 23Sqdn but he is then shot down and dies jumping the last 500ft from his burning aircraft.  ‘Dolphins’ C3899, C4019, C4127 & C4131 also each claim a victory but the American pilot of C4153 is injured crashing turning after take-off, C3901 overturns landing with a fuel tank shot through in combat with three enemy aircraft whilst C4168 crashes avoiding another machine on landing. C4168(below) with Major Callaghan’s personal shamrock marking has an extra tube on the side to carry ejected cartridge cases clear of the side radiator although the disintegrating ammunition links from the upper chute are evidently not considered a problem.

In Italy ’Camel’ B7350 claims a victory.  At the Aboukir Training School in Egypt the pilot of B6053 is killed on his first flight in a ‘Pup’ crashing in a slow spin after struggling to restart his engine at low altitude.  At Port Said the pilot of ‘Baby’ floatplane N2072 is injured “landing with failed controls and hitting an Arab”.  At home the pilot of Redcar’s ‘Camel’ B5693 is killed spinning-in as is C1662’s at Marske whilst Lopcombe Corner’s B7134 stalls on landing after the pilot faints.  ‘Ships Camel’ N6754 from HMS Royalist lands at sea and is recovered with the assistance of HMS Vega. 

On 21st May ‘Camel’ D1841 claims a victory, D3403 shares one with D3413 and C62 shares a kite balloon with two others but the pilot of D6604 is killed in combat, D9539’s is taken prisoner wounded whilst D6450’s pilot is injured overturning in a forced landing when a wheel comes off and D1826 crashes into a tree after the engine seizes up.  ‘Dolphin’ C4729 is damaged by AA fire and C4019 is damaged crashing after an engine failure.  In Italy ‘Camel’ B7381 claims a victory.  At home the pilot of Suttons Farm ‘Camel’ D6677 is fatally injured hitting a tree landing with a choked engine.   HMS Furious is at sea again with seven light cruisers and destroyers.  They are warned of Zeppelins and aircraft approaching and send off a recce ‘Strutter’ which lands alongside a torpedo boat for recovery after two hours but nothing is spotted so they put up smoke screens to try to draw attention.

On 22nd May ‘Camel’ D3416 claims two victories, C1675 & D6509 each claim a victory, B2522 shares one with three others, D1889 shares one with six others but the pilots of D1909 & D1924 are killed after colliding diving on a kite balloon, the American pilot of ‘Camel’ D1907 is killed and D1800’s is injured when they collide in mid-air during firing practice, C58’s is injured in a spinning nose dive on take-off whilst the engine of B7382 is hit by ground fire and the pilot sets it alight before escaping 3300yds back to the British front line trenches.  ‘Dolphin’ C4152 is damaged forced landing with an engine failure on take-off as is C4024 after a fuel failure.  At home the pilot of ‘Camel’ B7341 is killed spinning in at Beverley, the pilot of ‘Dolphin’ C3975 is fatally injured spinning in at Hooton Park and the pilot of ‘Pup’ B5288 is fatally injured crashing with a choked engine on take-off at Wye.  HMS Furious spots submarines, has near misses with mines and flies off two  Camels before returning to the Firth of Forth  overnight without having provoked the aerial battles with Zeppelins and floatplanes that they relish.

Martlesham Heath have completed performance testing of the Sopwith ‘B2’ bomber B1496 and compared it with their results for the essentially similar ‘B1’ N50 over a year ago.  Both with 200hp Hispano-Suiza engines they record speeds of 110mph at 10,000ft and ascribe B1496’s lower climb rates and lower speeds at higher altitudes  to the French Claudel carburetter which has no altitude control.

On 22nd May Martlesham Heath issues a report comparing the 170hp ABC Wasp powered “miniature” fighters: BAT Bantam, Sopwith Snail & Westland Wagtail.   The Bantam has a circular section plywood monocoque fuselage like the monocoque Sopwith Snail.(below left)  The Wagtail(below right) is a small conventional wood and fabric construction biplane like the other Snail and is the only one with the twin forward firing Vickers guns not embedded in the fuselage.

Whilst the Snail at 127mph was 10mph faster than the Wagtail at 15,000ft, both were over revving the engine with an unmatched propeller.  The Bantam with an obviously under-performing engine was much slower before it was crashed, a replacement is awaited for a true performance comparison.  Overall there is not much to choose between all three but they rank the Snail last for manoeuvrability due to slow aileron response and therefore also for “general fighting quality” with the Wagtail “easiest to fly”.

60Sqdn Flight Commander Capt Copeland is seconded from France to compare a service 110hp Le Rhône Camel with Martlesham’s new fighting scout types in mock fights.  He reports that the Camel despite less horsepower “undoubtedly has the advantage over the Snail in every way”.  The Camel and the recently received first production Rolls-Royce Falcon engined Martinsyde F3 are equally manoeuvrable but the much more powerful Martinsyde “easily out-climbs the Camel in a climbing spiral and on points it undoubtedly has the advantage over a Camel as a fighting scout”.  

On 23rd May in overcast weather and high winds the pilots of ‘Camels’ B7250 & D1902 are killed in combat whilst D3418 crashes.  ‘Dolphin’ C4179 crashes on landing.  In Italy ‘Camel’ B6413 claims a victory.   In the Aegean a ‘Camel’ is hit by AA fire and forced to land in enemy territory but the pilot escapes back across the lines.  After a recent test flight the Sopwith ‘Rhino’ triplane bomber was described as “awful”, now one of the prototypes flying from Farnborough breaks the trailing edge of the wing centre section reportedly because flapping wing fabric hammers on the trailing edge.  It lands safely.

