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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.   

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.