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 for 1818
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 March ‘Strutter’ 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.(below)
There are 163 bullet holes in his machine including 27 in the fuel tank and 16 in the engine. He is taken prisoner bruised and shocked and is to be awarded a VC. At Farnborough ‘Dolphin’ C3806 is again not accepted, recorded as “dud carburettor, engine cut out completely, nbg”. Killingholme ‘Baby’ N1320 is crashed whilst Seaton Carew ‘Baby’ N2111 drops a 65lb bomb on a periscope spotted in the North Sea.
On 31st March ‘Camels’ B2483, C8292 & D6487 each claim a victory, the injured pilot of B6403 crashes and has to abandon it whilst D1788 crashes on take-off. Seaton Carew ‘Baby’ N2111 drops another bomb on a U-boat.
There were orders for a record 1,770 more Sopwith designed aircraft in March: 720 ‘Camels’ and 1050 ‘Snipe’. The Sopwith factory produced 108 ‘Dolphins’ in March. The number of new Sopwith-designed aircraft from other contractors in March is 543. These comprise 161‘Pups’ from Standard Motors (47) and Whitehead (114). There were 382 new ‘Camels’ with 18 ‘2F1s’ from Beardmore plus ‘F1s Camels’ from Boulton & Paul (131), British Caudron (3), Clayton & Shuttleworth (34), Hooper (4), Marsh Jones & Cribb (17), Nieuport & General (39), Portholme (24) and Ruston Proctor (112). Other deliveries were 19 ‘Dolphins’ from Darracq plus 20 from Hooper and the final 11 ‘Hamble Baby Convert’ landplanes from Parnall.
Over 600 Sopwith ‘Schneider/Baby’ variants have been manufactured by Sopwith, Blackburn, Fairey and Parnall since February 1915 including the 180 Fairey ‘Hamble Baby’ versions. Small numbers have been exported, some ‘Converts’ are in use as single-seat trainers at Cranwell whilst over 150 floatplanes are still in service around the British coast and the Mediterranean mainly on anti-submarine duties. ‘Baby’ floatplanes N2118, 19 & 20 have just arrived at Calafrana seaplane base in Malta for use aboard HMS Manxman and HMS Riviera whilst early Schneider 3788 with its top-wing gun is still in use in the Aegean after two years.(below) This is all a great testament to Harry Hawker’s 1913 ‘Tabloid’ design and the 1914 Schneider Trophy winning ‘Tabloid’ floatplane from which they all evolved.
Recent photographs(above) have emerged of crashed Killingholme ‘Baby’ N2105 being hauled up the slipway earlier in March and of the extensive anti-aircraft flak damage to 70Sqdn ‘Camel’ B7320.(below) B7320 has already been repaired at their base and flown back to England for less critical training work at Wye.
On 1st April the autonomous Royal Air Force is formed by the amalgamation of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service. Amid some confusion with new titles and ranks especially in the RNAS, the fighting continues unabated. ‘Camels’ B7198, B7273 & D1817 each claim a victory, the pilots of B3798 & D6474 are killed in action, D1811’s & D6529’s are fatally wounded, C1681’s is wounded and taken prisoner, B9281’s is hit by ground fire and forced to land wounded whilst B9259’s is injured colliding with a wind indicator on take-off. At Upavon the pilot of ‘Pup’ B5936 is injured spinning-in at low altitude and Cranwell’s B5988 is damaged forced landing in marshes whilst ‘Strutter’ B2563 from Hythe crashes killing the pilot and injuring the crewman.
On 2nd April ‘Camel’ B7199 claims a victory and shares another, B7250 & C8257 each claim a victory, D6491 shares one with four others whilst D6402 claims three kite balloons destroyed but his spotted camouflage(above) has him mistaken for a German in the heat of combat and it is to be re-doped in standard colours. The pilot of ‘Camel’ D1780 is killed in action, C8227’s & D6505’s are wounded in action. The pilots of C8230, C8293 & C8294 are taken prisoner, B7247’s is killed stalling on take-off possibly after a heart attack and B7249’s is injured crashing with an engine failure. At Lincoln the pilot of ‘Camel’ D6470 is killed from a spin. At Mudros in the Aegean in failing light the pilot of John Alcock’s A.1 Scout/Sopwith Mouse runs away before a DH4 landing from the opposite direction at about 70kts crashes into it. It is wrecked(below) but no-one is hurt.
On 3rd April ‘Camel’ D1797 claims two victories before being shot up and force to land, D1791 claims a victory as do B5636 shared with B9211 and C8215 shared with C8298 & D1777. The pilots of C8230 & C8294 are taken prisoner the former wounded. Most of these incidents stem from a single hour-long low level fight between 27 Camels and SE5s with some 30 enemy aircraft before being descended upon by a large enemy formation. At Scampton the American pilot of ‘Camel’ D6472 crashes into an aircraft on the ground during take-off and is killed along with two ground crew, the pilot of ‘Camel’ B5720 is fatally injured hitting telegraph wires at Redcar racecourse as are the pilots of B7340 & C1684 spinning-in at Beverley and Northolt whilst the pilot of D6472 is killed thrown out when his safety belt comes undone during a manoeuvre. Cranwell ‘Pup’ B6063 is crashed for the second day running and B6064 is completely wrecked hit on the ground by a BE2.
Since the middle of 1916 Ruston Proctor have built 350 ‘Strutters’ and the first 750 of the 1,575 ‘F1 Camels’ ordered from them. They are set to continue as the largest contractor of Sopwith aircraft when on 3rd April they receive an order for 500 ‘Snipe’. Boulton & Paul are the second largest contractor having delivered 585 of their 1,270 ’Camels’ whilst recently taking an order for 400 ‘Snipe’. There are 12 other ‘Camel’ & ‘Snipe’ contractors.
Among all the Sopwith experimental department’s work on top-priority ‘Snipe’ and Snail’ single-seat fighter prototypes they have fitted a set of two-bay wings to the private-venture ‘Bulldog’ two-seat fighter. After testing with extended balanced ailerons at Brooklands(above & below) these are to be replaced with shorter plain ailerons. It will then go to Martlesham Heath for performance testing despite as yet having only pillar gun mountings for the observer/rear gunner not a Scarff-ring and RFC having decided to standardise on the Bristol F2B.
The Sopwith experimental team have finally got a prototype 160/170hp ABC Wasp 7-cylinder radial engine and fitted it to their conventional construction ‘Snail’ C4284. Now at Brooklands and only 20ft long this miniature fighter holds much promise.(below)
It has two Vickers machine guns buried inside the bulbous fuselage alongside the pilot with cabane struts running down outside them to the lower longerons. Its back-stagger with the pilot’s head through the wing clearly owes much to the Dolphin and the fin and rudder shapes echo the Snipe.(below)
At Biggin Hill the nine 141 Squadron ‘Dolphins’ like C38139(below) modified for night-fighting with wing-tip navigation lights and underwing brackets for Holt landing flares have found to be too unstable and too easy to spin for night flying. They do not have the increased dihedral of Sopwith’s sample night-fighter ‘Dolphin’ C3858 and rather than wait for conversion kits, the four planned ‘Dolphin’ night fighter home defence squadrons will now be equipped two with Camels and one each with F2Bs & SE5As.
The ‘Dolphin’ airframe delivered to the French in November has had a 300hp Hispano-Suiza engine fitted(below) “more or less by rule of thumb” with the help of Sopwith personnel. Obvious differences are the more bulbous nose totally enclosing the Vickers guns, the lowered thrust line of the 50% more powerful ungeared engine and big breather hole. Harry Hawker has had to go over to Paris to “wring it out” to allay concerns about its strength with this big engine.
On 4th April after the large scale aerial fight yesterday more offensive patrols are to be sent to “seek out and destroy enemy formations” but weather is bad. ‘Camel’ D6552 claims a victory before the pilot is killed shot down in flames and C1653 is damaged by ground fire. In Italy the pilot of B5226 is killed spinning-in with a choked engine whilst B2454’s is injured in a crash landing. At Minchinhampton the pilot of ’Camel’ B9248 is killed crashing attempting a roll at 100ft as are the pilots of Montrose ‘Camel’ B7338 and ‘Pup’ B7529 in a mid-air collision whilst Cranwell’s ‘Pup’ B2203 and ‘Camels’ B5699 & C25 are all damaged in crashes.
In the Firth of Forth ‘Ships Strutter’ N5644 flies off the extended platform on the Q mid turret of HMS Australia for the first time with an observer and full wireless equipment.(above) This success triggers the fitting of extended platforms to forward turrets on all British battle cruisers for reconnaissance ’Ships Strutters’ with a rear turret platform for a ‘Camel’ fighter. There is now pressure to complete the conversion of some 15 surviving RNAS ‘Strutters’ and 60 plus ex-RFC ‘Strutters’ to ‘Ships Strutters’ whilst obtaining and converting 70 French-built ones as reserves. JD8/A5992(below) is an example of an unused late Morgan-built RFC ‘Strutter Bomber’ converted to a two-seat ‘Ships Strutter’. It arrived at HMS Furious on these whalers in the last few days complete with Scarff gun ring, internal floatation bags and wings which can be detached fully rigged supported at the fuselage ends by crossed jury struts. It is reported that Furious already has 18 ‘Ships Strutters’ in her below decks hangars.
The latest photograph of progress with the building of National Aircraft Factory No.2 at Ham(below) shows the great height of the lightweight roof structure and gives a good idea of its size, showing just the southern three of the six bays. There are some 30ft sliding doors still to erect and no heating or windows yet on this south side.
On 5th April mist and rain again stops any flying during another concerted German offensive on the Somme. At Westerham ‘Dolphin’ C4160 is wrecked in a crash.
On 6th April ‘Camels’ B5440, B7201, B7232, B7267, B7278, D1785, D1792, D3335 & D6525 each claim a victory as do D1815 which forced lands hit by ground fire and D6455 then wrecked in a bad landing. C8220 shares a victory with C8217, B7189 shares a victory with B7196 & B7187 before 87’s pilot is killed in action. The pilots of C8252 & C8281 are killed in action and B2431’s is taken prisoner fatally wounded. The pilots of B2479, C1577, C8248 & D6452 are all brought down and taken prisoner whilst D6501’s is injured crashing after hitting wires. The pilot of ‘Dolphin’ C3939 is taken prisoner whilst C4164 is written off in a crash landing. At Stevenage ‘Strutter N5170 is wrecked in a crash whilst Seaton Carew ‘Baby’ N2110 bombs a U-boat in the North Sea from 800ft and sees oil come up to the surface.
On HMS Furious they are testing an alternative arrester system using a hook under the rear fuselage of skidded ‘Pup’ N6446 to engage with a system of loop ropes attached to a main rope with a “pushing cylinder” to bring the aircraft to a halt. Two days ago N6446 was taxied at 15mph into the loop system its hook catching the 4th loop. It travelled about 12ft before stopping but too much pressure in the cylinder broke the hook.
Yesterday with a temporary iron rod hook attached, the ‘Pup’ taxied up at 10mph and was caught and held by a much lower cylinder pressure(above) but the skids dragged the main rope out of its spring supports. The next try has the Pup arriving faster engaging the first hook and stopping in 20ft but not before the tail skid socket has jammed in a deck groove fracturing a hook wire and breaking a fuselage cross strut. On the next attempt the aircraft’s starboard skid breaks before it reaches the loops. Today with a wheeled ‘Pup’ the first loop is engaged but it only travels about 3ft before the hook attachment breaks. The trials of this arrester system apparently devised and installed by Armstrong whilst fitting the rear landing deck are halted “pending the design of a suitable hook by the aircraft designer estimating scientifically exactly what force the aircraft will stand”.
Also on 6th April ‘Snipe’ prototype B9966 goes to Martlesham Heath for more official tests with wings and tail re-rigged. However, there is no let up for Harry Hawker and the test and development team at Brooklands. Whilst the more conventional two-seat ‘Bulldog’ is having its balanced ailerons replaced with shorter plain ailerons, Sopwith’s back-staggered ‘Hippo’ now marked X11 has arrived(below) fitted with a Scarff ring mounted rear gun. The ‘Bulldog’ and ‘Hippo’ are due to go soon to Martlesham Heath for comparative performance testing.
On 7th April ‘Camels’ D1812, D1832, D1833 & D6536 each claim a victory but B5635 is hit by “flaming onions” AA fire killing the pilot and the pilots of B6417, N6349 & D6554 are all taken prisoner. B5687 & D3336 are damaged by ground fire, D6550 is shot down and wrecked, D1839 crashes with controls damaged in combat whilst the pilot of B6398 is injured hitting a cow on the edge of the aerodrome and ‘Dolphin’ C3867 crashes with engine failure. At home the pilot of ‘Dolphin’ C8002 is killed in a cross-wind forced landing as are the pilots of ‘Camel’ B7365 spinning-in from 1,000ft and ‘Pup’ B5269 in a collision with an Avro 504 at 30ft.
On 8th April rain eliminated most flying but ‘Camel’ C6730 shares a kite balloon in flames with B7248 and ‘Dolphin’ C3820 is damaged landing The pilot of Montrose ‘Camel’ B7461 is killed losing consciousness and diving into the sea as are the pilots of C8207 & B5563 from Ayr colliding at 3,000ft and Hounslow ‘Dolphin’ C3845 stalling on take-off.
This is the final day of the detailed records of take-offs from the sloping foredeck ramp on HMS Pegasus.(above) There have been 29 by ‘Pups’ and 33 by ‘SBIII folding Pups’ since 2nd September and 23 by ‘2F1 Camels’ since 31st December. There is little obvious correlation between the air velocity over the ramp and the length of take-off run, it seems more about variation in performance of the rotary engines and the skill in maintaining the ideal angle of attack. The shortest runs have been under 2secs – 21ft in the ‘Pups’ and 26ft in ‘Camels’. Most 80hp ‘Pup’ runs were 45 to 70ft and up to 4 secs. Most 150hp ‘2F1 Camel’ runs were under 52ft and under 3secs.
On 9th April in mist and rain a surprise new German offensive strikes towards the Channel ports sweeping up to 5 miles through the Portuguese line between the first and second British Armies who battle hard to contain the breach but lose some ground. Nine RAF squadrons are forced to relocate. Sixteen 8(N)Sqdn (now RAF 208 Sqdn) ‘Camels’ are caught in thick fog on La Gorgue aerodrome. They are gathered into the centre of the field and burnt before the squadron evacuates by road. The pilot of ‘Camel’ C8265 is fatally injured spinning-in and B9302’s is taken prisoner shot down by ground fire. B7395 is shot up and damaged on landing and D1802 crashes taking-off. At home, Castle Bromwich ‘Pup’ B7501’s pilot is injured hitting a tree.
On 10th April low mist and clouds again restrict flying but ‘Camels’ go out on ground attacks some using the low cloud as cover for sudden precise attacks to avoid being hit by ground fire. ‘Dolphin’ C4048 and ‘Camel’ B2535 each claim a victory, the pilot of B5649 is killed in combat as are the pilots of C8286 & C8265 spinning-in on practice flights whilst C8275’s is fatally injured after bouncing on the aerodrome, opening up and crashing into a Bessoneau hangar. B9302’s pilot is taken prisoner, C1661 is shot up and damaged whilst B7191 gets lost and is damaged forced landing on soft ground.
The first Grain Griffin fleet reconnaissance machine N100 has now arrived at Martlesham Heath for performance tests.(above) It appears externally at least, to be a straight copy of the Sopwith ‘B1’ N50 which they modified into a two-seater as a prototype last year. The 200hp V8 Hispano Suiza has been replaced by a 200hp V8 Sunbeam Arab.
On 11th April in continuing poor weather ‘Camels’ C1584, C1700, C8269, D1799, D1800, D3327 & D6462 each claim a victory, B7250 shares one with D3331 and C1691 shares one with four others. The pilot of B7277 is killed in combat whilst D6486’s is fatally injured hitting another with his undercarriage on landing, C8287’s is wounded by ground fire, D6518’s is injured in a crash, B5750’s is wounded and taken prisoner whilst D1827’s is also taken prisoner. B2387 is damaged forced landing in a storm and injuring an infantryman, D1786 crashes on take-off with jammed controls, B6409 & D6453 are damaged by ground fire whilst B3817 is wrecked in a forced landing and the pilots of ‘Dolphins’ C3834 & C3837 are injured in crashes. 24 hours after having to abandon and burn their Camels 208 Squadron receive 24 replacements. In Italy ‘Camel’ B5176 crashes stalling on take-off and near Turnbury the pilot of B9210 is killed crashing into the sea when firing at a raft target.
Sopwith is pressing ahead with the six prototype ‘TF2 Salamander’ trench fighters despite the views of the Chief of Air Staff, Director of Air Operations and Controller – Technical Department that work should be stopped “as the weight and loss of manoeuvrability would not compensate for the extra protection”. They are calling for two squadrons of ‘Camels’ modified only by the addition of armour plates and are seeking advice from the field on what protection is needed. In Sopwith’s Experimental Shop the first ‘TF2 Salamander’ prototype E5429 is being assembled but is delayed whilst new shape petrol and oil tanks are made to accommodate twin forward firing Vickers guns replacing two angled through the floor. It is looking very much like a BR2 engined ‘7F1 Snipe’ but has few common components as the centre fuselage structure is an armour plate open topped box.(below)
This will house the pilot, a 16gal fuel tank under his seat, 13¾gal gravity fuel tank, 6gal oil tank and ammunition. It carries frames for mounting the guns and is 11mm plate on the bottom, 6mm on the sides and 8mm on the front which forms the engine backplate. It has two layers at the rear – 10gauge with 6gauge spaced back 3.75ins – to which the rear fuselage is attached. The armour plates weigh 656lbs and are joined by ¼in bolts into steel angle strips.
On 12th April it is crucial that the German advance towards Hazebrouck is resisted before reinforcements arrive and Haig issues a special order of the day including “with our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause each one of us must fight on to the end”. Virtually the entire air fighting force is thrown into attacks on the enemy in this area. ‘Camel’ D6402 claims three kite balloons and five aircraft in one day, B7280, C1573, D1869 & D6519 each claim a victory, D3326 shares one with B7270, C1699 claims one but is later hit and the pilot taken prisoner whilst B7202 destroys two kite balloons on a special patrol with seven Camels and five SE5s. B5580 has a victory before the pilot is killed in action as are the pilots of B5154, B5424, C1559, C1699, D1850 & D6558 whilst D6428’s is wounded and taken prisoner and D6514’s is fatally injured crash landing. C1603 & D6509 are damaged by ground fire and C8282 is forced to land hit by a shell and then abandoned under fire. ‘Dolphin’ C3829 claims a victory before the main spar is shot through by AA fire. At Hounslow the pilot of C4144 is injured stalling with a cut engine whilst C3870 is wrecked overturning near Stanwell.(below)
The pilot of Dover ‘Pup’ B5312 is drowned after it dives into the sea and B7481’s injured crashing onto a roof with engine failure. Meanwhile the pilot of ‘Baby’ floatplane N1126 which ran out of fuel whilst on an anti-submarine patrol from Alexandria in Egypt yesterday is picked up by HMS Rowan still clinging to an empty fuel tank he cut away from the aircraft before it sank. Overnight five of the latest Zeppelin airships set out to attack Britain’s industrial heartland but due to weather forecasting and navigation errors in the cloudy weather their 33,340 lb of bombs kill just seven people falling mostly in open country far from Leeds, Grimsby, Hull, Sheffield, Coventry and Birmingham where they believe they are. The weather restricts flying by the inadequately equipped northern defence squadrons who make some sightings but cannot get close.
On 13th April the pilot of ‘Camel’ D6461 is killed in action and D3347’s is fatally injured hit by ground fire. D1840 is also hit from the ground but the pilot escapes crashing just west of the lines. The pilot of Beaulieu ‘Camel’ B4639 performs several rolls but is killed after the wings fold up in a spinning nose dive whilst at Montrose C11’s is injured spinning-in from low altitude. In Italy the pilot of ‘Camel’ B5410 is killed when it breaks up on a training flight. Daily patrols continue from Mudros in the Aegean, today Camel B5680 is up for 1¼hrs going as far as Mt Athos looking for the German battle cruiser Goeben.
Martlesham Heath’s report on the fifth prototype ‘Snipe’ B9966 with its variable incidence tailplane, Badin venturi driven syphon fuel system and revised tail shape reveals only a marginal improvement in performance.
On 14th April more mist, rain and low cloud over France allow very little flying. The US Navy pilot of ‘Baby’ N2096 is rescued slightly injured after crashing into a rough sea off Bridlington with an engine failure.
On 15th April the pilots of ‘Camels’ C1573, C1601, D1845 & N6376 are all wounded by ground fire, B3903 is also shot up and damaged whilst D6500 crashes on landing. At East Fortune the pilot of ‘Pup’ C226 is seriously injured in a forced landing with a goggles problem.
In the Firth of Forth there are two more attempts at deck landings on HMS Furious. Fl Cdr now RAF Capt Dickson in ‘Pup’ N6438 takes-off from the foredeck and makes three runs over the rear deck with the ship steaming at 8kts before lining up 700yards astern at 50ft, arriving too low, blipping the engine, landing in the wires at 40kts and stopping at the top of the ramp with one wire engaged on the new centre horn and one on the starboard aft horn.(above and below)
Capt Gallehawk flies in from Turnhouse and makes several runs over fore and aft decks feeling a number of bumps aft but none forward. He comes over the stern at about 15ft and makes a successful landing, the centre horn catching two wires and the machine stopping in 45ft half way up the ramp.(above & below) A new feature of the arrester system are the rows of wooden “skittles” lifting the wires above the deck near the stern.
Furious’ Commanding Officer attributes today’s successes to the low ship speed and light wind but warns that “slow speeds are not always desirable in a ship of this length”. He plans next to increase the ship’s speed to 15kts.
On 16th April in France ‘Camel’ D1799 is hit by AA fire at 4.000ft and the pilot killed as is D1782’s in an unexplained crash, B7296’s is injured crashing on take-off whilst B9293’s is taken ill contour chasing and wrecks it in a crash landing. A ‘Strutter’ is flown from HMS Furious angled across the foredeck into the wind and according to the date on this photograph,(below) there is another ‘Pup’ landing. Again the newly added centre horns catch but this time N6438 “Excuse me” lives up to its name and runs into the ropes causing much damage not least to the leading edge of the top wing.
On 17th April ‘Camels’ B3872, D1853 & D6569 each claim a victory, the pilots of 54Sqdn ‘Camels D1837, D1848 & D6583 are all killed in action whilst B6365, D6512 & D6523 are damaged by machine gun fire, D6566 is wrecked hitting trees after spinning whilst practising dog-fighting and D6582 crashes on landing. In Italy ‘Camels’ B6313, B7351 & B7358 each claim a victory whilst the pilot of B6342 is killed in combat. At Turnhouse N6781 is wrecked from a spinning nose dive after “stunting” whilst the pilot of Grain based ‘Triplane’ N5445(below) with twin-Vickers guns and modified tail is injured when part of the engine breaks away.
A senior representative of the Air Board Technical Department (Design) signs a clearance certificate for Sopwith Snail C4284 as “safe to be flown by a service pilot” noting that to save time and get on with testing the Aldis sight, oxygen and electrical heating system are not yet fitted to meet the full specification.
Sir Hugh Trenchard has resigned after three months as Chief of Air Staff at the Air Council apparently over disagreements on policy. Aeroplane Journal is amongst others calling for him to be made Commander in Chief of the new Royal Air Force. This is despite Aeroplane’s editorial misgivings about the logic of creating a single organisation believing that the Air Force should deal with purely flying issues like defence against aerial attacks and strategic bombing whilst “sailors are sailors and soldiers are soldiers” best equipped to understand and develop their own specific uses for aircraft.
On 18th April in low cloud and rain over France Australian Flying Corps ‘Camel’ D6580 crashes on landing and a French pilot stalls the only 300hp Sopwith ‘Dolphin’ in a steep climbing turn just after take-off killing himself and wrecking the machine. In Italy ‘Camel’ B3972 claims a kite balloon. In Kingston the Sopwith team receive a remarkable cable from RAF headquarters on Western Front suggesting that they should congratulate the workforce on the recent crucial contribution made to resisting the German advances by the Sopwith Camels.
The latest builder’s phtograph of the National Aircraft Factory at Ham(above) shows the front, east wall of the building complete with windows and the mezzanine floor already occupied by women fabric workers under training on large numbers of ‘Dolphin’ wings and two ‘Dolphin bare fuselage structures have been brought up from Canbury Park Road. With this extra factory Fred Sigrist plans to more than double the company’s workforce to 3,500 by recruiting mostly women, injured soldiers and older men as dilutees, each quickly trained to do one or two skilled tasks.
By law all recruitment has to be done through the Labour Exchange to stop companies poaching employees from other local companies already engaged on war work. The lightweight roof structure is evident as are the overhead crane rails, the one in front of the doors already carrying chain blocks starting to bring in the hundreds of assembly jigs and fixtures which are being made to enable production of up to 40 aircraft a week.
There is confused correspondence between the Air Board, Munitions Works Board and the Director General of Land about whether this factory will be temporary as promised to the local councils, run on for 3 or 6 years after the war or be permanent and for how long Sopwith will want to lease it. On 19th April the factory is valued to inform a meeting to resolve all this and decide how much rent Sopwith should be charged. The Government valuer’s seven page report details the construction of the 500 x 570 ft 6½ acre main building on the 38 acre site with its 6in concrete floor covered in tarmac and a roof of “asbestos composition slabs covered in Ruberoid with glass lights giving exceptionally large headroom”. The boiler house, electric sub-station, pump house and canteen buildings are complete but the machine shop and timber stores on the south side and office building and garage on the north side are hardly started. With 481,500sq ft ground floor area a rent of 9d per sq ft/£18,000 p.a. would cover his estimated cost of the land and buildings and 10% interest on that investment. However he declares the value as only 6d per sq ft “on the open market in normal times after the war” recognising “1) the absence of any rail connection, 2) the river here only being suitable for barge transport and 3) the position of the works i.e. practically in the country with no tram or rail facilities for workers”.
On 19th April the First Lord of the Admiralty and an Admiral come aboard HMS Furious. A ‘Strutter’ and a ‘Pup’ are flown from the foredeck within 3 minutes before the ‘Pup’ attempts a rear deck landing now with the addition of transverse arrester wires simply restrained by sand bags. It lands right at the start of the deck with its engine choked and does not reach any of the arrester cables but does avoid going over the edge. An hour later another ‘Pup’ flight and landing is “a fine one ending right at the top of the ramp” with a port skid horn caught under a wire whilst a centre horn has caught and broken at least one of the sandbag weighted transverse wires.(below)
With the risky landings on Furious’ rear deck and a long wait for the flat-top HMS Argus all manner of ideas are being suggested for recovering aircraft to ships without ditching. Grain’s Busteed is quick to dismiss the idea of hooking onto a cable slung under a 40/50ft boom at right angles from a ship’s side but is prepared to experiment at Grain with a wire stretched between two such beams which might be deployed in the smooth air alongside any large ship. Another proposal is to land onto a “mattress” of parallel wires stretched alongside ships.
In France on 19th April amid wind, snow and hail storms ‘Camel’ B7406 claims victory and B5214 is damaged by ground fire but ‘Dolphin’ C4048 is mistakenly attacked by 208Sqdn ‘Camels’ and the pilot wounded before landing in the French trenches. ‘Baby’ floatplane N1028 is totally wrecked crashing on landing at Port Said.
On 20th April ‘Camels’ B3818 & B7407 each claim a victory, the pilot of D6439 is killed in combat when his petrol tank is hit and explodes, a similar event sets B7393 on fire wounding the pilot who is taken prisoner, the pilot of D6475 is wounded in combat, D6513’s is injured crashing on take-off, B3782’s & B7412’s injured on landing whilst C6911 crashes after hitting telephone cables. The pilot of ‘Dolphin’ D52017 is fatally injured stalling from 100ft on landing. At home the pilot of Sutton Farm ‘Camel’ C6717 is killed spinning in when “engine fails to pick up while blipping”, as is the American pilot of Scampton’s C8209 when it breaks up in a spin whilst ‘Dolphin’ C3806 suffers yet another engine failure at Farnborough.
On 21st April ‘Camels’ B5680, B6319 & D6587 each claim a victory as do replacement 208Sqdn ‘Camels’ D1852 & D1854, B6350 drives down a Rumpler and lands alongside before it explodes killing several Belgians as the German crew are taken prisoner whilst B3858 shares a victory with B7200 & D3338. Meanwhile D3328 is being chased down by Manfred von Richthofen who is dived on by Capt Brown in B7270 who claims the victory but Australian ground fire is the likely cause of the Red Baron’s fatal crash. The pilots of B9315 & D6579 are killed in combat, B3795’s is fatally injured side-slipping and spinning-in while formating, B4617’s & B7245’s are wounded in combat, D3358 crashes on take-off and C63 has an engine failure on take-off crashing into the side of a hangar. ‘Dolphins’ C3799, C3833, C3899, C4017 & C4019 each claim a victory. At home the pilot of Montrose ‘Camel’ C6 is killed stalling and spinning in from 500ft, the pilot of Beaulieu ‘Dolphin’ C8096 is also killed crashing from a stall whilst the pilot of Harling Road ‘Pup’ B5306 is fatally injured “flying into the ground”.
On 22nd April ‘Camel’ D3363 claims a victory, the pilots of B6428 & N6377 are killed in combat, the Australian pilot of D6584 is killed when he gets too close to the ground diving at a target, pulls up sharply and the aircraft folds up whilst the pilots of B7228 & C1584 are wounded in combat and B6350’s is injured crashing on take-off. ‘Dolphin’ C3796 claims a victory, C4045 claims two victories but the pilot is wounded and forced to land with AA damage, another ‘Dolphin’ pilot is wounded in action as is C4048’s forced landing with engine failure. At home the pilot of Castle Bromwich ‘Pup’ B5943 is also killed failing to flatten out diving on a ground target, both crew of ‘Strutter’ A8231 from 1(Observers)School of Aerial Gunnery at Hythe in Kent are lost when it goes missing over the Channel and Wye ‘Camel’ B7760 suffers an engine failure and forced landing.
In the midnight hours the Royal Navy executes a postponed plan to impede the enemy’s access to the North Sea from its destroyer and submarine base at Bruges by blocking the canal mouth at Zeebrugge with sunken warships and attacking land installations with Marines and aerial bombardment. Targets include Zeebrugge mole with its base for some 60 German seaplanes which are in regular combat with aircraft from Yarmouth and Felixstowe Naval Air Stations. This assault is not wholly successful but will be a morale booster at home.
On 23rd April when weather clears after 5pm ‘Camels’ C1670 & D3329 each claim a victory whilst D1829 & D6511 are shot up and damaged. ‘Dolphin’ C3796 claims a victory and shares one with C3799, C4017 claims one as does C3940 but overturns on landing. 87 Squadron arrives in France from Hounslow equipped with ‘Dolphins’.(below)
In Italy ‘Camel’ B5238 claims a victory but B5401 is downed by AA fire and the pilot taken prisoner. At Lopcombe Corner the pilot of ‘Camel’ C1648 is killed when the wings break up in a dive from 2,000ft on a ground target. ‘Baby’ floatplane N2078 “The Jabberwock” forced lands in fog off Scarborough and the pilot is injured. The private venture Sopwith ‘B2’ bomber B1496 finally leaves Brooklands for testing at Martlesham Heath making room for three new prototypes to arrive from Kingston.
On 24th April with more misty low cloud over France ‘Camel’ D3331 claims a victory, the pilot of ‘Camel’ B6311 is killed in action and D6436’s fails to return and is taken prisoner whilst ‘Dolphin’ C3788 crashes landing from a test flight. At home the pilot of Beverley ‘Camel’ D9537 is killed “diving in“ and at Joyce Green a 159th US Aero Squadron mechanic is injured by the propeller of ‘Pup’ B6138.
The sixth prototype Sopwith ‘Snipe’ B9967 which has been awaiting a prototype 360hp ABC Dragonfly engine, finally arrives at Brooklands.(below) The cylinder heads of the large static radial engine are exposed for cooling but it is otherwise enclosed in a one-piece cowl with a typical Sopwith style securing cable. To balance the additional weight and side area of the engine the ‘Snipe’ fuselage has been lengthened by 1ft 10in.
Also just arrived at Brooklands is the prototype 170hp ABC Wasp static radial engined ‘Snail’ C4288 with the smooth monocoque plywood fuselage and similar but smaller engine cowl.(below) It looks very different from the conventional construction ‘Snail’ with the slimmer fuselage and conventional wing stagger putting the pilot lower down behind the top wing.
Both of these are being prepared for maiden flights. With the prototype Sopwith ‘TF2 Salamander’ trench fighter also about to arrive from Kingston, Sopwith and the Ministry Technical Department decide to hold a general inspection of all three next-generation Sopwith fighter contenders at Brooklands this coming Saturday before they are dispersed for official testing.
On 25th April in continuing low cloud and mist ‘Camel’ B9211 shares two claimed victories with C1575 & C1671, D6517 also claims a victory but the pilot of D1776 is shot down and taken prisoner fatally injured, D1819’s is killed when it folds up during target practice, B6231’s is fatally injured failing to pull out of a dive on a target, whilst D1801 is forced to land shot up and D6448 crashes. At Dover the pilot of locally rebuilt ‘Camel’ B8830 is killed rolling into the ground coming out of a dive in the mist, B9230’s is killed hitting telegraph wires at Lilbourne whilst the pilot of ‘Pup’ D4079 is killed in a mid-air collision with an Avro 504 at Wye and ‘Baby’ floatplane N2099 crashes at South Shields landing from a routine patrol.
On 26th April there is thick mist all day over France. The pilot of ‘Camel’ C13 is seriously injured stalling on take-off at South Carlton, the pilot of Beaulieu ‘Pup’ D4075 is injured in a crash as is the pilot of Freiston Gunnery School ‘Pup’ B6021 after colliding with a BE2 at 100ft. A ‘Pup’ flies from HMS Furious but crashes on the deck.
The prototype Sopwith ‘TF2 Salamander’ trench fighter E5429 is now assembled at Brooklands ready for the tests tomorrow.(below) The fuselage is tapered back from the circular BR2 engine cowl to the flat sides of the armour plate cockpit area and it sports a streamlined headrest. Sopwith has already agreed to improve the position and ease of filling of the ammunition boxes in the cockpit as requested by the Air Board Technical Department.
On the left of this photograph is the steep Brooklands test hill built in 1909 and on the right the Vickers aircraft factory on the east side of the airfield beyond the race track which was bought from the Itala car company in 1915. Still based in Knightsbridge and Crayford, Vickers’ aviation department have used the Weybridge factory to build 75 BE2c, 50 FE8, 50 Vickers FB9 Gunbus, 50 Vickers FB14 and up to 65 Vickers FB19 fighters but none of those Vickers types have seen much operational service. The factory is now building around 100 SE5s a month.
The Sopwith Board Meeting on 26th April wastes no time in confirming a 6% dividend for preference shareholders for the half financial year to 31st March 1918. Seven new patent applications get the Company Seal, six of which are in the joint names of the Company and the employee inventors Pollard, Kauper, Heyland, Treacey, Shirley and Birchall covering an attachment for clearing Vickers gun jams, a device for indicating level of liquids, improvements in ammunition boxes, an improved inclinometer, improved clips for wires and cables plus a three-way fuel cock. They also confirm three earlier applications for Sopwith, Mills and Ide for radiator shutters, turnbuckles and deviation indicators.
Following the four Blackburn-built Sopwith ‘Baby’ floatplanes delivered to the Norwegian Naval Air Force by November 1917, they now make first flights in Norway with three more F108, (below) F110 & F112 and have two more on order.
On 27th April flying is again almost impossible over France but ‘Camel’ B6257 claims a victory and 87Sqdn’s ‘Dolphins’ have now arrived at Petite Synthe from St Omer. At Hooton Park the pilot of ‘Pup’ B1742 is killed in a crash whilst Seaton Carew ‘Baby’ floatplane N2106 is driven onto a sandbank by strong winds whilst taxying before capsizing on take-off and sinking but the pilot is rescued.
Meanwhile outside the 1915 RFC hangar at Brooklands the Sopwith team line up their latest prototypes for a grand inspection by military and Air Board staff and very probably Granville Bradshaw of the ABC Company in nearby Hersham who designed both the 7-cylinder Wasp engine in the monocoque ‘Snail’ C4288 and the 9-cylinder Dragonfly engine in the ‘Snipe’ B9967 although the production of both engines has been handed to other companies.
To the right is one of the Belfast hangars now built on the site of Brooklands’ original aviation village and the burnt-out Bluebird Café. The Bentley BR2 engined ‘TF2 Salamander’ trench fighter makes its first flight and attention turns to the Wasp engined ‘Snail’ as it also takes to the air in the competent hands of Harry Hawker.(below) Thomas Sopwith watches in the light suit with hands in pockets.
However it is the 360hp ABC Dragonfly engined ‘Snipe’ which attracts the most attention.(below)
Harry Hawker takes that for a first flight.(below) It is confidently expected that the performance will be remarkable with so much more horsepower than the already excellent BR2 engined ‘Snipe’.
Other manufacturers are racing to design aircraft around the new ABC radial engines. BAT and Westlands already have Wasp-engined competitors for the ‘Snail’. Armstrong Whitworth, BAT, Nieuport and Sopwith each have a contract at the design stage for prototype single-seat high-altitude fighters with Dragonfly engines. Sopwith’s drawing signed by Herbert Smith dated 20th April(below) shows a similar configuration to their fast climbing high-altitude ‘Triplanes’ of 1916/17 but with a nominal 360hp in place of 130hp, a monocoque plywood fuselage and more conventional interplane struts. It has officially been named the ‘Snark’. The team are also designing a biplane around a very similar fuselage.
Meanwhile a second Sopwith ‘Bulldog’ X4 is being built to take a Dragonfly engine which will be in direct competition with the Dragonfly two-seat fighter prototypes being designed by Austin, BAT, Bristol and Nieuport.