It rains all day over France on 24th May and there is little flying but the pilot of ‘Dolphin’ C3820 is injured shot up in combat whilst C3866’s is also injured when it is wrecked crashing with a fuel problem.  In Italy ‘Camel’ B6282 returning to Grossa along a valley flies into overhead cables and cartwheels into the fast flowing river.  Two Italian soldiers are swept away trying to save the pilot before he is rescued by an American Red Cross volunteer.  At home Westgate ‘Baby’ floatplane N1065 is damaged forced landing on an anti-Zeppelin patrol and is towed into Grain whilst N2103 & N2104 go to White City to be packed for delivery to the Chilean Government.

On 25th May ‘Camels’ C8277, C8291, D1784 & D1903 each claim a victory.  ‘Dolphin’ C4128’s pilot is wounded during combat possibly by ground fire and hits a ditch on landing.  At home the pilot of 44Sqdn Hainault Farm ‘Comic Camel’ B9287 is seriously injured stalling from a turn at 200ft.  This aircraft recently arrived from 78Sqdn at Sutton’s Farm where it was photographed(below) with twin Foster rail mounted Lewis guns, unusually long plywood top deck and headrest and light blue coloured fabric with white stripes on wings and tailplane and originally the fuselage.

The first production Sopwith ‘T1 Cuckoo’ is at Yarmouth on its way from Blackburn at Leeds via the Lincoln AAP to Grain for type testing.  Earlier this month they carried out deck take-off trials with the prototype N50 fitted with the now standard 200hp V8 Sunbeam Arab engine.  The “Secret” trial report reveals that a coffin shaped box in the place of the torpedo was gradually filled with lead.  A string attached to the tail skid was unwound from a wooden wheel and its revolutions marked electrically on a chronograph along with the beats of a metronome to draw a distance time curve and derive a velocity time curve.  They note steady acceleration with all loads but then a deceleration for a short time “when the stick is pulled back”.

On 26th May ‘Camel’ B2362 claims a victory whilst the Australian pilot of D1896 is injured stalling on landing.  In Italy ‘Camel’ B6344 claims a victory.  At home the pilot of Turnbury ‘Camel’ B5560 is killed falling out in a dive and the pilot of Feltwell’s B9328 is killed spinning-in on take-off whilst new ‘Pup’ C282 “Gold Coast Aborigines No.2” bursts a tyre landing at the Aircraft Acceptance Park Coventry.

On 27th May another flying first is achieved on HMS Furious when the three-man non-rigid airship SSZ 59 lands on her after deck whilst she is moored in the Firth of Forth.  It makes at least one take-off and re-landing before leaving.(above) (Note the ‘Strutter’ prepared for a take-off on the fore-deck surrounded by the raised wind screens, the hatch to the hangar beneath partly opened and the narrow trackways connecting fore and aft decks)  By 2pm Furious is leaving for another escorted two days across the North Sea towards Denmark hunting Zeppelins and trying to avoid mines.

Elsewhere on 27th May 204Sqdn ‘Camels’ B3894 & C74 each claim a victory off Ostend, C6708 claims a victory and shares another with three colleagues, B6379 & D3404 each claim a victory as does a 70Sqdn machine wrongly recorded as C1602, D1825 claims a victory but gets badly shot-up, B7153 & D6602 each share one with one other, the pilot of C6730 has a victory before being killed when his bracing wires are shot away and the wings fold-up, D3416’s is fatally wounded crashing on a night bombing raid and not being found until the next morning and D1787’s is killed spinning-in from a low turn on a practice flight.  ‘Dolphin’ C3833 claims a victory whilst D3645 suffers an engine failure.  At home the pilot of Feltwell ‘Camel’ B9226 is injured spinning-in with failed aileron controls, the pilot of Hooton Park ‘Pup’ D4139 is killed when it breaks up as he tries to pull out of an over-vertical dive on a target, the pilot of Tangmere ‘Pup’ B5360 is fatally injured possibly after fainting and the pilot of North Shotwick’s C6092 is injured diving-in with a choked engine.  ‘Baby’ floatplane N2111 suffers a forced landing with engine failure four and a half miles ESE of the Tyne.

Prototype BR2 ‘Snipe’ B9965 is photographed at Brooklands(above) with a huge streamlined spinner and cowl retro-fitted by Sopwith before it leaves for Martlesham Heath on 27th May for performance trials.

On 28th May the pilot of ‘Camel’ C8280 is fatally wounded after diving steeply on an enemy aircraft.  ‘Dolphin’ C4182 claims a kite balloon, C4165’s pilot is injured overrunning a forced landing, C3873 is wrecked hit on the ground by C3914 landing whilst C4174 & C4177 both embarrassingly crash on landing during a General’s Inspection.  At home Thetford ‘Pup’ B2223 suffers an undercarriage collapse on landing.

Sopwith continues to develop the facilities on site in Canbury Park Road and on 28th May submit to the Council  a plan for an acetylene plant shed outside the oxygen plant room on the south side of the road where they have built the timber shed with canteens over and now completed the demolition of all twenty-six cottages.