The Sopwith team also considering a design for a bomber with two Dragonfly engines. Both Avro and Boulton & Paul already have contracts for three prototype twin Dragonfly engined bombers.
Orders are being placed for thousands of these radial engines despite currently being down on power, overweight, high on fuel consumption and unreliable.
On 28th April is another day of thick mist over France. At Beaulieu the pilot of ‘Camel’ B9234 is killed stalling and turning into the ground.
On 29th April despite low cloud and bad visibility ‘Camel’ D3366 claims a victory but C1617 hit by ground fire spins down in flames killing the pilot, B3809’s pilot is killed hit by flak and B7195 is damaged by AA fire. Both crew of ‘Ships Strutter’ A5986 are killed at Donibristle turning sharply in a gusty wind, losing speed and crashing.
On 30th April more bad weather prevents flying but after the intensive fighting and air activity yesterday the Allied Armies start regaining ground gained by the Germans in their spring offensive.
In April the Sopwith factory produced 119 ‘Dolphins’. The number of new Sopwith-designed aircraft from other contractors in April is 443, 100 less than last month with ‘Pup’ production coming to an end. These 443 comprise 66 ‘Pups’ from Standard Motors (40) and Whitehead (26) plus 338 new ‘Camels’ with 23 ‘2F1s’ from Beardmore and ‘F1s Camels’ from Boulton & Paul (115), Clayton & Shuttleworth (40), Marsh Jones & Cribb (1), Nieuport & General (39), Portholme (29) and Ruston Proctor (91). There were also 49 non-Sopwith ‘Dolphin’ deliveries, from Darracq(24) and from Hooper(15).
In April orders on Sopwith Aviation for ‘Dolphins’ and ‘Snipe’ have both increased by 200, bringing ‘Dolphin’ totals to 1,400 plus 400 on two other manufacturers and ‘Snipe’ totals to 500 plus 1,250 on five other manufacturers. Camel orders on all twelve suppliers remain at 4,468 of which 2,841 have now been delivered.
One unusual delivery is Sopwith-built B3772 for the RNAS which was transferred to the RFC for the US Air Corps but has now arrived at the Canadian Air Force’s No.4 School of Military Aeronautics at the University of Toronto.(above)
On 1st May there is more low cloud and mist over France but in Italy ‘Camel’ B5220 claims a victory. At Wye the pilot of ‘Camel’ B7334 is killed falling out of his machine when inverted. ‘Baby’ floatplane N2101 bombs a submarine south-east of Sunderland but short of fuel has to immediately return to base whilst N2110 suffers an engine failure overturning and sinking in the forced landing but the pilot is rescued by a torpedo boat. Prototype ‘Snipe’ B9965 is returned to Brooklands from Martlesham Heath for Sopwith to fit an experimental large propeller spinner. At Grain they have been testing the acceleration of prototype Sopwith ‘Cuckoo’ N74 with gradually increasing loads in anticipation of deck take-offs with a torpedo. The extra weight of the Sunbeam Arab engine has made it rather nose heavy. It is now reported that the propeller shaft eventually broke and the propeller flew off damaging the front spar of the left wing before a safe forced landing from 1,000ft.
On 2nd May in poor visibility ‘Camels’ B6411, B6431, B9297, C8231, C8256, D1876 & D3345 each claim a victory, B6421 shares one with five others but the pilots of C1685 & D6546 are killed in action, B2482’s & B7276’s are taken prisoner, B5583’s is killed diving into the ground on a practice flight whilst C8296 is shot down and B2419 crashes. ‘Dolphins’ C3829, C4017 & C3899 each claim a victory, C3796 shares one with C3843 but the pilot of C4126 is killed in action whilst C4044 hits C3944 on landing and both are damaged whilst C4030 & C4154 are damaged crashing after engine failures. In Italy ‘Camels’ B6413 & B7383 claim victories but the pilot of B3840 is fatally injured nose diving into a tree. The pilot of Northolt ‘Pup’ B5356 is seriously injured overturning after the wheels strike rising ground.
At Brooklands the conventional fuselage ‘Snail’ C4284 is awaiting rectification of its Wasp engine including new carburettors, and monocoque fuselage ‘Snail’ C4288 is being readied for testing to Martlesham Heath when Air Board Technical Department reports on their design and manufacture arrive. The criticisms of the gun installation can be addressed especially the lack of blast tubes to avoid igniting any petrol vapour in the cockpit but there is concern over the complexity and practicality of the welded engine mountings which include the front undercarriage strut sockets.(below)
The report on the monocoque ‘Snail’ is not encouraging stating that “this machine is not to be considered a sound manufacturing proposition, the construction of the fuselage being on lines which do not lend themselves to production”. The fuselage construction as built up of 3/32 inch thick three-ply planks about 6 inches wide butt jointed in the cockpit area where the skin is double and lap jointed elsewhere, all attached by some 7,000 copper rivets to a series of 30 ash hoops at 6 inch spacing six of which have plywood formers attached. It is estimated that 60lbs of copper nails have been used, half of which has been wasted cutting to length before burring over. The whole fuselage is fabric covered and doped. The Sopwith experimental team have built another three conventional ‘Snail’ fuselage and wing sets which await engines and are now building a second monocoque fuselage.
On 3rd May ‘Camel’ B2356 claims two victories, B3786, B3855, C1637, D6476 & D6572 each claim a victory but the pilots of D6536 & B7357 are taken prisoner fatally wounded, D6480’s is taken prisoner, C1677’s is killed in a crash, B5585 & D3360 are badly shot up and forced to land whilst D6434 crashes into a ditch landing lost. The fabric strips from his upper starboard wing ‘Dolphin’ C3828 which is then attacked with the wounded pilot taken prisoner whilst C4047 crashes following a burst oil tank in combat and C3843 forced lands. In Italy ‘Camels’ B5187, B6273 & B7354 each claim a victory. The pilot of Upavon ‘Pup’ B1845 is killed crashing from a low loop.
On the Western Front 73Sqdn have cut away the rear of the top wing centre section of a ‘Camel’ “greatly improving visibility without effecting handling or performance”. They are authorised to modify all their aircraft.
Following last week’s impressive demonstration of Dragonfly-engined ‘Snipe’ prototype B9967 at Brooklands an order is confirmed on Sopwith Aviation for 30 production machines with the official name Sopwith ‘Dragon’.
On 4th May in thick mist and rain ‘Camel’ C8300 claims a victory, C1643 shares one with two others but the pilot of B5629 is killed in action whilst the USAS pilot of B5651 is injured stalling and spinning-in from 50ft on landing. The ‘Dolphin’ C3818 is involved in a friendly fire incident with a ‘Camel’ whilst C3795 & C3835 both suffer forced landings. In Italy ‘Camel’ B2497 claims two victories. The pilot of Scampton ‘Camel’ B4625 is killed overturning on take-off, as is South Carlton ‘Pup’ B1706’s in a crash whilst Lilbourne B7535’s is injured stalling and diving-in. At Seaton Carew ‘Baby’ floatplane N1446 is wrecked colliding with a buoy landing in fog.
Meanwhile presumably at Woking, the Martinsyde Football Club munitions workers play the Kingston Aircraft Works (Sopwith) munitions workers in a football match kicked off by Mrs Handasyde. The teams include players from Brentford FC, Brstol City, Manchester City and Southampton FC playin in blue or maroon shirts with “white knickers”.
On 5th May with low cloud, mist and rain there are no combats over France but the pilot of Feltwell ‘Camel’ D9544 is killed in a spinning nose dive and B9258’s is seriously injured stalling with a choked engine at Ayr.
On 6th May with low cloud, mist and rain until the evening ‘Camel’ B7254 claims a victory, B9299 shares one with four others but the pilot of B7200 is injured crash landing after a panic with a runaway gun and D3374 forced lands with ailerons shot away by AA fire. ‘Dolphin’ C4165 claims a victory whilst C4156, C4157 & C4163 share the first victory for 87Sqdn. In Italy ‘Camel’ B5212 claims a victory whilst in Macedonia immediately after 150Sqdn arrives C1587 claims the first victory for a ‘Camel’ shared with Bristol M1c C4963. At Biggin Hill the pilot of wireless telegraphy trial ‘Camel’ B6303 is killed spinning-in from low altitude.
On a rainy 7th May in France the pilot of ‘Dolphin’ C3841 is killed in a crash on a practice flight as is the pilot of ‘Camel’ B4621 at Montrose.
On 8th May ‘Camels’ B7252, C8266, D1813, D1845, D1860, D1864, D1867, D1873, D1928 & D3364 each claim a victory but the pilots of C8298 & D1852 are killed in action, whilst B6276 is shot up and damaged and D6594 crashes with a choked engine. ‘Dolphins’ C3799 & C4017 each claim a victory but the pilot of C4149 is killed stalling on take-off, C3784 is wrecked and C3835 is damaged hit by a landing DH4. In Italy the pilot of ‘Camel’ B7358 is wounded by trench rifle fire. At home the pilots of Feltwell ‘Camel’ B4640 and Lopcombe Corner’s C1640 are killed spinning-in as is Hainault Farm D6649’s pilot crashing into a building.(belowt) The pilot of Croydon ‘Pup’ B6093 is injured also from a spin whilst Killingholme ‘Baby’ floatplane N2097 suffers an engine failure on take-off, hits a fence and is wrecked.
HMS Furious’ primary role is in aerial reconnaissance and air defence for the Grand Fleet now based in the Firth of Forth closer to any German Navy foray. They did steam out recently but too late to catch the retreating ships.
On 8th May there is an opportunity for a further landing attempt onto the rear deck this time with a skidded two-seat Sopwith ‘Strutter’. The photographs show the array of fore and aft wires now lifted above the deck towards the stern by the wooden ‘skittles’ as well as the transverse restraining ropes and their sandbags.(above) The approach is good but as usual the disturbed air over the deck throws the aircraft around and it lands heavily. The under-fuselage hook does not engage with the transverse ropes but some skid horns do. DJ3 tows some sandbags before stopping on the ramp short of the rope barrier with wrecked undercarriage and crumpled nose.(below)
This is the thirteenth attempt to land on Furious, all have been fraught and ten have damaged the aircraft. However Armstrong shipbuilders who installed their hook into loops arrester system in Furious’ deck during the rebuild are determined to have that properly tested and have come up with a design for a stronger hook which will not break like the first attempts but do suggest that the aircraft designers must ensure the airframe is then strong enough to absorb the arresting loads. Those have now been calculated by the Air Board Technical Department for various landing speeds and hook positions for both ‘Pup’ and, surprisingly, ‘Snipe’ aircraft. It seems that they expect the exclusive use of Sopwith designed types for shipboard flying to continue.
On 9th May ‘Camels’ C66, C8253, C8272, C8280, D1921, D6440 & D6562 each claim a victory, C62 shares one with two others, C8261 shares one with his whole 4Sqdn AFC patrol, D6590 & B7280 both shares one with one other before a forced landing but the pilots of D1821, D3375 & D6576 are killed in combat whilst D1790’s is taken prisoner, D6576’s is killed looping too near the ground and hitting a wood pile. The pilot of B2309 is injured stalling on landing as are D6588’s after being hit by AA fire on a practice formation flight, B5445’s with a choked engine on landing and D3364’s after a Verys pistol explodes in the cockpit. ‘Dolphin’ C3878 claims a victory but the pilot of C4047 with a fuel problem is injured stalling and overturning. In Italy ‘Camel’ B2430 claims a victory and the pilot of B2356 is injured crashing on take-off as is B7389’s crashing forced landing whilst lost. At home ‘Camel’ C70 forced lands with engine failure near Saxmundham whilst Eastbourne ‘Pup’ B6100 makes a crash landing and then collides with an Avro 504. The design of the Sopwith ‘TF2 Salamander’ trench fighter has now been approved for service trials by the Air Board Technical Department but prototype E5429 has been delayed since its first flight on 27th April by a fractured piston. A new Bentley BR2 engine and new propeller has now been fitted and it is photographed on 9th May leaving for service trials in France.(below)
This is a another busy day for the Sopwith team at Brooklands because monocoque ‘Snail’ C4288 is also leaving. It is going to Martlesham Heath for formal comparison testing with the BAT Bantam and Westland Wagtail.
On a misty 10th May ‘Camel’ B6297 claims a victory, D6481 claims one and then shares another with C1523, D1787 shares one with five others, D6591 claims a triplane before being forced down behind a German outpost by three others but the pilot escapes, the pilots of B2463, D6419 & D6619 are killed in combat, D6457’s is taken prisoner whilst B7322 & B9243 are damaged in combat ‘Dolphin’ C4780 is damaged forced landing after an engine cut. At home the pilot of C83 from the No.2 School of Aerial Fighting and Gunnery at Marske is injured hitting telephone wires whilst ‘Baby’ floatplane N2109 from nearby Seaton Carew drops a 65lb bomb on a U-boat 4 miles out to sea.
At Grain they have replaced the broken Sunbeam Arab propeller shaft in prototype Sopwith ‘Cuckoo’ N74 and have started trial take-offs from their dummy ship’s deck in anticipation of the first production machine arriving from Blackburn later in the month.
On 11th May there is thick fog over the Western Front but some flying in the evening when ‘Camels’ B5646, D1879, D3348 & D3354 each claim a victory as does B7252 before being damaged in a forced landing, D3351 shares one with D3357, D1863 shares one with two others before hitting a tree landing in the mist but the pilots of B7192 & B7480 are killed in action, D3377’s is killed in a foggy forced landing, B2455’s is taken prisoner wounded whilst D1884’s, D3380’s & D3382’s, are injured crashing in fog. ‘Dolphin’ C4131 claims a victory but the pilot of C8019 is injured and C3827, C3830, C4020 & C4786 all suffer forced landings. At home the pilot of Lilbourne ‘Camel’ B9242 is killed from a spinning nose dive as is South Carlton C1618’s pilot stalling on landing whilst Ternhill ‘Pup’ C221’s is injured losing control and spinning-in.
The first report of the service pilot test flights of ‘TF2 Salamander’ trench fighter prototype E5429 at St Omer is generally positive on manoeuvrability and balance but “more rudder control would be an advantage”. “The view for fighting is good although the headrest cramps the backward visibility”. He reports “120mph near the ground at 1350 revs and a Camel was easily out-distanced but was quicker on the turn”. “She takes up speed quickly in the dive but there is ample time to fire a destructive burst at a target. Diving down from 400ft to 50ft her upward climb is equal to the height lost.” Meanwhile the Dragonfly radial-engined 6th ‘Snipe’ prototype B9967 arrives at Farnborough designated ‘Snipe Mk.II’ and is posed before test flights.(below) Performance at Brooklands has been very promising with very rapid rates of climb and reports of speeds approaching 150mph at 10,000ft and 130mph at 21,000ft.
On 12th May there are low clouds all day but ‘Camel’ D1906 claims a victory.
On 13th May ‘Dolphin’ C3812 crashes and overturns on landing before rain stops all flying over France. In Italy ‘Camel’ B5238 claims three victories whilst B2379 claims one and shares another with B2426. At home ‘Baby’ floatplane N2108 suffers an engine failure and after a forced landing at Seahaven will have to be dismantled for its return to Seaton Carew. Martlesham Heath publish a comparison of the performance of the Sopwith ’Hippo’ and ‘Bulldog’ two-seaters. Despite using the very same 230hp Clerget engine and propeller and having a 100lb weight disadvantage, the back-staggered ‘Hippo’ is inexplicably some 5mph faster and 10mins quicker to 15,000ft but the ‘Bulldog’ now with unbalanced ailerons and two pillar mounted rear guns(below) is considered “much superior for manoeuvrability”.
The 14th May is overcast but in the gaps ‘Camels’ D3385 & D9577 each claim a victory, D3406 claims one but has its tail shot away in an attack by five enemy aircraft, B5213 claims one but is also damaged in combat, D1818 claims one but the wounded pilot is taken prisoner whilst the pilot of B3910 is killed in a crash. ‘Dolphin’ C4178 is shot-up and wrecked. At home the pilot of Throwley ‘Camel’ D6625 is killed falling out of control from 2,500ft.
On 15th May ‘Camel’ C1655 claims three victories, B2522 & D1825 each claim two victories, B5687, B5749, C8217, D6578 & D6585 each claim a victory as does D3373 with its pilot wounded in action, C61 & C8204 each share one with one other, D3376 shares one with five others but the pilots of B5666, B6257 & D6438 are killed in action as are B7160’s & D3385’s when D3385 collides with the other possibly after being hit by AA fire. The pilot of D6607 is injured stalling in a turn, as is D6516’s hitting a DH9 on take-off and D6607’s spinning-in from a low turn, C1643’s is injured crashing on landing whilst D3342 crashes into a hangar after having its ailerons shot-up in combat. ‘Dolphin’ C4132 claims two victories but C4146 overturns in a forced landing lost on a practice flight and C4167 is wrecked after an engine cut. At home the pilot of Northolt ‘Camel’ B7396 is killed stalling turning downwind. Meanwhile Sopwith production of ‘Dolphins’ continues to expand. After a record 119 in April they plan to deliver 6-a-day through May. Their 596th ‘Dolphin’ D3671 is photographed on a Sopwith lorry(below) on just one such trip from Kingston. Assuming that is a Molesey reservoir in the background it is on its way to Brooklands not the Aircraft Acceptance Park at Kenley where most have gone to date.
On 16th May ‘Camels’ B7248, D1794, D3350, D3387 & D3410 each claim a victory, B3884 shares one with the whole flight, but the pilot of D1866 is fatally wounded in action, D3353’s & D9540’s are taken prisoner and D3341 is badly shot up whilst Ltn Otto Kissenberth of Jasta 23b uses a captured 3(N)Sqdn ‘Camel’ marked with German crosses(below) to shoot down an SE5a. (This might be ‘Camel’ B7184 or B7230.)
‘Dolphin’ C4056 claims a victory, C3818 shares one with C4132 but the pilot of C3869 is injured crashing with an engine problem on take-off and C4046 overturns hitting a ridge on landing. At home pilot of B9192 is killed spinning-in at Wye whilst ‘Baby’ floatplane N1471 has an engine failure on take-off, lands heavily bursting a float and is beached at Hornsea Mere.
On 17th May ‘Camels’ B7346 & D6442 each claim a victory, D3365 shares one with D3391, B6408 shares one with B7197, D3362 & C61 but D3362 & C61 are damaged in this combat with fifteen Fokker Triplanes and the pilot of B6408 is killed shot down in flames. The pilots of C8242 & D1791 are both taken prisoner whilst B7471 is damaged by ground fire and B2529 crashes into the sea trying to land with a faulty engine. ‘Dolphins’ C3902 & C4043 each claim a victory. In Italy ‘Camel’ B3872 claims a victory. At home the pilot of Dover ‘Camel’ is killed stalling from a climbing turn and D6672’s is killed spinning-in at Montrose.
There are more reports of test flights of ‘TF2 Salamander’ trench fighter prototype E5429 by service pilots in France. 73 Squadron confirms that the machine needs more lateral control and suggests duplicated control wires and armour protection for the pilot’s head. 3 Squadron agreeing that “the view is good enough” also want duplicated flying wires “owing to the way low flying machines are shot about” and would like balanced ailerons and “an adjustable rudder bar to suit tall and short pilots”. “Her climb and zoom, considering her weight is good.” A Flight Commander of 70Sqdn concludes that “the machine appears to be very suitable for low flying, though a pusher type would get better results”.
There is a rash of new ‘Camel’ orders on 17th May making 650 this month on seven existing contractors partly it seems to keep those factories busy whilst new types are introduced. Total ‘Camel’ orders have reached 5,118.
In Lincoln the “Ruston Munitionettes” have been photographed(above) wheeling wingless ‘Camel’ D8185 through the cattle market to a women’s rally to help recruit women into the Land Army.
There has been a high-level meeting at the Ministry of Munitions with the Treasury and other government departments to try to agree the terms, duration and rent for Sopwith’s lease of the National Aircraft factory at Ham in the light of the promise to the Local Authorities that it is temporary but it seems to have been decided that such an expensive facility has to be permanent. However the legality of any long term lease is in question as they do not own the land having requisitioned it under the Defence of the Realm Act and the Treasury are reluctant to purchase land only needed during the war. The meeting requests more information including the value of the land. A response from Sir Howard Frank Director General of Lands on 17th May gets them no further forward. He implies that it should always have been permanent and emphasises he had nothing to do with the decision to declare it temporary. After meeting the protesting Authorities last year he put the matter before the Minister, Mr Churchill, who decided that policy. He concludes that if it is to be permanent the land should be purchased from Lord Dysart now “but in proposing that are we not breaking faith with the Local Authorities?”
On 18th May ‘Camel’ C8278 claims two victories, B5181, C8264, D1781, D1901, D1919, D3410 & D6608 each claim a victory but the pilot of D3390 is killed in combat whilst D3391’s is taken prisoner as are B7178’s & C8256’s after being hit in a combat with twelve Albatros, C8261’s is wounded hit by AA fire whilst D6413 is also damaged by AA fire and D1926 crashes on landing. ‘Pups’ are back in France at the ex-RNAS Training Establishment at Vendôme which has received seven new Standard Motors built machines in the last few weeks, however C325 is badly damaged today “drifting on landing due to a gust of wind” with the report surprisingly listing two people aboard. At home the American pilot of Turnberry ‘Camel’ B9218 is killed stalling in a low turn whilst the pilot of one of HMS Galatea’s ‘Ships Camels’ N6766 is killed striking a tree landing at Donibristle. The pilot of ‘Dolphin’ C8023 is killed stalling from a turn at Lincoln whilst the pilot of ‘Pup’ N6160 is fatally injured in a mid-air collision at Freiston School of Aerial Fighting and Gunnery whilst B7485 overturns landing with an engine failure.
The first Grain ‘Griffin’ N100 is being modified at Grain as the next two N101 & N102 are completed ready for testing. The last of Sopwith’s order for six ‘Snipe’ prototypes B9966 goes to Martlesham Heath for performance trials after nine weeks of development flying at Brooklands, it has a Bently BR2 engine.
On 19th May ‘Camel’ D3371 claims a victory, B6239 shares an Albatros which has just shot down a kite balloon with C65, C1655 shares one with D6433 but D6433’s pilot is then killed shot down in flames, B2429’s is taken prisoner wounded whilst the pilot of D3402 loses control taxying out and crashes into B7199. ‘Dolphins’ C3796 & C3843 each claim a victory but the pilot of C4017 is taken prisoner and C3865 overturns on landing. In Italy D1911 claims three victories, D1913 claims two in five minutes and B6363 claims one, Lt Wilson’s eighth in this aircraft. After test flights of ‘TF2 Salamander’ trench fighter prototype E5429 by 65Sqdn in France they consider it “very handy” but note that it reaches a tremendous speed with the nose slightly down and they are concerned that “it will be impossible to dive at anything approaching vertically as the speed obtained would be too great”. The tests are brought to a halt when it crashes on landing with the pilot trying to avoid a tender crossing the aerodrome to a crash. All the squadrons’ suggested improvements to “Salamander” are forwarded to the Air Board by the Commander of the RAF in the Field now Major General John Salmond.
After two uneventful days going as far as Jutland Bank with HMS Glorious, light cruisers and torpedo boats, HMS Furious takes on three more ‘Ships Camels’. Each arrives on a whaler with the tail section of the fuselage separated by undoing the four turnbuckles.(below an unusually marked machine being taken aboard last month)
Late on 19th May after a ten week gap there is a massed bombing raid with 28 Gothas and 3 Giants reaching Britain escorted by 2 Rumplers for weather reconnaissance. On a clear moonlit night twin-Vickers ‘Camel’ D6423 claims an incoming Gotha at 8,500ft within ten minutes of taking off. 19 bombers reach London killing 49 and injuring 177 whilst the others scatter bombs around Essex and Kent. Two more Gothas possibly already damaged by an SE5 and a Camel are brought down by Bristol fighters, two are shot down by AA fire over Dover and Shoeburyness and one crashes unable to restart an engine. There are other less successful interceptions including persistent attacks on what was probably a Giant with drums of armour-piercing and RTS incendiary/explosive ammunition from the upward firing and forward firing Lewis guns of ‘Comic Camel’ B3816.(below, a similar 44Sqdn ‘Comic Camel’). Assuming it to be a Gotha the pilot may have been misled by the size of the Giant and out of range at times although he gets bullet holes in a wing and bullet damage to his propeller. The four-engined 138ft wingspan Giants are almost twice the size of the 78ft span twin-engined Gothas but have a similar silhouette as the engines are in tandem in two pods. This same night a heavy German bomber raid on French railway and ordnance installations kills 214 and injures over 700.
On 20th May ‘Camel’ C1583 shares two victories with C6729 & D6497, D1893, D1909, D1959, D3332, D3386, D3389, D3411 & D6506 each claim a victory, D6418 claims a victory plus two kite balloons destroyed, B9253 shares a victory with D6418, D6630 shares one with D8118 but the pilot of D1876 is killed in combat and D6499’s is injured crash landing surrounded by smoke after a Very flare he fires to “wash-out a practice” hits a strut and bounces back into the cockpit whilst D3366’s is injured on take-off running into a DH9 standing between two hangars and D1796 is in a mid-air collision with D1851 but both land safely. (Damage to both below)
The pilot of ‘Dolphin’ C3807 sends an aircraft down in flames by ramming it before continuing to fight two others. His is a first victory for 23Sqdn but he is then shot down and dies jumping the last 500ft from his burning aircraft. ‘Dolphins’ C3899, C4019, C4127 & C4131 also each claim a victory but the American pilot of C4153 is injured crashing turning after take-off, C3901 overturns landing with a fuel tank shot through in combat with three enemy aircraft whilst C4168 crashes avoiding another machine on landing. C4168(below) with Major Callaghan’s personal shamrock marking has an extra tube on the side to carry ejected cartridge cases clear of the side radiator although the disintegrating ammunition links from the upper chute are evidently not considered a problem.
In Italy ’Camel’ B7350 claims a victory. At the Aboukir Training School in Egypt the pilot of B6053 is killed on his first flight in a ‘Pup’ crashing in a slow spin after struggling to restart his engine at low altitude. At Port Said the pilot of ‘Baby’ floatplane N2072 is injured “landing with failed controls and hitting an Arab”. At home the pilot of Redcar’s ‘Camel’ B5693 is killed spinning-in as is C1662’s at Marske whilst Lopcombe Corner’s B7134 stalls on landing after the pilot faints. ‘Ships Camel’ N6754 from HMS Royalist lands at sea and is recovered with the assistance of HMS Vega.
On 21st May ‘Camel’ D1841 claims a victory, D3403 shares one with D3413 and C62 shares a kite balloon with two others but the pilot of D6604 is killed in combat, D9539’s is taken prisoner wounded whilst D6450’s pilot is injured overturning in a forced landing when a wheel comes off and D1826 crashes into a tree after the engine seizes up. ‘Dolphin’ C4729 is damaged by AA fire and C4019 is damaged crashing after an engine failure. In Italy ‘Camel’ B7381 claims a victory. At home the pilot of Suttons Farm ‘Camel’ D6677 is fatally injured hitting a tree landing with a choked engine. HMS Furious is at sea again with seven light cruisers and destroyers. They are warned of Zeppelins and aircraft approaching and send off a recce ‘Strutter’ which lands alongside a torpedo boat for recovery after two hours but nothing is spotted so they put up smoke screens to try to draw attention.
On 22nd May ‘Camel’ D3416 claims two victories, C1675 & D6509 each claim a victory, B2522 shares one with three others, D1889 shares one with six others but the pilots of D1909 & D1924 are killed after colliding diving on a kite balloon, the American pilot of ‘Camel’ D1907 is killed and D1800’s is injured when they collide in mid-air during firing practice, C58’s is injured in a spinning nose dive on take-off whilst the engine of B7382 is hit by ground fire and the pilot sets it alight before escaping 3300yds back to the British front line trenches. ‘Dolphin’ C4152 is damaged forced landing with an engine failure on take-off as is C4024 after a fuel failure. At home the pilot of ‘Camel’ B7341 is killed spinning in at Beverley, the pilot of ‘Dolphin’ C3975 is fatally injured spinning in at Hooton Park and the pilot of ‘Pup’ B5288 is fatally injured crashing with a choked engine on take-off at Wye. HMS Furious spots submarines, has near misses with mines and flies off two Camels before returning to the Firth of Forth overnight without having provoked the aerial battles with Zeppelins and floatplanes that they relish.
Martlesham Heath have completed performance testing of the Sopwith ‘B2’ bomber B1496 and compared it with their results for the essentially similar ‘B1’ N50 over a year ago. Both with 200hp Hispano-Suiza engines they record speeds of 110mph at 10,000ft and ascribe B1496’s lower climb rates and lower speeds at higher altitudes to the French Claudel carburetter which has no altitude control.
On 22nd May Martlesham Heath issues a report comparing the 170hp ABC Wasp powered “miniature” fighters: BAT Bantam, Sopwith Snail & Westland Wagtail. The Bantam has a circular section plywood monocoque fuselage like the monocoque Sopwith Snail.(below) The Wagtail(below) is a small conventional wood and fabric construction biplane like the other Snail and is the only one with the twin forward firing Vickers guns not embedded in the fuselage.
Whilst the Snail at 127mph was 10mph faster than the Wagtail at 15,000ft, both were over revving the engine with an unmatched propeller. The Bantam with an obviously under-performing engine was much slower before it was crashed, a replacement is awaited for a true performance comparison. Overall there is not much to choose between all three but they rank the Snail last for manoeuvrability due to slow aileron response and therefore also for “general fighting quality” with the Wagtail “easiest to fly”.
60Sqdn Flight Commander Capt Copeland is seconded from France to compare a service 110hp Le Rhône Camel with Martlesham’s new fighting scout types in mock fights. He reports that the Camel despite less horsepower “undoubtedly has the advantage over the Snail in every way”. The Camel and the recently received first production Rolls-Royce Falcon engined Martinsyde F3 are equally manoeuvrable but the much more powerful Martinsyde “easily out-climbs the Camel in a climbing spiral and on points it undoubtedly has the advantage over a Camel as a fighting scout”.
On 23rd May in overcast weather and high winds the pilots of ‘Camels’ B7250 & D1902 are killed in combat whilst D3418 crashes. ‘Dolphin’ C4179 crashes on landing. In Italy ‘Camel’ B6413 claims a victory. In the Aegean a ‘Camel’ is hit by AA fire and forced to land in enemy territory but the pilot escapes back across the lines. After a recent test flight the Sopwith ‘Rhino’ triplane bomber was described as “awful”, now one of the prototypes flying from Farnborough breaks the trailing edge of the wing centre section reportedly because flapping wing fabric hammers on the trailing edge. It lands safely.
It rains all day over France on 24th May and there is little flying but the pilot of ‘Dolphin’ C3820 is injured shot up in combat whilst C3866’s is also injured when it is wrecked crashing with a fuel problem. In Italy ‘Camel’ B6282 returning to Grossa along a valley flies into overhead cables and cartwheels into the fast flowing river. Two Italian soldiers are swept away trying to save the pilot before he is rescued by an American Red Cross volunteer. At home Westgate ‘Baby’ floatplane N1065 is damaged forced landing on an anti-Zeppelin patrol and is towed into Grain whilst N2103 & N2104 go to White City to be packed for delivery to the Chilean Government.
On 25th May ‘Camels’ C8277, C8291, D1784 & D1903 each claim a victory. ‘Dolphin’ C4128’s pilot is wounded during combat possibly by ground fire and hits a ditch on landing. At home the pilot of 44Sqdn Hainault Farm ‘Comic Camel’ B9287 is seriously injured stalling from a turn at 200ft. This aircraft recently arrived from 78Sqdn at Sutton’s Farm where it was photographed(below) with twin Foster rail mounted Lewis guns, unusually long plywood top deck and headrest and light blue coloured fabric with white stripes on wings and tailplane and originally the fuselage.
The first production Sopwith ‘T1 Cuckoo’ is at Yarmouth on its way from Blackburn at Leeds via the Lincoln AAP to Grain for type testing. Earlier this month they carried out deck take-off trials with the prototype N50 fitted with the now standard 200hp V8 Sunbeam Arab engine. The “Secret” trial report reveals that a coffin shaped box in the place of the torpedo was gradually filled with lead. A string attached to the tail skid was unwound from a wooden wheel and its revolutions marked electrically on a chronograph along with the beats of a metronome to draw a distance time curve and derive a velocity time curve. They note steady acceleration with all loads but then a deceleration for a short time “when the stick is pulled back”.
On 26th May ‘Camel’ B2362 claims a victory whilst the Australian pilot of D1896 is injured stalling on landing. In Italy ‘Camel’ B6344 claims a victory. At home the pilot of Turnbury ‘Camel’ B5560 is killed falling out in a dive and the pilot of Feltwell’s B9328 is killed spinning-in on take-off whilst new ‘Pup’ C282 “Gold Coast Aborigines No.2” bursts a tyre landing at the Aircraft Acceptance Park Coventry.
On 27th May another flying first is achieved on HMS Furious when the three-man non-rigid airship SSZ 59 lands on her after deck whilst she is moored in the Firth of Forth. It makes at least one take-off and re-landing before leaving.(above) (Note the ‘Strutter’ prepared for a take-off on the fore-deck surrounded by the raised wind screens, the hatch to the hangar beneath partly opened and the narrow trackways connecting fore and aft decks) By 2pm Furious is leaving for another escorted two days across the North Sea towards Denmark hunting Zeppelins and trying to avoid mines.
Elsewhere on 27th May 204Sqdn ‘Camels’ B3894 & C74 each claim a victory off Ostend, C6708 claims a victory and shares another with three colleagues, B6379 & D3404 each claim a victory as does a 70Sqdn machine wrongly recorded as C1602, D1825 claims a victory but gets badly shot-up, B7153 & D6602 each share one with one other, the pilot of C6730 has a victory before being killed when his bracing wires are shot away and the wings fold-up, D3416’s is fatally wounded crashing on a night bombing raid and not being found until the next morning and D1787’s is killed spinning-in from a low turn on a practice flight. ‘Dolphin’ C3833 claims a victory whilst D3645 suffers an engine failure. At home the pilot of Feltwell ‘Camel’ B9226 is injured spinning-in with failed aileron controls, the pilot of Hooton Park ‘Pup’ D4139 is killed when it breaks up as he tries to pull out of an over-vertical dive on a target, the pilot of Tangmere ‘Pup’ B5360 is fatally injured possibly after fainting and the pilot of North Shotwick’s C6092 is injured diving-in with a choked engine. ‘Baby’ floatplane N2111 suffers a forced landing with engine failure four and a half miles ESE of the Tyne.
Prototype BR2 ‘Snipe’ B9965 is photographed at Brooklands(above) with a huge streamlined spinner and cowl retro-fitted by Sopwith before it leaves for Martlesham Heath on 27th May for performance trials.
On 28th May the pilot of ‘Camel’ C8280 is fatally wounded after diving steeply on an enemy aircraft. ‘Dolphin’ C4182 claims a kite balloon, C4165’s pilot is injured overrunning a forced landing, C3873 is wrecked hit on the ground by C3914 landing whilst C4174 & C4177 both embarrassingly crash on landing during a General’s Inspection. At home Thetford ‘Pup’ B2223 suffers an undercarriage collapse on landing.
Sopwith continues to develop the facilities on site in Canbury Park Road and on 28th May submit to the Council a plan for an acetylene plant shed outside the oxygen plant room on the south side of the road where they have built the timber shed with canteens over and now completed the demolition of all twenty-six cottages.
On 29th May the pilot of a 70Sqdn ‘Camel’ is fatally wounded shot up in combat with a two-seater whilst D3344’s is injured when the propeller hit a mound on take-off. ‘Dolphin’ D3671 claims a victory, C3830 is wrecked hitting trees on a low patrol and C3820 crashes on landing. Ltn Otto Kissenberth who used a captured ‘Camel’ marked with German crosses to shoot down an SE5a on 16th May is injured in a serious crash in this Camel. At home East Fortune Naval Flying School ‘Ships Strutter’ N5215 stalls from 25ft on landing whilst a ‘Ships Camel’ possibly N6606 crashes taking off from HMS Tiger but is recovered from the sea.
On 30th May ‘Camel’ C1670 claims two victories, B6378, C8218, C8245, C8262, D1809, D1844, D1874, D3392, D6642, D6648, D8116 & D9589 each claim one victory, D1929 claims an aircraft and a kite balloon but the pilots of D1793 & D6483 are killed in combat and D6640’s is taken prisoner. ‘Dolphins’ C3827 & C4148 each claim a victory whilst C3824 shares one with C3871. In Italy thirty-five ‘Camels’ drop a ton of bombs and use 9,000 rounds of ammunition in a mass raid on Val d’Assa but the pilot of B7360 is wounded by ground fire. Later in the day B5180 claims a victory. At home ‘Baby’ floatplane N2111 see a slight oil patch after dropping a 65lb bomb on a U-boat 10 miles off Sunderland.
The Sopwith ‘Schneider’ and ‘Baby’ floatplanes operating from trawlers out in the North Sea have been doing useful anti-Zeppelin patrol and reporting work for most of the war but do not have the speed or height to intercept them. What is needed is a rapid way of getting a fast climbing ‘Ships Camel’ out there and the latest trial is with a low-cost simple fast aircraft carrier. A wooden ramp rather like that being used on capital ship gun turrets has been mounted on a lighter with guide rails for skidded ‘Camel’ N6623.(below at Felixstowe jetty)
The plan is to launch the aircraft with a destroyer towing the lighter and aircraft at high speed. On 30th May the swashbuckling now Colonel Charles Rumney Samson makes the first attempt towed by HMS Truculent at 32knots but to avoid a sandbank it is not directly into wind. With the stern dipping under tow he never gets airborne, plunges left wing down into the sea(below) and is run over by the lighter but somehow escapes unscathed.
On 31st May ‘Camels’ D1894 & D3399 each claim one victory, D1854 shares a victory with three others but the pilot of C8217 is killed in combat, C1661’s is injured crashing with a cut engine, C1959’s is injured hitting a tree swinging on take-off, D1925 is damaged in combat whilst D1846 & B9237 both overturn crash landing with engine failures. ‘Dolphin’ C3799 claims two victories, C3833, C3840 & C4158 each claim a victory, C3818 shares one with C4129 and C3824 & C4130 each share one with C3871 but a pilot is wounded in action and C4131 crashes on landing. At home the pilot of Montrose ‘Camel’ D8135 is injured hitting a tree with a choked engine on take-off. ‘Baby’ floatplane N2111 again bombs a U-boat off the east coast and spots oil whilst Yarmouth’s N1205 damages a float on take-off.
The Sopwith factory delivered a record 152 ‘Dolphins’ In May and produced 2 more ‘Snipe’ prototypes. The number of new Sopwith-designed aircraft from other contractors in May is exactly 600. These comprise the very last ‘Pup’ of 820 from Whitehead of Richmond upon Thames, 72 ‘Dolphins’ from Darracq(46) and Hooper(26) plus 527 new ‘Camels’ with 20 ‘2F1s’ from Beardmore and ‘F1s Camels’ from Boulton & Paul(184), British Caudron(5), Clayton & Shuttleworth(50), Hooper(13), Marsh Jones & Cribb(14), Nieuport & General(59), Portholme(30) and Ruston Proctor(152).
In May new orders have been the 30 ‘Snipe Mk.II Dragons’ on Sopwith Aviation and 750 more ‘F1 Camels’ spread among seven of the twelve suppliers. ‘Camel’ orders now total 5,218 of which 3,368 have been delivered.
The first report of “RAF Aircraft on Charge” dated 31st May lists 1,729 ‘F1 Camels’ plus 104 ‘2F1 Ships Camels’ noting that 227 ‘Camels’ have been written off charge during May. The distribution is broad ranging: BEF Western Front(618), 61 Wing ex-RNAS Dover and northern France(156), Grand Fleet & Northern Patrols(90), Italy(77), Mediterranean(71), Home Defence(66), Home Anti-Submarine(17), Egypt(6) and Salonica(6) plus 420 at Training Units, 16 at Technical Development Establishments, 78 at “Sundry Units”, 45 waiting shipment/in transit to the East, 28 in storage and 128 at Aircraft Acceptance Parks.
Also listed are 140 ’Baby’ floatplanes, 226 ‘Strutters’, 937 ‘Pups’, 11 ‘Triplanes’, 692 ‘Dolphins’ and a few prototypes.
The total number of Sopwith machines at 3,845 is 25% of the RAF’s 15,073 aircraft and easily outnumbers any other commercial design team. Sopwith machines account for an even greater percentage of aircraft in the front-line with 30% of the 2,452 aircraft with the BEF in France including 62% of their single-seat fighters and 64% of the 119 aircraft in Italy. Sopwith aircraft also make up 30% of the 1,016 “Seaplanes and Ship Aeroplanes” with the Royal Navy including all 265 of their single-seaters.
Sopwith ‘Strutters’ are still in demand. With the French relegating the more than 4,000 they have built to training roles, the Royal Navy have acquired 20 French-built ‘Strutters’ F2210 to F2229 to convert as back-up stock of ‘Ships Strutters’ with 50 more to follow. Even more significantly the American Expedition Force in France still short of up-to-date machines from US and French suppliers has since February now bought 514 French ‘Strutters’.(below) Most are for training but the 19th, 88th & 99th Aero Squadrons are using them operationally in Corps Observation Groups.
On 1st June ‘Camel’ B7254 shares two Pfalz victories with C66, C73, D1866 & D3333 whilst B7346, D3400 & D6600 each claim a victory, B7148 shares one with B7153 but the lost pilot of C8277 is killed when the guns start firing as he checks his machine after overturning landing in soft ground, C8231’s is taken prisoner, D6477’s is injured hitting tree tops on landing and crashing through a hangar, B7743 loses a wheel on take-off and crashes on landing and B7172 crashes in a stalled turn. ‘Dolphin’ D3671 claims a victory. In Italy ‘Camels’ B7360 & B9152 each claim a victory but B6423 is shot down in flames and the wounded pilot is taken prisoner whilst B7307’s is killed falling out when it goes down inverted. At home the pilot of ‘Camel’ B2347 is killed at Farnborough spinning-in off a turn with engine failure, F1422’s is killed in a mid-air collision at Fairlop, C77’s is seriously injured in a bounced landing and stall at Shotwick and the pilot of ‘Pup’ B7495 is injured crashing from a steep landing at Montrose. Meanwhile HMS Furious is out again across the North Sea with a naval force within sight of Demark. There are reports of German battle cruisers and Zeppelins nearby when two seaplanes drop bombs on HMS Lion. ‘2F1 Ships Camels’ are launched from the turret platforms of the nearest light-cruisers HMAS Sydney and HMAS Melbourne. Images(below) of a ‘Camel’ stored and taking off from HMAS Sydney show the short ramp with white centre-line and corner markings, the side weather screens and detachable canvas front lattice windbreaks.
Sydney’s ‘Camel’ N6783 chases the seaplanes for 60 miles shooting one down before its Lewis gun jams and the pilot is catapulted from his cockpit in the ditched landing close to the nearest destroyer. This is the first proof that fighters aboard major warships can successfully intercept and drive away intruders.
The ABC Wasp radial engine from the monocoque Sopwith ‘Snail’ C4288 has now been removed and fitted to a BAT Bantam in order to complete a fair comparison of the three “miniature” fighter types.
On 2nd June ‘Camel’ B5687 shares a victory with C65 & D3409 but the pilots of D1854 & D6562 are killed in action and in a mid-air collision C1589’s is killed & C1667’s suffers shock whilst D1890 crashes into a hangar landing downwind. ‘Dolphin’ C4029 is damaged in combat with seven enemy aircraft whilst C4151 & D3699 are damaged forced landing with engine failures. At home the pilots of Eastchurch ‘Camel’ B5744 and Turnberry’s B9262 are killed spinning-in from stalled turns, C136’s & B4632’s are killed in a mid-air collision at Joyce Green and B5188 crashes avoiding men working on the aerodrome at Beaulieu. The pilots of ‘Pups’ B4126 & B6148 are killed spinning-in at South Carlton and Hooton Park.
On 3rd June ‘Camels’ B6369, C1631 & C8225 each claim a victory but the pilot of D6621 is shot down wounded, B7191’s is injured forced landing without fuel and C62’s is injured losing a tyre taking-off after a forced landing. ‘Dolphins’ C4159 & C4173 each claim two victories, C3824 & C4150(above) each claim a victory whilst D3740 forced lands on delivery from No.2 AAP at Hendon. In Italy D8103 claims a victory but in the Aegean the pilot of 110hp Clerget ‘Camel’ B6437 is killed spinning out of control into Mudros harbour and at Port Said ‘Baby’ floatplane sinks after crashing on landing. At home the pilot of Beaulieu ‘Camel’ B7142 is killed stalling with an engine failure, as is the pilot of Gosport School of Special Flying’s C9 diving in from 500ft practising fighting whilst an Air Mechanic is killed in a propeller accident with ‘Pup’ B5929 at Cranwell. ‘Strutter’ A6970 forced lands at sea after flying from a turret on HMS Indomitable.
The Sopwith Board Meeting on 3rd June finally approves the Director’s Report and Statement of Accounts for the 1916/17 financial year. A higher than initially forecast profit figure of £453,685.12.11d is to be used to calculate large retrospective commission payments for Chief Designer Herbert Smith and Company Secretary and Organising Manager H P Musgrave. The Board also seals an agreement with the Ministry of Munitions to sell them the designs of the Baby, Strutter, Pup, Triplane and Camel aircraft for £170,000. (At least £8m today) This neatly resolves long-running difficulties in agreeing the detailed calculation of royalty payments due to Sopwith for aircraft bought from other makers. Sopwith retains design rights outside Britain and British colonies.
On 4th June ‘Camel’ D1889 shares a victory with D1955 but the pilot of a Belgian ‘Camel’ (possibly Sc12) is killed losing speed on take-off whilst ‘Dolphin’ C3821 is damaged forced landing in a cornfield. At home the pilot of Upavon ‘Camel’ B9288 is killed catching fire and spinning-in after a mid-air collision with an SE5, the pilot of London Colney ‘Pup’ B5284 is killed spinning-in from a roll at 200ft and the pilot of Chattis Hill’s swastika marked B7790(below) is seriously injured overturning taking-off after a forced landing whilst tail heavy C6739 on its delivery flight from British Caudron at Aloa overturns after a pancake landing at No.6 AAP Renfrew.
Deck landing experiments on HMS Furious’ rear deck have been suspended but Jack McCleery in repaired skidded ‘Strutter’ DJ3 attempts some touch and go landings on the foredeck. He does “quite well despite the vertical breeze” until he breaks a skid and takes eight inches off the propeller.(below). He flies low and slow back to an aerodrome and ends on his nose but the waiting ambulances are not needed.
On 5th June ‘Camel’ D3417 claims a victory, D3381 claims three kite balloons destroyed but the pilot of B7220 is killed in combat and a pilot from 210Sqdn is injured whilst C8204 is shot-up and damaged, C6709 is wrecked crash landing after a wheel comes off in mid-air and B4618 crashes in a forced landing. ‘Dolphin’ C3796 shares a victory with C3902 whilst C3964 is wrecked on landing having lost a wheel on take-off. At home the pilot of Shotwick ‘Camel’ C8304 is killed and the pilot of Beverley’s D1816 is seriously injured both spinning-in whilst at Tangmere the pilot of ‘Pup’ B6131 is injured in a propeller accident. At Hornsea ‘Baby’ floatplane N2094 is wrecked bending the float and fuselage after an engine failure at 50ft on take-off.
With deck landing trials suspended, the norm for HMS Furious is now wheeled machines leaving from the foredeck like this ‘Camel’(below left) and ‘Strutter’ F2211(below right which does touch and go landings on the foredeck on 5th June). Both have floatation bags for recovery although these training flights end on land.
Harry Hawker’s Australian chum Harry Busteed now a Lieut-Colonel and Commanding Officer at Isle of Grain reports from two days at sea with HMS Furious that the “Strutters pretty nearly fulfil the requirements for a ship aeroplane providing no gadgets are fitted and one landed in the North Sea very successfully. However the officers are anxious for a replacement”. Agreeing that a rotary engine not having to warm up is preferable for a quick getaway, he recommends the Sopwith ‘B1’ based Grain Griffin with a Bentley BR2. He notes one is almost ready for tests at Grain with skids and will go with wheels to Martlesham where the competing first prototype Parnall N.2A N91 has started trials.(below) It also has a BR2 but Busteed believes it to be too fragile and too heavily loaded with its sideways hinged monocoque fuselage, two guns, jettisonable wheels, quick change engine pack and as yet no floatation gear. He may be right, in initial tests it is no faster than existing types despite the 230+hp.
Busteed is heavily involved with developing arrester gear for HMS Furious and the through-deck aircraft carrier HMS ‘Argus’ which is close to completion and now to be completely flat-topped. Armstrongs have been told that there will be no more trials on HMS Furious with their hook and loop gear. There are other designs still being considered including a hidden wires modification to the “Busteed Gear” presently on Furious where the fore and aft arrester wires would be hydraulically pulled down to restrain the aircraft and subsequently retracted into grooves in the deck to allow unimpeded movement of machines and crew.
Meanwhile the refitted HMS Vindex with Short 184 floatplanes and foredeck launched ‘Strutters’ has arrived in Malta. She joins the similar ships Engadine, Manxman and Riviera tackling the growing submarine threat in the Mediterranean and is to go to RAF 62 Wing in the Aegean. Her two ‘Strutters’ are to be replaced by ‘Camels’.
Since March there have been no less than 370 more broken 3-ply ‘Camel’ tail skids in France. The Navy have had no trouble with theirs but these others can no longer be blamed on frozen ground. With his dependence on serviceable ‘Camels’ Brooke-Popham himself has now requested tailskids made of laminated ash as a Class 3 Mod and he is informed that “2 gross have been ordered from Chelsea”. Another service issue is that Camels with the 140hp long-stroke Clerget engines are using much more oil restricting them to 2¼hrs flying. 43Sqdrn have made a one gallon auxiliary tank from sheet copper and fitted it between the guns under the Aldis sight extending the range by 30 minutes. They are authorised to modify other machines. Meanwhile 1 & 2 Aeroplane Supply Depots, recently moved from St Omer and Feinvillers to Marquise and Verton, have been tasked with a Class B Mod to enlarge the hole in ‘Camel’ top wing centre sections to improve pilot upward visibility. It is to be 2ft6in wide from the rear of the front wing spar to the rear edge of the centre section which is to be cut away entirely and “the rear side of the front spar and the front and rear of the rear spar are to be properly streamlined”. This is to be done to stock wing centre sections, to all aircraft arriving from England and all overhauls. Brigades are notified they should get two replacement centre sections per squadron per week and may then proceed to locally modify other machines “if deemed advisable”.
On 6th June ‘Camels’ D9590 & D3381 each share a victory with one other, D6504 claims one victory but is badly shot up, the pilot of B9298 is killed folding the wings pulling up too sharply from a steep dive on a ground target and D6609’s is injured when the engine cuts on take-off. ‘Dolphins’ C3827 & C4158 each claim a victory, C3799 shares one with three others whilst C3940 & C4166 are wrecked overturning landing with engine failures and C4184 is wrecked crashing on landing from a patrol in the dark. In the Aegean, 50Sqdn C Flight ‘Camel’ C1598 which recently joined 16 Wing at Kirec claims a first Camel victory on the Salonika front. In Italy ‘Camel’ D1912 claims a victory but the pilot of B7353 is taken prisoner whilst B2338’s is killed spinning-in taking off from a forced landing with engine trouble. At home Yarmouth ‘Baby’ floatplane N1205 bombs a U-boat. Meanwhile the Sopwith Experimental team have completed and tested the second ‘Salamander’ trench fighter E5430 and it is delivered to Martlesham Heath for trials on 6th June.
On 7th June ‘Camels’ B9306, D1778, D3417 & D9594 each claim a victory, B7272 shares a victory with C65, B5419 shares a kite balloon with two others but the pilot of B7294’s is fatally injured stalling with an engine failure returning from patrol. ‘Dolphins’ C3899, C4230, C4131 & D3697 each claim a victory whilst C4224, D3668 & C3912 are damaged forced landing with engine failures. In Italy in combat with a two-seater and five scouts at about 17,000ft ‘Camel’ D8102 claims two victories whilst D1975 & 140hp D8110 each claim one. 45Sqdn started re-equipping with new Ruston Proctor built 140hp ‘Camels’ in mid-May. At home the pilot of North Shotwick ‘Dolphin’ C4002 is injured crashing after the aircraft caught fire at 2,000ft whilst Seaton Carew ‘Baby’ floatplane N2067 is towed to the Tees by an armed trawler after landing at sea with an engine failure.
Martlesham Heath report on the performance of Snipe B9965 with and without the huge experimental spinner. It proved impossible to climb the machine at full throttle at low altitudes with the spinner as the engine overheated and the climb rate and outright speeds from 10,000ft to 17,000ft showed no appreciable difference.
0n 7th June “Reginald Cary, General Manager, Sopwith Aviation Co Ltd” is awarded an OBE and “Harry Hawker, Trade Pilot, Sopwith Aviation Co Ltd” is made a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire instituted in June 1917 for those who render special service to the Empire.
On 8th June ‘Camels’ C1597, D1974 & D6484 each claim a victory whilst ‘Pup’ C310 is badly damaged avoiding another aircraft at Vendôme. In Italy D9394 claims two victories and D9390 claims one but the pilot of B2316 is taken prisoner fatally injured crashing and overturning after combat.(below)
At home the pilot of Hendon ‘Camel’ C169 is killed stalling in a low altitude turn as is B7301’s at South Carlton Wye(below) whilst D2530 and ‘Pup’ B1821 both crash taking off at Eastbourne. The pilot of Scampton ‘Pup’ B5345 is seriously injured spinning-in after fainting and 9904 lands with engine failure at Yarmouth.
With so many accidents to ‘Camel’ pilots under training a unarmed two-seat conversion has been developed for training establishments initially to get trainees used to controlling the fuel mixture of their rotary engines which if left rich too long after take-off can choke with fatal results. The pilot’s seat has to be moved forward a little and a second seat inserted behind it replacing the gravity and main fuel tanks.(below) A combined fuel/oil tank replaces the original oil tank under the front decking giving a very short endurance.
B3801 seems to have been the first to be converted, first flying at Upavon last February.(below) Official drawings are now being prepared for issue to other training units for local conversions.
On 9th June ‘Camel’ D3410 claims two victories, B2472, B7171, D8119 & D9586 each claim one, D9381 shares one with D9401 but the pilot of B5244 is killed during a low staffing mission, D1844’s is taken prisoner fatally wounded, D3348’s & B7163’s are also taken prisoner, D6592 takes a direct AA hit but glides back over the lines and is burnt under heavy shell fire whilst C8299 crashes after running into a balloon cable. ‘Dolphin’ C4057 claims a victory whilst the pilot of C4134 is wounded by an AA hit. In Italy ‘Camel’ D8101 clams a victory. At Suez in Egypt the pilot of No.58 Training School ‘Strutter’ A6996 is killed in a crash. At home the pilot of Hooton Park ‘Dolphin’ C4233 is killed stalling into a nose dive.
On 10th June ‘Camel’ D8117 claims two victories before crashing with a holed fuel tank, D1831, D1855 & D1785 each claim one victory but the pilots of B7249 & D9590 are killed colliding as they dive on the same enemy aircraft, D1963’s is taken prisoner, D1809 crashes with a holed tank and is burnt to avoid capture whilst Special Duty Flight ‘Pup’ B2188 crash lands at St André. In Italy the pilot of ‘Camel’ B2329 is injured in a forced landing.
On 11th June ‘Camel’ D3414 claims two victories, D3417 claims a victory and shares one with two others, D1783, D1842, D1922 & D8106 each claim one victory, D9382 claims one but the pilot is injured, D1832 & D1841 each claim one but are badly shot up whilst the pilot of D1962 is killed in combat, B2351’s is shot down fatally injured, B7155’s is killed folding the wings pulling out of a vertical dive, D1804’s is injured after an engine failure, the pilot of D6698 is killed crashing on landing, D6636 crashes barely controllable with AA damage and D6589 crashes after engine failure. At home the pilot of ‘Dolphin’ C4054 is killed spinning-in at CFS(below), the pilot of Feltwell ‘Pup’ B6026 is killed stunting too low, Montrose’s C287 is wrecked and North Shotwick’s C4014 crashes forced landing whilst ‘Baby’ Floatplane N2101 is badly damaged catching fire whilst taxying.
On 12th June ‘Camel’ D1961 claims a kite balloon and a Pfalz, C8276 & D9398(above) each claim one victory as does B5646 before the pilot is killed in combat as is B7272’s in combat with 16 enemy aircraft whilst D1885 is shot up and D1917 crashes and overturns with a holed fuel tank. ‘Dolphin’ C4015 is damaged by an “engine burst”. In the Aegean at Salonica ‘Camel’ C1599 claims two victories whilst escorting a bombing raid and C1586 claims another. At home the pilot of North Shotwick ‘Pup’ C278 is fatally injured flying into the ground and overturning. HMS Furious arrived within sight of the Danish coast last night but the weather remains too rough all day today to fly-off and recover the ‘Strutter’ on the planned special information gathering mission.
By 12th June trials of the 170hp ABC Wasp radial engined “miniature fighters” including the Sopwith ‘Snail’ “have been discontinued whilst engine troubles are sorted”.
In the race to adopt the new ABC radial engines the second prototype Sopwith ‘Bulldog two-seat fighter X4 now has one of the larger Dragonfly engines but these are so far also proving unreliable. Meanwhile the first prototype Sopwith ‘Bulldog’ X3 now has a Bentley BR2 in place of the 230hp Clerget. After a first test flight at Orfordness on 12th June the performance is reported as “not great” but it is “quite split-ass and nice to fly”.
On 13th June ‘Camels’ C64 & D1849 each claim a victory, B4638 shares one with D6497 but the pilot is wounded. At home the pilot of ‘Dolphin’ D5304 is killed diving into the ground at the Central Flying School (CFS). The pilot of Tadcaster ‘Camel’ C158 is killed after a wing breaks off at 2,000ft and the pilot of Stowe Maries ‘Camel’ D9574 is severely injured in a crash. ‘Camel’ N6769 flies from a turret platform on HMS Lion and is recovered severely damaged after landing alongside HMS Verulam. Despite the deck landing problems with HMS Furious the Royal Navy has wasted no time in building up aerial reconnaissance and defence capabilities in its fleets. Over the past year or so twenty-two cruisers and light cruisers have been fitted with fixed ramps or revolving ramps and another twenty-six battle cruisers are each being equipped with two gun-turret mounted ramps, typically with a ‘Ships Camel’ on a forward turret and a ‘Ships Strutter’ on an aft turret.
HMS Indomitable is one of only seven exceptions where off-centre midships turrets are used and her aircraft can clearly be seen (above) mounted on port and starboard midships turrets. ‘Ships Strutter’ A5988 has recently been photographed leaving a midships turret platform on Indomitable (below) with the intrepid crew experiencing that sinking feeling before speeding off.
On 14th June the pilot of ‘Camel’ D6420 is killed in combat, D6597’s is wounded in action and D6611 crashes with a choked engine on take-off. Farnborough rebuilt ‘Dolphin’ B7849 also has an engine failure on take-off, C4182 forced lands with engine issues whilst the wind is blamed for C8071’s crash on landing.
On 15th June ‘Camels’ B7154 & D1960 each claim a victory, B7154 shares one with B7229 & C65 whilst B5204 & D6697 each claim a kite balloon destroyed. The pilot of ‘Dolphin’ C4161 is injured and the aircraft wrecked overturning forced landing with a cut engine. In Italy the Austrians start a major offensive along the entire front from the Adriatic to the Asiago Plateau. ‘Camels’ attack the troop lines and in the afternoon over thirty are diverted to the Italian sector bombing and strafing pontoon bridges to help delay the Austrian assault which has already started to cross the strategic Piave River. ‘Camels’ B5181, B6412, D8111, D9392 & D9406 each claim a victory but the pilot of B6356 is wounded hit by ground fire and B7351’s is killed spinning-in after take-off.
On 16th June ‘Camel’ B7185 claims a victory shared with four others, D3419 shares a kite balloon down in flames with B5749 but the pilot of B7347 is killed on a raid, B2524’s is shot down and taken prisoner, B7174 is badly damaged colliding with another Camel on take-off whilst the undercarriage of D9440 is torn-off swerving in thick grass on take-off and C8266 is damaged overturning after an engine failure on take-off.(below back on its wheels)
In Italy ‘Camels’ continue to harass the Austrians along the Piave River and the pilot of B5204 is fatally wounded. At home the pilot of Lopcombe Corner ‘Camel’ C1678 is killed stalling returning from gun practice whilst the pilot of ‘Pup’ C271 is killed stalling and spinning-in at the Fighting School at Marske.
On 17th June ‘Camel’ D9422 claims two victories, D6575 & D9613 each claim a victory, B9211 shares a victory with D9407, D3381 & D3424 break up an Albatros but one pilot is then killed in combat and the other fatally wounded in a forced landing, C8289’s pilot is killed spinning-in, D6410 is shot up in combat whilst lost B7413 crashes into a DH9 forced landing at a strange airfield. ‘Dolphin’ C3799 claims a victory, C3792 claims one but is badly shot through, C4185 claims one but is shot up and damaged in a forced landing, the pilot of C4228 is wounded, C4062 forced lands with combat damage whilst C4056, C4169 & D3707 all forced land with engine failures and C3843 overturns on landing. At home both crew of unusually 100hp Gnome powered ‘Strutter’ N5612 are injured colliding with a stationary machine on the ground at East Fortune, the pilot of Scampton ‘Camel’ C114 is fatally injured stalling with an engine failure whilst Northolt F2093’s pilot is severely injured hitting wireless telegraph wires and D8227’s is seriously injured losing control pulling out of a dive. The pilot of ‘Pup’ C332 is injured overturning landing with a damaged propeller after hitting the top wing of an Avro on take-off, B5930 crashes landing at Eastbourne and Yarmouth ‘Baby’ floatplane N2116 is completely wrecked forced landing at sea with an engine failure.
The latest official report on Sopwith’s ‘Snark’ RAF Type 1 high-altitude single-seat triplane fighter prototype states that the “fuselage, undercarriage and tail unit are complete, the main planes are erected in skeleton with guns fitted in position”. The photograph(above) show a plywood monocoque construction like the ‘Snail’ with considerable back stagger on the lowest wing and the addition of a third wing with very little stagger. The large diameter front fuselage carries the engine mounting for an ABC Dragonfly radial engine. The great innovation is the lower wings which each carry two Lewis machine guns with the cartridge drums accessible through the top wing surface.(below) Unfortunately there is no urgency to complete this machine until the problems with the Dragonfly engines are resolved.
On 18th June ‘Camel’ B7171 claims a victory but gets badly shot-up, the pilots of B3882, B7148, D6665 & D6670 are killed spinning out of control, C1631’s is taken prisoner fatally wounded, D6487’s is also taken prisoner, D9591’s is injured hitting a trench crash landing, D9587 crash lands hit by AA fire, D6669 & D9403 forced land with magneto trouble whilst D1904 crashes out of control after the control column gets caught in the gun control cables and B2520 crashes on landing . ‘Dolphin’ C3827 claims two victories, C3871 & C4181 each claim a victory whilst C3874 crashes with a failed engine and C3819 overturns on landing with an axle failure. At home the pilot of Beaulieu ‘Camel’ B7376 is killed stalling from a half roll, the pilots of Shotwick‘s C8305 and Joyce Green’s B7414 are killed stalling and spinning-in and the pilot of Beverley’s B4627 is injured whilst a mechanic is injured in a propeller accident with ‘Pup’ B7515 at Castle Bromwich.
Following the service trials of Sopwith ‘TF2 Salamander’ prototype E5429 in France in May a list of modifications considered essential for this armoured ground attack aircraft was submitted to the Air Ministry who have now responded that it is not possible to make the rudder bar adjustable or to re-design the centre section to improve the pilot’s view. It is not also practicable to duplicate incidence bracing wires but bracing has been strengthened but Sopwith have been asked to duplicate elevator and rudder control wires, tailplane flying wires will be duplicated if possible without delaying early machines whilst a new arrangement of aileron control cables provides positive movement in both directions to provide more balance.
In reply Maj General Salmond states that the strengthened bracing “does not have the same moral effect on the pilot” as duplicated wires and duplicated tail wires are essential modifications on all aircraft arriving in France. During this exchange Sopwith are preparing their response which states that a larger rudder has been fitted to improve lateral manoeuvrability but do not propose to add the several pounds in weight of double levers for the duplication of tail wires stating that the elevator cross tube is strong enough with one control wire shot away. Tail bracing wires could be replaced with an oval tube adjustable at one end “but this will delay the first 100 machines”. They also note that “they cannot take responsibility for the results likely to occur with the additional stresses on the wings if balanced ailerons are used, factors of safety being lower than those of a fighting scout in accordance with Ministry requirements”.
Despite all this, on 18th June Sopwith receive confirmation of a large first order for 500 ‘TF2 Salamander’ trench fighters which will be built alongside the 500 ‘Snipe’ in the new National Aircraft Factory at Ham. After just 10 weeks on site, Fred Sigrist and his team are well advanced with training the new workers and installing jigs. They are close to completing their first production ‘Snipe’ but in the meantime they are already using some of the vast workshop space for ‘Dolphin’ production to supplement the facilities in the relatively cramped factory a mile down the road in Kingston.
Photographs(above) show a ‘Dolphin’ fuselage side frame being assembled and a ‘Dolphin’ fuselage being erected and trued-up in front of rows of fuselages. The other photograph(below) shows a ‘Dolphin’ wing jig. The bicycle might be useful to get around the vast factory and is certainly the quickest way to get here from the other Kingston factory if you are helping to train the new recruits.
On 19th June ‘Camel’ D8208 claims a victory, the pilot of C6731 is killed getting into a spin practising dive bombing whilst D9587 forced land with engine failure after hit by flak in an aerodrome raid. In Italy ‘Camels’ D1919 & D8112 each claim two victories but the pilot of B9310 is taken prisoner shot down by AA and ground fire. At home the pilot of Chattis Hill’s B7415 is killed spinning-in. Out in the North Sea HMS Furious is attacked by two German seaplanes one of which drops bombs nearby. Her ‘Ships Camels’ N6801 & N6810 are sent up but do not catch the seaplanes and are recovered from ditched landings in the sea. N6782 flies from HMS Galatea also chasing them but forced lands in Denmark and is interned. Later two more seaplanes drop bombs near Furious. This time a ‘Camel’ flying off the aft deck falls into the sea whilst the one from the foredeck catches and shoots down one of the seaplanes putting a bullet through its engine. This is HMS Furious’ first victory.(below) After the crew are rescued by escorting torpedo boat destroyers the seaplane is sunk by gunfire as HMS Furious makes a hasty zig-zag departure for fear of torpedo attack after a U-boat sighting.
On 20th June in poor weather the pilot of ‘Camel’ D3405 is taken prisoner, B3939’s is injured crashing on take-off and D1843 is shot up in combat with six enemy aircraft whilst ‘Dolphin’ C3818 claims a Fokker Triplane victory. At home the pilot of Beverley ‘Camel’ D9538 recovers from a 2,500ft spin but enters another and is killed whilst the pilot of Seaton Carew ‘Baby’ floatplane N2111 is slightly injured when it is wrecked colliding with a buoy taking off in fog after a forced landing at sea with engine problems.
Over the last few days orders have been confirmed for another 200 ‘Camels’ from Boulton & Paul, 50 from British Caudron and 100 from Nieuport & General bringing total ‘Camel’ orders to date to 5,568. Boulton & Paul proudly display a ‘Camel’ on their current advertisements(below), they now have orders for 1,675, 100 more than Ruston Proctor.
On 21st June the pilots of ‘Camels’ B6326, B7227 & B7245 are all taken prisoner and D9421 forced lands with an engine failure. ‘Dolphins’ C4020 & D3797 both also forced land. The pilot of Vendôme ‘Pup’ C325 is killed after it catches fire at 3,000ft and he is thrown out. In Italy ‘Camels’ D8101 & D9410 each claim a victory. At home the pilot of Minchinghampton ‘Camel’ C103 is fatally injured after a wing collapses pulling out of a dive whilst Yarmouth ‘Ships Camel’ N6608’s pilot is drowned when the aircraft sinks after an engine failure and a forced landing at sea and the pilot delivering a 151Sqdn ‘Camel’ to France is killed crashing and losing a wing on landing. 151 (Night Fighter) Squadron has been formed in the last few days with flights of night fighting modified ‘Camels’ from three Hainault Farm squadrons. They are to protect the Abbeyville area of north France from night bombing.
On 22nd June with low cloud and high winds there is very little flying but ‘Dolphin’ C3795 crashes with engine trouble on take-off. In Italy ‘Camel’ B7283 claims a victory.
At the Stamford Bridge Football Grounds in Fulham the Third Annual Aircraft Workers’ Sports is organised by the YMCA to raise funds for their Disabled Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Hostels and Trade Colonies. In a wide range of events there are 700 competitors from 31 firms around London including “290 ladies and 80 boys”. Once again a Sopwith team wins the Inter-Works Tug-of-War.
On 23rd June in more poor weather ‘Camel’ D3396 claims a victory and ‘Dolphin’ C3912 is damaged crashing after shooting off its propeller on a gun-test flight. At home the pilot of Lopcombe Corner ‘Camel’ B7745 is killed spinning-in from considerable height with wings folded whilst Rochford’s F2097 crash lands with engine failure.
On 24th June in strong winds the pilot of ‘Camel’ D3367 is killed after wings fold in combat with three enemy aircraft and the pilot of a 23Sqdn ‘Dolphin’ is wounded in action whilst Vendôme ‘Pup’ C313 is badly damaged swinging on landing. In Italy the pilot of ‘Camel’ B9306 goes up on a practice flight but is killed spinning-in from 2,000ft. Heavy rain has restricted flying lately but has swept away the Austrian Army’s pontoon bridges trapping many on the Italian bank of the Piave River and bringing a halt to their bold assault.
Whilst the Bentley BR2 engined ‘Bulldog’ X3 is at the Aircraft Experimental Establishment at Orfordness, Sopwith have finally been able to complete a second machine X4(above) with the arrival of a Clyno-built ABC Dragonfly radial engine. X4 has no armament. If anything slightly smaller than a ‘Strutter’ and with three times the horsepower, it is no surprise that the take-off climb is impressive.(below) The ‘Bulldogs’ are now classified as “Experimental machines possessing features likely to be of use to the Air Force” as is the second reverse-stagger “Hippo” X18 which Sopwith has also now finally completed and flown. Both X4 & X18 are to immediately go to Farnborough as test vehicles for their large Dragonfly & Clerget engines.
With Martlesham Heath trials suspended, the monocoque fuselage ‘Sopwith ‘Snail’ C4288 has now been packed and delivered to Farnborough where they are also trying to understand and overcome the troubles with the 170hp ABC Wasp radial engines. Meanwhile the third prototype ‘TF2 Salamander’ trench fighter E5431 has arrived at Martlesham Heath for initial flight trials before going on to Orfordness.
On 25th June the pilot of ‘Camel’ B7278 is killed in combat with seven enemy aircraft, B7164’s is taken prisoner fatally wounded, C8238’s is also taken prisoner, D9612 crashes with engine trouble and N6628 with the Training School at Vendome stalls and spins-in. In Italy ‘Camel’ D8170 shares a victory with D8206 & D8208. At home the pilot of Croydon ‘Camel’ C152’s is seriously injured hitting the ground practising strafing whilst the pilot of Hooton Park ‘Dolphin’ C3997 is killed crashing from a stall. At Farnborough ‘Dolphin’ D3750 vibrates badly and overheats before oil pressure “goes dud” and a forced landing avoids a seized engine. At Lympne ‘Camel’ F1346 crashes taking off for Orly destined for the USAS’s 17th Pursuit Squadron. Since 20th June F1340, F1344, F1348 & F1364 have arrived at Orly and more from this batch of Boulton & Paul built ‘Camels’ will soon be making the channel crossing for this Squadron forming up in France mostly with American pilots who have already served in the RAF.
At Brooklands on 25th June a party of RAF Officers and Sopwith staff witness a test of ‘Dolphin’ D3747 fitted with a Lloyd-Lot jettisonable fuel tank, one way for some pilots to avoid their great fear of being burnt alive before they can land the aircraft. Photographs show the aircraft at Brooklands(above) and the tank dropped on the ground. On this flight test the tank is artificially weighted to avoid a fire risk and is successfully released at 1,500 ft above the aerodrome. Sopwith are prepared to incorporate the tank in production ‘Dolphins’ but warn that it would incur delivery delays. A parachute seems a more obvious solution to abandoning a burning or breaking up aeroplane but the ones used by crews of observation balloons are too heavy and bulky and not designed to work from an aircraft doing 100 mph. An Air Board sub-committee for development of a parachute for pilots was created late last year after pressure from the media and Parliament but its brief to develop a reliable system which does not impede the performance of the occupants or the aircraft has led to ponderous unhurried investigations. There is already Everard Calthorp’s privately developed “Guardian Angel” parachute which has been demonstrated in low level jumps and pulling a 12 stone dummy off an aircraft at speed but concerns about it not being 100% safe with possible entanglement with the aircraft’s tail have so far stopped it being adopted and saving at least some lives.
By 26th June Sopwith have submitted a design, signed just six days ago by Herbert Smith(above), for an ABC Dragonfly twin-engined three-seat day bomber or escort fighter. Although this is a first twin-engine design it has inherited some proven Sopwith features including a vertically stored internal bomb rack, long narrow high-altitude triplane wings and the current Sopwith fin and rudder shape. There are front and rear Scarff gun mountings. All bombers are being named after towns and cities and ‘Cobham’ is the small town near Brooklands where Thomas Sopwith is living. The Sopwith ‘Cobham’ is in competition with Boulton & Paul and A V Roe twin-Dragonfly designs which are already under construction. In the race to adopt the exciting but so far troubled Dragonfly radial engines Sopwith already have the ‘Snipe II Dragon’ at Farnborough and the monocoque ‘Snark’ high-altitude triplane fighter fuselages almost complete awaiting engines. Sopwith’s biplane ‘Snapper’ prototype in the same class has had a set-back with a decision to abandon the plywood monocoque fuselage in favour of a conventional construction. These Dragonfly engined Sopwith fighters are in competition with designs from Armstrong Whitworth, BAT and Nieuport .
On 26th June in combat with six Fokker DVIIs 210Sqdn ‘Camel’ B7153 shares three claimed victories with D3387 & D9608. D1878, D1895, D9615 & D9622 each claim a victory but the pilot of D6630 is killed, D9614’s is taken prisoner fatally wounded, D1777’s is also fatally wounded whilst B5433’s is injured overturning landing with an engine failure and D8109 crashes overshooting on landing with a cylinder blown off. ‘Dolphin’ C3818 claims a victory whilst C3843 overturns on landing and at Vendôme ‘Pup’ B1820 is damaged going onto its nose on landing. At home the pilots of Northolt ‘Camel’ E9977 and Tangmere ‘Dolphin’ C3818’s are killed spinning-in.