On 29th May the pilot of a 70Sqdn ‘Camel’ is fatally wounded shot up in combat with a two-seater whilst D3344’s is injured when the propeller hit a mound on take-off.  ‘Dolphin’ D3671 claims a victory, C3830 is wrecked hitting trees on a low patrol and C3820 crashes on landing.  Ltn Otto Kissenberth who used a captured ‘Camel’ marked with German crosses to shoot down an SE5a on 16th May is injured in a serious crash in this Camel.   At home East Fortune Naval Flying School ‘Ships Strutter’ N5215 stalls from 25ft on landing whilst a ‘Ships Camel’ possibly N6606 crashes taking off from HMS Tiger but is recovered from the sea.

On 30th May ‘Camel’ C1670 claims two victories, B6378, C8218, C8245, C8262, D1809, D1844, D1874, D3392, D6642, D6648, D8116 & D9589 each claim one victory, D1929 claims an aircraft and a kite balloon but the pilots of  D1793 & D6483 are killed in combat and D6640’s is taken prisoner.  ‘Dolphins’ C3827 & C4148 each claim a victory whilst C3824 shares one with C3871.  In Italy thirty-five ‘Camels’ drop a ton of bombs and use 9,000 rounds of ammunition in a mass raid on Val d’Assa but the pilot of B7360 is wounded by ground fire.  Later in the day B5180 claims a victory.  At home ‘Baby’ floatplane N2111 see a slight oil patch after dropping a 65lb bomb on a U-boat 10 miles off Sunderland.

The Sopwith ‘Schneider’ and ‘Baby’ floatplanes operating from trawlers out in the North Sea have been doing useful anti-Zeppelin patrol and reporting work for most of the war but do not have the speed or height to intercept them.  What is needed is a rapid way of getting a fast climbing ‘Ships Camel’ out there and the latest trial is with a low-cost simple fast aircraft carrier.  A wooden ramp rather like that being used on capital ship gun turrets has been mounted on a lighter with guide rails for skidded ‘Camel’ N6623.(below at Felixstowe jetty) 


The plan is to launch the aircraft with a destroyer towing the lighter and aircraft at high speed.  On 30th May the swashbuckling now Colonel Charles Rumney Samson makes the first attempt towed by HMS Truculent at 32knots but to avoid a sandbank it is not directly into wind.  With the stern dipping under tow he never gets airborne, plunges left wing down into the sea(below) and is run over by the lighter but somehow escapes unscathed.

On 31st May ‘Camels’ D1894 & D3399 each claim one victory, D1854 shares a victory with three others but the pilot of C8217 is killed in combat, C1661’s is injured crashing with a cut engine, C1959’s is injured hitting a tree swinging on take-off, D1925 is damaged in combat whilst D1846 & B9237 both overturn crash landing with engine failures.  ‘Dolphin’ C3799 claims two victories, C3833, C3840 & C4158 each claim a victory, C3818 shares one with C4129 and C3824 & C4130 each share one with C3871 but a pilot is wounded in action and C4131 crashes on landing.  At home the pilot of Montrose ‘Camel’ D8135 is injured hitting a tree with a choked engine on take-off.  ‘Baby’ floatplane N2111 again bombs a U-boat off the east coast and spots oil whilst Yarmouth’s N1205 damages a float on take-off.

The Sopwith factory delivered a record 152 ‘Dolphins’ In May and produced 2 more ‘Snipe’ prototypes.   The number of new Sopwith-designed aircraft from other contractors in May is exactly 600.  These comprise the very last ‘Pup’ of 820 from Whitehead of Richmond upon Thames, 72 ‘Dolphins’ from Darracq(46) and Hooper(26) plus 527 new ‘Camels’ with 20 ‘2F1s’ from Beardmore and ‘F1s Camels’ from Boulton & Paul(184), British Caudron(5), Clayton & Shuttleworth(50), Hooper(13), Marsh Jones & Cribb(14), Nieuport & General(59), Portholme(30) and Ruston Proctor(152).  

In May new orders have been the 30 ‘Snipe Mk.II Dragons’ on Sopwith Aviation and 750 more ‘F1 Camels’ spread among seven of the twelve suppliers.  ‘Camel’ orders now total 5,218 of which 3,368 have been delivered.

The first report of “RAF Aircraft on Charge” dated 31st May lists 1,729 ‘F1 Camels’ plus 104 ‘2F1 Ships Camels’ noting that 227 ‘Camels’ have been written off charge during May.  The distribution is broad ranging: BEF Western Front(618), 61 Wing ex-RNAS Dover and northern France(156), Grand Fleet & Northern Patrols(90), Italy(77), Mediterranean(71), Home Defence(66), Home Anti-Submarine(17), Egypt(6) and Salonica(6) plus 420 at Training Units, 16 at Technical Development Establishments, 78 at “Sundry Units”, 45 waiting shipment/in transit to the East, 28 in storage and 128 at Aircraft Acceptance Parks. 

Also listed are 140 ’Baby’ floatplanes, 226 ‘Strutters’, 937 ‘Pups’, 11 ‘Triplanes’, 692 ‘Dolphins’ and a few prototypes. 

The total number of Sopwith machines at 3,845 is 25% of the RAF’s 15,073 aircraft and easily outnumbers any other commercial design team.  Sopwith machines account for an even greater percentage of aircraft in the front-line with 30% of the 2,452 aircraft with the BEF in France including 62% of their single-seat fighters and 64% of the 119 aircraft in Italy.  Sopwith aircraft also make up 30% of the 1,016 "Seaplanes and Ship Aeroplanes" with the Royal Navy including all 265 of their single-seaters.