After the crash of the first Dolphin fitted under Sopwith supervision in France with a 300hp Hispano-Suiza engine a replacement airframe has been supplied from the Sopwith production line. This new ‘Dolphin II’ D3615 (above) has been flown this month by French pilots and this week by a United States Air Service pilot who is submitting highly complementary reports on its flying qualities. The USAS are about to order over 2,194 ‘Dolphin IIs’ from Société Anonyme de Constructions Aeronautiques (SACA) in Paris for delivery between August 1918 and June 1919. The 300hp ‘Dolphin II’ can be distinguished from a 200hp ‘Dolphin’ by the taller engine cover fully enclosing the twin Vickers guns and a large air-breather hole over the propeller boss. This one has an extended pitot tube on the outboard port wing struts for more accurate speed measurement. Farnborough have just obtained two examples of the 300hp Hispano-Suiza for evaluation but the first has failed after only 7 hours bench testing.
The prototype Sopwith ‘Cuckoo’ N74 has finished torpedo carrying trials at Grain and been taken to East Fortune. A larger rudder is being designed as “it requires full rudder to maintain a straight course with the Sunbeam Arab engine full out”. The trials with the first Blackburn-built production ‘Cuckoos’ are being delayed by cracked sumps in their Arab engines and by the need for a redesigned tail skid fork and tail post. This Class 1 modification will be retrofitted in service to the first ten machines.
In parallel with introducing new types into service Grain have continued to develop versions of ‘Ships Strutters’. Ex-RFC single-seat ‘Strutter Bomber’ A6987(above) has skids fitted, floatation bags in the rear fuselage and inflatable ones either side of the nose. It has additional cross braces inboard on the wings to keep them fully rigged when they are detached from the fuselage for transport to the ships by lighter and uniquely has a Scarff ring rear gun mounting in place of its original bomb bay. A6987 has now moved up to Turnhouse and is to go on to the Fleet Base at Donibristle for use on HMS Furious.
HMS Furious has again been preparing for an attack on the airship sheds at Tondern. Of the six ‘Camels’ photographed on the foredeck around this date(above), three have already had their colourful cockades dulled with grey paint and N6779 on the left has fuselage, fin and rudder painted blue. The front portion of the weather protection combing around the aircraft lift is folded forward to allow the machines to be wheeled onto the deck. Furious sets out to reach the Danish coast before dawn on 27th June with 13 ‘Camels’, 11 ‘Ships Strutters’ and 8 extra pilots aboard but the weather deteriorates to a Force 7 gale and the operation is abandoned.
In France on 27th June ‘Camel’ C8268 claims two victories, C65, D3345, D6564, & D8153 each claim a victory, C1623 shares one with four others but the pilots of B7186, C8249, D1789, D1905, D6532 & D9510 are killed, D9396’s is taken prisoner wounded, D9584 crashes when a wheel comes off on landing and D6405 crashes landing lost on a night patrol. ‘Dolphins’ C3829, C3892, C3898, C4186 & D3696 each claim a victory. (Photograph right of C3898 shows tiny white square 79Sqdn marking and foot holes to get up to the cockpit) The pilots of C3806 & D3691 are both taken prisoner fatally wounded, C3816 is damaged in combat and C3910 crashes with engine failure. At home the pilot of Tangmere ‘Dolphin’ C3818 is killed in a stalled nose dive. The Germans have not waited for a perfect parachute and have started issuing them to pilots and observers. Lt Steinbrecher is the first to be saved jumping out of his burning Albatros on 27th June after the encounter with ‘Camel’ D3345 listed above. Sopwith has confirmed that it would be possible to fit a Calthrop “Guardian Angel” Type A1 two-stage static line deploying parachute in the top decking behind the pilot on modified ‘Dolphin’ and ‘Snipe’ fighters but there is still no official support for this device.
On 28th June ‘Camel’ D6511 claims two victories, B7180, D6679 & D8169 each claim a victory but the pilot of B4612 is taken prisoner, D3327 & D3420 are shot up in combat and D1899 crashes after hitting telephone cables landing with engine trouble. ‘Dolphins’ D3671, D3715 & D3718 each claim a victory whilst C3840 is wrecked forced landing in fog, C4057 & D3685 are damaged forced landing after engine failures and D3689 also forced lands. At home the pilot of Cranwell ‘Camel’ B7238 is killed from a spinning nose-dive and D6430’s is killed crashing through the roof of stables in Hounslow after turning over at 3,000ft followed by a series of steep dives. At North Shotwick an air mechanic swing starting ‘Pup’ C279 is hit by the propeller and injured.
On 29th June ‘Camels’ B7859, C6713 “Doris”, C8250, D1908 & D8172 each claim a victory, D9616 shares one with D9622 but the pilot of D3361 is killed in combat, D3333’s & D3383’s are both fatally injured after colliding at 15,000ft, B7829’s is taken prisoner whilst D1897’s & D6633’s are injured overturning landing from practice flights and C17 is damaged going up on its nose when a wheel comes off taxying. ‘Dolphin’ C80 70 claims two victories one shared with five others and one shared with D3687 but C4150 overturns crashing with an engine failure on take-off and D3672 overturns stalling on landing. At Vendôme ‘Pup’ C319 is badly damaged crashing on take-off. Meanwhile twelve 213 Sqdn ‘Camels are burnt and destroyed in an enemy bombing raid on Dunkirk these include B7175 “Mina” recently photographed(below) with white-edged red, white & blue fuselage stripes, tri-colour off-centre wheel disc markings and a widened wrap around windscreen. In the Aegean the pilot of Imbros ‘Camel’ B5670 is killed stalling after an engine failure at 300ft. At home the pilot of Lopcombe Corner ‘Dolphin’ C3803 is killed in an accident as is C3818’s in a spinning nose dive at Tangmere where C3943’s is injured in a forced landing with engine failure. ‘Pup’ C257 is wrecked crashing at Eastbourne.
On 30th June ‘Camel’ D6492 claims two victories, C75, D1824, D1868, D3336, D3349, D3355, D3394 & D9442 each claim one victory. D6624 also claims two victories but the second Fokker DVII spins into ‘Camel’ D3359 both going down fatally, B3931’s pilot is killed when it breaks up failing to pull out of a dive during gun practice, D6564’s is taken prisoner whilst C8212’s is wounded overturning in a forced landing. ‘Dolphin’ C3792 claims a victory, the pilot of C4227 is fatally injured stalling on landing from a delivery flight whilst B7855 & C3899 are damaged in a mid-air collision and C8003 is wrecked landing into woodland near the aerodrome. At home the USN pilot of Hornsea ‘Baby’ floatplane N1448 is injured crashing on take-off whilst Seaton Carew’s N2067 drops a bomb on a U-boat off Scarborough. At Yarmouth 130hp ‘Baby’ N2071 (pictured right with a 112lb bomb) now has a synchronised Lewis machine gun firing through the propeller and one over the top wing and sports nose painted with red and white squares.
The Sopwith Experimental Team have been busy through June, delivering the re-engined second Bulldog and new second ‘Hippo’ prototypes and now the third prototype ‘TF2 Salamander’ E5431 which has arrived at Martlesham Heath. They are also building a mock-up of an armour-plated two-seat contact patrol version of the ‘Bulldog’ for low-altitude reconnaissance for co-operation with infantry and potentially also a trench fighter. They also have a surprising new machine being flown by Harry Hawker at Brooklands.(below) It has a ‘Camel’ fuselage but is Sopwith’s first monoplane design with a wire-braced pilot’s eye-level parasol wing.
Through June the Sopwith factories have delivered 96 ‘Dolphins’. The number of new Sopwith designed aircraft from other contractors in June is 421, 179 less than last month. These comprise just 1 ‘Pup’ from Standard Motors, 38 ‘Dolphins’ from Darracq (32) and Hooper (6) plus 382 new ‘Camels’ with 23 ‘2F1 Ships Camels’ from Beardmore and ‘F1s Camels’ from Boulton & Paul (82), Caudron (10), Clayton & Shuttleworth (49), Hooper (40), Marsh Jones & Cribb (17), Nieuport & General (27), Portholme (30) and Ruston Proctor (104). Blackburn have completed the first 6 ‘Cuckoos’ over the last two months which are not included in the above totals but probably have all been formally accepted as delivered despite the modifications required.
In June in addition to the order for 500 ‘Salamander’ on Sopwith Aviation have come orders for 100 more ‘Dolphins’ on Darracq and 400 ‘Camels’ on four different contractors – the 350 recorded by 20th June and now 50 on Portholme. Meanwhile Beardmore have been instructed to cease production of ‘2F1 Ships Camels’ in favour of Handley Page V/1500 four-engined bombers. They are expected to pass all jigs, drawing and materials to Pegler of Doncaster but Pegler are already behind with Sopwith ’Cuckoo’ manufacture and instead the last 60 of Beardmore’s 150 ‘2F1’ orders are to be built by Arrol-Johnston in Dumfries initially using parts supplied by Beardmore.
After an appeal by the Society of British Aircraft Constructors (SBAC) to a Board of Referees appointed by the Treasury the profit allowed before the payment of Excess Profits Tax has been raised from 8% to 15% of capital employed “for businesses manufacturing aircraft or aircraft propellers”. This special case recognises the risks in investing to rapidly expand this new industry with its unpredictable future and the concession is retrospective. This is all good news for the Sopwith Aviation Co. but despite continuing significant capital investment they will still be liable to 80% Excess Profits Tax on the majority of their recently declared handsome 1916/17 profit.
On 1st July ‘Camels’ D1810, D1887, D3368, D9581 & D9607 each claim a victory but the pilots of B6369 & C8264 are killed in combat, D3343 is damaged in combat whilst D3340 & D6522crash with engine problems and D6671 is damaged on landing. ‘Dolphin’ C3824 claims two or three victories but later with a different pilot gets lost in fog after diving on a machine gun and crash lands in the dark. ‘Dolphins’ C3786, C8075, D3669, D3715, D3718 & D5236 each claim a victory, C3818 shares one with C3833 & C3966, C3871 claims a victory in combat with seven enemy aircraft before it is hit and the pilot taken prisoner whilst the American pilot of C4181 is killed in the same combat when it breaks up at 11,000ft. At Vendôme ‘Pup’ C307 is damaged forced landing with engine failure. In Italy ‘Camel’ D9388 claims a victory and the pilot of ‘Camel’ B7383 is slightly injured overturning on landing.
On 2nd July ‘Camels’ B7744 & D8204 each claim a victory but the pilot of D9404 is killed in combat whilst B3852 is hit by AA fire and the pilot slightly wounded before crashing and catching fire. ‘Dolphins’ C3833 & C3996 each claim a victory whilst the pilot of D3671 is killed in combat and C4229’s injured hitting netting on the aerodrome landing with a cut engine. At home the pilot of Montrose ‘Camel’ E1446 is killed pulling out of a dive too sharply.
On 3rd July in poor weather ‘Camel’ B5642 is caught by the wind on take-off and crashes whilst D9447 makes a forced landing. The pilot of ‘Dolphin’ C3903 is killed in action. At home the pilot of West Fenton ‘Camel’ D6680 whilst on aerial firing practice lands in the sea is drowned despite very little damage to the recovered aircraft. The pilot of Eastbourne ‘Pup’ C314 is injured crashing with engine failure diving on a target.
The Sopwith-Beardmore ‘SBIII Folding Pup’ is now officially obsolete and very few are still active. Some 60 of the 100 Bearmore built have seen limited shipboard service almost exclusively on HMS Cassandra and the converted steam packet ships HMS Pegasus & HMS Nairana also fitted with fixed flying platforms. Fighter protection for the fleets is now provided by much higher performance Sopwith and Beardmore-built two-gun 150 hp ‘Ships Camels’ stored on and flown from simple flat gun-turret mounted or rotating ramps on otherwise standard capital ships.
On 4th July ‘Camels’ B7248, D1948, D3415, D6479 & D9632 each claim a victory but the pilots of B3858, D6494 & D8160 are killed in combat, B3852’s is injured forced to land hit by British AA fire, D3370’s is taken prisoner, D3368’s is injured colliding with stationary D9606 on take-off, D3345 overturns forced landing shot up by ground fire, D3373 is damaged in combat whilst D6530 crashes into parked C1584 & D6661 after landing and D3395 crashes into a hedge overshooting on landing avoiding two stationary aircraft. ‘Dolphins’ C3788, C3792 & C8074 each claim a victory. In Italy ‘Camel’ D8235 claims a victory.
On 5th July the pilot of ‘Camel’ D1947 is wounded in combat, D9582’s is injured crashing with a seized engine whilst B2314, B2353 & D9441 forced land with engine failures. ‘Dolphin’ D3669 claims a victory, D5233 shares one with D3669 but another ‘Dolphin’ pilot is wounded in action. In Italy ‘Camel’ B7381 with a seized engine glides from 18,000ft over enemy territory to land on the edge of Venice Lagoon but finishes wrecked on its back in shallow water the pilot wet and shaken. At home the pilot of Hounslow ‘Camel’ C171 is fatally injured spinning-in and Hainault Farm D6686’s is injured crashing from a stall. The pilot of Tangmere ‘Dolphin’ E4428 is killed spinning in from a climbing turn, Manston ‘Pup’ C277’s is seriously injured nose diving from a low stall whilst Covehithe’s 9905 forced lands at sea with an engine failure and sinks. The pilot of ‘Ships Strutter’ A5990 is killed when it crashes and capsizes taking-off from a turret ramp on HMS Glorious but the observer is rescued unhurt.
On 6th July on a quiet cloudy day the wounded pilot of ‘Camel’ D9631 is taken prisoner whilst D6628 crashes on landing and D9620 forced lands both with engine trouble. ‘Dolphin’ C4136 claims a victory. At home the pilot of Feltwell ‘Pup’ B1784 is seriously injured after hitting the top of a marquee on landing.
It is not just the Sopwith men’s tug-of-war team who are triumphant at the big charity sports days. At Stamford Bridge Football Ground on 6th July the Sopwith Aviation Athletic Club ladies team win the 80 stone tug-of-war.(below) Fourth from the front is 25 year old Sarah Anne d’Arcy from South Wales who had been in service with a Kingston family before the war and married a regular soldier in 1916 but he is away at war.
With the addition of the National Aircraft Factory at Ham, Sopwith’s workforce is rapidly building to exceed 3,000 offering considerable social and financial opportunities for women like Sarah and for injured service men who are also being trained to do repetitive skilled tasks as “dilutees”. The Company now has a voluntary Employees’ Sick Club, a volunteer fire brigade and its own police force all with formal rule and regulation books “Printed at the Company’s Printing Works”.(below)
For 1/- sign-up and 6d per week the Employees’ Sick Club pays 10/-per week for the first four weeks of certificated sickness, 15/- the next four and £1 for the final four with a maximum 24 weeks in any financial year. In the event of a death of a member all members pay a compulsory levy of 6d for the next of kin. Any surplus funds are to be distributed between members at the end of each financial year. 23-year-old Frank Spriggs one of the Company’s very first office staff is apparently already considered to be an appropriate Trustee for the Kingston site.
The Works Fire Brigade rules and regulation stipulate the process for applying, care of uniforms, the content of compulsory monthly drills and detailed fire-fighting procedures. There are Chief, Second and Third Fire Officers with a minimum of 18 firemen available at all times. The idea of his colleagues tackling a fire is fertile ground for the wild imagination of prolific Sopwith cartoonist S Harris.(below)
The confidential Sopwith Works Police Regulations describe a full-time force working three eight-hour shifts per day “for the protection of the Company’s premises and property and to carry out the directions of the Company in all matters”. There are specific Instructions on timekeeping, appropriate behaviour, dealing with visitors and suspected larceny. They include taking ‘phone messages out of hours and how to call in the Works Fire Brigade if there is a “Field Marshal’s Take Air Raid Action” warning at night. Police are required to recognise ten listed senior managers who do not have passes and “others during normal working hours to avoid delays”. The listed senior managers are Messrs Sopwith(Chairman), Cary(General Manager), Musgrave (Secretary & Organising Manager), Elithorn(Deputy Secretary & Superintendent of Labour), Fowler(Assistant Organising Manager), Boxill(Assistant Secretary), Sigrist(Engineering Manager), Kauper(Works Manager), Hyland(Assistant Works Manager) and Smith(Designer). Not specifically listed is Harry Hawker who has had an embarrassing out of hours “but don’t you know who I am” encounter with a keen new policeman.
On 7th July ‘Camels’ D8144 & D8209 each claim a victory, D9627 shares one with five others but the pilots of C8279 & D3329 are killed in combat whilst D6422 & D9547 crash on landing. ‘Dolphins’ C3810 & D3738 each claim a victory whilst C4186 is wrecked overturning in a forced landing with a cut engine. On the Austro-Hungarian front in Salonica ‘Camel’ D6551 of 150Sqdn claims a two-seater. At home the pilot of Sutton’s Farm ‘Pup’ C308 is drowned crashing into the Thame whilst contour flying and Tangmere C272’s pilot is seriously injured crashing after a mid-air collision with an Avro 504.
On 8th July ‘Camel’ D1958 claims a victory and D1834 shares a victory with D1928 but the pilot of B2473 is killed in combat, D1836’s is killed when it folds up pulling out of a practice dive, D1955’s is taken prisoner, D9607’s is wounded by ground fire, C8288’s is injured in a crash landing whilst D1813 is shot up in combat and D6538 crashes trying to land in a field when lost. ‘Dolphin’ C8072 claims a victory whilst C4020 is damaged by ground fire. At home the pilot of Cranwell ‘Camel’ B7295 is killed catching a hedge whilst “stunting” and both pilots of Montrose ‘Pups’ B7485 & C381 are killed in a mid-air collision.
Early on 9th July 4Sqdn AFC ‘Camel’ E1416 downs an artillery observation aircraft before getting shot-up attacking a kite balloon. ‘Camels’ C8254, C8296 & D1898 each claim a victory, the pilot of D1792 is fatally injured stalling and spinning-in from a gliding turn at 500ft whilst 148th US Aero Sqdn ‘Camel’ D8246 crashes soon after take-off with aileron controls jammed. ‘Dolphin’ C4132 is wrecked landing with an engine failure and C8086 overturns landing with a failed carburettor. In Italy D8239 claims two victories. At home the pilot of South Carlton ‘Camel’ B6384 is killed in collision with a DH9 at 3,000ft, Feltwell D6544’s pilot is killed in a spinning nose dive and North Shotwick ‘Pup’ B5399’s pilot is killed in a mid-air collision.
In the Firth of Forth the King and Queen of the Belgians pay a brief visit to HMS Furious and are photographed(above) on the foredeck aircraft lift with two ‘Ships Camels’ and a ‘Ships Strutter’ their tails already on trestles lined up for a sequence of take-offs and demonstration flights.
Tragically on 9th July the McCudden family of Burton Road, Kingston upon Thames loose a third son to the war when James is killed in a flying accident in his SE5A whilst making his way across France to take command of 60Sqdn. With 57 victories to his name since September 1916, 23-year-old Major James Thomas Byford McCudden VC, DSO & Bar, MC & Bar, MM (below) is the latest of the fighter aces to perish after refusing to rest on their laurels. It is only 6 days since he collected his new aircraft from Farnborough and flew over the family home in Kingston circling over London at 17,000ft for an hour. Just before leaving for France he completed the manuscript of his biography “Flying Fury”.
The public image of these aces is in aerial combats with other fighter pilots but more of his victims have been two-seat reconnaissance or army co-operation types cleverly caught completely unawares and hit from very short range. That is important work, stopping the enemy carrying out what Trenchard always insisted are the prime roles of aircraft at war, to obtain information about enemy activity and potential attacks, hinder their preparations and assist the artillery by directing fire. When French General Foch took over as Supreme Commander of the Allied Armies on the Western Front during the German Spring Offensive he specifically addressed the role of fighters stating that “at the present time the first duty of fighting aeroplanes is to assist the troops on the ground by incessant attacks with bombs and machine guns on columns, concentrations and bivouacs, air fighting is not to be sought except as is necessary for the fulfilment of this duty”. Whilst this has happened before we have seen even more ‘Camels’ and ‘Dolphins’ being damaged or destroyed and pilots killed, wounded or captured as a result of ground fire in recent months. There clearly is an urgent need for armour protected trench fighters and the third prototype Sopwith ‘TF2 Salamander’ E5431 today moves on from performance testing at Martlesham Heath to armament testing at Orfordness where they plan to paint it in an elaborate camouflage scheme before sending it to France for service evaluation. Orfordness has already sent BE12A & SE5A aircraft out to France in camouflage but this was dismissed as “not advisable as these types are also used for high flying where it is most necessary for patrols to recognise their own aircraft”. However they agree “it would be of great value if machines solely used for low flying could be concealed from the enemy above”.
On 10th July ‘Camels’ D1870, D6507 & D9408 each claim a victory but the pilot of D6463 is killed in combat, D9500’s is taken prisoner after an engine failure east of the lines whilst D6512 crashes hit by a shell when attacking enemy infantry, D9385 lands with fuel pressure trouble and D9633 is slewed round and onto its nose caught by wind on landing. After engine problems the first production ‘Cuckoo’ N6950 is now having its undercarriage repaired at Grain.
Meanwhile on 10th July the King George V visits 203 Squadron at Filescamp Farm, Izel le Hameau who have lined up their ‘Camels’ for inspection.(above) As 3(Naval)Sqdn it has been based in France almost continuously since November 1916 initially with Sopwith ‘Strutters & Pups’ and switched to ‘Camels’ last November.
On 11th July there is low cloud and rain over France but 17th US Pursuit Squadron ‘Camel’ B7398 is damaged hit by AA fire whilst the pilot of ‘Dolphin’ E4436 is injured crashing from a side-slip with cut engine.
Meanwhile HMS Nairana is part of a flotilla of over twenty ships now at Murmansk in the Kola inlet in North Russia with its ‘Ships Camel’ plus Fairey Campania and ‘Baby’ floatplanes (N1440 & N14441). Also arrived is dazzle-painted HMS Southampton with a ‘Ships Camel’ on the forward revolving platform(above) carrying Sir Eric Geddes, First Lord of the Admiralty to review British intervention in Northern Russia. With continuing concerns about substantial stocks of allied war material delivered to Northern Russia falling into German hands and the threat of German U-boat operations from this region a British expeditionary force of Marines and a flight of DH4 bombers has been sent to assist northern anti-Bolshevist “White Russian” forces to re-occupy the strategic port of Archangel from the “Bolshies”. Other allied forces including French and American are involved in this operation. Amongst the crates of war material may still be some of the 190 British supplied Sopwith ‘Strutters’ although ‘Strutters’ have been in Russian service and some are already in the hands of the Bolshevik RKKVF (Red Air Fleet of Workers & Farmers).
The original Sopwith-built ‘Cuckoo’ torpedo bomber N50 since converted to the prototype two-seat reconnaissance ‘Grain Griffin’ having had 200hp Hispano-Suiza and Bentley engines now arrives at Turnhouse for service trials with a 200hp Wolseley Adder engine, Wolseley’s modified version of the geared Hispano-Suiza. It is a complete co-incidence that today Wolseley Motors of Birmingham become the first sub-contractor for Sopwith ‘Salamander’ trench fighters receiving an order for 150 to be built alongside a similar order for SE5As.
On 12th July with more low cloud and rain the pilot of ‘Camel’ C8287 is wounded by ground machine gun fire and crashes. The pilot of ‘Dolphin’ C8112 is injured overturning in long corn. In Italy a patrol of 45Sqdn ‘Camels’ is attacked by ten enemy aircraft building to fifteen but soon backed-up by a flight of Italian machines, ‘Camel’ D9394 claims five victories and D8113 claims two whilst another is claimed later in the day. At home the pilot of North Shotwick ‘Camel’ D8127 is injured spinning-in out of a cloud.
On 12th July Sopwith receives an order for 200 more ‘Snipe’ and its first order for twin-engined aircraft when an order arrives for three prototype ‘Cobham’ three-seat triplane short and long range day-bombers. They immediately start building a mock-up. The Coventry Ordnance Works (COW) gets an order for 150 Sopwith ‘Snipe’ 6 years after Thomas Sopwith was the test pilot of their entry in the 1912 RFC Military Trials at Larkhill.
On 13th July in mixed weather 1st Lt F E Kindley in ‘Camel’ D8245 attacked by six Albatros DIIIs claims a first victory for USAS 148th Aero Squadron. ‘Camel’ D1835 shares a victory with D6655 but the pilots of D3386 & B6389 are both killed in a mid-air collision over Zeebrugge and D9505 is damaged forced landing with magneto trouble. ‘Dolphin’ B7855, C3792, C3829, C3899 & D3762 each claim a victory whilst D3646 is wrecked crashing into a bank after an axle breaks on landing. In Italy ‘Camel’ D8209 shares a victory with B6344 & B6363 before the pilot is taken prisoner whilst Capt W G Barker claims his 38th victory in ‘Camel’ B6313, all but the first three in Italy lately with 66Sqdn. He is to take command of 139 Fighter Reconnaissance Sqdn tomorrow with its Bristol F2B two-seat fighters but he is allowed to retain his personal ‘Camel’ B6313. At home Dover ‘Strutter’ N5090 forced lands at sea with an engine failure 5 miles off Dungeness but the crew are rescued by a trawler before it sinks.
On 14th July ‘Camels’ D1927 & D8177 each claim a victory but the pilot of E1410 attacking a kite balloon is shot down by heavy AA and machine gun fire and taken prisoner. F5920’s pilot is also taken prisoner and F5916 crashes in a forced landing both on delivery flights to a new aerodrome. In Italy ‘Camels’ D1974, D8236, D9392 & D9394 each claim a victory. At Aboukir in Egypt the pilot of ‘Pup’ C480 is fatally injured in a crash.
At Brooklands Sopwith photograph their innovative private-venture ‘Monoplane No.1’ (above & below) which they are calling the Sopwith ‘Scooter’. (The verb to scoot has meant moving swiftly since the 17th century as in “scoot over here” but scooter seems to be a recently coined word for a simple vehicle for “scooting about” typically a footboard mounted on roller skate wheels with an upright handle.) Harry Hawker seems very pleased with the handling of his ‘Scooter’ with its 130hp Clerget engine which will make a much more capable runabout for him than his earlier 50hp wartime runabouts and potentially an excellent aerobatic display machine. It has a ‘Camel’ fuselage without the guns but the wire braced swept-back monoplane parasol wing at pilot’s eye level is a complete departure for the company.
On 15th July in low cloud and rain the Germans launch a major new offensive in the French sector and four RAF Camel squadrons are being sent there with squadrons of SE5s and DH9s. ‘Camel’ E1416 claims two victories and D6603 claims one but the pilots of D1778, D1945 & D9401 are killed in combat, as is F5916 in a crash. The pilot of ‘Camel’ D9627 is drowned stalling into the sea off Nieuport with an engine failure. In Italy ‘Camels’ D1975 & D8113 each claim two victories whilst D1910 & D9388 each claim one. In the Aegean ‘Baby’ floatplane N1444 ditches off Port Laki but is retrieved. At home the pilot of Marske ‘Camel’ C175 is seriously injured side-slipping with an engine failure as is Sutton’s Farm D6675’s with a choked engine whilst an air mechanic is killed there hit by the propeller of B9249.
On 16th July ‘Camel’ D8202 claims a victory, D1835 & D8149 each share a victory with others but the pilot of C1609 is killed in combat, D6511’s is killed after being hit by ground fire, C1700’s is fatally injured hitting treetops with a cut engine, D9437’s is wounded in action, D1921’s is seriously injured from a flat spin whilst lost, B2811 forced lands with engine failure and D6682 overshoots on landing and crashes into a hangar. ‘Dolphins’ C3792 & C4155 each claim a victory whilst the pilot of C4225 is taken prisoner and C3778 crashes on landing. In Italy ‘Camel’ D9414 shares a victory with B7358 but 45Sqdn’s much respected Commander Officer Major Vaucour MC DFC in ’Camel’ D8102 is shot and killed by an Italian pilot spotting an unfamiliar type slightly above him coming out of the sun, turning onto its tail and opening fire. At home the pilot of ‘Camel’ B7456 is killed at Middle Wallop when a wing folds up doing practice turns at 6,000ft whilst an air mechanic is seriously injured by the propeller of C8302 at Beverley and the pilot of Hooton Park ‘Pup’ D4159 (or B4159) is killed spinning-in.
On 17th July ‘Camel’ C8226 claims a victory but the pilot of C8254’s is wounded in action. ‘Dolphin’ C4131 claims a victory whilst the pilot of C3792 is taken prisoner. At home the pilots of Joyce Green ‘Camel’ B7820 and Eastbourne’s F1411 are killed spinning-in, Lopcombe Corner F2198’s pilot is killed flying into the ground, Cranwell B5731’s is killed when the wings collapse in a dive whilst E1517’s is killed hit by the propeller when crawling under the aircraft to disengage a Holt Flare after hitting a hedge in a forced landing and Turnhouse F1301’s is seriously injured crashing from a steep turn on take-off. The pilots of Manston ‘Pups’ B5992 & B9931 are killed in a mid-air collision.
Boulton & Paul’s last order for 200 ‘Camels’ was replaced yesterday by one for 100 and they now equal Ruston Proctor’s 1,575. Today the Air Navigation Co of Addlestone (ex Bleriot SPAD) gets an order for 150 ‘Salamander’.
The latest correspondence between government departments about the rent Sopwith should pay for the use of the National Aircraft Factory at Ham concerns the value of the 38½ acres of land now estimated as £10.000 “for which Sopwith should pay 5% per annum” but they warn that it may cost more than double that if compensation is paid to Lord Dysart for the reduced value of his adjacent lands “which have lost access from the high road”.
HMS Furious is back out in the North Sea for another attempt at bombing the German airship sheds at Tondern accompanied by two squadrons of torpedo boat destroyers, nine light cruisers with their destroyers and five battleships from the Grand Fleet. The youngest of the selected pilots is 19-year-old Lt W A ‘Toby’ Yeulett (photo above courtesy of William Casey) who left Tiffin School in Kingston upon Thames in 1915 to join Gordon Watney in Weybridge as a student engineer working on Clerget aero engines before joining the RNAS as soon as he was 18 in June last year. After basic training at Crystal Palace and flying at Chingford he was at Cranwell for advanced flying training by mid-October followed by a machine gun and bombing course. Assessed as a First Class pilot he went on to a deck flying course at East Fortune and a deck landing training at Grain. This was typical of the training of the HMS Furious’ ‘Camel’ pilots for this important raid and more special training has been going on for weeks with close formation flying followed by dive bombing on ground targets and, with live bombs, sea targets marked out in the size of airship sheds.
Their ‘2F1 Ships Camels’ have been modified with racks for two 50lb bombs and cables in the cockpit which when pulled release pins through the axles to allow the wheels to be come off for safer ditching on return. All national red, white and blue markings are dulled over with paint or dope. With one of the original pilots posted and one having to withdraw but replaced by Yeulett, it is seven not the planned eight of these unique ‘Ships Camel’ bombers that have been lined up on the foredeck for the journey out with only the wind breaks for protection.(below)
Having arrived at the planned launch position 35 miles off the Danish Lynvig lighthouse just after midnight on 18th July the crews and pilots are up and ready for a take-off by 3am on a very warm morning when it is decided that the exercise has to be postponed for 24 hours with the threat of bad weather which does arrive in the form of heavy thunderstorms.
Elsewhere on 18th July a combined Allied counter attack brings the German progress west of Reims to a standstill. ‘Camels’ D8105 & D9429 each claim a victory, C198 shares one with D1891 but the pilot of E1404 is killed hit by an AA shell whilst D6653 crashes with instruments shot-up and an engine failure and D8184 is wrecked crashing after striking a weather vane on take-off. The pilot of ‘Dolphin’ C4056 is injured crash landing in a gale. At Vendôme the pilot of ‘Pup’ C322 is injured overturning on landing after damaging his propeller on the top wing of an Avro on take-off. In Italy Maj Barker scores his first two victories as commander of 139Sqdn in his retained trusty ‘Camel’ B6313 and B2363 also claims a victory. Four miles SE of the Kentish Knock two Short Type 184 floatplanes accompanied by ‘Camels’ B5601 & B7269 are attacked by seven German seaplanes one of which is shot down by B5601 but not before both Shorts are shot down with two of the four crew killed. At home the pilot of Montrose ‘Camel’ E1448 is fatally injured hitting telegraph wires whilst prototype Sopwith ‘Cuckoo’ N74 arrives at East Fortune Flying School to assist with the introduction of Blackburn’s production machines after being re-engined early in the year, a spell at Cranwell and subsequent repair at Grain.
With engines already test run and the deck cleared of all but launch teams, in the pre-dawn dim light at 3.12am on 19th July the first three ‘Ships Camel’ bombers fly off the foredeck of HMS Furious followed within just eight or nine minutes by the other four. With a combined ship and wind speed of over 34 mph the heavily laden machines all get away cleanly except that Toby Yeulett’s sheds a wheel after take-off. In two separate formations they head the 35 miles to the Danish Coast and, once in sight of the coast, turn south following their strict instructions not to overfly neutral territory. To the frustration of their leader the second group are making slow progress, one eventually turns back with a faulty engine just managing to get back and ditch by a destroyer and two others are struggling to get full power which is restricting them to 60 knots. Destroying Zeppelin airships is the primary aim, by attacking the sheds at Tondern and attacking any seen in the air even if it means releasing their bombs but before dawn there is no obvious enemy activity and an hour after take-off the first three turn inland to search for the airship sheds. Losing contact with the leader one bombs and just misses “a large shed” which is in fact a Cattle Market but sets a cottage on fire. The other two locate the airship sheds one dropping his two 50lb bombs on the largest shed which is engulfed in flames up to 500ft high within a minute, the other turns aside and drops his bombs on one of the two smaller sheds by which time the third has found them and drops his remaining bomb. It is only then that the roused troops are organised to start firing at them but they are already flying off towards Denmark at low level. Two of the second formation arrive now amid AA fire diving at up to 150knots to bomb the undamaged sheds and happening to hit a pressurised gas tank wagon before zig-zagging away at 50 ft to avoid AA and heavy ground fire. Last to arrive is Toby Yeulett already very low racing across the airfield probably attacking the railway line which is damaged but hitting and snapping one of the high tension wires with his top wing before following the others. The attack is all over by 4.50am. Both of the Zeppelins on the base L54 & L60 are destroyed by the first two bombs on the largest shed. A brave Zeppelin crew go into the burning shed to remove some heavy bombs which are already getting hot. Unbeknown to the attackers the other sheds are empty including the one for the aircraft defence squadron which left earlier in the year after repetitive crashes due to the poor state of the airfield. A complete airship base has effectively been destroyed by just six small Sopwith ‘Camels’ in the world’s first successful bombing raid from an aircraft carrier.
It was known before they left that the maximum three hours endurance of the ‘Camels’ was unlikely to be enough to get back to Furious with the wind against them. One from the first group and the leader of the second group do however manage to find one of the string of destroyers indicating the route back to Furious, releasing their wheels they ditch close to HMS Violent and are rescued. Three others now too low on fuel each decide to land in Denmark briefed on evading internment with their £15 of gold coins to fund escape attempts. However by 5pm all three are comfortably interned in the Palads Hotel in Esbjerg with their ‘Camels’ also captured: N6771 intentionally partly burnt out, N6823 on a sand spit and N6605 outside the village where the pilot had hoped to buy petrol and escape. There is no news of Toby Yeulett, the hope is that he is safe and making an escape attempt or at worst is a German prisoner. The two large Zeppelin airships lie smouldering in the blackened shed.(below)
On 19th July ‘Camel’ D9586 claims a kite balloon but is hit in the fuel tank by AA fire, the pilots of ‘Camels’ C193 & F6150 are killed in combat, D6681’s & D9629’s are taken prisoner possibly hit by AA fire whilst D6653 lands in 3ft of water between the lines with an engine failure but the pilot escapes under fire, E1411 & E1486 also crash forced landing and a mechanic is killed in a propeller accident with D8147. ‘Dolphins’ D3706 & E4434 each claim a victory whilst C4173, D3731 & C8072 all forced land with engine failures. A ‘Camel’ of the Belgian 11th (Paper Bird) Squadron is destroyed overturning landing with a failed engine, they have distinctive fuselage markings.(below) In Italy ‘Camel’ D1974 crashes on landing.
On 20th July ‘Camel’ F5914 in a general engagement over Ostend claims a victory after sharing one with D9609. B9269, D6595 & D9595 each claim a victory, C1698 shares one with D6628, D9583 shares one with D9618 but the pilot of D1938 is killed in combat, B5572’s, B9273’s & D6502’s are taken prisoner, C1670 is shot-up in combat and F5922 forced lands with ignition trouble. ‘Dolphins’ C4155 & E4434 each claim a victory. In Italy ‘Camels’ B5181, D1975 & D8211 each claim two victories and D8239 claims one. At home the pilot of Hainault Farm ‘Camel’ D6649 is killed in a spinning nose dive into the machine gun butts whilst Beverley ‘Camel’ B4619’s is injured overturning landing with an engine failure and the pilot of ‘Pup’ N6458 is seriously injured in a propeller accident on start-up. East Fortune has received its first six Blackburn-built ‘Cuckoo’ torpedo bombers for training.
On 21st July ‘Camel’ D1946 claims two victories, B5449 & D9497 each claim a victory, D8164 shares one with his 73Sqdn patrol but the pilots of D1918, B2490, F2103 & F2160 are killed in combat and D8193 is wrecked in a bad landing whilst ‘Dolphin’ C3867 forced lands. In Italy ‘Camel’ B2500 claims a victory. At home the pilot of Hooton Park C4138 is killed crashing from a flat spin and Montrose ‘Pup’ B6105’s is injured crashing turning into wind.
On 22nd July after jointly bombing and strafing a German airfield 203Sqdn’s Maj Collishaw in ‘Camel’ D3471 claims his 50th & 51st victories, D9585 & D9492 also each claim two whilst B7176, B7867, D1943 & D3415 each claim one. The pilot of F5914 after scoring two victories is killed in combat as is D9624’s after one victory, D9626’s is fatally wounded whilst D9478’s is taken prisoner. Ex-Killingholme ‘Baby’ floatplanes N1068, N2103 & N2104 which went to the Central Stores Depot at White City for packing in May are now recorded as shipped to Chile.