Sopwith ‘Strutters’ are still in demand.  With the French relegating the more than 4,000 they have built to training roles, the Royal Navy have acquired 20 French-built ‘Strutters’ F2210 to F2229 to convert as back-up stock of ‘Ships Strutters’ with 50 more to follow.  Even more significantly the American Expedition Force in France still short of up-to-date machines from US and French suppliers has since February now bought 514 French ‘Strutters’.(below)  Most are for training but the 19th, 88th & 99th Aero Squadrons are using them operationally in Corps Observation Groups.

On 1st June ‘Camel’ B7254 shares two Pfalz victories with C66, C73, D1866 & D3333 whilst B7346, D3400 & D6600 each claim a victory, B7148 shares one with B7153 but the lost pilot of C8277 is killed when the guns start firing as he checks his machine after overturning landing in soft ground, C8231’s is taken prisoner, D6477’s is injured hitting tree tops on landing and crashing through a hangar, B7743 loses a wheel on take-off and crashes on landing and B7172 crashes in a stalled turn.  ‘Dolphin’ D3671 claims a victory.  In Italy ‘Camels’ B7360 & B9152 each claim a victory but B6423 is shot down in flames and the wounded pilot is taken prisoner whilst B7307’s is killed falling out when it goes down inverted.   At home the pilot of ‘Camel’ B2347 is killed at Farnborough spinning-in off a turn with engine failure, F1422’s is killed in a mid-air collision at Fairlop, C77’s is seriously injured in a bounced landing and stall at Shotwick and the pilot of ‘Pup’ B7495 is injured crashing from a steep landing at Montrose.  Meanwhile HMS Furious is out again across the North Sea with a naval force within sight of Demark.  There are reports of German battle cruisers and Zeppelins nearby when two seaplanes drop bombs on HMS Lion. ‘2F1 Ships Camels’ are launched from the turret platforms of the nearest light-cruisers HMAS Sydney and HMAS Melbourne. Images(below) of a ‘Camel’ stored and taking off from HMAS Sydney show the short ramp with white centre-line and corner markings, the side weather screens and detachable canvas front lattice windbreaks.

Sydney’s ‘Camel’ N6783 chases the seaplanes for 60 miles shooting one down before its Lewis gun jams and the pilot is catapulted from his cockpit in the ditched landing close to the nearest destroyer.  This is the first proof that fighters aboard major warships can successfully intercept and drive away intruders. 

The ABC Wasp radial engine from the monocoque Sopwith ‘Snail’ C4288 has now been removed and fitted to a BAT Bantam in order to complete a fair comparison of the three “miniature” fighter types.

On 2nd June ‘Camel’ B5687 shares a victory with C65 & D3409 but the pilots of D1854 & D6562 are killed in action and in a mid-air collision C1589’s is killed & C1667’s suffers shock whilst D1890 crashes into a hangar landing downwind.  ‘Dolphin’ C4029 is damaged in combat with seven enemy aircraft whilst C4151 & D3699 are damaged forced landing with engine failures.  At home the pilots of Eastchurch ‘Camel’ B5744 and Turnberry’s B9262 are killed spinning-in from stalled turns, C136’s & B4632’s are killed in a mid-air collision at Joyce Green and B5188 crashes avoiding men working on the aerodrome at Beaulieu.  The pilots of ‘Pups’ B4126 & B6148 are killed spinning-in at South Carlton and Hooton Park.

On 3rd June ‘Camels’ B6369, C1631 & C8225 each claim a victory but the pilot of D6621 is shot down wounded, B7191’s is injured forced landing without fuel and C62’s is injured losing a tyre taking-off after a forced landing.  ‘Dolphins’ C4159 & C4173 each claim two victories, C3824 & C4150(above) each claim a victory whilst D3740 forced lands on delivery from No.2 AAP at Hendon.  In Italy D8103 claims a victory but in the Aegean the pilot of 110hp Clerget ‘Camel’ B6437 is killed  spinning out of control into Mudros harbour and at Port Said ‘Baby’ floatplane sinks after crashing on landing.  At home the pilot of Beaulieu ‘Camel’ B7142 is killed stalling with an engine failure, as is the pilot of Gosport School of Special Flying’s C9 diving in from 500ft practising fighting whilst an Air Mechanic is killed in a propeller accident with ‘Pup’ B5929 at Cranwell.  ‘Strutter’ A6970 forced lands at sea after flying from a turret on HMS Indomitable.   

The Sopwith Board Meeting on 3rd June finally approves the Director’s Report and Statement of Accounts for the 1916/17 financial year.  A higher than initially forecast profit figure of £453,685.12.11d is to be used to calculate large retrospective commission payments for Chief Designer Herbert Smith and Company Secretary and Organising Manager H P Musgrave.  The Board also seals an agreement with the Ministry of Munitions to sell them the designs of the Baby, Strutter, Pup, Triplane and Camel aircraft for £170,000. (At least £8m today)  This neatly resolves long-running difficulties in agreeing the detailed calculation of royalty payments due to Sopwith for aircraft bought from other makers.  Sopwith retains design rights outside Britain and British colonies.

On 4th June ‘Camel’ D1889 shares a victory with D1955 but the pilot of a Belgian ‘Camel’ (possibly Sc12) is killed losing speed on take-off whilst ‘Dolphin’ C3821 is damaged forced landing in a cornfield.  At home the pilot of Upavon ‘Camel’ B9288 is killed catching fire and spinning-in after a mid-air collision with an SE5, the pilot of London Colney ‘Pup’ B5284 is killed spinning-in from a roll at 200ft and the pilot of Chattis Hill’s swastika marked B7790(below) is seriously injured overturning taking-off after a forced landing whilst tail heavy C6739 on its delivery flight from British Caudron at Aloa overturns after a pancake landing at No.6 AAP Renfrew.

 

Deck landing experiments on HMS Furious’ rear deck have been suspended but Jack McCleery in repaired skidded ‘Strutter’ DJ3 attempts some touch and go landings on the foredeck.   He does “quite well despite the vertical breeze” until he breaks a skid and takes eight inches off the propeller.(below).  He flies low and slow back to an aerodrome and ends on his nose but the waiting ambulances are not needed.

On 5th June ‘Camel’ D3417 claims a victory, D3381 claims three kite balloons destroyed but the pilot of B7220 is killed in combat and a pilot from 210Sqdn is injured whilst C8204 is shot-up and damaged, C6709 is wrecked crash landing after a wheel comes off in mid-air and B4618 crashes in a forced landing.  ‘Dolphin’ C3796 shares a victory with C3902 whilst C3964 is wrecked on landing having lost a wheel on take-off.  At home the pilot of Shotwick ‘Camel’ C8304 is killed and the pilot of Beverley’s D1816 is seriously injured both spinning-in whilst at Tangmere the pilot of ‘Pup’ B6131 is injured in a propeller accident.  At Hornsea ‘Baby’ floatplane N2094 is wrecked bending the float and fuselage after an engine failure at 50ft on take-off.    

With deck landing trials suspended, the norm for HMS Furious is now wheeled machines leaving from the foredeck like this ‘Camel’(below left) and ‘Strutter’ F2211(below right which does touch and go landings on the foredeck on 5th June).  Both have floatation bags for recovery although these training flights end on land.

Harry Hawker’s Australian chum Harry Busteed now a Lieut-Colonel and Commanding Officer at Isle of Grain reports from two days at sea with HMS Furious that the “Strutters pretty nearly fulfil the requirements for a ship aeroplane providing no gadgets are fitted and one landed in the North Sea very successfully.  However the officers are anxious for a replacement”.  Agreeing that a rotary engine not having to warm up is preferable for a quick getaway, he recommends the Sopwith ‘B1’ based Grain Griffin with a Bentley BR2.  He notes one is almost ready for tests at Grain with skids and will go with wheels to Martlesham where the competing first prototype Parnall N.2A N91 has started trials.(below)  It also has a BR2 but Busteed believes it to be too fragile and too heavily loaded with its sideways hinged monocoque fuselage, two guns, jettisonable wheels, quick change engine pack and as yet no floatation gear.  He may be right, in initial tests it is no faster than existing types despite the 230+hp.

Busteed is heavily involved with developing arrester gear for HMS Furious and the through-deck aircraft carrier HMS ‘Argus’ which is close to completion and now to be completely flat-topped.   Armstrongs have been told that there will be no more trials on HMS Furious with their hook and loop gear.  There are other designs still being considered including a hidden wires modification to the “Busteed Gear” presently on Furious where the fore and aft arrester wires would be hydraulically pulled down to restrain the aircraft and subsequently retracted into grooves in the deck to allow unimpeded movement of machines and crew.

Meanwhile the refitted HMS Vindex with Short 184 floatplanes and foredeck launched ‘Strutters’ has arrived in Malta.  She joins the similar ships Engadine, Manxman and Riviera tackling the growing submarine threat in the Mediterranean and is to go to RAF 62 Wing in the Aegean.  Her two ‘Strutters’ are to be replaced by ‘Camels’.

Since March there have been no less than 370 more broken 3-ply ‘Camel’ tail skids in France.  The Navy have had no trouble with theirs but these others can no longer be blamed on frozen ground.  With his dependence on serviceable ‘Camels’ Brooke-Popham himself has now requested tailskids made of laminated ash as a Class 3 Mod and he is informed that “2 gross have been ordered from Chelsea”.   Another service issue is that Camels with the 140hp long-stroke Clerget engines are using much more oil restricting them to 2¼hrs flying.  43Sqdrn have made a one gallon auxiliary tank from sheet copper and fitted it between the guns under the Aldis sight extending the range by 30 minutes. They are authorised to modify other machines.  Meanwhile 1 & 2 Aeroplane Supply Depots, recently moved from St Omer and Feinvillers to Marquise and Verton, have been tasked with a Class B Mod to enlarge the hole in ‘Camel’ top wing centre sections to improve pilot upward visibility.  It is to be 2ft6in wide from the rear of the front wing spar to the rear edge of the centre section which is to be cut away entirely and “the rear side of the front spar and the front and rear of the rear spar are to be properly streamlined”.    This is to be done to stock wing centre sections, to all aircraft arriving from England and all overhauls.  Brigades are notified they should get two replacement centre sections per squadron per week and may then proceed to locally modify other machines “if deemed advisable”.

On 6th June ‘Camels’ D9590 & D3381 each share a victory with one other, D6504 claims one victory but is badly shot up, the pilot of B9298 is killed folding the wings pulling up too sharply from a steep dive on a ground target and D6609’s is injured when the engine cuts on take-off.  ‘Dolphins’ C3827 & C4158 each claim a victory, C3799 shares one with three others whilst C3940 & C4166 are wrecked overturning landing with engine failures and C4184 is wrecked crashing on landing from a patrol in the dark.  In the Aegean, 50Sqdn C Flight ‘Camel’ C1598 which recently joined 16 Wing at Kirec claims a first Camel victory on the Salonika front.  In Italy ‘Camel’ D1912 claims a victory but the pilot of B7353 is taken prisoner whilst B2338’s is killed spinning-in taking off from a forced landing with engine trouble.  At home Yarmouth ‘Baby’ floatplane N1205 bombs a U-boat. 