On 23rd July in high wind and rain there are no combats over France. In Italy ‘Camel’ D9412 claims a victory and D8242 shares one with D8170. In Salonika D6643 claims three victories. At home the pilot of Beaulieu ‘Camel’ is killed crashing(above) in a “pilot misjudgement” whilst taking oblique photographs whilst Scampton ‘Dolphin’ C8128’s pilot is killed stalling in a turn as is Brockworth D3700’s after a wing folded.
The Danes have published a photograph of an almost intact Tondern raider’s ‘Camel’ N6605 (below) showing the lack of markings and the special 100lb bomb racks under the fuselage.
In the Firth of Forth on 23rd July the King visits the Grand Fleet spending half-an-hour in the rain on HMS Furious. Just four days after the Tondern raid he awards DSOs to the two pilots that got back home. With equally unusual haste it has been decided that the three others now known to be interned in Denmark and the missing Yeulett will get DFCs. No one is to know that later this very same day Danish fishermen spot and tow ashore Toby Yeulett’s ‘Camel’ washed up onto a sandbank by the strong south-to-north currents. It has a crushed engine cowl and broken propeller suggesting a serious crash and is reported to also show signs of being hit by AA fire.
On 24th July ‘Camels’ D1872, D6663 & E1467 each claim victories but the pilot of F6156 is killed stalling in a turn on a practice flight. At home the pilot of Turnhouse ‘Camel’ C6735 is killed spinning-in with engine failure.
The plan is for the US ‘Camel’ squadrons in France to have 150hp Gnome Monosoupape engines but so far they have normal 130hp Clergets and some like F1302 (above) have 130hp Le Rhône poppet valve rotary engines being built in their hundreds by W H Allen Son & Co at Bedford. F1302 is to be used for night fighter training at Issoudun and carries a large white painted 1640 or 1648 on the fuselage side as well as its ex-factory F1302 British tail markings.
Two more prototype ‘Salamander’ trench fighters E5432 & E5433 were delivered by the Sopwith Experimental team last week and the final sixth one is just days away. The Armament Experimental Establishment at Orfordness has been experimenting with camouflage to stop these low flying machines being seen and attacked by enemy fighters. Various machines including ’Pup’ B1717 have been used in the tests and now they have painted the third ‘Salamander’ prototype E5431 in a bold scheme incorporating many light and dark areas to try to blend into the battlefront with its trench lines and shell holes.
At 12.45am on 25th July night fighter ‘Camel’ D6573 shoots down a Friedrichshafen GIVa twin-engined bomber over France with three gun bursts at very short range. By coincidence night fighter ‘Camel’ D1894 which also downed a night bomber on 31st May is downed itself today and the pilot taken prisoner. (Photo above shows it captured with Holt flare brackets under the wingtips and small navigation lights just above) Meanwhile D9438 claims two victories, D9573 claims one but the pilots of D1794, D1870, D9398 & D9636 are killed in combat, B6379’s is killed spinning-in with a failed engine, D8197’s & D9585’s are taken prisoner fatally wounded, B7874’s, D1889’s, D1894’s & D9621’s are taken prisoner, F6148’s is wounded in combat, D6697’s is injured hitting a pole and wires landing in the dark, D6581 & E1514 crash on take-off with a starved or choked engine and D9383 crashes on landing. ‘Dolphin’, D3774 with a USAS pilot is damaged in the last of three forced landings today due to bad weather whilst D5306 forced lands with an engine damaged by enemy fire and C8072 forced lands with a seized engine. At home the pilot of Fairlop ‘Camel’ E1420 is killed in a mid-air collision and the pilot of Turnberry Fighting School ‘Dolphin’ E4437 is killed folding the wings in a dive whilst ‘Ships Strutter’ A5982 last recorded on HMS Repulse is written off after reports that it “falls into the sea”.
Development of the ‘Cuckoo’ torpedo bomber continues at Grain where one is being fitted with floatation gear and the exhaust pipes altered to heat the torpedo and stop it freezing. On 25th July the first ‘Cuckoo’ N7001 emerges from new aircraft manufacturer Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering of Glasgow going to No.6 Aircraft Acceptance Park at Renfrew for erection and acceptance.
In today’s issue of the Flight Journal “Mr. T. Sopwith, Chairman of the Sopwith Aviation Company, says the Transatlantic flight could be made and the prize won this month, so far as the capacity of the aeroplane of to-day is concerned. Our company has been engaged since the beginning of the war with the construction of the Sopwith fighting machines. It is not by any means tied down to a small radius of operation. Raids on Essen, so far as my information goes, have been made in Sopwith machines. Crossing from America to England by air is not the problem it was a few years ago. Undoubtedly the flight is possible. A dozen machines of to-day could do it at once if aeroplane makers and pilots were not all so busy with war demands.”
Photographs are taken at Pulham on 25th July (above & below) of ‘Ships Camel’ N5332 hung beneath the triangular keel of His Majesty’s Airship R23 testing the new “Little-Crook anchoring gear”. The Camel is suspended from a single cable with a slip hook onto which are hooked cables attached to its fuselage at four points around the cockpit. Until release the ‘Camel’ pulled up against a rigidly braced wide wing-like structure that conforms to the shape of the top wing with the rear fuselage is pulled up into a simple padded yoke. The airship’s forward engines and the Camel’s engine are run at full speed and the aircraft remains firmly held. Official support is to be sought for pilotless and piloted drops from R23 despite official doubts about the potential value of this combination.
On 26th July between rainstorms ‘Camel’ D6495 shares a victory with two others before the American pilot is wounded in action, the pilot of D1891 is taken prisoner and D6646 crashes landing crosswind. In Salonica ‘Camel’ C1586 shares a Rumpler showing British rudder markings with C1599 and an SE5. At home the pilot of South Carlton ‘Camel’ D6668 is seriously injured crashing from an engine failure on take-off whilst Seaton Carew ‘Baby’ floatplane N2067 drops a bomb 10yds ahead of the conning tower of U-boat U77 some 15 miles out.
On 27th July the low rain clouds rule out flying in France. At home the pilot of Beaulieu ‘Dolphin’ E4447 is killed in a crash, the pilot of Hounslow ‘Camel’ B9304 is injured spinning out of cloud and hitting trees and the pilot of Montrose’s E1449 is injured nosing over after losing a wheel in a heavy landing. For the second day running Seaton Carew ‘Baby’ floatplane N2067 bombs a U-boat as does N2107 after seeing a ship being sunk just 2 miles off Whitby but is then wrecked hitting the support of a seaplane hangar landing with a failed engine. Prototype ‘Salamander’ trench fighter E5431 is flown to France to gather the reactions from “the forces in the field” to Orfordness’ latest daylight camouflage scheme.
On 28th July ‘Camel’ D1901 claims two victories before it crashes with the pilot wounded by ground fire, D1920, D6534 & D8115 each claim one victory but the wounded pilot of C8296 is taken prisoner as are the pilots of D6632 & E1408 whilst E7222 goes missing on a bombing mission. ‘Dolphin’ C4158 claims a victory. In Italy ‘Camel’ D8244 claims a victory but it is disallowed. At home the pilot of Upavon ‘Camel’ B5582 is killed spinning-in, Lopcombe Corner ‘Camel’ C1646’s pilot is killed breaking off a wing after getting into a roll diving on a ground target and the pilot of Beaulieu ‘Dolphin’ E4449 is killed after the wings fold during aerobatics at 2,000ft.
The body of the missing 19-year-old Tondern raid pilot ex-Tiffin schoolboy Toby Yeuletts is found on the shore a mile north of where his crashed aircraft was washed up five days ago. He has no wounds and only minor injuries: head cuts, some bruising and a broken nose. He is not wearing a flying suit or uniform jacket but his escape kit of gold sovereigns and papers reveal his identity. He is to be buried with ceremony in a local Danish cemetery.
On 29th July in misty poor visibility ‘Camels’ D9442, D9645, E1417 & E1496 each claim a victory but the pilot of D9498 is killed in action, C139 is killed side-slipping trying to land in a field, D3388’s is injured hitting the sea and his aircraft sinking, D9646 is badly damaged in a stalled landing, D9451 crashes in a stalled take-off after landing-out lost and ‘Comic Camel’ D6651 crashes also lost The pilot of ‘Dolphin’ C4187 is killed spinning-in from a turning whilst Vedôme ‘Pup’ B1820 is wrecked swerving into an Avro after an engine failure on take-off. In Italy ‘Camel’ D9412 claims two victories but the pilot of B4609 is injured hitting trees pulling out of a spin as is D8164’s crashing during a night flight. At home the pilots of Chattis Hill ‘Camel’ D9450 & Fairlop’s F2104 are killed in separate mid-air collisions, Suttons Farm D9493’s pilot is fatally injured diving-in with a choked engine, Beaulieu F1357’s is injured in a forced landing and Walmer’s D8181 also suffers a forced landing with engine failure.
The Sopwith Board Meeting on 29th July approves a 20% war bonus added to the total salary of Deputy Secretary and Superintendent of Labour H C A Elithorn, new patent applications for “Burchill’s metal nosings on aircraft wings” and “Mitchell’s improvements in hinges and the like” and an agreement with the White Rose Laundry (Kingston) for the tenancy of Norbiton Place “for the purpose of a Sopwith Women’s Club”.
On 30th July ‘Camel’ D9485 claims two victories, C8331 shares two victories with D1942, D6408, D6603 & F2086 whilst D8192, D8216, E1405, E1407 & F6151 each claim a victory, B5568 shares one with D9438 & F6063, D3326 shares one with D9490 but the pilot of D9480 is killed in action, D9450’s is killed in a mid-air collision, F6087’s is injured in combat, B7867 is shot-up and damaged, E1515 is damaged overturning stalling on take-off with a choked engine and a Belgian ‘Camel’ is destroyed forced landing with engine failure. At home the pilot of Upavon ‘Camel’ B3901 is killed stalling and spinning-in and Chingford B5659’s is injured when its wheels touch the reservoir water diving on a target and it overturns and sinks. The pilot of Hooton Park ‘Dolphin’ D3670 is killed diving-in from a stall whilst the pilot of Montrose ‘Pup’ D4025 is seriously injured crashing while low flying.
On 31st July ‘Camel’ D9673 shares two victories with E1405. D3341, D6626, D8146, D8175, D9402, D9432, D9642, E1482 & E5157 each claim a victory, D1834 shares a victory with D6446 & D6490, but the pilot of B7479 is killed when it breaks up pulling out of a steep ground target attack, D8182’s is taken prisoner fatally wounded shot down by ground fire after a combat with ten enemy aircraft, D1961’s is wounded after claiming a victory, D3326’s pilot is also wounded in action, whilst B7234’s, C8274’s & F1314’s are shot down by ground fire and taken prisoner, D9594’s is injured hitting and killing a man on the outfield in a game of cricket on take-off whilst D6602 is shot-up and damaged in combat and D3394 is another shot down by ground fire after a combat. ‘Dolphins’ C3796 & D5236 each claim a victory, D3696 claims one but has to forced land, C4129 shares one with C3818, whilst C3817 is damaged landing with an engine failure. In Italy D8237 claims a victory. At home the pilot of Bircham Newton ‘Camel’ D8226 is killed crashing from a stall as is Beaulieu B7388’s pilot and Shotwick E9973’s pilot, apparently after fainting on a height test. The pilot of Rochford ‘Pup’ B1809 is severely injured crashing from a spin with engine trouble whilst North Shotwick D4014’s pilot is seriously injured in a propeller accident.
After Samson’s near fatal ditching eight weeks ago trying to fly a ‘Ships Camel’ with a skid undercarriage from towed lighter H3 they try again on 31st July. The deck has been widened at the bow and sloped up (above) to correct for the stern going down at speed. Ploughing through the waves (below) they take wheeled undercarriage N6812 out to sea and at 37knots Lt Culley makes a successful take-off (below) and a safe landing at Martlesham Heath. N6812 is to go to Orfordness for a special armament fit for serious attempts to use lighters to intercept Zeppelin airships far out in the North Sea.
After a technical inspection of their mock-up, the Sopwith experimental team now receive a contract for two prototype ‘Buffalo’ two-seat armour plated contact patrol machines for low-altitude reconnaissance, for co-operation with infantry and potentially also a trench fighter. It is an armoured development of the ‘Bulldog’.
Through July the Sopwith factories have delivered 125 ‘Dolphins’ mostly from Canbury Park Road plus 23 ‘Snipe’ from the Ham factory. The number of new Sopwith designed aircraft from other contractors in July is a record 622. These comprise 15 ‘Pups’ from Standard Motors, 53 ‘Dolphins’ from Darracq (49) and Hooper (4), 8 ‘Cuckoos’ from Blackburn (7) and Fairfield (1) plus 546 ‘Camels’ including 13 ‘2F1 Ships Camels’ from Beardmore and ‘F1 Camels’ from Boulton & Paul (200), Caudron (13), Clayton & Shuttleworth (45), Hooper (47), Marsh Jones & Cribb (21), Nieuport & General (39), Portholme (37) and Ruston Proctor (131).
Total ‘Camel’ orders are unchanged in July at 6,492 with 100 more on Hooper but a reduction of 100 on Boulton & Paul. ‘Snipe’ orders have reached 2,586 with 200 more on Sopwith, 150 on Coventry Ordnance Works and 300 on Ruston Proctor. ‘Salamander’ orders have reached 806 with 150 each on Air Navigation and Wolseley Motors.
In the last days of July the first production batch of ‘Snipe’ from the new Ham Factory are recorded as delivered by the Ministry of Munitions. Among those twenty-three is E7989 photographed at Brooklands (above) already oil streaked and clearly showing the double tapered venturi tube for the Badin fuel system on the starboard forward cabane strut. To allay concerns from the RAF in France about the effective operation of this in the thin air at high altitude they are now assured that with the venturi tube in the full slipstream of the propeller it has been tested to work satisfactorily at the lowest possible airspeeds at both 15,000 and 20,000ft.
Another is E7990 which is waiting a Dragonfly radial engine and become a Sopwith ‘Dragon’. Clyno Engineering of Wolverhampton are contracted to build Dragonfly engines for Sopwith’s order for 30 ‘Dragons’ which are apparently to go to the USAS. However E7990 is not part of that order and its Wolseley-built Dragonfly engine has broken down on test this week with badly damaged bearings after oil circulation failure. In the push to get more of these powerful engines tested in flight it has been rushed to Walton Motors who have an engine development programme and workers are giving up their holiday week to make good the damage.
At 00.30am on 1st August two 151Sqdn night fighter ‘Camels’ strafe and bomb German night bombers as they land back at their airfields but with unobservable effect. In daylight 17th US Aero Sqdn ‘Camels’ B9263, D9507, D9513 & E5159 each claim a victory, as do C200 & D9675 whilst B5247 shares one with three others, C61 & D1887 each share one with one other whilst the pilot of B3884 is wounded and forced lands with a hole through his petrol tank. ‘Dolphin’ C4176 claims a victory whilst the pilot of another ‘Dolphin’ is wounded, C3892’s is injured overturning landing with an engine failure and C3922’s injured in a flying accident. The Hendon based Air Department officers’ runabout ‘Pup’ N6173 is wrecked at Marquise returning to England. In Italy ‘Camel’ C46 destroys a kite balloon and claims a victory, B2433 claims two victories whilst D8113 & E1494 each claim one. At home the pilot of Sutton’s Farm ‘Camel’ F2111 is injured hitting a tree landing at night with an engine failure.
On 2nd August two 151Sqdn ‘Camels’ are out again on night offensive patrols over enemy airfields with confirmed success: C6717 forces down a Gotha bomber and D6423 attacks a two-seater landing. It becomes overcast and rainy during the day restricting further flying. At home the pilot of Joyce Green ‘Camel’ B2435 is killed spinning in avoiding another aircraft diving on a ground target. In the far north of Russia the RAF with DH4s, a ‘Camel’ plus Fairey Campania and Sopwith ‘Baby’ floatplanes support White Russian and Allied land forces in taking back from the Bolshiviks the strategic port of Archangel.
HMS Furious has been out in the North Sea again for two days with her long-range ’Ships Strutters’ to reconnoitre the Heligoland Bight area of sheltered water off Cuxhaven on the German coast. With slightly better weather on the 3rd August A6985 takes off at 5am. After two hours spotting only two sailing boats and just an hour’s fuel left they return successfully landing ahead of one of the destroyers. The machine is quickly swamped and they are “unable to detach the wings” but are rescued before turns turtle dumping much loose equipment but not the W/T set or the secret code book. In deteriorating weather further flights are abandoned.
In France on 3rd August the weather starts fine with ‘Camels’ D8245, D8250, E1471 & F1414 from 148th US Aero Sqdn(lined-up below) and 17th US Aero Sqdn’s D9499 each claim a victory.
‘Camel’ D9405 claims a victory as does D9411 but gets shot-up, the pilot of E5159 is killed in action, an SE5a lands on F5959 taking off its tail and F6137 crashes hitting bad ground on take-off. The American pilot of ‘Dolphin’ C3887 destroys a kite balloon. At home the pilot of Scapa ‘Camel’ N6636 is killed diving-in from a low turn.
On 4th August more low cloud and rain restricts flying in the morning but Australian ‘Camels’ D8159 & E1419 share the shooting down of one of the unorthodox tapered-wing Ago C.IV two-seaters. ‘Dolphins’ C3879 & D3727 each claim a victory but D3764 overturns on landing. At home Fairlop ‘Camel’ E1419 crashes on approach to landing, the pilot of Upper Heyford ‘Pup’ B2213 is injured flying into the ground with a fuel tank fire and Beaulieu D4176’s pilot is injured in a mid-air collision whilst forming-up with an Avro 504.
Prototype ‘Salamander’ trench fighter E5431 arrived in France nine days ago painted in Orfordness’ latest camouflage scheme for aircraft operating at low level in daylight.(above) They have accepted that merging an aircraft completely into the varied terrain is impossible and the focus is now making it difficult to spot them from above and even then difficult to keep in sight against a chaotic battlefield background. Exhaustive trials at Orfordness, as well as experience at the front, show that it is the shadow of the top wing on the lower which make biplanes most conspicuous, especially on sunny days, so the lower wing is finished mostly in light earth-brown with the top one painted in dark purple-earth and green patches to break up the shape. The fuselage sides are finished a light grey-green as these are also often darkened by shadow. All patches of colour are separated by black lines. The upper surface roundels are different sizes and asymmetrically positioned with darkened red and blue areas and the white areas replaced with light grey-green although the underwing roundels remain clearly painted to reduce the chances of being hit by friendly fire. After all this careful preparation prototype ‘Salamander’ E5431 is written off on 5th August having been crashed before the “forces in the field” can properly assess the camouflage but the dramatic scheme is apparently to be adopted anyway for machines which are solely used at low level.
Orfordness has also been experimenting with illusions on the wings of Sopwith Camels (above) to try to give an attacking pilot a false perspective and off-set his aiming-point from the vulnerable centre-section. Another of its experiments is a fuselage scheme (below) apparently trying to trick enemy pilots into giving too little “lead” when aiming. The spiral patterned wheel covers are also to help spoil pilots’ aim having vanes which spin the wheels in different directions at every turn of the aircraft. There are no indications that these schemes are being adopted.
On 5th August in stormy weather D9466 is damaged forced landing whilst lost. In Italy ‘Camels’ D8211, D8237, D8243 & D9392 each claim a victory but the pilot of B6354 is killed in action and B5181 is damaged on landing. At home the pilot of London Ferry Pool ‘Camel’ E5139 is seriously injured crashing with an engine failure and Bekesbourne ‘Camel’ F2126’s pilot is injured forced to land in mist. The pilot of Hooton Park ‘Dolphin’ D3698 is killed crashing taking-off too steeply.
There is a report that today Lt Culley makes another take-off from destroyer-towed lighter H3 in ‘Ships Camel’ N6812 this time unsuccessfully chasing a Zeppelin. This may or may not be related to the uniquely bold raid by five Zeppelins which are spotted coming across the North Sea before it is fully dark. Two Yarmouth 375hp DH4s find a group of three of these at over 17,000ft and with Pomeroy explosive bullets immediately send down in flames the very latest seven-engine, 8,00lb bomb load, 694ft long L70 with the destruction of all 23 on board including the long standing chief commander of the German Naval Airship Service Kapitän Peter Strasser. With a thick bank of cloud rolling out over the east coast 33 other defence sorties including 5 ‘Camels’ are unable to inflict further loses but having seen L70 go down and confused by the cloud cover in a stronger than forecast 25mph south-westerly the other airships drop their bombs not on the coastal towns as reported but out at sea. In a disastrous night for the German airship force there are also British air casualties including the pilot of Burgh Castle ‘Camel’ N6620 failing to return from a patrol and the pilot Throwley ‘Camel’ F2107 losing control in a dive after being caught in a searchlight beam. The raiders do not stray into the elaborate multi-layered London Home Defence Zone so Sutton’s Farm’s 78Sqdn night fighter ‘Camels’(below) are not called-up.
On 6th August in low cloud and rain showers the pilots of ‘Camels’ D8248 & F6069 are killed colliding on an offensive patrol, D9435’s is killed practising a half roll at low altitude, E4396 is badly damaged colliding on landing, D6635 forced lands with engine failure and B7173 crashes after losing its propeller at low altitude on a practice flight. ‘Dolphin’ D3728 crashes forced landing after engine failure. In Italy D8211 claims two victories whilst B2433 & D5181 claim one each. In the Aegean a Suda Bay based ‘Baby’ floatplane pilot is killed in a crash at Crete. At home the pilots of Eastchurch ‘Camel’ B7300, Lopcombe Corner E7139 & Witney F1345 are killed spinning-in. The pilot of North Shotwick Pup’ B7513 is killed crashing apparently shot-up by another aircraft whilst Duxford B6010’s pilot is injured hit on the ground by an RE8.
From the Nancy headquarters of his strategic bombing “Independent Air Force” Hugh Trenchard writes to the President of the Air Board Lord Wier after the loss of seven out of nine bombers on a recent raid. He states that he “will keep morale and spirits up and knock the Huns as they cannot understand us not being deterred by a set-back” but agrees that a squadron of long-range ‘Snipe’ fighter escorts would be “an admirable addition”.
At 1.20am on 7th August night fighter ‘Camel’ C6713 “Doris” (above with Le Rhône engine, an enlarged centre section cut-out and no wheel covers) sends another two-seater down in flames. In daylight but with poor visibility ‘Camel’ D1941 claims two victories, C144, D6690, D8194, D9399 & F5933 each claim one victory, B9271 shares one with D9407 but the pilot of a Belgian ‘Camel’ is killed in action and B7202’s is killed stalling on take-off. ‘Dolphins’ C3902 & C4136 each claim a victory whilst D5303 is damaged forced landing with engine trouble. At the newly formed No.19 Training Depot Station at El Rimal in Egypt the pilot of ‘Pup’ B6058 is injured crashing on landing when “cushions foul the control lever”. At home the pilot of Throwley ‘Camel’ F2017 is killed when it breaks up in the air, the pilot of Woodham Mortimer’s F1367 is severely injured spinning-in whilst Eastbourne ‘Pup’ C229 crashes on landing.
The Air Board Technical Department has declared they no longer have a need for the last of the six prototype ‘Salamander’ Trench fighters delivered this week by Sopwith’s creative and responsive design and experimental team who continue to get official support for more projects. On 7th August they have a contract for three prototype ‘Cobham’ twin-engined triplane long-distance day bombers/photographer reconnaissance fighters. Detailed design is in progress as it is for the two ‘Buffalo’ two-seat armoured fighters. The Technical Department is now recommending an order for a Sopwith 110hp Le Rhône engined monoplane made from ’Camel’ parts, a military version of Harry Hawker’s new ‘Scooter’ runabout. Meanwhile the first two Dragonfly-engined ‘Snark’ single-seat triplane fighter prototypes are being erected in the Skating Rink Experimental Shop with the third fuselage complete as are the fuselages of the first two of the three competing ‘Snapper’ biplanes.
At 4.20am on 8th August two thousand allied guns start the Battle of Amiens with a deafening artillery barrage whilst the RAF start bombing German airfields and providing an unprecedented level of liaison with advancing troops and tanks throwing themselves into the rapidly evolving conflict over a twenty-mile front against increasingly determined German fighter activity. ‘Camels’ D1944, D6605 & E5175 each claim a victory, D1803, B2491, C61 & B2525 each share a victory with others, the pilot of B5587 has a victory before being fatally wounded, F5919’s has a victory before he is killed in action as are the pilots of B2396, C8225, D6655, D8119, D9456, D9619, D9644 & D9645 whilst the pilot of C3304 is killed crashing on a ferry flight from England. The pilot of D3421 is fatally wounded by ground fire, B7875’s & D3421’s are wounded in action, C8250’s & D6575’s are taken prisoner wounded the latter fatally, B5425’s, B5568’s, B7157’s, B7868’s, D1804’s D3419’s, D3425’s, D6453’s, D9481’s, D9652’s & F5915’s are also taken prisoner mostly downed by ground fire as is D9656 in front of advancing troops, D9656 is shot down in flames by eight Fokkers but the pilot escapes, D1920 crashes hit by AA fire, C198, D9670 & F6068 are damaged by ground fire, C194, D1855, D8107, D8204 & F6068 forced land shot-up in combat, D1944 forced lands after a victory, E1469 forced lands in the battle zone with a failed engine and C63’s pilot is injured hitting trees & D3336’s injured crashing on taking-off. The pilot of ‘Dolphin’ C8073 is killed in action and the pilots of C8070, C8111 & D3738 are wounded in action, D3748’s is injured after an engine failure on take-off whilst C4148, C8074 & D3715 forced land with their engines shot-up. By the end of the day the German front line is pushed back over 7 miles in places. At home the pilot of Hounslow ‘Camel’ E9975 is killed spinning-in from a low turn after attacking floating targets on Staines Reservoir.
On 9th August ‘Camel’ D8173 claims two victories, E1485 & F2157 each claim a victory, D9443 shares one with F1960 but the pilots of D6520, D9429, D9589, F2167 & F6152 are killed in action, D1810’s is wounded in action, D8161’s & F5952’s are taken prisoner, B7221’s, C2648’s & D1792’s are killed in flying accidents, D1834 is shot down damaged, F5915 is damaged hitting trees on take-off and F6067 crash lands. The pilot of Ruston Proctor built presentation ‘Camel’ E1548 “Newton Abbot”(below) is also taken prisoner on its first day in service.
‘Dolphin’ C4136 claims a victory and shares one with D3774, C4155 & C4162 each claim one victory, C4060 & D3669 are damaged in combat, C3796 overturns landing with an engine failure, C3788 crashes landing with a broken throttle whilst C8709 and a Belgian ‘Camel’ both crash on landing. Allied progress has been slowed today by German re-inforcements including nearly 300 extra aircraft but their losses are equally severe and less easily replaced than the losses of allied aircraft. In Italy ‘Camel’ B7360 is wrecked. At home North Shotwick ‘Pup’ B7519 crashes landing with an engine failure and the pilot of Beaulieu ‘Camel’ F2205 is killed crashing into the Solent whilst using a telescopic sight for target practice.
On 10th August ‘Camel’ F5941 claims two victories, D6579 sends down a Fokker DVII which is captured intact, E1472, E4375, & F5927 each claim one victory, D9425 shares one with F5958 as does D9637 with D9657 but the pilots of B7399 & F5934 are killed in combat with numerous enemy aircraft, F5934’s is fatally wounded, C199 is badly shot up and D9419 crashes on landing whilst E4389 (above with wing roundels and top fuselage markings painted over to be less conspicuous from above) lands on its nose with its fuel tank shot through by heavy ground fire. ‘Dolphin’ C4159 claims three victories, C4136, C4162 & C4163 each claim one but the pilots of C4176 & D3774 are taken prisoner whilst D3688 forced lands. In Italy ‘Camel’ C54 claims a victory but the pilot of D9412 is killed brought down by AA fire. At home the pilot of Dover ‘Camel’ E9970 is killed and South Carlton E7152’s is seriously injured both spinning-in and E1593 overturns landing after a wing leading edge crumples in a dive on its first test flight at Lincoln AAP whilst pilot of Tadcaster ‘Pup’ B6083 is seriously injured spinning-in. Both crew of Turnhouse ‘Ships Strutter’ N5632 are killed when it hits a tree landing with an engine failure whilst ‘Ships Camel’ N6834 flying from HMS Inconstant forced lands at sea but is recovered. 151Sqdn ‘Camels’ go out again before midnight over enemy airfields, D6573 shoots down in flames one of the new five-engined 140ft wingspan Staaken R.XIV bombers and ‘Comic Camel’ B5412 claims a twin-engined Gotha.
On 11th August, ‘Camels’ B7271, C6718, D8220, D9655 & D9671 each claim a victory, E4379 claims one but overturns bursting a tyre on landing, B7252 shares one with three others but the pilot of B9267 is taken prisoner lost on a delivery flight, C8300’s & D3423’s are wounded in action whilst D8195 & D9572 forced land with failed engines. ‘Dolphin’ D5236 claims two victories, C3829 & D3762 each claim one, the pilot of E4432 also has one before being killed shot down in flames, the pilots of B7876 & E4432 are also killed in action, C4043’s is taken prisoner fatally wounded, C8110’s is injured stalling on landing, C4026 crash lands with combat damage and C4155 overturns on landing. At home the pilot of Throwley ‘Camel’ E5129 is injured crashing whilst “stunting”, North Shotwick ‘Camel’ F1516’s is seriously injured spinning-in on firing practice and the pilots of their ‘Pup’ B4139 and Hooton Park D4106’s are injured in mid-air collisions.
Since its successful flight from a lighter 12 days ago Culley’s ‘Ships Camel’ N6812(above) has been modified now with no Vickers gun but twin top-wing mounted Lewis guns which are able to fire the special anti-Zeppelin ammunition. On 11th August they are out with the Harwich Force of cruisers, destroyers and launching harassing motor boats off Terschelling on the Dutch coast when an investigating Nordholz based Zeppelin L53 is spotted at nearly 19,000ft. Culley makes a clean get away from the rapidly towed lighter at 8.58am climbing to 18,000ft then with difficulty even higher and by an hour after take-off manages to arrive just 300ft below the on-coming airship. Pulling up and firing, one gun jams after seven rounds but the other empties a double drum. The Zeppelin catches fire forward and the bow breaks away with internal fittings, engines and bombs falling out of the blazing wreck as it crashes into the sea. Culley lands alongside HMS Redoubt and is hoisted back aboard the lighter. This is further confirmation of the value of aircraft to the Navy and a serious blow to the credibility of the German airship service after the loss of two in the Tondern raid 19th July and the loss of its long serving commander in his new flagship L70 last week. L53 was one of the airships on that disastrous raid on Britain last week.
Including N6812 today most of the few deliberately ditched ‘Ships Camels’ have been recovered but Grain are experimenting with hydrovanes on N6341. Initially still prone to nosing over, a ditching two days ago with the vane now positioned as far forward as the propeller allows was “satisfactory” at least for landing in a calm sea.
With ‘Ships Camels’ and ‘Ships Strutters’ (like A6968 above on a midships turret ramp on HMAS Australia), now routinely based on capital ships, there is senior Admiralty support for the dry recovery of aircraft back to those ships. Serious consideration is being given to Mr Lanchester’s latest ideas for landing aircraft on an array of parallel wires strung between spars folded out from the side of any large ship. He now proposes that the aircraft have a wooden downward facing “comb” between wheels and another immediately behind it which can be moved sideways to grip the wires. He even thinks his open wire ‘deck’ could be used for take-offs. Despite serious practical reservations, not least how deck hands, crew and mechanics move about on the wires over open water – snow shoes have been suggested – there are proposals to test the concept on a large lighter with the wires strung between two wide raised crossbeams. A lighter can be turned into wind alleviating a constant problem with the arrester trials on the airfield at Grain. Now the Air Board Technical Department have seen film of Pegoud “landing” a Bleriot machine by hooking under a single wire and are asking Grain to work up a trial of this apparently simple solution. Grain respond that they are presently far too busy. They are working with HMS Furious to refine the “Busteed” arrester system to hydraulically pull down the fore & aft wires to stop and hold the aircraft on the landing deck without the need for transverse wires. A refined system is urgently required for the almost complete flat-top aircraft carrier HMS Argus. In a further step to ease the of movement of aircraft and deck hands and free-up carrier decks for take-offs, Grain are also setting up a built-into-the-deck system using parts arriving from Vickers Shipyard Newcastle upon Tyne and now an initial technical evaluation has started on yet another proposed arrester system this time using a magnetic deck surface and electro-magnet armatures under the aircraft. All shipboard work is still entirely being done with Sopwith aircraft but these projects are also considering the Parnall Panther fleet reconnaissance two-seaters 150 of which are being ordered to succeed ’Ships Strutters’.
On 12th August ‘Camel’ D9648 claims two victories before being hit and forced to land on a beach, D1940, D8162, D9457, D9496, D9659, F2134 & F5944 each claim a victory, B5749 shares one with C143 & C196 but the pilots of B7471, C8331, D6624, D9507 & D9657 are killed in action, B3894’s & D9608’s are wounded, D9495’s is injured, D3355’s & D9668’s are taken prisoner whilst F5964 crashes on landing. ‘Dolphin’ D3718 claims a victory. In Italy ‘Camel’ E1503 claims a victory but the pilot of D9412 is killed hit by flak and D1910 crashes on landing. At home the pilot of Gullane ‘Camel’ C8329 is killed spinning-in, Montrose D6676’s is killed when it breaks up in the air, Marske ‘Dolphin’ D3773’s is killed from a spinning nose dive during firing practice and Edzell ‘Pup’ C235’s is seriously injured also spinning-in. ‘Baby’ floatplane N2109 drops a 65lb bomb on a U-boat off Robin Hood Bay.
On 13th August an airfield near Bruges is attacked by US ‘Camels’ to help protect Dunkirk. ‘Camels’ D8201, D8203, D8245, E1409 & F1400 each claim a victory, C66 shares a victory with D9628, the pilot of D9642 claims three victories but is fatally wounded whilst D9502 overshoots landing with an engine failure and goes on its nose avoiding hangars. The pilots of ‘Dolphins’ C3902 & D3762 are killed colliding on a travelling flight and D3690 is damaged landing with an engine failure whilst ‘Pups C313 & C319 both crash at Vendome. At home North Shotwick ‘Camel’ D8129’s is injured stalling with a choked engine, Eastbourne C3296 is badly damaged in a crash and the pilot of HMS Vindictive ‘Ships Camel’ N6825 is killed in a crash whilst the second Tondern raid pilot to have escaped from Denmark arrives at Rosyth via Sweden to discover that HMS Furious is at sea.
On 14th August ‘Camel’ C74 shares a victory with D8187, B7769 shares a victory with three others B9166 shoots down an enemy aircraft which collides with D9455 killing its pilot. The pilots of D6631 & F1341 are also killed in action, F2134’s is taken prisoner fatally wounded, F2086’s & F2112’s are also taken prisoner whilst D9680 is wrecked overturning landing cross-wind in a cornfield. ‘Dolphin’ C4157 claims a victory, C4158 shares one with C8109 but the pilot of E4434 is killed in action. By the end of the short Battle of Amiens the allies have advanced some 12 miles, the armies and the RAF has lost many people and valuable resources but the German Army and Air Forces have suffered a more severe blow from which it will be difficult to fully recover. In Italy the pilot of ‘Camel’ D9406 is wounded hit by ground fire. At home the pilot of Minchinhampton ‘Pup’ B7506 is killed misjudging pulling out of a dive and C290’s is injured crashing with engine failure as is Leighterton D4179’s hitting a tree. 151Sqdn night fighter ‘Camels’ go out again over enemy airfields very late in the evening and D9577 brings down a twin-engined AEG G.III bomber.
On 15th August ‘Camel’ C72 claims three victories plus one shared with D8146, D9601 & E1414 each claim two, D3379, D8166, D8171, D8222, D8223, D9516 & E1409 each claim one victory, the pilot of B7176 claims one but is wounded in action, D1871’s & D9630’s are killed in action, D1927’s is fatally wounded by an artillery shell, E1591’s is wounded by ground fire, E4405’s is taken prisoner, F5956’s is killed colliding with an RE8 on take-off, B7860’s is injured in a steep night landing whilst D9628 is badly shot up. ‘Dolphin’ D3727 destroys a kite balloon. In Italy ‘Camel’ E1499 claims two victories but the pilot of D8213 is injured in a crash as is D8169’s practising night landings. At home the pilot of ‘Camel’ F1331 is injured hitting a hedge, Manston F1518 is lost forced landing at sea but the pilot is rescued by a Short floatplane, Walmer D9434 is wrecked crashing with an engine failure and Walmer D9436 is damaged when a wheel collapses on landing.
On 16th August ‘Camel’ D8180 claims a victory but the pilot of D6579 is wounded in combat, D9443’s & D9595’s are taken prisoner, E1409’s is injured crashing with his tank shot through, B7860’s is injured crashing in a night landing, D6634 crashes with an engine shot through whilst Vendome Training Depot Station E1510 & E1513 both crash. ‘Dolphin’ D3749 is damaged landing with an engine failure and C4137 is damaged when an unsecured wheel comes off on landing. In Italy the pilot of ‘Camel’ D8238 is fatally injured hitting a tree. At home the pilot of Beaulieu ‘Camel’ D3918 is injured spinning-in, Yarmouth ‘Baby’ floatplane N2069 crashes and sinks on take-off whilst obsolescent ‘SB3 Folding Pup’ N6116 is delivered engineless to Islington Agricultural Hall for preservation.