The Sopwith Experimental team have completed and tested the second ‘Salamander’ trench fighter E5430 and it is delivered to Martlesham Heath for trials on 6th June.   

On 7th June ‘Camels’ B9306, D1778, D3417 & D9594 each claim a victory, B7272 shares a victory with C65, B5419 shares a kite balloon with two others but the pilot of B7294’s is fatally injured stalling with an engine failure returning from patrol.  ‘Dolphins’ C3899, C4230, C4131 & D3697 each claim a victory whilst C4224, D3668 & C3912 are damaged forced landing with engine failures.  In Italy in combat with a two-seater and five scouts at about 17,000ft ‘Camel’ D8102 claims two victories whilst D1975 & 140hp D8110 each claim one.  45Sqdn started re-equipping with new Ruston Proctor built 140hp ‘Camels’ in mid-May.  At home the pilot of North Shotwick ‘Dolphin’ C4002 is injured crashing after the aircraft caught fire at 2,000ft whilst Seaton Carew ‘Baby’ floatplane N2067 is towed to the Tees by an armed trawler after landing at sea with an engine failure.

Martlesham Heath report on the performance of Snipe B9965 with and without the huge experimental spinner.    It proved impossible to climb the machine at full throttle at low altitudes with the spinner as the engine overheated and the climb rate and outright speeds from 10,000ft to 17,000ft showed no appreciable difference.

0n 7th June “Harry Hawker, Trade Pilot, Sopwith Aviation Co Ltd” is made a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire instituted in June 1917 for those who render special service to the Empire.

On 8th June ‘Camels’ C1597, D1974 & D6484 each claim a victory whilst ‘Pup’ C310 is badly damaged avoiding another aircraft at Vendôme.  In Italy D9394 claims two victories and D9390 claims one but the pilot of B2316 is taken prisoner fatally injured crashing and overturning after combat.(below)

At home the pilot of Hendon ‘Camel’ C169 is killed stalling in a low altitude turn as is B7301’s at South Carlton  Wye(below) whilst D2530 and ‘Pup’ B1821 both crash taking off at Eastbourne.  The pilot of Scampton ‘Pup’ B5345 is seriously injured spinning-in after fainting and 9904 lands with engine failure at Yarmouth.

With so many accidents to ‘Camel’ pilots under training a unarmed two-seat conversion has been developed for training establishments initially to get trainees used to controlling the fuel mixture of their rotary engines which if left rich too long after take-off can choke with fatal results.  The pilot’s seat has to be moved forward a little and a second seat inserted behind it replacing the gravity and main fuel tanks.(below)  A combined fuel/oil tank replaces the original oil tank under the front decking giving a very short endurance. 

B3801 seems to have been the first to be converted, first flying at South Carlton last February.(below)  Official drawings are now being prepared for issue to other training units for local conversions.  

On 9th June ‘Camel’ D3410 claims two victories, B2472, B7171, D8119 & D9586 each claim one, D9381 shares one with D9401 but the pilot of B5244 is killed during a low staffing mission, D1844’s is taken prisoner fatally wounded, D3348’s & B7163’s are also taken prisoner, D6592 takes a direct AA hit but glides back over the lines and is burnt under heavy shell fire whilst C8299 crashes after running into a balloon cable.  ‘Dolphin’ C4057 claims a victory whilst the pilot of C4134 is wounded by an AA hit.  In Italy ‘Camel’ D8101 clams a victory.  At Suez in Egypt the pilot of No.58 Training School ‘Strutter’ A6996 is killed in a crash.  At home the pilot of Hooton Park ‘Dolphin’ C4233 is killed stalling into a nose dive.

On 10th June ‘Camel’ D8117 claims two victories before crashing with a holed fuel tank, D1831, D1855 & D1785 each claim one victory but the pilots of B7249 & D9590 are killed colliding as they dive on the same enemy aircraft, D1963’s is taken prisoner, D1809 crashes with a holed tank and is burnt to avoid capture whilst Special Duty Flight ‘Pup’ B2188 crash lands at St André.  In Italy the pilot of ‘Camel’ B2329 is injured in a forced landing.

On 11th June ‘Camel’ D3414 claims two victories, D3417 claims a victory and shares one with two others, D1783, D1842, D1922 & D8106  each claim one victory, D9382 claims one but the pilot is injured, D1832 & D1841 each claim one but are badly shot up whilst the pilot of D1962 is killed in combat, B2351’s is shot down fatally injured, B7155’s is killed folding the wings pulling out of a vertical dive, D1804’s is injured after an engine failure, the pilot of D6698 is killed crashing on landing, D6636 crashes barely controllable with AA damage and D6589 crashes after engine failure.    At home the pilot of ‘Dolphin’ C4054 is killed spinning-in at CFS(below), the pilot of Feltwell ‘Pup’ B6026 is killed stunting too low, Montrose’s C287 is wrecked and North Shotwick’s C4014 crashes forced landing whilst ‘Baby’ Floatplane N2101 is badly damaged catching fire whilst taxying. 

On 12th June ‘Camel’ D1961 claims a kite balloon and a Pfalz, C8276 & D9398(above) each claim one victory as does B5646 before the pilot is killed in combat as is B7272’s in combat with 16 enemy aircraft whilst D1885 is shot up and D1917 crashes and overturns with  a holed fuel tank.  ‘Dolphin’ C4015 is damaged by an “engine burst”.  In the Aegean at Salonica ‘Camel’ C1599 claims two victories whilst escorting a bombing raid and C1586 claims another.  At home the pilot of North Shotwick ‘Pup’ C278 is fatally injured flying into the ground and overturning.  HMS Furious arrived within sight of the Danish coast last night but the weather remains too rough all day today to fly-off and recover the ‘Strutter’ on the planned special information gathering mission. 

By 12th June trials of the 170hp ABC Wasp radial engined “miniature fighters” including the Sopwith ‘Snail’ “have been discontinued whilst engine troubles are sorted”. 

In the race to adopt the new ABC radial engines the second prototype Sopwith ‘Bulldog two-seat fighter X4 now has one of the larger Dragonfly engines but these are so far also proving unreliable.  Meanwhile the first prototype Sopwith ‘Bulldog’ X3 now has a Bentley BR2 in place of the 230hp Clerget.  After a first test flight at Orfordness on 12th June the performance is reported as “not great” but it is “quite split-ass and nice to fly”.

On 13th June ‘Camels’ C64 & D1849 each claim a victory, B4638 shares one with D6497 but the pilot is wounded.  At home the pilot of ‘Dolphin’ D5304 is killed diving into the ground at the Central Flying School (CFS).  The pilot of Tadcaster ‘Camel’ C158 is killed after a wing breaks off at 2,000ft and the pilot of Stowe Maries ‘Camel’ D9574 is severely injured in a crash.  ‘Camel’ N6769 flies from a turret platform on HMS Lion and is recovered severely damaged after landing alongside HMS Verulam.  Despite the deck landing problems with HMS Furious the Royal Navy has wasted no time in building up aerial reconnaissance and defence capabilities in its fleets.  Over the past year or so twenty-two cruisers and light cruisers have been fitted with fixed ramps or revolving ramps and another twenty-six battle cruisers are each being equipped with two gun-turret mounted ramps, typically with a ‘Ships Camel’ on a forward turret and a ‘Ships Strutter’ on an aft turret.   

HMS Indomitable is one of only seven exceptions where off-centre midships turrets are used and her aircraft can clearly be seen (above) mounted on port and starboard midships turrets. ‘Ships Strutter’ A5988 has recently been photographed leaving a midships turret platform on Indomitable (below) with the intrepid crew experiencing that sinking feeling before speeding off.

On 14th June the pilot of ‘Camel’ D6420 is killed in combat, D6597’s is wounded in action and D6611 crashes with a choked engine on take-off.  Farnborough rebuilt ‘Dolphin’ B7849 also has an engine failure on take-off, C4182 forced lands with engine issues whilst the wind is blamed for C8071’s crash on landing.    

On 15th June ‘Camels’ B7154 & D1960 each claim a victory, B7154 shares one with B7229 & C65 whilst B5204 & D6697 each claim a kite balloon destroyed.  The pilot of ‘Dolphin’ C4161 is injured and the aircraft wrecked overturning forced landing with a cut engine.  In Italy the Austrians start a major offensive along the entire front from the Adriatic to the Asiago Plateau.  ‘Camels’ attack the troop lines and in the afternoon over thirty are diverted to the Italian sector bombing and strafing pontoon bridges to help delay the Austrian assault which has already started to cross the strategic Piave River.  ‘Camels’ B5181, B6412, D8111, D9392 & D9406 each claim a victory but the pilot of B6356 is wounded hit by ground fire and B7351’s is killed spinning-in after take-off. 

On 16th June ‘Camel’ B7185 claims a victory shared with four others, D3419 shares a kite balloon down in flames with B5749 but the pilot of B7347 is killed on a raid, B2524’s is shot down and taken prisoner, B7174 is badly damaged colliding with another Camel on take-off whilst the undercarriage of D9440 is torn-off swerving in thick grass on take-off and C8266 is damaged overturning after an engine failure on take-off.(below back on its wheels) 

In Italy ‘Camels’ continue to harass the Austrians along the Piave River and the pilot of B5204 is fatally wounded.  At home the pilot of Lopcombe Corner ‘Camel’ C1678 is killed stalling returning from gun practice whilst the pilot of ‘Pup’ C271 is killed stalling and spinning-in at the Fighting School at Marske. 

On 17th June ‘Camel’ D9422 claims two victories, D6575 & D9613 each claim a victory, B9211 shares a victory with D9407, D3381 & D3424 break up an Albatros but one pilot is then killed in combat and the other fatally wounded in a forced landing, C8289’s pilot is killed spinning-in, D6410 is shot up in combat whilst lost B7413 crashes into a DH9 forced landing at a strange airfield.  ‘Dolphin’ C3799 claims a victory, C3792 claims one but is badly shot through, C4185 claims one but is shot up and damaged in a forced landing, the pilot of C4228 is wounded, C4062 forced lands with combat damage whilst C4056, C4169 & D3707 all forced land with engine failures and C3843 overturns on landing.    At home both crew of unusually 100hp Gnome powered ‘Strutter’ N5612 are injured colliding with a stationary machine on the ground at East Fortune, the pilot of Scampton ‘Camel’ C114 is fatally injured stalling with an engine failure whilst Northolt F2093’s pilot is severely injured hitting wireless telegraph wires and D8227’s is seriously injured losing control pulling out of a dive.  The pilot of ‘Pup’ C332 is injured overturning landing with a damaged propeller after hitting the top wing of an Avro on take-off, B5930 crashes landing at Eastbourne and Yarmouth ‘Baby’ floatplane N2116 is completely wrecked forced landing at sea with an engine failure.