On 17th August the pilot of ‘Camel’ D1961 is killed by ground fire whilst C3298 crashes landing in the gale, a Belgian ‘Camel’ is destroyed landing after an engine failure and Vendome E1492 crashes from 6ft on take-off with a choked engine and overturns.(above without the E serial number prefix) In Italy the pilot of ‘Camel’ B2433 is killed in a crash. At Heliopolis in Egypt the pilot of ‘Pup’ B6057 is killed when a wing collapses “in a badly executed manoeuvre” whilst at home the pilot of Bicester ‘Camel’ C1660 is killed spinning-in and Hattis Hill F4179’s is killed stalling in a low turn.
On 18th August in low cloud there is little flying over France but ‘Dolphin’ C3887 claims a victory whilst the pilot of E4491 is killed after his engine fails and catches fire on a ferry flight. At Aboukir in Egypt the pilot of ‘Pup’ C1540 is seriously injured crash landing with a burst propeller. Over Macedonia ‘Camel’ D6643 claims five victories variously shared with C1598, D6551 & D6643. At home the pilots of Leighterton ‘Camel’ C6746 and ‘Pup’ D4170 are killed in a mid-air collision while practising aerial fighting, the pilots of Upavon ‘Camels’ D1820 & F2196 are also killed in a mid-air collision and Wye B9330’s is killed from a spinning nose dive whilst Hornsea ‘Baby’ floatplane N2112 is badly damaged landing at sea with a failed engine but is recovered by a trawler.
On 19th August ‘Camels’ C3306 & E1553 each claim a victory but the pilot of F2169 is shot down in combat and taken prisoner as is D9629’s shot down by AA fire whilst F6189 is damaged by AA fire. ‘Dolphin’ C4182 is damaged crash landing with a failed engine and D5235 is damaged jumping the wheel chocks and hitting tents before a practice flight. At home the pilot of Ayr ‘Camel’ B9212 is killed spinning into the sea with an engine failure, Stag Lane C172’s is seriously injured overturning caught by a cross wind on take-off and Croydon E1531 overturns forced landing in a potato field after a front wing spar collapses.
On 20th August in mist, low clouds and rain over France ‘Dolphin’ C3879 claims a victory but the pilot of ‘Camel’ D9610 is killed spinning-in on take-off. In Italy ‘Camel’ D8237 claims two victories whilst C54 & D8243 each claim one but the pilot of D8207 is injured crashing into trees when the engine fails to pick up after aborting a landing too near some hangars. At home the pilot of Turnhouse E4414’s is killed forced landing with a failed engine.
On 21st August ‘Camels’ C3284 claims two victories, D1940, D6513, E1478, E1594, E4407 F1964 & F6155 each claim a victory, the pilot of D6627 claims a victory but is wounded in action, the pilot of F1960 is killed in action, D9610’s is killed stalling on take-off, D3380’s is taken prisoner, E1478’s pilot and one from 203Sqdn are wounded, D9659 crashes badly shot-up, whilst C59 crashes into hangars at Bertangles, D1957 & E1547 crash on take-off, D8224 crash lands having lost a wheel on take-off whilst D3372 & D6426 also crash on landing. ‘Dolphins’ C4159 & C8163 each claim two victories, C4158, C4163, C8072, D3764, D3771 & E4451 each claim one whilst C4162 is damaged on take-off and C3818 & C3843 are wrecked crashing landing from practice flights. In Italy ‘Camel’ D8234 claims two victories. In Macedonia the pilot of ‘Camel’ D6643 is injured in a crash. At home the pilot of Eastbourne ‘Camel’ B6446 is killed in a crash. A US Navy pilot flying a Killingholme ‘Baby’ floatplane drops two bombs on a camouflaged U-boat lying on the bottom about 6 miles east of Withersea, the first bomb fails to explode, the second makes a direct hit with bubbles of air and oil rising to the surface. The U-boat does not move before trawlers and drifters arrive to drop their depth charges.
87 Squadron’s ten claimed victories on 21st August underline the important contribution being made by the four squadrons of ‘Dolphins’ that arrived in France between December 1917 and May 1918 despite the continuing unreliability of their Hispano-Suiza engines. (above 19 Squadron now at Savy). The ‘Dolphin’ was taken off home night fighter duty on 1st April due to the unreliable engines which along with associated very short supply have plagued wider use of this type. A lot of ‘Dolphins’ have been built but the deployment of more squadrons to France has been in abeyance and is now unlikely with all but one being disbanded. Their ‘Dolphins’ are being dispersed around five of the new Training Depot Stations at Beaulieu, Hooton Park, North Shotwick, Scampton and South Carlton and the Fighting Schools at Turnberry and Marske. Pilots to replace those in France and potentially man four more squadrons later in the year can now progress via just two postings through elementary training in Avro 504s and advanced training on ‘Pups’ and ‘Camels’ to higher training and fighting on Dolphins. There are also a few ‘Dolphins’ at the Central Flying School, the Wireless Experimental Establishment and the Armament School.. In home service some ‘Dolphins’ are acquiring distinct identities with the big engine cowl lending itself to faces like D3766 at Marske(below left) and one of only two naval ‘Dolphins’ C3785 at Dover with teeth under its nose and wild boars eyes.(below right)
Martlesham Heath received its first production 230hp Bentley BR2 powered Sopwith ’Snipe’ E7987 four days ago but they are still disappointed with its performance and declare it is no match for the 300hp Hispano-Suiza powered Martinsyde F4. They report that “lateral control is not so quick as could be desired” and whilst rudder control is ample “there is a tendency to swing to the left”. The fin is to be offset on future machines and drawings of a new rudder are being prepared whilst Sopwith are considering experimenting with a Dolphin tail assembly.
Early this month the Admiralty formally complained to the Air Council that “the production of aircraft has been most unsatisfactory, proving a serious handicap in carrying out Naval Operations”. Not least is the introduction of torpedo planes. “C in C Grand Fleet cannot but feel that this failure is due to the want of appreciation on the part of the Air Council of the great importance of equipping the Grand Fleet with this new offensive weapon at the earliest possible date.” Sopwith ‘Cuckoos’ were initially delayed by the Ministry choosing inexperienced contractors, then defects with the Hispano-Suiza engines and the substituted Sunbeam Arab and now the prototype Rolls-Royce Eagle engined Blackburn Blackbird and the Short Shirl designs planned to supersede the Cuckoos “have both proved less suitable not being sufficiently handy to make the required form of attack”. The latest better news is that the Arab “is now regarded fit for service” and although N6952 has been crashed on route, crews are now training at East Fortune with seventeen Blackburn-built ‘Cuckoos’ and some may just be ready for the arrival in service of HMS Argus even if they are very late for potential operations from HMS Furious.
Overnight 21st/22nd August ‘Camel’ D6573 sends a bomber down in flames. During the day on 22nd August with significant advances on the ground ‘Camel’ F5985 claims a victory, D1946 shares one with D9567, E5174 & F6149, D9641 shares one with one other, whilst C1698 shares a kite balloon with F5938 but the pilot of F1969 is killed, D8192’s & E5177’s are wounded in action as is a 17th US Sqdn pilot, D6526’s is fatally injured crashing after a mid-air collision with F5948 whilst D9399 is shot up and crashes on landing, D9488 crashes landing with an engine failure and F5947 also crashes on landing. ‘Dolphin’ C8075 claims a victory but C4157 is damaged in combat whilst D3775 forced lands with engine problems. D3775 is probably unique in having its Lewis guns repositioned onto the lower wings.(below) Another local modification is the exhaust pipes extended back over the side radiators. It carries 87Sqdn’s toppled S marking and its individual N code makes it one of six in C Flight.
In Italy ‘Camels’ C134 & E1500 each claim a victory whilst D8236 is damaged in combat. At home the pilot of Beaulieu ‘Camel’ F4180 is killed diving-in whilst North Shotwick E1462’s is injured spinning-in from a turning stall and Throwley C6738’s is injured hitting a tree flat spinning down from 5,000ft.
The Sopwith ‘Bulldog’ prototype X3 with BR2 engine has been at Orfordness since June and has reportedly been fitted with a Scarff ring in the rear cockpit. They have flown it to 18,000ft in 40 minutes and achieved 115mph at ground level. On 22nd August they use it alongside a Bristol Fighter, ‘Camel’ and ‘Dolphin’ to test the coverage of the “fighting tops” gun nacelles on new Curtiss H12 flying boat N4344 which proves to be extremely good.
Just after midnight on 23rd August night fighter ‘Camel’ D6660 sends down a Friedrichshafen GIII bomber and D9445 destroys a Gotha bomber. Before 5am there is the start of a determined and remorseless allied advance along 33 miles of the British front towards Bapaume. D6660, D9445 & E1581 each claim a victory but the pilot of D6595 is wounded by ground fire and crash lands after flying back with his finger blocking a hole in the fuel tank, the pilot of D1941 is killed in action, C122’s, E1461’s & E9966’s are injured whilst D9674 is forced to land with its propeller shot-off by AA fire and E2128, F1548, N6756 & N6617 crash. ‘Dolphin’ D3727 claims two victories. D3717, D5232 & D5233 each claim one, whilst D3772 suffers an engine failure and C8074 & E4457 are wrecked.
On 24th August ‘Camel’ F6102 claims a victory, D1940 destroys a kite balloon before the pilot is killed in action, the pilot of E1488 is killed spinning-in with an engine failure, B7869’s & F5985’s are taken prisoner hit by ground fire whilst E5174 is damaged in action. ‘Dolphins’ C3879, D3706 & D3727 each claim a victory.
Overnight 24th/25th August in bright moonlight British bombers are out in force pounding German installations as are night fighter ‘Camels’ with C6713 & F6102 capturing another Gotha bomber and D6660 a Friedrichshafen. However, the Germans are bombing Bertangles airfield with disastrous consequences for 48, 84 & 85 Squadrons who have six people killed and 25 wounded, losing ten Bristol fighters and at least one SE5 in a fire which destroys five hangars. It is a lucky escape for 23Sqdn and their ‘Dolphins’ who have been well established on another part of the airfield since mid-May. The aerial photographs of Bertangles in a deceptively pastural setting (below) show 23Sqdn lined up in front of their hangars and gives an idea of the supporting facilities and transport required to keep a single squadron of eighteen aircraft functioning.
On 25th August ‘Camel’ D9448 shares two victories with E1553, E1551 also claims two, D9464, D9599, D9651, E1406, E1552, F5913 & F6107 each claim one victory, D6484 shares one with C8296 but the pilots of B6358 & C3314 are killed in action, D9432’s is wounded by AA fire, F6184’s wounded in combat whilst D8150 is badly shot-up in combat and F2154 overshoots on landing severely damaging stationary ‘Camels’ B9133 & D9427. ‘Dolphin’ D3718 claims two victories before the pilot is wounded in action, C4136 & C8163 each claim one victory, C4156 shares one with C4159, C8109 claims one before being brought down in combat and abandoned in no-man’s-land whilst the American pilot of D3727 is killed by ground fire after destroying four kite balloons in the last ten days and C8072 forced lands with two broken longerons. At Orfordness prototype two-seat Sopwith Bulldog X3 is demonstrated for Minister of Munitions Mr Churchill including trying to fend off a mock attack by a ‘Camel’ and an SE5a.
On 26th August in overcast weather with rain storms as the battle front extends further north ‘Camel’ C8337 claims a victory, C8344 shares one with F1972, F5951 takes two before the pilot is wounded in combat with 30 enemy aircraft and taken prisoner, D6627 claims one before crash landing just in the Allied lines after an engine stoppage, the pilots of B5428, D9516 & F1958 are killed in action, F6028’s is killed crashing into a tree, C141’s & F1964’s are taken prisoner fatally wounded, F5951’s is taken prisoner wounded, D9676’s is wounded when it breaks up over no-man’s-land on a low bombing mission, D9475’s is wounded in combat, D9637’s is injured crashing hit by ground fire. E1468 & F5925 forced land also badly damaged by ground fire, E4392 has a longeron shot through whilst a Belgian ‘Camel’ is destroyed on landing and F5981 & F6129 are severely damaged colliding landing in the dark. The US 17th Pursuit Sqdn lost six of the pilot listed above in combat today in a single battle with a formation of Fokker DVIIs. In Italy ‘Camel’ D8215 claims a victory.
On 27th August in low cloud and rain showers ‘Camel’ E1588 claims a victory, D8180 shares a victory with one other, D9611 claims a victory before forced landing within sight of the enemy with a seized engine and the aircraft is abandoned but the pilot of B3671 is killed by a direct hit at 200ft by a shell, D1928’s is killed in combat, F5940’s is taken prisoner whilst D9395 is driven down in combat, F6149 is damaged in combat and Vendôme trainer E1504 swings and crashes on take-off. At home the pilot of Bircham Newton ‘Camel’ F1396 is killed spinning-in with a choked engine and new ‘Snipe’ E8029 is wrecked. Seaton Carew ‘Baby’ floatplane drops a bomb from 400ft on a submerged U-boat before letting off red Very lights to attract a drifter which drops depth charges convincing people in Scarborough there is a naval battle going on.
On 28th August in more low cloud and rain storms the pilot of ‘Camel’ F3948 is shot down and taken prisoner, E4400’s is injured crash landing in the dark whilst C8340 crashes with an engine failure. In Italy ‘Camels’ B6310 & E1581 each claim a victory. At El Rimal in Egypt the pilot of ‘Pup’ C1547 is killed falling out of it in a roll. At home the pilot of Lopcombe Corner ‘Camel’ E7137 is killed spinning-in after rolling onto its back during firing practice, Chattis Hill F4178’s is fatally injured in a similar accident, Chattis Hill F6457’s is killed flying into the ground trying to remedy a runaway gun, Dover C2’s is fatally injured spinning-in during formation flying and Sutton’s Farm F1981’s is seriously injured in a propeller accident.
Meanwhile during August Dundee based ‘Baby’ floatplane N1063 (above) has been flown through an arch of the nearby Tay Rail Bridge throttled back to 55mph. Returning over the bridge the pilot flies low along the water’s edge waving to his colleagues when the engine chokes rather than picks up. With no choice he attempts to land on the pebble shoreline but hits the top of a fence with his floats and then runs into a steel pipeline embarrassingly wrecking the machine. (below)
On 29th August, their last day before converting to Sopwith ‘Snipes’, 43 Squadron escorting DH9s claim two victories but the pilot of ‘Camel’ E1485 is killed and C8215’s, D1785’s, D6542’s, D9470’s & E1985’s are all taken prisoner. Elsewhere ‘Camels’ C6723 & D1956 each claim a victory as does D9514 but gets badly shot-up, the pilots of D8122 & C8346 are fatally injured after engine failures, B9271’s & F5965’s are wounded in action, C8346’s is fatally injured stalling and spinning-in, C1691’s is injured crashing on landing whilst D9474 crashes badly shot up and also D6606 crashes. ‘Dolphin’ C3879 claims a victory. At home Freiston ‘Camel’ E1436 breaks a lower wing spar diving on a ground target but lands safely but the pilots of Lopcombe Corner ‘Camel’ C124 & Freiston E1453 are both seriously injured in propeller accidents and a corporal is injured in a propeller accident with ‘Pup’ C3500 at Northolt.
Meanwhile at Stow Maries the 50th Wing knockout stage of the Home Defence VI Brigade competition (lined-up above) is won by 61 Squadron and their radio fitted ‘Camel’ C6745 (below) is adjudged the best maintained and best equipped aircraft.
On 30th August ‘Camels’ D3346, E1481 & F5968 each claim a victory but the pilot of D9482 is killed in action, B9271’s is taken prisoner fatally wounded, F6151’s is also fatally wounded and B9135’s is injured crashing in a spinning nose dive. ‘Dolphin’ C8163 claims two victories, C4157 & C4156 each claim a victory as does D3764 but is damaged in combat. At home the pilot of ‘Camel’ E1429 is killed spinning-in from a low turn. The first seventeen ‘Snipes’ into front line service arrive today with 43 Squadron at Fienvillers to replace their ‘Camels’. Over the last three weeks twelve other ‘Snipes’ have gone to 42 Training Depot Station at Hounslow.
On 31st August the pilot of ‘Camel’ E4374 is injured crashing struck by ground fire, D8196, E4374 & F1413 are damaged in combat and a Belgian ‘Camel’ overturns in a forced landing. ‘Dolphins’ C3879, C8166 & E4492 each claim a victory whilst the pilot of D3687 is taken prisoner fatally wounded, two other pilots are wounded in action, D3771’s is injured forced landing with engine trouble, C3887 also forced lands with engine trouble, D3752 & D5232 forced land with combat damage whilst D5220 is damaged in a heavy landing. In Italy 66Sqdn ‘Camel’ E1498 claims a victory and E1496 destroys a kite balloon before the pilot is wounded and taken prisoner. Also in Italy 45Sqdn ‘Camel’ D8237 claims four victories, D8211 claims two and D9386 one, wiping out all seven enemy aircraft in a short sharp engagement. This brings their total in eight months in Italy to 114 victories with the loss of only three of its own aircraft to enemy action. They are now needed back in France but this will still leave 28Sqdn & 66Sqdn ‘Camels’ in north east Italy. There are also ‘Camels’ down at Otranto and six in 228sqdn with DH4 bombers have moved to Pizzone. (below)
At home the pilot of Marske ‘Camel’ E1532 is killed spinning-in, Hounslow E1571’s is seriously injured overturning after catching the undercarriage in trees, Rochford ‘Pup’ B1809’s is seriously injured flat spinning-in from low altitude with an engine failure whilst Beaulieu C8321’s is injured diving-in. Blackburn-built ‘Cuckoo’ N6973 on delivery to Gosport from 9 Aircraft Acceptance Park (AAP) Newcastle catches fire and is wrecked side-slipping into trees during the forced landing whilst for the second time a USAS mechanic attached to 10 AAP at Brooklands is injured in a propeller accident with a new Sopwith-built ‘Snipe’, this time it is E8046.
Meanwhile at the Old Kingstonians’ ground the second annual Sopwith Sports Day is in aid of the RAF Convalescent Homes. It has “some thirty events with almost as many ladies in the lists as men” including entries from other athletic clubs and aircraft factories including British Caudron, Darracq, Handley Page, RAE and Martinsyde. Sopwith Athletic Club yet again win the men’s tug-of-war but the ladies lose out to Martinsyde. In the interdepartmental ladies competition the Ham Erectors beat the Kingston Fitters. Entertainments include wrestling demonstrations, a Charlie Chaplin competition, walking the plank and the Sopwith Orchestra playing on into the evening with a concert, variety show and boxing exhibition in the Marquee. In the photograph (below) seated from the left are Fred Sigrist, Reg Cary, their wives with Lady & Sir Richard Burge the Mayor of Kingston.
Through August the Sopwith factories have delivered 69 ‘Dolphins’ mostly from Canbury Park Road plus 53 ‘Snipe’ from the Ham factory. The number of new Sopwith designed aircraft from other contractors in August is 451. These comprise 66 ‘Pups’ from Standard Motors, 29 ‘Dolphins’ from Darracq (19) and Hooper (10), 16 ‘Cuckoos’ from Blackburn (13) and Fairfield (3) plus 342 ‘Camels’ including 14 ‘2F1 Ships Camels’ from Beardmore and ‘F1 Camels’ from Boulton & Paul (89), Caudron (6), Clayton & Shuttleworth (25), Hooper (31), Marsh Jones & Cribb (16), Nieuport & General (38), Portholme (25) and Ruston Proctor (98).
Total ‘Camel’ and ‘Dolphin’ orders are unchanged in August at 6,492 and 1,904. ‘Salamander’ orders remain at 806 but ‘Snipe’ orders have reached 2,936 with 100 on Portholme and 150 more on Nieuport.
Meanwhile Nieuport continue to produce ‘Camels’ with 10 of their 38 built in August photographed awaiting delivery.(above) Having lost out to the Sopwith ‘Snipe’ with his first Nieuport design, SE5 designer Henry Folland has now succeeded in getting them an order for 150 of his Nieuport Nighthawks with the much vaunted but still stubbornly troublesome ABC Dragonfly radial engine.
So far Sopwith’s only production orders for Dragonfly engined aircraft are 30 ‘Dragon’ versions of the ‘Snipe’ but the latest Ministry Technical Report details rapid progress with the construction by the Experimental Department of all Sopwith’s new prototypes designed specifically for the Dragonfly engine.
The three triplane ‘Snark’ fuselages, planes and tail unit are complete in skeleton and have passed strength inspection except the tail which requires modification. The three biplane ‘Snapper’ prototypes are also complete in skeleton with the guns, ammunition boxes and chutes fitted and approved whilst the fuselage for the first twin-engined ‘Cobham’ is erected with the planes being assembled. Alongside all this, the 110hp ‘Swallow’ monoplane is starting to be assembled and “it has been decided to try this as a ship aeroplane” whilst three ‘Snipe’ are being modified as long distance fighters for the Independent Force with larger fuel tanks, swept wings and a Dolphin tail unit. More advanced still are the two armoured two-seat ‘Buffalo’ the first of which is having the Bentley BR2 engine installed with the Vickers gun, ammunition magazine and chutes already approved. The General Arrangement drawing(below) shows a very different machine to the earlier proposals which had a deep fuselage and single bay wings.
On 1st September ‘Camels’ E1505, E1538, E1588 & E4406 each claim a victory as does F6210 but is badly shot up in combat, D1895 & E1407 each claim a kite balloon, the pilots of D1922, E4388 & E4393 are taken prisoner, D9471’s is injured forced to land short of fuel whilst B7162’s is injured crashing on take-off from bad ground in strong winds and D9601 crashes on landing. ‘Dolphin’ C4059 claims a victory, the pilot of E4433 is taken prisoner out on a practice flight, C3799’s is injured hitting D3755 & E4427 on take-off whilst C3899 is wrecked crashing with a seized engine and D5236 overturns on landing. At home ‘Camel’ H742 overturns landing.
On 2nd September Allied forces make another significant push on the Western Front with concentrated support from the RAF. ‘Camel’ B6398 each claim two victories, B7292, D8271, D9669, E1407 & F5946 each claim one as does D8245 but is shot up in combat, the pilots of C8344, E1412, E4381 & F5970 are killed in combat, F6190’s is killed when it breaks up diving on a target, E1471’s is taken prisoner fatally wounded, D6700’s, D8114’s, E1414’s, E1545’s & E4399’s are taken prisoner, D1873’s & D1946’s are wounded in action, F2145 is damaged by ground fire, C1623 overturns landing out while lost, D8166, D9618 & F2170 forced land with engine failure, F5991 forced lands short of fuel, D3399 crashes landing in gusty winds as does F5968 whilst a Belgian ‘Camel’ is destroyed on landing and another is damaged. ‘Dolphin’ C8075 is damaged hitting a trench in a forced landing. The heavy casualties and losses today largely occur in infrequent but intensive dogfights between large formations of German fighters and the RAF fighters patrolling to protect the RAF machines lower down with the US 148Sqdn losing at least four ‘Camels’ and their pilots. At home the pilot of Dover ‘Camel’ F4188 is injured spinning in whilst Seaton Carew ‘Baby’ floatplane N2067 is damaged forced landing at sea with an engine failure.
On 3rd September ‘Camels’ D8173 & F5941 each claim two victories, B7280, D1930, D8145, D8246, D9416, D9567, E1549, E1588, E4406, E4407, E4418, E5175, E7161, F3922 & F5942 each claim a victory, B7222 shares one with four others, D6642 & E1407 each claim a kite balloon but the pilot of F3242 is fatally injured spinning-in getting into formation after take-off, C8333’s & D9654’s are wounded in action, whilst C6750’s is injured stalling on landing with an engine failure and D9442 forced lands into a shell hole also with a failed engine, D9501 is shot down and burnt out, B7407 collides with another aircraft during landing and D9433 crashes on landing. ‘Dolphins’ C4159 & C8163 each claim two victories, C4127 & C4239 each claim one, C4059 destroys a kite balloon whilst the pilot of C4163 is killed in combat. Over Macedonia, Salonica based ‘Camel’ D6549 claims a victory as the Serbian, French and British forces build up to an offensive planning to confuse and divide the Bulgarian Army. At home the pilots of Leighterton ‘Camel’ C101 & Lopcombe Corner F4177 are killed spinning-in whilst Sutton’s Farm D9569’s is also killed in a crash.
On 4th September at 7.20am in a single dogfight 70 Squadron claim two victories but have three pilots killed in action and five taken prisoner.(All Included in the following listing) ‘Camels’ D1895, D9641, E1416, E1586, E5157, E5178, E7173, F2125, F2130, F5943 & F6032 each claim a victory, D8175 shares one with E1472, F1972 claims one before being forced to land badly shot-up, D8136, E1482 & E7160 each claim a kite balloon flames but the pilots of D9416, D9458 & E1472 are killed in action, C8333’s is fatally wounded in action, B5434’s, B9269’s, C8239’s, D1930’s, D3406’s & D9418’s are taken prisoner whilst D9409’s is fatally injured crashing landing too fast, F1967 forced lands with an engine failure and E1510 crashes. The pilot of a ‘Dolphin’ is wounded in action whilst C4162’s is injured crashing with combat damage and C3801’s is injured crashing with a cut engine. At home 130hp Clerget engined ‘Strutter’ 9894 collides with ‘Pup’ B6012 over the Firth of Forth killing all three occupants whilst a corporal is injured at Marske in a propeller accident with ‘Camel’ C84.
The 74 Parnall-built ‘Hamble Baby’ machines that were built less than a year ago as ‘Converts’ with wheels on the wide float struts have now been declared obsolete. Three were sunk in transit to Otranto but another three N1989 to 91 are still there. The seven which went to Yarmouth were deleted within three months as will be the eight which went to Cranwell. The other 53 went straight to storage at Killingholme probably without engines and have never been used.
On 5th September ‘Camel’ D8203 claims two victories, D1887, D8118, D8145, D8220, E1405, E1406, E1539, E7161, F2125, F5913, F5929, F6025, F6032, F6117 & F6154 each claim a victory, D8189 shares one with F1917, the Australian pilot of E1407 claims his fourth kite balloon and eighth victory before being taken prisoner wounded in action, E4390’s also claims a victory before being taken prisoner, the pilots of B778, E7174 & F5945 are killed in combat, D8136’s is killed collapsing the wings pulling too suddenly out of a steep dive, B7280’s, D1824’s & F2133’s are taken prisoner whilst D9618 is wrecked crashing into the trenches after an engine failure, F2143 is badly shot up and D9506, D9567 & F5955 crash on landing. ‘Dolphin’ C4059 claims a victory whilst C3941’s pilot is injured hitting a ridge on landing. Vendome ‘ Pup’ C313 crashes landing downwind. At Heliopolis ‘Pup’ D4126 breaks an axle and the wheels come off. At home the pilot of Eastbourne ‘Camel’ C3294 is killed after a mid-air collision with F3207, Montrose D9556’s is killed spinning in after the wings break up, Bircham Newton C185’s is seriously injured crashing from a sideslip and Marske E1455 stalls and spins-in. The pilot of Hooton Park ‘Dolphin’ C3998 is killed diving-in from a stall and it is burnt out whilst Hainault Farm ‘Camel’ B2517 is declared “soggy and unsuitable for night flying”.
With so many take-off, engine management and stalling accidents to trainee pilots more training depots are locally converting at least one of their ‘Camels’ into a dual-control two-seater for initial in-flight instruction. Official drawings are now available and most look like the original conversion moving the seat forward and squeezing a second one in behind. (above) An example of these (below) is B7239 at Cranwell whilst B5575 was an early conversion at North Shotwick and is apparently unique having a “bathtub” open double cockpit. (below again)
On 6th September ‘Camel’ E1588 claims two victories, B6398, C196, D6574, D8162, E1416, E1505, E1542, E4375, E4406, E7160, F1548 & F3238 each claim one victory, D3349 shares one with F5913 but the pilot of D9483 is killed in action, D9484’s is fatally wounded, D6434’s is also wounded in action, D9402’s is injured overturning on landing whilst F5923 forced lands and D6596 & D9497 crash on landing. ‘Dolphin’ D3754 claims a victory but the pilot of C8166 is killed in action whilst C4156’s is injured crashing on landing to avoid another aircraft. The pilot of 43Sqdn ‘Snipe’ ‘E7794 is fatally injured stalling into a spinning nose dive from a low flat turn. At Heliopolis ‘Pup’ D4121 is damaged hit by an Avro 504 whilst D4125 overturns landing into a trench after the engine cuts out on take-off. At home the pilot of Upavon ‘Camel’ E1457 is killed in a mid-air collision with an SE5a whilst the pilot of HMS Galatea’s ‘Ships Camel’ N6829 is injured crashing 20yds ahead of the ship but is rescued by a whaler.
43Sqdn ‘Snipe’ now at Fienvillers (above left) are carrying the same sloping bar insignia as their ‘Camels’ but do not have it repeated on the top wing. On 7th September their ‘Snipe’ E8035 is wrecked and E7988 is damaged when a Bessonneau hangar collapses in a storm. (below a 43Sqdn line-up outside a Bessonneau)
43Sqdn are already reporting issues with the design and manufacture of these first ‘Snipe’. They are apparently “very apt to bounce from tail to wheels if not landed perfectly which inevitably leads to the bracing wires of the rear fuselage bay to loosen or break” so they are locally fitting an extra bracing strut and stronger cables in that area. They are requesting an adjustable height mounting for the Aldis gun sight to cope with different height pilots and have had to add a rubber buffer on the control column to stop it smashing forward and damaging the inclinometer and thumb switch when a pilot treads on the control cable guards getting into the cockpit. The tubular tail skid comes without a shoe and to achieve straight taxying they have had to add a 5inch long steel “knife edge”. They have also received machines with loose fuel unions, poor installation of the Constantinescu hydraulic gun synchronising gear and incorrectly fitted elevator cables. They are increasing the clearance on the top two piston rings on their BR2 engines to try and stop them breaking after a few hours and have reported ignition wires too short and prone to break, worn valve guide bushes and broken valve springs. New valve springs have just arrived and seem to have solved that problem. Engine oil “rapidly renders the inner ends of the lower wings soggy and inefficient”. This is being reduced by taping the channel around the engine mounting plate/cowl joint and they are having some wings modified with very thin ply under the fabric around the wing leading edge back to the front wing spar. This is has been done successfully at depots in France with ‘Camel’ and SE5 wings.
On 7th September with rains storms approaching by midday ‘Camels’ B7434, F1415 & F5941 each claim a victory, E5175 shares a victory with F1962, F2083, F2129, F2144 & F5932. A 20lb Cooper bomb explodes on removal from D6603 killing a mechanic and injuring four more whilst the pilot of E7181 is injured in a crash landing, C134 is badly shot-up in combat, D1887 is hit by AA fire and forced to land, B7190 overturns landing after an engine failure, F5924 also forced lands with engine failure whilst C3355, D8162 & D9675 crash on landing. ‘Dolphin’ C3879 claims a victory, D3706 shares one with D3751 but another pilot is wounded in action, D3767 is damaged forced landing after getting lost as is F5962 landing too steeply whilst D3754 overturns on landing after losing a wheel. In Italy ‘Camel’ D8244 claims a victory but gets badly shot-up. At home the pilot of Minchinhampton ‘Camel’ C106 is killed losing control and spinning down into a Dutch barn whilst F1388 spins-in during take-off.
On 8th September it is again overcast with rain. ‘Camel’ D6693 claims a victory whilst E1554 forced lands with an engine failure and E7178 crashes hitting a tree taking off downwind. At home Seaton Carew ‘Baby’ floatplane N2109 collides with wreckage and damages the tail float.
The number of ‘Baby’ floatplanes around the British coast has reduced to less than 50 alongside the Short 184 floatplanes and ‘Large America’ flying boats. As a result 17 are packed for shipment later this month to the Greek Naval Air Service who already operate some in conjunction with the British ones in the Aegean. There are still around 30 in the Mediterranean not just in the Aegean but in Egypt and at Santa Maria di Leuca on the heel of Italy. At least 5 have gone to Canada this year and three to Chile whilst a further 20 have been put aside for a “foreign government” possibly the Japanese Government who are apparently getting ‘SB3 Folding Pup’ N6735.
On 9th September in low cloud, strong winds and heavy rain storms ‘Camel’ F2171 sets a two-seater on fire on an enemy airfield but the pilot of B778 is killed in combat with eight enemy aircraft whilst F1415 crashes on landing as do ‘Dolphins’ D3763 & D5315 the latter damaged forced landing in shell holes. At Heliopolis ‘Camel’ D6539 overturns forced landing in high corn with an engine failure. At home the pilot of Upavon ‘Camel’ F2197 is killed diving-in from a formation turn, Leighterton C110’s is injured stalling in a turn and F1923 forced lands with an engine failure on its delivery flight. The pilot of Cranwell ‘Pup’ C298 is seriously injured spinning-in from a low turn whilst Seaton Carew ‘Baby’ floatplane N1423 smashes its propeller attempting a take-off in rough seas. The pilot of the third Grain Griffin N102 is killed and his crewman injured fatally at Grain swinging into a bank on a downwind take-off, it is destroyed by fire.
This is not good news for the future of this Sopwith ‘B1’ derived shipboard reconnaissance design, four more are well advanced in Grain’s Experimental Constructive Department but no commercial orders have been placed. The Navy are falling back on trusty ‘Strutters’ to satisfy this requirement. After 20 French-built ‘Strutters’ arrived at No2 (Northern) Aircraft Repair Depot at Coal Aston back in May for conversion to ‘Ships Strutters’ there are now another 50 French machines under conversion to become F7547-7596.
There are other ‘Strutters’ still in active service including two unarmed machines of the Wireless Experimental Establishment at Biggin Hill (below) fitted unusually with a 100hp Gnome engine and a cut-away lower cowl.
On 10th September in low cloud and rain the pilot of ‘Camel’ F1399 out on a wireless patrol is taken prisoner.
On 11th September in high winds and rain storms there is hardly any flying over France.
At home the Admiralty Superintendent of Airships outlines his policies on the carrying of fighter aircraft under airships listing the functions as “Attacks against hostile territory, defence of airship against hostile attack making it less dependent on the protection of the fleet and possibly even engaging hostile airships”. He recognises difficulties with aircraft returning to airships but notes the successful French single-wire hook-up. He concludes that if experiments are to continue they should, before any manned launch, carry a ballasted engineless aircraft before then dropping it over the sea to test the release gear, the best mounting angle and the best airship speed.
After Culley’s shooting down of a Zeppelin from a towed lighter off the Dutch coast, Dover have now requested the supply of two large lighters from Felixstowe to use in their area of the North Sea off the Belgian coast. Harwich have issued official operating procedures for ‘Ships Camels’ from these lighters based on that recent successful mission.
Meanwhile flying continues at 201 Training Depot Station East Fortune in preparation for trials on HMS Argus and ‘Cuckoo’ N6954 is photographed dropping a 1,000lb torpedo. (below)
On 12th September Sopwith records the large numbers of ‘Snipe’ and ‘Salamander’ already in production in the Ham Factory.
The first image shows, left to right, ‘Snipe’ fuselage frame jigs, three rows of 20 more fuselages further assembled, plus a reversed row of some with covered rear fuselages and one ‘Salamander’ with its armour plate centre fuselage. In the further bay are 15 ‘Snipe’ fuselages on final fit-out.
The second factory image shows 7 ‘Salamander’ in the foreground with some stock armour plate “boxes”. The numbers of complete fuselages and duplicated jigs and fixtures in the bays either side show Sopwith’s total commitment to the large scale production these National Aircraft Factories were intended to achieve.
After completing the airframe structure there is much work to be done installing engine, instruments, flying controls, fuel tanks, oil tanks and pipework, ammunition boxes and chutes, gun sight, machine guns and their hydraulic interrupter gear.(above)
Finished fuselages of ‘Salamander’ and ‘Snipe’ are photographed outside the west doors of the Ham factory illustrating the differences.(above)
On 12th September there is wind and heavy rain over France. At home the pilot of Lopcombe Corner ‘Camel’ F1355 is seriously injured spinning-in and a mechanic is injured in a propeller accident with ‘Pup’ C426.
On 13th September it is overcast with rain showers but American ‘Camel’ B7896 claims a victory, D8180 breaks a wing spar in the air, B3786 forced lands with an engine failure and D6442 crashes from an engine failure on take-off. The pilot of ‘Dolphin’ E4455 is injured overturning in a shell hole forced landing with an engine failure. After 9pm two of the 151Sqdn ‘Camel’ night fighters E5142 & F1979 send down three German night bombers in just 25 minutes. During the day the squadron has received ‘Comic Camels’ E5164 & E5165 for trials with a new night camouflage. The upper surfaces are a different colour probably “Night Invisible Varnish Orfordness” (NIVO) which is a dark greyish blue green and thought to be more effective concealment than black or standard dope on dark nights.(below)
At home the pilot of Dover Training Depot ‘Camel’ F4189 is fatally injured floating to the ground upside down after a half roll. Meanwhile there are final top-up ‘Dolphin’ orders for Darracq (100) and Hooper (150) bringing the ‘Dolphin’ total to 2,150.
Before 6am on 14th September in better weather 4Sqdn AFC ‘Camel’ E7160 destroys two of five LVGs in an attack on an enemy airfield. Later ‘Camel’ F5941 claims a victory, C8338 shares a victory and a kite balloon with two others but a Belgian ‘Camel’ pilot is killed in action, E4391’s is taken prisoner after being hit by flak, B7434’s is injured crashing hit by AA fire, F6210’s is injured crashing on take-off, F5989 overturns forced landing with an engine failure whilst F1312 also crashes on landing. ‘Dolphin’ E4656 is damaged landing-out lost on a delivery flight. At Heliopolis ‘Pup’ D4122 is damaged when an RE8 runs into it on the ground.
The first Sopwith “7F1a Long-Range Snipe” E8089 is at Brooklands (above) for testing before Martlesham Heath trials. It has a ‘Dolphin’ tail and slightly swept back wings to counter the weight of the extra 18 gals of fuel under and behind the pilot’s seat.(below)
Meanwhile trials with prototype ‘Snipe’ B9966 at Martlesham Heath have proved that horn balanced upper ailerons and a larger fin and rudder do improve control responses and these modifications are to be incorporated into production after Sopwith’s first 200 machines. A current standard production ‘Snipe’ is E7991 (below) now at the South Eastern Area Flying Instructors School (SEAFIS) at Shoreham.
On 15th September in clear weather ‘Camel’ D1898 claims five victories, C3312 & C61 each claim two victories, B6398, D9599, E1539, E1551, E7161, F1917, F2137 & F6176 each claim one victory as do C134, C74, F2144 & D8180 but one pilot is wounded, one is damaged by flak, one gets badly shot-up and one crashes with an engine failure, F5943, D3378 & D8146 each share a victory with others, D9485 destroys a kite balloon as does E7182 but then has to forced land. The pilots of E4404 & E4418 are killed shot down in flames, D8221’s is killed shot down by machine gun fire and F6107’s is missing presumed dead whilst E5173’s is badly shot up and wounded. F6132 collides with an enemy aircraft but gets home, D9496 forced lands hit by AA fire, D9476, D6574, D9425, F5932 & F6184 forced land with engine failures and C3353 crashes on take-off. The pilot of ‘Dolphin’ D5314 is taken prisoner hit by AA fire whilst D5234 overturns forced landing with machine gun damage. At 10.20 pm night fighter ‘Camel’ F6102 claims another Staaken bomber shot down in flames. In Italy ‘Camels’ B5182, E1577 & E1581 each claim a victory as does the pilot of ‘Camel’ C134 before being wounded by ground fire while chasing another enemy aircraft. At Heliopolis ‘Pup’ D4125 crashes on its nose hitting a ditch undershooting on landing. At home the pilot of Bekesbourne ‘Camel’ C6754 is killed crashing in a spinning nose dive at night, Wye B2469’s is killed folding the wings pulling out of a dive on a ground target, Hounslow E1572’s is also killed folding the wings and Rochford E5762 is wrecked.
On 16th September ‘Camel’ D3374 claims three victories, F3922 & D8187 share one victory and each claims two others, B7254, B7905, C75, C196, C3324, D3422, D8159, D8205, D9611, E7187, E7191, E7202, F3238 & F5994 each claim one victory, D6693 & D9672 each share a victory with others, F6180 shares one with an SE5a whilst F3240 claims a kite balloon. The pilots of B7271, D3357, E1597 & F5958 are killed in combat, E1479’s is wounded in combat, D1946 & D9634 are shot up in combat, F1962 is damaged by AA fire, D8203 crashes to avoid another aircraft, F6053 crashes on take-off, D8180 & E1483 forced land with engine failures and F2127 overturns in a shell hole while taxying. ‘Camels’ D6555 & E1491 crash at Vendôme as does ‘Pup’ C307. ‘Dolphins’ C3879 & E4493 each claim two victories, C8187 also claims two before overturning landing with an engine failure, C4127, C4129, C4159, C8163, D3770, D5236, E4425 & F5961 each claim one victory, D3751, D3769 & F5965 each share one with other ‘Dolphins’, the pilot of D5224 is injured crashing with a fuel cut and D5306 is wrecked also after the engine cuts. 43Sqdn ‘Snipe’ E8001 is wrecked from a height test hitting wires as the engine fails on landing. At home the pilot of Bekesbourne ‘Camel’ F2162 is killed crashing in a spinning nose dive in aerial combat practice, Cranwell B7241’s is killed spinning-in diving on a ground target, Eastbourne C3292’s is injured striking the ground “hitting an air pocket”, Bircham Newton E7237 crashes damaging a wing whilst Yarmouth ‘Baby’ floatplane N1127 is wrecked on take-off.
On the Western Front Marshal Foch is launching his planned sequence of bold advances on multiple fronts and the RAF are heavily involved. In these last two days alone there have been a 67 victories claimed by ‘Camel’ and ‘Dolphin’ squadrons for the loss of 8 pilots and 2 wounded and the intense aerial activity is set to continue.
On 17th September ‘Camel’ E4407 claims two victories, D1942 shares a claim for two Fokker DVII which collide and crash out of control, D1898 & F5946 each claim one victory, E1539 & F5993 each share a victory but the pilots of E4382, F2130 & F3931 are killed in action, D9424’s pilot is killed in a flying accident falling out of control from 1,000ft, F3931’s is fatally wounded in action, E1405’s is wounded in action and F6226’s is taken prisoner. E4406 is badly damaged by AA fire, D9513 is forced to land with controls shot away, D8187 crashes after take-off whilst D9598 & F6306 overturn on landing. ‘Dolphin’ C4127 also claims a victory. In Italy ‘Camel’ C3290 & D8215 each claim a victory. At home both pilots of Beaulieu ‘Camel’ C96 & C8322 are killed when they collide and spin-in. After 10pm C6713, D6423 & F1979 of 151Sqn, who have been brought down to the central British battlefront from Abbeville shoot down three German night bombers one of which explodes in mid-air.
On 18th September ‘Camels’ D9405, D9485 & F2141 each claim a victory, F6034 shares a victory and also claims a kite balloon, D3341 shares a kite balloon which sets fire to three German hangars but the pilot of D9405 is killed shot down in flames. ‘Dolphin’ E4492 claims two victories but E7163’s pilot is injured crashing from a stall with a failed engine, D3718 & F1963 suffer forced landings with engine failure and B7254, F1899, F5935 & F6063 crash on landing whilst F6083 is set on fire on the ground by a paraffin lamp.
In Italy Major Barker claims three more victories in his personal ‘Camel’ B6313 (above) making 46 claimed victories in 11 months in France and Italy inclusive of 9 kite balloons. He is now going back to England to command the School of Air Fighting at Hounslow. Also in Italy the pilot of ‘Camel’ D9406 is injured crashing into a tree on take-off with a choked engine. In Salonika ‘Camel’ D6551 crashes. At Heliopolis ‘Pup’ B6042 overturns in a pancake stalled landing from 20ft. At home the pilot of Scampton ‘Camel’ E7156 is fatally injured, South Carlton E7147’s is seriously injured losing consciousness and spinning-in, Newmarket ‘Pup’ C309’s is seriously injured from a spinning nose dive and Eastchurch N6169’s is injured stalling whilst turning on take-off.
At Brooklands the Sopwith experimental team roll out the first prototype two-seat armour plated ‘Buffalo’ with its Bentley BR2 engine. (above and below) It has ‘Bulldog’ two-bay wings and a fuselage similar to the ‘Salamander’ but with tandem seats enclosed in the extended armour plate “box”. There is a forward firing Vickers machine gun but as yet only a pillar for a Lewis gun for the observer/ rear gunner. The large opening in the top wing centre section allows pilot entry and all around visibility.
On 19th September it is overcast with high winds and rain showers. ‘Camels’ C3380, D8202 & D9464 each claim a victory but the pilot of F2172 is killed and C8342’s is seriously injured in a mid-air collision, E5165 forced lands into a shell hole on night camouflage trials whilst E7220, F2129 & F6199 all crash on landing or taking off due to the high winds. ‘Dolphin’ C3879 claims a victory whilst C8187 overturns in crops landing with an engine failure, E4425 is damaged hitting a shell hole also with an engine failure and D3697 is wrecked. In Italy ‘Camel’ C3288 claims three victories. At home the pilot of Upavon ‘Camel’ B3802 is killed spinning-in from low altitude and Dover E1567’s is injured spinning into trees from the top of a loop.
Five ‘Grain Griffins’ are now working up at Grain for two-seat reconnaissance trials aboard the Navy’s soon to be three aircraft carriers. N103 has now joined N100 & N101 all initially with 200hp Sunbeam Arab engines whilst N104 & N105 have been delivered with 230hp Bentley BR2s which also power the competing Parnall Panthers one of which is now on ditching trials with floatation gear and a jettisonable undercarriage.
Meanwhile Grain continue experiments with alternative arrester gear designs. The apparently quite successful “Sillars Gear” has a wheeled ‘Pup’ fitted with an arrester hook which catches and pulls forward one of the transverse ropes attached to rings running on a slowly diverging array of fore & aft wires until brought to a standstill whilst horns on the undercarriage spreader bar engage under one fore & aft wire to keep the aircraft straight.
Last week a “hayrake and comb” gear on a skidded ‘Pup’ (above) proved too abrupt when the two outboard pivoted combs are swung back to squeeze together some fore & aft wires. An alternative device now being fitted is a half left and half right-hand threaded axle rotated by a wheel running on the deck which drives two braking jaws inward to grip bunches of fore & aft wires.(below) It is soon realised that this might work using the wheels on a standard ‘Ships Pup’ with the threaded axle replacing the wheels’ normal axle.
On 20th September in slightly better flying weather ‘Camel’ D3374 claims two victories, C66, C75, D8177, D8250, D9440, D9611, E1481, E1537, F3243 & F6058 each claim one, D9599 shares one with F3233, D9638 claims one before the pilot is wounded and crashes, the pilots of B6205, C125, D8205, E4409, F5986 & F6192 are killed in action, B6319’s is wounded badly shot up, D3387’s & E4377’s are taken prisoner whilst D9428, F6031 & D9428 crash land with failed engines. ‘Dolphins’ C4127, C4136, C4230, D3706, E4493 & E4513 each claim a victory. Before midnight ‘Camel’ F6102 claims another night bomber. In Italy the pilot of ‘Camel’ E1494 is injured striking trees on approach to land as is D9414’s crashing on landing whilst E1578 also crash lands hit by AA fire. At home the pilot of Stowe Maries ’Camel’ D9578 is killed from a spinning nose dive and Lopcombe Corner E1600’s is injured hitting a tree on approach. The pilot of Scampton ‘Pup’ B2164 is injured stalling from 50ft.
On 21st September in strong winds ‘Camels’ C8227 & F3233 each claim a victory as does D9599 but is badly shot up, the pilot of F1401 is injured stalling on take-off, D9654’s is injured crashing on landing, F6197 sideslips onto the airfield from a stall whilst F1932 & F6337 crash land at their new airfield and recently crashed D8180 is further damaged by a tent being blown over. ‘Dolphins’ C3829, C3879, D3745 & E4598 each claim a victory whilst B7927 which has been built from other aircraft by 1 (Southern) Aeroplane Repair Depot at Farnborough (below) is wrecked overturning in a shell hole landing with an engine failure. Before midnight ‘Camel’ C8227 claims AEG night bomber and D6423 shares one with D6568.
At home Scampton ‘Dolphin’ C8153 crashes after getting lost on a height test. A ‘Ships Camel’ and a ‘Ships Strutter’ make successful take-offs from the now cleared and unused aft landing deck of HMS Furious which has “stern way on” whilst Sopwith Ham Factory’s first production ‘Salamander’ armoured trench fighter F6501 is delivered via 10 Aircraft Acceptance Park, Brooklands.
On 22nd September in low cloud and rain storms ‘Camel’ F6034 claims two victories before being shot down, E7191 claims two victories before forced landing with the fuel tank shot through, B7896 & F5967 each claim a victory but the pilot of F5969 is killed in action, F2157’s is taken prisoner, F6033’s is injured crashing on a delivery flight whilst D1958 crashes landing cross-wind to avoid another aircraft and F6039 also crashes on landing. ‘Dolphin’ E4493 claims two victories but forced lands, C4156 shares a victory with C4159 whilst C8114 is damaged forced landing with engine failure. In Italy the pilot of ‘Camel’ D8170 is killed when the wings fold during aerobatics. At Heliopolis ‘Pup’ D4122 crashes into stationary ‘Camel’ D6533.
The 200hp V-8 Hispano-Suiza engines (above) in ‘Dolphins’ are the best power-to-weight ratio water-cooled engines available with their low fuel consumption and sustained performance especially at altitude but they are not very reliable. To overcome the frequent fracture failures of the spur reduction gears an engine has been converted to direct drive by fitting the propeller directly to the crankshaft. After bench trials this engine is now fitted to C8194 (below) at Martlesham Heath which becomes the first ‘Dolphin III’ with the lower set propeller revolving anti-clockwise seen from the cockpit.
On 23rd September with some rain and strong winds ‘Camels’ C3324, C6713 & F5941 each claim a victory, B7252 shares a victory with D8189, D8217 & D9678 but F2174 is lost in action, F6029 is shot down, H7275 is badly shot up, B7797 overturns landing with a burst fuel tank, B7896 goes up on its nose on landing and D9486 crashes. ‘Dolphins’ C4156 & C4259 each claim two victories, C4230 & C8165 each claim one whilst D3741 forced lands damaged in combat and C3818 crashes landing with engine trouble. At Heliopolis the pilot of ‘Camel’ C1591 is killed stalling turning into wind. At home the pilot of Sutton’s Farm ‘Camel’ C1582 is killed spinning-in off a turn.
Today 43 Squadron carries out the first operational sortie with Sopwith ‘Snipe’ probably escorting DH9 bombers. 43Sqdn are still having teething problems with their ‘Snipe’ the latest being BR2 engine connecting rod ball race cages breaking up and piston skirts breaking away. Equally seriously the main fuel tanks are bulging and leaking. Pending the supply of stronger tanks they are taking aircraft out of service for a whole day’s work to add an extra bearer. As a key future fighter, new ‘Snipe’ pilots are starting their training on Avro 504s and ‘Snipe’ at three specialized Training Depot Stations at Northolt, London Colney and Hounslow before going to fly ‘Snipe’ at Turnberry or Marske Fighting Schools.
On 24th September in fair weather ‘Camel’ D3341 claims two victories before sharing a third with D9649. B7896, D8277, F3238 & F3240 each claim two victories as do E7160 and E1479 but one pilot is wounded and the other injured crashing into telephone wires. D9649, C3310, C3351, C3380, D3332, D3374, D3417, D8222, D8250, D9648, E1539, E1586, E4383, E4407, E7202, F2125, F2141, F2146, F2164, F3103, F3106, F3930, F5993, F6024, F6191 & H7272 each claim a victory, C197 shares a victory with D9597, F2137 shares one with the whole patrol but the pilot of D8147 is wounded in combat whilst F1403 is wrecked spinning in from a low stall, D8171 overturns in a shell hole forced landing with a choked engine, F6058 forced lands with a broken wing and F5923 overturns on landing. ‘Dolphin’ C8118 forced lands with a boiled engine. On an extraordinary day over the Western Front ‘Camel’ pilots have claimed 45 victories without loss including an American 148Sqdn patrol downing five of seven Fokker DVIIs which engaged them in a dog fight. In the Aegean at the Talikna seaplane base on Lemnos, ten aircraft are destroyed in an enemy raid including ‘Fairey Hamble Baby’ N1201. At home Rochford ‘Camel’ F1393 is wrecked and Sutton’s Farm’s F1371 is damaged bursting a tyre on landing.
On 25th September ‘Camels’ B7272 & D3331 claim a pair of Fokker DVIIs which collided in combat, D8189 & D9484 each claim a victory and D9649 claims one but is badly damaged in combat, the pilots of D8216 & E4385 are killed in action, B7252’s & C66’s are taken prisoner, B7232 is hit by AA fire and wrecked sideslipping into the ground whilst D1803 overturns on take-off and F2156 overturns landing cross-wind. At 11pm F6084 sends a “new type” Gotha night bomber down in flames. In Italy the pilot of ‘Camel’ E1577 is fatally wounded striking a tree on approach. At home the pilot of Scampton ‘Camel’ E7157 is killed spinning-in from 800ft on the firing range whilst Seaton Carew ‘Baby’ floatplane N2108 is salvaged after being capsized by strong gusty winds following an engine failure and forced landing 5 miles off Whitby.
The final Sopwith’ Camel’ orders are placed on 25th September with 30 more for British Caudron, 50 more for Marsh Jones & Cribb plus 70 more for Hooper. It might seem surprising that Hooper need a top-up ‘Camel’ order when they have 268 ‘Dolphins’ to deliver but it appears that ‘Dolphins’ are being built at their new Wembley factory (below) whilst their Chelsea factory will have delivered 50 ‘Camels’ this month and only has orders for another 100.
‘Camel’ F6394 is now at Martlesham Heath with an enlarged rudder for performance testing with various engines including 140hp and 180hp Clergets, currently a 170hp Le Rhône (below) and soon a 180hp Le Rhône.
On 26th September Major Collishaw in ‘Camel’ D3417 claims his 58th & 59th victories over almost two years ago and all in Sopwith aircraft, 4 in ‘Strutters’, 34 in ‘Triplanes’ and 21 in this particular ‘Camel’. F2137 claims a victory plus two more shared with its patrol, D6626 claims two victories, D8158, D8188, D9484, D9628, D9651, E1538, E1539, E7165, F1968, F3102, F3243, F3922, F5943, F6176, F6188 & F6191 each claim a victory, D9640 claims one before the pilot is taken prisoner, D9611 claims one and forced lands before a second forced landing with a seized engine but a 151Sqdn pilot and the pilots of C75, D3374 & F1975 and are killed in action, E1552’s is taken prisoner, D8168’s is wounded in action, E4411’s is injured forced landing into shell holes whilst D9632 forced lands with an engine failure probably hit by AA fire and C3377 is wrecked run into by another aircraft while stationary. Also wrecked are D3349 taxying into a ditch after landing, F1926 nosing over on rough ground and F3225 sideslipping-in low flying whilst H6993, H6994, H7010 & H7078 are “destroyed by enemy action”. ‘Dolphin’ C4158 claims a victory but the pilot of H7243 is taken prisoner and E4513’s is injured landing with a cut engine whilst C8087 & C8118 forced land from combat with engine failures. In Italy ‘Camel’ D8239 shares a victory with E1581. At Heliopolis ‘Camel’ D6533 is damaged forced landing on rough ground with an engine failure and ‘Pup’ D4122 collides with a BE2c in mock combat. At home the pilot of Weston-on-the -Green ‘Camel’ C1612 is killed spinning-in from 5,000ft whilst Sutton’s Farm F1371 sideslips-in on take-off. The first production ‘Cuckoo’ N6950 is already being deleted from service and others are working-up for trials on HMS Argus whilst N6974 goes to the RAF Experimental Flight at Gosport in Hampshire for furthers torpedo trials alongside prototype Short Shirl and Blackburn Blackburd 300+hp Rolls-Royce Eagle powered competitors both already shown to be capable but less agile in taking evasive action after releasing the torpedo.
On 27th September ‘Camels’ B7864, D8148, E1481, E1539, E7278, F1938, F2131, F2146 & F3930 each claim a victory, E1550 shares a victory with E1586, B7905 claims a victory and then shares a kite balloon with F2153 which goes on to destroy two more, C3380 & F6180 each destroy a kite balloon as does F5942 before the pilot is wounded but the pilots of B6421, D9472, E1549 & F2158 are killed in action, D9460’s & E6117’s are taken prisoner and E4407’s is injured spinning-in hit by AA fire. E4375 is hit in the fuel tank by ground fire and overturns crashing near British tanks in the midst of a barrage, F1917 crashes on landing with its undercarriage shot away by a British shell, F2135 is badly shot-up, C8345 crashes landing with an engine failure whilst C6723 is badly shot up and taken to the Repair Park at No.2 Aeroplane Supply Depot along with wrecked already once Farnborough-rebuilt ‘Camel’ B893. ‘Dolphin’ E4713 claims two victories and a kite balloon destroyed, D5236 claims a victory and shares another with B7855, whilst C3829, C3833, C4136 & C8121 each claim one, E4501 claims one before the pilot is fatally wounded in combat and D3718 forced lands with oil trouble. 43 Squadron claim their first Sopwith ‘Snipe’ victory when E8028 shares one with E8031. At Heliopolis ‘Pup’ D4123 crashes with a cut engine. At home both pilots are killed when Rochford ‘Camel’ F1315 half rolls out of formation and strikes F1395, F1474’s is killed spinning-in after an engine failure on a delivery flight whilst Throwley F2105’s is also killed spinning-in.
With the large numbers of aircraft and crew being lost to ground fire it is no surprise that the Sopwith ‘Buffalo’ is today being flown out to RAF on the Western Front for urgent evaluation just 10 days after its first flight and despite the armour plate protection for the crew, fuel, ammunitions etc not yet being hardened and bullet proof.
On 28th September ‘Camels’ D9600, F2141 & F3106 each claim two victories, C197, C8345, D3336, D6626, D6696, E1557, E7162, F2153 & H828 each claim one victory but the pilots of D3372, D8175, E7199, E7122, F3220, F5937 & H7288 are killed or declared lost in action, D8218’s is severely injured forced landing in action, B7864’s, D3326’s, D8145’s, D8158’s, E1487’s & F3948’s are taken prisoner, D8186’s is wounded in action as is F1542’s but interned after a forced landing in Holland whilst F1324 forced lands hit by AA fire, B7873, D8217 & F1934 are badly shot up as is E1593 going on its nose breaking a wheel on landing, D8220 overturns caught by a gust of wind on landing whilst E4397 also crashes on landing. ‘Dolphins’ C4059 & E4712 each claim two victories, C4127, C3879 & C8121 each claim one victory but the pilots of C8115 & F6020 are taken prisoner whilst D3744 is damaged forced landing with fuel trouble and E4453 forced lands after the propeller comes off. In Italy ‘Camel’ D9386 crashes landing after an engine failure.
On 29th September ‘Camels’ D3422 & D9485 each claim two victories, D3336, D8147, D8177, D9457, E7177, E7186, D9651, E4383, E4421, E7165, E7173, E7201, E7243, F3106, F3116, F3235, F6032, F6176 each claim one victory and F2137 shares one with F2165 but the pilots of D8187, D9664, E4376, F6288 & H7274 are killed in action, D6572’s & F5960’s are taken prisoner, F6175 crashes shot-up in combat, D9628 is badly damaged crashing on landing, C76 crashes with an engine failure, F1937 crashes avoiding a workman on take-off whilst F1939, F3118 & H7272 crash on landing. ‘Dolphins’ C3879, C4059 & C4136 each claim a victory but the pilots of C4155 & F6020 are taken prisoner whilst C4121 & C4157 both crash on landing with engine trouble. 43 Squadron claim another ‘Snipe’ victory with E8024. At El Rimel in Egypt the pilot of ‘Pup’ C251 killed in a crash. At home the pilot of Marske ‘Camel’ E1456 is killed spinning-in whilst stunting for an instructional film, South Carlton E7154’s & Joyce Green E1574’s are also killed spinning-in. Edzell E1583 hits a hangar forced landing with a choked engine and Croydon two-seat ‘Camel’ B7397 overturns when a wheel comes off on landing.(below)
On 30th September in low cloud with heavy rainstorms over the Western Front 43Sqdn’s ‘Snipe’ E8031 claims their third victory whilst the pilot of Vendôme ‘Pup’ C310 is killed when it collapses going down for a loop. In Italy ‘Camel’ E7211 claims a victory. At Imbros in the Aegean the pilot of ‘Camel’ D6612 is injured in a crash. At home the pilot of Turnberry ‘Camel’ F1410 is killed looping too near the ground as are Beaulieu F1359’s diving off a half roll and Leighterton F1948’s spinning in.
Through September the Sopwith factories have delivered 113 aircraft with 25 ‘Dolphins’ mostly from Canbury Park Road Factory plus 84 ‘Snipe’ and 4 ‘Salamander’ from the Ham Factory. The number of new Sopwith designed aircraft from other contractors in September is a record 604. These comprise 52 ‘Pups’ from Standard Motors, 15 ‘Dolphins’ from Darracq (11) and Hooper (4), 22 ‘Cuckoos’ from Blackburn (15) and Fairfield (7) plus 415 ‘Camels’ including 17 ‘2F1 Ships Camels’ from Beardmore and ‘F1 Camels’ from Boulton & Paul (144), Caudron (9), Clayton & Shuttleworth (9), Hooper (57), Marsh Jones & Cribb (21), Nieuport & General (33), Portholme (8) and Ruston Proctor (117).
New orders on various contractors in September have been for 150 more ‘Camels’ and 250 more ‘Dolphins’ bringing their total orders to 6,642 and 2,154 whilst ‘Snipe’ and ‘Salamander’ orders remain at 2,936 and 806.
An Italian Government order for 100 ‘Baby’ floatplanes, originally going to Sopwith’s existing Bleriot-owned licensee in Italy, was placed on Ansaldo early in 1917. Only four were delivered in 1917 the rest taking until this month. (below, production at Ansaldo)
They carriy Sopwith “So.” prefixed serial numbers 5005 to 5096 plus six more in the 6847-6855 range. All have 120hp Le Rhône engines typically with four or six cooling cut-outs in the lower half of the engine cowls. (below)
The roundels have red centres, white then green and the vertical rudder stripes start with green. The outboard ends of the wings are painted green (starboard) and red (port), the clear dope in-between creating a full wingspan Italian tricolour when seen from the front. (below, clearest on the lower wing)
Some of the machines carry over-wing guns (below) but there is no evidence of the guns being used in action. Mostly used by army flying schools some have seen operational service with army coastal and harbour defence flights and naval sections at Brindisi and at Taranto where there are also RNAS ‘Baby’ floatplanes.
The Navy’s first through-deck aircraft carrier HMS Argus (above) was commissioned 16th September and has already started the first tentative trials of aircraft flying over and then landing on. The hull was to be an Italian liner but all the normal ship’s facilities are situated under a raised flat deck which slopes down slightly at the stern and has two aircraft lifts down to aircraft hangars which take up to 18 aircraft. There is a retractable charthouse above deck level which can be lowered during flying operations. The 565ft by 68ft deck is long enough to have the 100ft long arrester wire installation fairly far forward leaving a long clear deck landing area at the stern and a shorter clear deck take-off area at the bow.
This contemporary sketch shows the arrester system to have 54 fore and aft wires 9 inches apart are strung between two ramps. It is obviously developed from the one tried on HMS Furious but instead of landing in the wires the plan is to touch down and straighten up the aircraft on the clear rear deck before riding over the first ramp and dropping between the wires to engage the undercarriage clips which hold down the aircraft while it runs on to stop on the upslope of the second ramp which is covered in gymnastic mats. Disengaging the clips from the wires allows deck crew to move the aircraft over this ramp onto the clear foredeck. The turbulence from funnel gases has been addressed by taking the engine room exhaust through long parallel ducts to vent on either side of the stern. (see smoke in top image) It seem that Argus has already been painted in a dazzle camouflage like HMS Furious. (below)
On 1st October wheeled ‘Ships Strutter’ F2211 with a propeller guard and undercarriage cross bar clips is filmed on HMS Argus taking off and landing. (below)
On 1st October ‘Camel’ D3332 claims two victories, B7905, C8336, C8343, D3397, D6626, D9597, E1416, E1482, E1537, E4421, E7201, E7217, F3238 & F3930 each claim one victory as does D8189 before crashing in a forest. E1505 claims a kite balloon but the pilots of D1883, F3235 are killed in combat, F5950’s is killed spinning-in after take-off, F6026’s & F6185’s are taken prisoner, F1966’s is wounded in combat, D9471’s is injured crashing on a railway track short of fuel whilst F6123 is damaged by AA fire, D3331, D8219 & F3110 are badly shot-up whilst D9448 & E7229 crash after take-off as does F8646 with an engine failure. E4410 overturns landing at dusk, E7179 & F1938 crash on landing and F6132 forced lands with an engine failure. ‘Dolphin’ D5236 claims a victory whilst E4590 is brought down by AA fire and the pilot of E4659 is forced to land wounded in action. ‘Snipe’ E8028 claims a victory, E8031 shares one with another 43Sqdn machine but E8024 is wrecked and E7996 damaged in forced landings. Mudros based ‘Camels’ B3769 & B5682 are being transferred to the Royal Hellenic Naval Air Service. At Heliopolis ‘Pup’ B6108 crashes on its nose in a cross-wind landing. At home the pilot of Turnhouse ‘Camel’ D9525 is killed spinning in from a nose dive as is Rochford H767’s stalling forced landing with an engine failure whilst chequerboard painted Edzell Training Depot Station ‘Pup’ B7575 forced lands with an engine failure.(below). ‘Camel’ H792 is now at Orfordness for dive bombing experiments and is allocated for tests with a Badin exhauster petrol system.
Twelve ‘Pups’ C521 to C532 from the final batch being completed by Standard Motors are to go to the Australian Flying Corps at Point Cook four and half years after Harry Hawker demonstrated his ‘Tabloid’ there.
The Sopwith Board Meeting on 1st October approves a 6% dividend for preference shareholders for the second half year to 30th September and approves further patent applications across European and the Colonies.
The latest Ministry Technical Report records progress with Sopwith’s prototypes designed specifically for the Dragonfly engine. Two of the three triplane ‘Snarks are complete but waiting engines as is the first of three biplane ‘Snappers’ but the first twin-engined ‘Cobham’ has made less progress and undercarriage modifications are being considered. Alongside these the second armoured BR2-powered two-seat ‘Buffalo’ H5993 is almost complete and work continues on two more long distance ‘Snipe’ fighters for the Independent Force.
On 2nd October ‘Camels’ D9485, D9592, D9651, E1482, E7166 & F2176 each claim a victory, C3380, F2137 & F2141 each share a victory with others, the pilot of D9638 claims a victory before crashing wounded, C197 claims one aircraft down and a kite balloon destroyed, D8159, E7202 & E7279 each also claim a kite balloon, D9597 shares a kite balloon with E4386 but the pilot of D9658 is killed shot down in flames by ground fire after silencing an AA position, F3951’s is killed spinning-in from 200ft bombing a train, F5926 is also killed in action, E1545’s, F1977’s &F5921’s are taken prisoner, E1537’s is wounded in the shoulder by flak, E3121 gets badly shot up whilst F6153 overturns on landing and E1553, F2131, F2170 & F6038 forced land with engine problems as does D9678 running into the side of HMS General Craufurd but the pilot is rescued. ‘Dolphin’ C4059 claims a victory and E4712 destroys a kite balloon. ‘Snipe’ E8014 is wrecked in a forced landing with engine failure. At Heliopolis ‘Pup’ D4125 is damaged in a heavy landing. At home the pilot of Shotwick ‘Camel’ E7297 is injured spinning-in on landing and the pilot of Hounslow ‘Snipe’ E8059 is injured wrecking it in a flying accident.
On 3rd October ‘Camels’ E7165 & E7176 each claim two victories, C3302, C8253, D8149, D9416, D9653, E1416, E7177, E7219, E7279, F1933, F5942, F6201 & H773 each claim one victory but the pilots of D6626 & D8188 are killed colliding at 12,000ft, D8223’s, E4403’s and a 73Sqdn pilot are wounded in action, D9655’s is injured landing with an engine failure whilst E7261 forced lands with a petrol tank shot through, F6249 crashes in action, D8146 is wrecked spinning-in on take-off and F3120 crashes on landing. ‘Dolphins’ D5236 & F7055 each claim two victories, B7855, D3745, D3768 & D5237 each claim one victory but the pilot of D3769 is taken prisoner. In Italy ‘Camel’ D8236 is crashed. At home the pilot of Kenley ‘Dolphin’ E4665 is killed when it breaks up during aerobatic practice whilst Doncaster ‘Pup’ B4136’s pilot is seriously injured crashing after a mid-air collision.
At the Airship Experimental Station Pulham in Norfolk they are taking the next step towards flying a fighter from under an airship with a senior level conference and examination of R23 after it has completed three hours flying carrying an unmanned ‘Camel’ probably N6814 which has remained steady even at full speed. They agree that the ensemble is airworthy and an unmanned drop can be made at no less than 2,500ft and a minimum speed of 35kts. The head-on photograph (below right) was taken yesterday and the others are probably also yesterday or earlier.
Following the successful wheeled ‘Strutter’ landing demonstration on HMS Argus two days ago other pilots get the opportunity today to flying low over the deck but no more landings are attempted. It is noted that the ship’s oil and water tanks need to be balanced to eliminate any list. HMS Argus is to go immediately to the Rosyth dockyard to have a wood and fabric dummy superstructure “island” rapidly constructed on one side of the deck to test the proposed configuration of HMS Eagle and HMS Hermes aircraft carriers currently under construction.
Meanwhile the original prototype Sopwith ‘B1’ bomber converted to the prototype Griffin reconnaissance two-seater is now having a hydrovane fitted at Grain for ditching trials. Grain have completed all seven of their new Griffins and N100 has arrived this week aboard the recently commissioned aircraft carrier HMS Vindictive.(below) Unfortunately she has not been modified with a through deck like HMS Argus and still has the landing-on deck behind the funnels and superstructure like HMS Furious. Vindictive is essentially a large cruiser with a hangar built on the fore-deck with a hatch and derricks to bring aircraft up to the trackway linked flight decks above.
On 4th October ‘Camels’ B7270 & D8177 each claim three victories, E1415, E6193 & F3944 each claim two, B7228, C8347, C8374, E1505, E5156, E7217, E7279, F1936, F2153, F3239, F3966, F6089, F6180, F6343, H753, H773, H829 & H7282 each claim one victory as does F3965 before it is hit by AA fire. The pilots of D3341, D9416, E1596, F1990 & F5954 are killed in action, D6519’s & H771’s are killed colliding at 14,000ft, F1987’s is wounded in action and D9418’s is taken prisoner. C8380 is wrecked colliding with H765 while landing, D3358 & F1988 are damaged by AA fire and D9648 by ground fire. The USNR pilot in 213Sqdn’s N6376 stalls down to 80ft when attacked by 8 Fokkers then shoots one down, sees another overshoot and dive into the ground and shares a third with two colleagues before limping home with combat damage. ‘Dolphin’ C3829 claims two victories, E4713 claims one victory and C4136 shares one with D3590 whilst D3740 is wrecked on take-off. In Italy ‘Camel’ D8241 claims two victories and E1581 claims one but the pilot of ‘Camel’ D8244 is killed hit by AA fire whilst B5638’s is killed when his bombs explode on crashing after being hit by ground fire. At Heliopolis ‘Pup’ B6043 crashes on take-off.
It is not just Thomas Sopwith and other leading aircraft manufacturers who are already thinking about post-war business challenges and winning the prize for the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic. In this week’s Flight magazine Cellon who have their factory in Richmond upon Thames are advertising a special dope for the fabric coverings of trans-Atlantic contenders. (below)
The local councils extracted a promise from Minister of Munitions Winston Churchill last year that the Ham National Aircraft Factory currently leased by Sopwith would be temporary in nature as an eyesore in an otherwise rural setting close to the Thames. However a Ministry of Munition Board has now visited the facility and reports that “the Board are unanimously of the opinion that this fear has not been justified and far from having an adverse effect upon the neighbourhood its existence is more likely to enhance its prosperity” noting that “the expenditure incurred exclusive of the cost of the land is in the region of £230,000”. Someone now has to decide how and when to inform the councils that it is to be permanent “considering the importance and character of the building that has actually been erected which is not considered detrimental to the neighbourhood”.
On 5th October there is low cloud over the Western Front by the afternoon but ‘Camel’ E7172 claims a victory and E7180 claims a kite balloon but the pilots of F5967 & F6194 are killed after they collide, F6224 crashes landing with an engine failure and F3245 is overturned by a gust of wind on landing. ‘Dolphins’ B7855, C3829, C4059, C4136, D5236, F6144 & F7055 each claim a victory whilst E4715 overturns in a shell hole forced landing with engine trouble. In Italy ‘Camel’ E1502 claims a victory but E1581 is wrecked crashing after being hit by ground fire. At Suez the pilot of ‘Pup’ B6111 is fatally injured. At Heliopolis ‘Pup’ D4142 collides with an Avro504 in a formation landing. Portholme Aerodrome Ltd of Huntingdon deliver their first ‘Snipe’ E8307 to 3 AAP Norwich.
On 6th October in high wind, low cloud and some rain the pilot of ‘Camel’ E7186 is killed stalling-in at dusk and F2177’s is taken prisoner whilst C8338 forced lands en route to a new airfield. 45Sqdn report a very serious outbreak of ‘flu with 2 dying overnight and 125 pilots and ground crew sick in camp or hospital. 43Sqdn moves forward some 12 miles today from Fienvillers to Senlis-le-Sec with its ‘Snipe’ in support of 9 Brigade.
On 7th October in continuing unfavourable flying weather ‘Camels’ D6696 & E7162 each claim two victories, E7190 claims one victory but the pilots of E7176 & H7001 are killed in combat as is a Belgian ‘Camel’ pilot. The wounded pilot of E1537 crash lands in Holland and is interned, low flying F5942 is wrecked hitting a tree whilst C3302, F2142 & F3239 all overturn caught by the wind on landing. ‘Dolphin’ F6146 is wrecked forced landing on poor ground with an engine failure. In Italy ‘Camel’ C46 claims a victory but the pilot of D8215 is killed in combat with four enemy aircraft and E1498’s is taken prisoner.
Boulton & Paul have their orders for Sopwith ‘Snipe’ increased by 100 to 500 whilst Marsh, Jones & Cribb receive their first ‘Snipe’ order also for 100 despite both still having significant outstanding orders for ‘Camels’.
On 8th October low cloud and rain clears in the afternoon. ‘Camels’ D3397, D3409, E4380, E4401, E7173, E7272, F3226, F3228, F6251, F6351 & D3332 each claim a victory, D1868 claims a victory before being shot down with the pilot taken prisoner as are the pilots of D3382 & E4378. The pilots of E4423 & H7278 are killed in a mid-air collision, D1856’s is killed in action, F2165’s is killed spinning-in whist C6718 & D9653 are both seriously damaged colliding landing in semi-darkness, F2141 is shot-up whilst E1417 & D8210 crash as does C1698 with an engine failure on take-off. ‘Dolphin’ C4059 claims two victories. In Italy ‘Camel’ C3290 claims a victory. At home the American pilot of Ayr ‘Camel’ B7467 is killed spinning-in as is Croydon F4209’s diving-in and Cadet Sergeant pilot of F2207 is killed spinning-in off a roll at Beaulieu a month before his 19th birthday.