The latest official report on Sopwith’s ‘Snark’ RAF Type 1 high-altitude single-seat triplane fighter prototype states that the “fuselage, undercarriage and tail unit are complete, the main planes are erected in skeleton with guns fitted in position”.  The photograph(above) show a plywood monocoque construction like the ‘Snail’ with considerable back stagger on the lowest wing and the addition of a third wing with very little stagger.  The large diameter front fuselage carries the engine mounting for an ABC Dragonfly radial engine.  The great innovation is the lower wings which each carry two Lewis machine guns with the cartridge drums accessible through the top wing surface.(below)  Unfortunately there is no urgency to complete this machine until the problems with the Dragonfly engines are resolved. 

On 18th June ‘Camel’ B7171 claims a victory but gets badly shot-up, the pilots of B3882, B7148, D6665 & D6670 are killed spinning out of control, C1631’s is taken prisoner fatally wounded, D6487’s is also taken prisoner, D9591’s is injured hitting a trench crash landing, D9587 crash lands hit by AA fire, D6669 & D9403 forced land with magneto trouble whilst D1904 crashes out of control after the control column gets caught in the gun control cables and B2520 crashes on landing .  ‘Dolphin’ C3827 claims two victories, C3871 & C4181 each claim a victory whilst C3874 crashes with a failed engine and C3819 overturns on landing with an axle failure.  At home the pilot of Beaulieu ‘Camel’ B7376 is killed stalling from a half roll, the pilots of Shotwick‘s C8305 and Joyce Green’s B7414 are killed stalling and spinning-in and the pilot of Beverley’s B4627 is injured whilst a mechanic is injured in a propeller accident with ‘Pup’ B7515 at Castle Bromwich.

Following the service trials of Sopwith ‘TF2 Salamander’ prototype E5429 in France in May a list of modifications considered essential for this armoured ground attack aircraft was submitted to the Air Ministry who have now responded that it is not possible to make the rudder bar adjustable or to re-design the centre section to improve the pilot’s view.  It is not also practicable to duplicate incidence bracing wires but bracing has been strengthened but Sopwith have been asked to duplicate elevator and rudder control wires, tailplane flying wires will be duplicated if possible without delaying early machines whilst a new arrangement of aileron control cables provides positive movement in both directions to provide more balance. 

In reply Maj General Salmond states that the strengthened bracing “does not have the same moral effect on the pilot” as duplicated wires and duplicated tail wires are essential modifications on all aircraft arriving in France.  During this exchange Sopwith are preparing their response which states that a larger rudder has been fitted to improve lateral manoeuvrability but do not propose to add the several pounds in weight of double levers for the duplication of tail wires stating that the elevator cross tube is strong enough with one control wire shot away.   Tail bracing wires could be replaced with an oval tube adjustable at one end “but this will delay the first 100 machines”.  They also note that “they cannot take responsibility for the results likely to occur with the additional stresses on the wings if balanced ailerons are used, factors of safety being lower than those of a fighting scout in accordance with Ministry requirements”.  

Despite all this, on 18th June Sopwith receive confirmation of a large first order for 500 ‘TF2 Salamander’ trench fighters which will be built alongside the 500 ‘Snipe’ in the new National Aircraft Factory at Ham.  After just 10 weeks on site,  Fred Sigrist and his team are well advanced with training the new workers and installing jigs.  They are close to completing their first production ‘Snipe’ but in the meantime they are already using some of the vast workshop space for ‘Dolphin’ production to supplement the facilities in the relatively cramped factory a mile down the road in Kingston. 

Photographs(above) show a ‘Dolphin’ fuselage side frame being assembled and a ‘Dolphin’ fuselage being erected and trued-up in front of rows of fuselages.   The other photograph(below) shows a ‘Dolphin’ wing jig.  The bicycle might be useful to get around the vast factory and is certainly the quickest way to get here from the other Kingston factory if you are helping to train the new recruits.

On 19th June ‘Camel’ D8208 claims a victory, the pilot of C6731 is killed getting into a spin practising dive bombing whilst D9587 forced land with engine failure after hit by flak in an aerodrome raid.  In Italy ‘Camels’ D1919 & D8112 each claim two victories but the pilot of B9310 is taken prisoner shot down by AA and ground fire.  At home the pilot of  Chattis Hill’s B7415 is killed spinning-in.  Out in the North Sea HMS Furious is attacked by two German seaplanes one of which drops bombs nearby.  Her ‘Ships Camels’ N6801 & N6810 are sent up but do not catch the seaplanes and are recovered from ditched landings in the sea.  N6782 flies from HMS Galatea also chasing them but forced lands in Denmark and is interned.  Later two more seaplanes drop bombs near Furious.  This time a ‘Camel’ flying off the aft deck falls into the sea whilst the one from the foredeck catches and shoots down one of the seaplanes putting a bullet through its engine.  This is HMS Furious’ first victory.(below)  After the crew are rescued by escorting torpedo boat destroyers the seaplane is sunk by gunfire as HMS Furious makes a hasty zig-zag departure for fear of torpedo attack after a U-boat sighting.

Photos courtesy of the RAF, Fleet Air Arm and the Brooklands Museums, the National Archives, via Cross and Cockade and many individuals including Mike Goodall, Philip Jarrett, Andy Kemp and Colin Owers.