On 9th October ‘Camels’ D9608 & E7279 each claim two victories, C197, D9672, E1415, E4420, F2137 & F3109 each claim one victory, D6696 & E4386 each share one with others, E7190 shares one with E7241 but the pilot is injured hitting telegraph wires trying to land to prevent the German crew burning their aircraft. The pilots of E7219 & F6397 are killed in combat, F3223’s is killed colliding with a balloon cable, D9581 forced lands damaged by AA fire, F1976 forced lands shot-up, B5446, B7905 & C8339 forced land with engine problems, D9669 is wrecked overturning in a shell hole on an advanced landing ground, F3221 crashes landing in gusty wind, F6025 is caught in the slipstream of another aircraft on take-off and wrecked hitting a hut whist C3320 crashes at Vendôme and E7207 overturns landing in the dark. No.4 Australian Flying Corps Squadron are this week starting to replace their ‘Camels’ with ‘Snipe’ to become the second ‘Snipe’ unit in France and already today E8038 has claimed a victory whilst E8032 & E8052 each destroy a kite balloon. In Italy ‘Camel’ D8240 claims a victory. As part of the RAF Instructional Mission to the White Russian forces in South Russia Major Ray Collishaw in ‘Camel’ F6396 shoots down an Albatros fighter on the banks of the Volga.
Following the success of the “Tank Day” in Kingston upon Thames Market Place in March there is a “Gun Day” with a 6in Howitzer on 9th October to sell even more War Bonds. Alongside the gun Sopwith exhibit “a plane of their latest design and demonstrate the erection of parts of the machine”. Harry Hawker flies overhead not this time in a ‘Camel’ but in a monoplane, either the ‘Scooter’ or the ‘Swallow’. Speeches by prominent persons encouraging the crowds to invest include Lady Haig reading this letter from Field Marshall Haig, they live at Eastcott on Kingston Hill.
A gaily decorated “Tram Bank” fitted with two machine guns lent by Sopwith Aviation is initially banned by the police but eventually tours the tram network selling more War Bonds with extended halts at Teddington, Kingston Bridge, Hampton Court, Tolworth, Ditton, Malden, Surbiton Station and the East Surrey Regiment’s Barracks in Kings Road.
Whilst production of new ‘Camels’ is tailing-off after the peak output in July, parts from combat damaged and crashed machines are being used to reconstruct significant numbers of “new” machines at RAF Depots. Recovered aircraft which cannot be repaired by their squadron mechanics are being taken to the Repair Parks at the Aeroplane Supply Depots at Marquise and Verton in France (above & below) and in England to the Southern, Northern and Western Aircraft Repair Depots at Farnborough, Coal Aston and Yate.
Already over 300 ‘Camels’ have been reconstructed from salvaged and spare parts by the Repair Parks in France plus over 90 at Yate, nearly 80 at Farnborough with smaller numbers elsewhere. New serial numbers are allocated to many of these ‘new’ aircraft. Some 200 new ‘Pups’ have been reconstructed in the same way over the last two years mostly at Coal Aston and more recently 8 ‘Dolphins’ reconstructed in France and 12 at Farnborough.
The Sopwith experimental team have used a ‘Camel’ fuselage B9276 originally built by Boulton & Paul to rapidly construct a 110hp Le Rhône powered ‘Swallow’ military monoplane for trials as a future fleet fighter. The photographs (above & below) at Brooklands show it to be very similar to Harry Hawker’s recent ‘Scooter’ runabout but the wing is slightly higher set and it carries twin Vickers machine guns.
On 10th October with low cloud and rain over the Western Front ‘Camel’ D9467 overturns striking a ridge on landing whilst H7282 is wrecked hitting H7083 landing in mist and semi-darkness. ‘Dolphin’ E4639 is damaged forced landing with an engine failure out on a special mission and F5963 is wrecked hitting a trench overshooting landing at 23Sqdn’s new airfield at Cappy 20 miles closer to the advancing front line. In Italy ‘Camel’ D8237 claims a victory.
Blackburn deliver N6900 & N6901 the first of the ‘Cuckoos’ originally ordered from Pegler but transferred to Blackburn after Pegler could not promise completion before 1919.
On 11th October again in low clouds, mist and rain the pilot of ‘Camel’ E4380 is killed spinning-in from 500ft practicing rolls and spins, F3232’s is injured spinning-in after hitting tree tops on landing, E5156 is damaged by machine gun fire, E7194 & H7285 forced land with engine problems, B7153 overturns on landing caught by the wind, E4398 is damaged overshooting on landing whilst F2147 also crashes on landing. The pilot of ‘Snipe’ E8036 is fatally injured on active service misjudging his exit from a spin.
On 12th October still in poor flying weather ‘Camel’ D9449 is damaged by shrapnel, C3310 crashes striking tree tops landing in mist, E7209 crashes on take-off following a bad landing, F5930 is damaged striking a ridge on landing whilst C8276 crashes at Vendôme. At Heliopolis ‘Pup’ B4126 crashes on take-off after the pilot’s leg catches the throttle and cuts back the power.
On 13th October no flying is possible over the Western Front due to mist and rain. At home the pilot of Hainault Farm night fighter ‘Camel’ E5147 is killed losing control caught in a searchlight beam, Scampton B7431’s is killed spinning-in from a half roll, Upavon C4’s is killed after the wings fold back pulling out of a dive, Eastbourne C118’s is killed diving-in from 150ft while stunting and Shotwick E7271’s is injured hitting a tree on a low flight. The pilot of Lopcombe Corner ‘Pup’ B6136 is injured hitting the ground while low flying whilst at Cranwell B6061 overturns on take-off and D4091 crashes into a ‘Camel’ overshooting on landing
On 14th October aerial activity is especially intensive over the northern end of the Western Front. ‘Camels’ B7272, D3400 & D8173 each claim two victories, B7883, D9613, E4383, F3122, F3930, F6343, F8503, F8508 & H7005 each claim one victory, E7223 claims a kite balloon, H828 shares a victory with H830 before they share another with F2007, B7270 shares a victory with D3409 but the pilots of D3409, D3378, D8177 & F5987 are killed in combat with 17 enemy aircraft as is D9673’s with 7 enemy aircraft, F1940’s & F3116’s are killed on bombing missions, D3342 is seriously injured crashing after take-off, H7286’s is injured forced landing in shell holes after being hit by AA fire, D3328’s, F3117’s & F3120’s are taken prisoner, D9677 is badly shot-up, B7228, E5175, E7201 & F3238 all force land as do D8202 overturning into a shell hole and D6467 after an engine failure whilst E1515 crashes at Vendôme. ‘Dolphin’ E4589 claims three victories, H7244 claims two and E4712 claims one but the pilot of E4636 is taken prisoner, F6144 is wrecked hitting a mast forced landing with a radiator damaged by AA fire, E4493 forced lands shot-up, F5967 forced lands with a broken con rod, E4662 is damaged crash landing with engine trouble and D3576 overturns landing too fast on soft ground. ‘Snipe’ E8107 is wrecked crashing with a broken con rod. At Heliopolis ‘Camel’ D6537 is wrecked stalling on take-off. At home the pilot of Throwley ‘Camel’ F2004 is killed spinning-in from 3,000ft, Edzell C6752’s is killed spinning-in after stalling in a turn, Lympne D9508 runs into stationary D8165 on landing whilst Suttons Farm Night Training Squadron ‘Camel’ C8366 lands safely with a buckled lower wing.
17th US Aero Squadron with their horizontal dumbell squadron markings and 148th Sqdn with white triangle squadron markings (above) have been very active over the Western Front for three months with their 140hp long-stroke Clerget-engined Camels. Now a third US squadron, 185th have received their first 12 Camels at their base at Rembercourt to become the US Army’s first night fighter unit adopting an appropriate bat emblem in a circle.(below) These ‘Camels’ all have the preferred 150hp Gnome Monosoupape engines.
At Throwley 143Sqdn Home Defence night fighter ‘Camels’ are being marked with underwing serial numbers. One flight(below) has its wheel discs painted as cockades and individual machines identified by roman numerals on the fins.
On 15th October more mist, rain and low cloud curtails flying but two Belgian ‘Camels’ forced land, one after combat and one with an engine failure. At Heliopolis Pup’ D4125 overturns in long grass forced landing with engine trouble. At home the pilot of Chattis Hill ‘Camel’ B7368 is killed after the wings fold back diving on a target from 300ft and Rochford C8394 is somehow wrecked.
On 16th October in low cloud thick mist the pilot of ‘Camel’ E7238 is killed spinning-in on landing, D1880’s is injured hit by an SE5 while taxying-in and C8370 is wrecked colliding with F1971 when landing. ‘Snipe’ EE8075 is wrecked overturning after hitting a fence on landing. In Italy ’Camel’ E7211 claims a kite balloon. At home the Kingston born 2nd Lt P R Hale is killed at Turnhouse in ‘Camel’ D9523 when it collapses on suddenly levelling out whilst Cranwell ‘Camel’ B7241’s pilot is killed spinning-in diving on a ground target. The pilot of Hounslow ‘Snipe’ E8079 is killed spinning-in with a folded wing after colliding with an Avro 504 and the pilot of Fairlop ‘Pup’C1515 is severely injured also spinning-in.
Following an initial order for just 30 ABC Dragonfly engined ‘Snipe’ now known as Sopwith ‘Dragons’ Sopwith Aviation now receive an order for another 300 whilst Napier have their order for 150 ‘Snipe’ increased to 250 and National Aircraft Factory No.3 at Liverpool gets an initial order for 500 ‘Snipe’.
Sopwith has started delivering ‘Snipe’ with horn balanced outward tapered upper ailerons and revised fully-rounded fin and rudder (below) but without the adjustable incidence tailplane tested with these modifications on prototype B9966.
After his crazy caricatures of life on the factory floor at Sopwith Aviation, S Harris has turned his attention to the equally intense activity in the smart offices built last year on the south west corner of the factory in Canbury Park Road. T.O.M. Sopwith is portrayed, pipe in mouth, holding a model of his latest sales offering but the potential customers from many countries seem to be ignoring him, more intent on talking to each other. Meanwhile Reginald Cary in his smoke filled office nearby seems to be encouraging his many and varied sub-contractors to urgently go forth and make things or possibly saying “take it or leave it”. These offices are not as grand as depicted with such high ceilings but with wood panelled walls are a luxurious contrast to workshop conditions.
On 17th October despite low cloud and thick mist the pilot of ‘Camel’ D8147 lands it in the main square of Ostend, the first “Englishman” seen in the town now the Germans are driven out. The pilot of ‘Camel’ D8148 is fatally injured crashing in a flat spin returning from a patrol, F3108‘s is wounded in combat, both pilots are injured when B6387 landing with a failed engine flies into E4406 and F1941 is damaged in mid-air by a large shell slicing through the rear turtledeck.(below)
F5929 forced lands with a failed engine, C8370 collides with F1971 on landing, D8222 & E1541 are wrecked crashing on landing but F6176 lands safely after a wing buckles in a dive. ‘Dolphins’ B7929 & D3579 are wrecked crashing with cut engines on practice flights. The pilot of ‘Pup’ C316 is injured at Vendôme crashing onto the Wing football pitch. At Port Said ‘Baby’ floatplane N1128 forced lands at sea with an engine failure but is towed in by a minesweeper and beached. At home the pilot of Lopcombe Corner ‘Camel’ E7280 is killed spinning-in from a half roll and Sutton’s Farm D9576’s pilot is seriously injured in a crash. The pilot of Hooton Park ‘Pup’ C218 is injured stalling and diving-in and Dover based ‘Strutter’ N5082 is badly damaged forced landing after take-off with an engine failure. ‘Ships Camel’ N7132 appears to have been retained by manufacturers Beardmore and is now starting tests fitted with Constantinesco hydraulic gun synchronisation gear.
On 18th October it is overcast and very misty. ‘Camel’ E7184 claims a victory but the pilot of F1476 is killed in a crash whilst F6062 stalls and crashes. ‘Dolphins’ C4049 & E4450 are damaged landing with failed engines. At home the pilots of Upavon ‘Camels’ D1820 & F2196 are killed in a mid-air collision, Fairlop F1417’s is killed side-slipping into the ground after stalling and cartwheeling whilst Minchinhampton C104’s is injured striking a tree taking-off again from a misjudged landing.
On 19th October in low cloud and thick mist Camel’ F8504 claims a victory but the pilot of F6026 is taken prisoner whilst F8502 crashes and E4419 lands on a beach with a failed engine. At home Gosport ‘Camel’ E1507 breaks up pulling out of a steep dive.
At Martlesham Heath there is a mock combat trial between a Sopwith ‘Snipe’, a Rolls-Royce Falcon powered Martinsyde F3, the much vaunted German Fokker D.VII and a BAT Bantam miniature fighter prototype. The Martinsyde is reported to have outclassed all the other contestants but unfortunately only seven F3s have been built. The rest of the 150 order have been delayed waiting for 300hp Hispano-Suiza engines and, as F4 Buzzards, are yet to see active service. The ‘Snipe’ did not come out of this mock combat too well which is not entirely the view of service squadrons who quote a much higher rate of climb and service ceiling than their ‘Camels’ and faster than the Fokker D.VIIs although not quite as high flying. A 43Sqdn pilot claims that the ‘Snipe “has excellent performance at high altitude, and can out-manoeuvre, out-climb and out-dive any aircraft on the Western Front”.
At Grain ‘Snipe’ E8068 is successfully ditched fitted with fuselage air bags, a hydrovane and wheel release mechanism.(above) With the hydrovane weighing 23lb and the increased drag, the performance is cross checked against the machine before modification. The differences are not too significant. The rate of climb is almost identical, speeds at altitudes above 10,000ft reduce by 3 to 9mph and the absolute ceiling reduces from 19,100 to 18,300ft. There have been many experiments at Grain with hydrovanes on other aircraft including ‘Strutters’, ‘Pups’ and ‘Camels’ but success or failure seems as dependent on piloting skill and sea conditions as the effect of the vanes and they have yet to be widely adopted in service.
On 20th October in continuing low clouds and mist ‘Camels’ D9599 & F3233 share a victory. In Italy the pilot of ‘Camel’ D9414 is injured crashing on landing.
On 21st October with more low clouds and mist the pilot of ‘Camel’ F6262 is injured in a crash whilst E7263 crashes on landing. At Heliopolis ‘Pup’ B6108 is wrecked striking a ridge on approach. At home the pilot of Lopcombe Corner ‘Camel’ B7446 is seriously injured regaining control at 1,000ft but overshooting a forced landing with a failed engine to hit a tree vertically, Joyce Green N6626’s pilot is injured crashing from a climbing turn with a stalled engine whilst Crail ‘Pup’ D4026’s is injured crashing on landing.
‘Snipe’ E8137 has now been modified with a much enlarged top decking to accommodate a Calthrop A.1 Guardian Angel parachute.(above) The plan is for the pilot to jump out and his static line releasing the parachute which automatically opens with a built-in shock absorber and “rigging incapable of entanglement”. There is a quick release buckle to use after landing.
On 22nd October in more low clouds and mist USAS ‘Camel’ F1445 shoots down a Gotha bomber, F2153 claims a deflating kite balloon, the pilot of F6412 is killed crashing after a mid-air collision with H750 which has to forced land, F1916’s is injured over-running into a hangar on landing damaging H753, E7173 & H769 overturn on landing whilst C8387 also crashes on landing. ‘Dolphin’ D5238 crashes avoiding shell holes landing on 79Sqdn’s new airfield and E4547 crashes with a cut engine. In Italy ‘Camel’ E1576 shares a kite balloon with E7211 before being shot down by ground fire and landing in mud under fire from Austrian lines, the pilot of E7167 is shot down(below) landing in trees and taken prisoner but manages to escape and C43 crashes on landing.(below again)
At home the pilot of Lopcombe Corner ‘Camel’ B7446 is seriously injured hitting a tree in an engine failure forced landing having just regained control at 1,000ft after falling out of control inverted from 10,000ft. A wing breaks away from Sutton’s Farm C8367 in a dive but the pilot manages to crash land unhurt.
HMS Furious is a key element of a large naval force now off the coast of Denmark attempting a reconnaissance of the northern area of the Heligoland Bight. Despite 44kt winds at 2,000ft and rain squalls, ‘Strutters’ A6988 & A6000 take off from Furious. After 90 minutes A6988 finds six enemy steamers probably minesweepers with a destroyer escort before returning up the coast and landing beside the destroyer HMS Wessex after a flight of almost 3 hours.(below)
The undercarriage damages the rescuing whaler and the tail breaks off before the aircrew jump for the life lines on Wessex with A6988 sinking. It is eventually wrestled aboard. A6000 only spots two low flying German seaplanes and returns after over 3 hours to ditch and be picked up by HMS Woolston. With no signs of significant German naval activity the whole fleet of cruisers and destroyers heads back to Rosyth.
On 23rd October the weather improves but is still misty. ‘Camel’ E7244 & F3109 each claim two victories, C197 claims a victory and another shared with D9597, E7212, F3243 & H829 each claim a victory, F3103 shares a victory with F3928 but the pilots of D8223, D9608, D9613, E4420 & F3101 are killed in a combat with 12 enemy aircraft. F8647spins-in with the tail broken off by AA fire but the pilot is unhurt, H7275 forced lands shot-up, E7250 collides with trees forced landing in bad light, F1972 & F3108 overturn forced landing with failed engines, F5931 crashes avoiding another aircraft on landing, F6230 also crashes whilst C3366 is wrecked on its delivery flight to the USAS. The pilot of ‘Dolphin’ D3587 is killed in action after a collision at 5,000ft, D3746’s is injured when the propeller breaks after colliding whilst C8164 & D3751 are wrecked forced landing with engine failures. In Italy ‘Camel’ D8240 claims a victory. At home the pilot of Beverley ‘Camel’ D8124 is killed believed to have fainted over the stick.
In Kingston on 23rd October King George V’s 27 years old niece HRH Princess Arthur of Connaught is shown around the Sopwith factories at Ham and Canbury Park Road by General Manager Mr Cary before meeting representatives of the many women workers in the newly opened Sopwith Womens Club at White Rose Lodge, Norbiton Place, Kingston which the company has leased from the White Rose Laundry. She is introduced to women office staff and women from woodworking, doping, fuselage assembly, sheetmetal and streamlined wire departments.
Rosyth dockyard has rapidly constructed a wood and canvas dummy “island” superstructure on HMS Argus’ flat top and flying trials commenced yesterday to see if this more practical configuration for future aircraft carriers has the minimal impact on deck landings predicted by models tested at the National Physical Laboratory at Teddington. With the ship steaming at 12kts in no wind a ‘Pup’ and a ‘Ships Camel’ were flown across the wake of the superstructure and down the full length of the deck as low as 5ft at speed without any issues before a ‘Pup’ made a low slow pass with one wheel actually touching the arrester wires. Today with the ship steaming at 15kts into a 13kt wind a ‘Pup’ makes a number of uneventful passes across and along the deck (below) before successfully landing on the rear deck and running up over the first ramp into the arrester gear. Tomorrow the trials are to continue with the much larger Sopwith ‘Cuckoo’ torpedo bombers.
In Sopwith’s experimental workshop the second twin-engined ‘Cobham’ fuselage is now in assembly whilst the nearly completed second ‘Buffalo’ armoured two-seater has been held back for any modifications suggested by the in-service trials of the first prototype. The report “from the RAF in the field” is that the ‘Buffalo’ is easy to fly and land, climbs well enough and has considerable speed but rapidly gathers speed in a dive making it difficult for the pilot to use his gun on ground targets at low altitude whilst the observer’s pillar mount needs to be shorter for him to easily fire at ground targets. They suggest a larger semi-circular windscreen to reduce the unusually strong slip stream on the pilot and observer plus trials with a Scarff gun ring in place of the pillar mount.
On 24th October in very poor visibility the pilot of ‘Camel’ D8183 is injured spinning-in from 150ft on take-off, whilst D9620 & F3122 are damaged forced landing with engine failures, F3102 overturns forced landing in marshes with a choked engine, D9650 overturns running into a sunken road on a cross wind landing, F5944 overturns landing at a new airfield, F5983 overturns caught by a gust of wind on landing and E1467 is written-off on the ground by a piece of cast iron thrown from a nearby explosion. ‘Dolphin’ C8120 is damaged hitting a trench overshooting on landing and C8118 forced lands from a patrol with a boiling engine. At home the pilot of Chattis Hill ‘Camel’ F9632 is killed spinning-in from a low half roll.
185Sqdn has been formed at East Fortune as the first operational Sopwith T1 ‘Cuckoo’ torpedo bomber squadron but today the pilot of ‘Cuckoo’ N6970 is injured when it hits the water during a torpedo drop. Some have already embarked on HMS Argus (above) as trials continue with its temporary “island” superstructure. Now with improvements to the steam jet indicator for better steering of the ship into wind, two Sopwith ‘Cuckoos’ are flown over Argus’ deck at relative wind speeds of 20 up to 35kts. Pilots express concern about judging the distance of the wing tip of these larger machines from the “island” but it is concluded that they could be landed on Argus with a flat top despite the light wing loading without their torpedoes.
The next day a white guide line is painted down Argus’ deck to assure pilots of wing tip clearance from the “island” and the deck is cleared of the arrester gear. A ‘Strutter’ makes eight perfect landings slowing almost to a stop before flying -off again with the ship steaming at up to 18kts giving relative wind speeds of 30kts to 34kts. This suggests that it should be practical to land reconnaissance machines on HMS Furious when rebuilt with a through deck and island and ‘Cuckoos’ on the wider decks of Hermes & Eagle now under construction.
Over the Western Front on 25th October there is more low cloud mist and rain but ‘Camels’ D8193 & H830 each claim a victory, F6241 forced lands into a shell hole with an engine shot-up in combat, C8343 overturns into a shell hole landing on a road lost in the heavy mist, E7305 collides with wires forced to land in bad light and F1402 & F6353 overturn on landing whilst an American ground crew is injured in a propeller accident with D8151. An Armstrong Whitworth FK8 wrecks 4AFC ‘Snipe’ E8117 by running into it on the airfield. In Italy ‘Camels’ C135, D8208, E1499, D8241, E1495 & E7169 each claim a victory, B2430 shares one with E7427 but the pilot of B5182 is taken prisoner and B5180 crashes after bursting a tyre on landing. At home the trainee in Hounslow two-seat ‘Camel’ B7425 is injured after stalling turning back with an engine failure.
An RAF poster has just been published with a graphic depiction of ‘Salamanders’ over the trenches and the simple message – “Don’t fly through our own or the enemy’s barrage unless absolutely necessary even though it may necessitate flying low for a longer time over hostile country”.(above)
43Sqdn continue to report issues with their ‘Snipe’ in service in France but results of the plywood capping of wing leading edges near the fuselage to reduce oil damage result in the machine being “easier to manoeuvre laterally, steadier flying and diving with less vibration”.
On 26th October the weather is fair in the north of the western front but cloudy and misty elsewhere. ‘Camel’ D8201 claims two victories, D8173 & H7007 each claim one victory, F2153 shares a victory with F6251 & H827, D8167 claims a kite balloon but the pilot of H7005 is killed in action, D8168’s is wounded in action, F3219’s is injured going into a hole on landing whilst H833 crashes forced landing with an engine failure, F2002 crashes forced landing lost in the dark, C73 crashes on take-off and E7166 crashes on landing as does F5938 avoiding a sunken road and over running into a tree. Meanwhile H6993, H7010 & H7078 are destroyed by enemy action in the Repair Park at the Aeroplane Supply Depot at Marquise. ‘Dolphins’ E4427 & E4712 each claim a victory but another pilot is wounded in action. 4AFC have their first victories with ‘Snipe’ when 9 ‘Snipe’ meet 15 Fokker D.VIIs, E8052 claims two but the pilot is wounded in combat, E8069 claims one and two more enemy machines are reported damaged. At home the pilots of Marske ‘Camel’ B7449 & Sedgeford F2008 are seriously injured spinning-in and South Carlton E7148 also spins-in from a stall. At Beaulieu the pilot of ‘Dolphin’ B7954 is killed spinning-in from 500ft whilst ‘Camel’ F2208’s is fatally wounded when he stalls and crashes after his gun shoots his propeller and F4187 crashes. The pilot of Leighterton ‘Pup’ D4173 is injured crashing after an engine failure.
British Caudron are the latest contractor to get an order for Sopwith ‘Snipe’ with an initial 30 whilst March Jones & Cribb have their order increased by 50 to 150.
At 9am on 27th October 204Sqdn ‘Camels’ engage 30 to 40 Fokker DVII fighters, D9600 claims two victories, F3103, F3109 & F6037 “Fums Up IV” each claim one victory, as does F3929 “Fums Up III” before the pilot is wounded, H7082 chases an enemy aircraft into a tree before getting completely shot up but the pilots of E4387, F3112 & F3940 are killed in action and C144’s is taken prisoner. Elsewhere in France F3930 claims a victory, E7205 claims a kite balloon but the pilot of E1587 is taken prisoner, N6378’s is injured crashing on landing whilst D3354 crashes after being hit by the wheels of another aircraft.
4AFC ‘Snipe’ E8073 & E8082(above) each claim a victory whilst 43Sqdn E7989 is wrecked in a bad landing. Meanwhile Major Barker who has been with 201Sqdn’s ’Camels’ for a 10 day refresher on fighting conditions over the Wester Front with his personal ‘Snipe’ E8102 sets out for home but via the Front. He spots and shoots down a two seater but is set on by 15 D.VIIs and is wounded in the thigh. Recovering from fainting in the midst of all 15 he is wounded in the other thigh and an elbow but somehow shoots down three more enemy machines and sends the others down before crash landing his severely damaged ‘Snipe’ (below) in the allied lines. These four bring his total victories to 50, all the others in ‘Camel’ B6313.
‘Dolphins’ C3879, D3755, D3768 & D5237 each claim a victory but the pilot of D5236 is killed in action and B7894’s is taken prisoner. In Italy ‘Camels’ C1582, E7213 & E7216 each claim a victory, E7214 claims two kite balloons whilst E1579 & E7211 each claim one. At home the pilots of Thetford ‘Camel’ B3945 & Throwley F2105 are both killed spinning-in.
On 28th October, mostly in encounters with large formations of Fokker DVIIs, ‘Camel’ E7329 claims two victories but gets badly shot-up, B7883, C8253, D1953, E1540, E1586, E7161, E7183, E7185, E7231 & E7244 each claim one victory, E1539 shares a victory with F6167, F2083 shares one with F2159 & H808 and F6326 shares a victory with H7283 but the pilots of D8167 & E7222 are killed in action and F1979’s is killed crashing on a patrol. F1934 is shot-up on a low strafing mission, E4383 overshoots on landing and overturns down a bank, F3950 & E4421 forced land lost and taking-off one goes onto its nose and the other suffers an engine failure, F3949 is wrecked hitting telegraph wires after a propeller ground strike on take-off whilst F5992 also crashes on take-off. 151Sqdn night fighter ‘Camel’ F1887 attacks a Gotha but loses it. 4AFC ‘Snipe’ E8092 & E8064 each claim three victories and E8050, E8082 & E8096 each claim one. ‘Dolphin’ F5961 claims two victories, C4730 claims one victory, E4547 crashes with a cut engine and E4585 is damaged forced landing with an engine failure. In Italy 66Sqdn attack on Godega airfield, ‘Camel’ E7215 claims two victories but gets badly shot-up, D8212, E7208 & E7216 each claim one victory, E7211 claims two kite balloons but gets badly shot up, C3290 & E1499 each claim a kite balloon in flames but the pilot of E1579 is killed shot down in flames. At Heliopolis ‘Camel’ D6539 overturns landing with a failed engine, ‘Pup’ B6101 crashes trying to avoid an SE5 landing alongside and D4126 crashes landing in a cross wind. At home the pilot of Eastchurch ‘Camel’ D1812 is killed flying into a hill in fog whilst long-range ‘Snipe’ E8089 and ‘Swallow’ monoplane B9267 both arrive at Martlesham Heath for performance testing.
On 29th October, once again meeting a large formation of Fokker DVIIs. ‘Camels’ D9672, E4386, E7173 & F3098 each claim a victory, F6219 shares a victory with F6322 but the pilots of C8375 & H7270 are killed in action, D8201’s is killed stalling-in trying to locate a crashed colleague, C3361’s is missing in the English Channel on a delivery flight whilst F6191 forced lands with a shot-up fuel tank, E7329 gets shot-up for the second day running, C8374 is written-off hitting a goalpost and telegraph wires, F3243 crashes into a building on landing and F3240 goes on its nose landing in thick mist. 4AFC ‘Snipe’ E8064 claims three victories, E8052 claims two, E8050, E8069, E8092, E8094 & E8121 each claim one but the pilot of E8070 is killed in action and E8022 is wrecked overturning after swinging on take-off. ‘Dolphin’ E4588 claims a victory whilst E4546 crashes on landing. In Italy E7210 destroys a kite balloon before dropping bombs on enemy hangars with two others from 66Sqdn, destroying three aircraft on the ground leaving only one hangar standing whilst E7245 also claims a kite balloon but the pilot of B6344 is taken prisoner wounded after hitting a vehicle during a low level attack on a convoy. At home the pilot of North Shotwick ‘Camel’ E9982 is killed after an error of judgement.
On 30th October ‘Camels’ E7279 & F3132 each claim two victories, D3336, D9600, E1555, E7160, E7189, E7193, E7223, E7327, F3109, F3930 & F6355 each claim one victory, F1986 bombs and destroys an enemy aircraft on the ground but the pilot of H831 forced lands into a shell hole wounded in combat, D9609’s is injured crashing into the sea, F3126’s & H7107’s are injured forced landing with engine failures, F1430’s is taken prisoner injured, F3242‘s is also taken prisoner whilst C8385 & F6300 are damaged forced landing with engine failures, F3933 crashes into a trench on landing and F1965 overturns on landing. 19Sqdn ‘Dolphins’ escorting DH4 bombers are involved in a dogfight with 14 Fokker DVIIs soon joined by another 10, D5237 & E4495 each claim two victories and E4514 & E4713 each claim one but the pilot of B7855 is killed in action, E4552’s is taken prisoner fatally wounded, D3768’s, E4511’s & E4637’s are taken prisoner and one other pilot is wounded. Meanwhile ‘Dolphin’ E4651 is damaged landing with a failed engine. 4AFC ‘Snipe’ E8050 claims three victories two of which collided, E8064, E8065 & E8072 each claim a victory as does E8028 but is damaged by enemy fire whilst the pilot of E8071 is taken prisoner. This Australian ‘Snipe’ squadron has now claimed over 30 victories in the last five days at the cost of one pilot killed in action, one wounded and one taken prisoner. 43Sqdn ‘Snipe’ E8016 also claims one victory but E8004 runs into and wrecks E8032 on their airfield whilst 45Sqdn collects their first ‘Snipe’ E8081 from Marquise. In Italy the pilot of C3290 is taken prisoner fatally wounded after bombing a convoy at low altitude. At home the 18 year old pilot of Beaulieu ‘Camel’ B7180 is killed spinning-in from a stall and F1483’s is injured crashing near Dover on a delivery flight to France.
Whilst many ‘Camels’, like E7267(above) at Leighterton, and ‘Pups’, like Harlequin-dazzle at C242(also above) at Netheravon, have received exotic markings in home-based training units, ‘Dolphins’ seem to have been restricted to fuselage bands or simple motifs like the swastika on C3881 (right) at Upavon.
On 30th October it is reported that trials with six each of the ABC Wasp engined Sopwith Snail, Westland, BAT Bantam and Westland Wagtail miniature fighter prototypes are suspended as this engine is not to be put into production. Also, due to continuing problems with the larger ABC Dragonfly radial engine, it is reported that two of Sopwith’s twin-engined ‘Cobham’ prototypes are initially to be fitted with 300hp straight-six water-cooled Siddeley-Deasy Puma engines in common with the competing Airco Oxford, Avro Manchester, Boulton & Paul Bourges and Nieuport London prototypes.
On 31st October the weather reverts to low cloud and mist. ‘Camel’ D6423 claims a victory, the pilot of F3928 shares a victory with F3103 but is taken prisoner with his engine hit by ground fire, F2153 & F3929 each claim a kite balloon, the pilot of B7860 is missing presumed dead, the pilot of F3103 is killed hitting a chimney going round from an overshot landing whilst F6032 manages to restart from an engine failed forced landing but then crashes in the darkness and mist. ‘Dolphin’ E4453 crashes on landing. In Italy ‘Camel’ E1496 sends a kite balloon down in flames before the pilot is wounded and taken prisoner whilst E7216 forced lands on a river bank with the engine damaged in combat. At home the pilot of Sutton’s Farm ‘Camel’ F1980 is killed spinning-in off the top of a loop as is Rochford F6426’s pilot spinning-in from a turn.
This continual attrition is analysed in a report “The wastage of all types of aircraft in British squadron service” covering the eight months March to October 1918. The total is 6,564 aircraft with 36% lost by enemy action, 29% in forced landings due to engine failures or similar causes, 25% due to pilot errors, 4% due to poor airfields with just 6% “time expired”. Similar analysis for just Sopwith ‘Camels’ might well show an even higher percentage due to “pilot errors” reflecting their challenging engine management and handling characteristics.
Through October the Sopwith factories have delivered 159 aircraft with 22 ‘Dolphins’ mostly from the Canbury Park Road Factory plus 99 ‘Snipe’ and 38 ‘Salamander’ (including F6533 above) from the Ham Factory.
The number of new Sopwith aircraft from other contractors in October is 594. These comprise the final 32 ‘Pups’ all from Standard Motors, a monthly record 102 ‘Dolphins’ from Darracq (47) and Hooper (55), 23 ‘Cuckoos’ from Blackburn (17), Fairfield (5) and Pegler (their first one), 409 ‘Camels’ including 10 ‘2F1 Ships Camels’ from Arrol-Johnson (their first one) and Beardmore (9) and ‘F1 Camels’ from Boulton & Paul (125), British Caudron (6), Clayton & Shuttleworth (48), Hooper (9), Marsh Jones & Cribb (18), Nieuport & General (52), Portholme (39) and Ruston Proctor (102) plus 28 ‘Snipe’ from Portholme (their first 13) and Ruston Proctor (15).
There were no new orders in October for ‘Camels’ or ‘Dolphins’ leaving their total orders at 6,642 and 2,154. There have been additional orders for 300 ‘Dragon’ on Sopwith and 880 ‘Snipe’ on five contractors and now on 1st November orders are placed on ten contractors for another 950 ‘Snipe’, 600 ‘Salamander’ and 500 ‘Dragon’. This underlines the commitment to these Sopwith types as the RAF’s future air-cooled engined fighters along with the Dragonfly-engined Nieuport Nighthawk which has just been selected for production in preference to the Sopwith ‘Snark’ and ‘Snapper’ which are still awaiting engines. The ‘Snipe’ family’s 6,722 order total on Sopwith and 20 contractors now just exceeds the total ‘Camel’ orders and comprises 4,486 ‘Snipe’, 1,406 ‘Salamander’ and 830 ‘Dragon’. Those contractors include established aircraft companies Air Navigation, Boulton & Paul, British Caudron, Graham White & Nieuport plus National Aircraft Factories at Croydon and Liverpool, established ‘Camel’ suppliers March Jones & Cribb, Portholme and Ruston Proctor as well as new Sopwith contractors Barclay Curle, Coventry Ordnance Works, Garrett, Glendower, Gloucestershire Aircraft, Harris, Kingsbury Aviation, Napier, Palladium Autocars, Ransome and Wolseley Motors.
In just over two years since August 1916 the number of companies building aircraft has swollen from 48 to 122 and the number of employees from 22,000 to 112,000 including dilutees of which 34,000 are women and 8,000 boys. There are also now a surprising 323 companies making aircraft engines, 46 making propellers, 321 making other “aero-parts” and 707 supplying materials. In total these 1,529 companies are employing 347,000 people.
Compared with the first report of “RAF Aircraft on Charge” dated 31st May 1918, the 30th October report lists an extra 819 ‘F1 Camels’ now 2,548 despite the attrition and 129 ‘2F1 Ships Camels’. There are 363 more ‘Dolphins’ now 1,055 plus 264 ‘Snipe’, 37 ‘Salamander’ and 69 ‘Cuckoo’. 128 ‘Strutters’ are listed including 57 ‘Ships Strutters’ mostly built from imported French built machines, ‘Pups’ are down 56 at 881, ‘Baby’ floatplanes are down 64 to 76 whilst the last 11 Triplanes have been deleted. By engine type the 2,548 ‘F1 Camels’ are 15% Bentley BR1, 53% Clerget plus 32% Le Rhône or Gnome Monosoupape twice the May 1918 proportion of these. All 129 ‘2F1 Ships Camels’ are Bentley BR1 powered. The total of 5,188 Sopwith machines is 23% of the RAF’s 22,171 aircraft on charge and easily outnumbers any other commercial design team, the next largest being Airco with 3,967 De Haviland types.
Sopwith aircraft account for 30% of the 3,522 aircraft on the front line with the BEF in France and 69% of their single-seat fighters, the rest being SE5s. Sopwith aircraft also account for 25% of the 1,281 aircraft with the Royal Navy including all 265 of their wheeled “Ships Aeroplanes”.
The distribution of Sopwith machines is still wide ranging: BEF Western Front & Independent Bomber Force (1,110), Grand Fleet & Northern Patrols (305), Home Defence (216), other UK Squadrons (744), UK Training Units (287), Italy (76), Mediterranean (154), Egypt (58), Salonica & Mesopotamia (22) plus 100 at Technical Development Establishments, 39 at “Sundry Units”, 413 at Aircraft Acceptance Parks, 221 waiting shipment/in transit and 181 in repair depots. Another 1,406 are in store comprising 34 ‘Strutters’, 348 ‘Pups’, 371 ‘Camels’, 1 ‘Salamander’ and 652 ‘Dolphins’. Whilst the ‘Camels’ in store are less than one month’s output, the large number of ‘Dolphins’ reflects the success in ramping up aircraft production but less success with the production of suitable engines and training enough new personnel to support the planned rapid increase in RAF squadrons.
Snipe’ E8076(above) delivered six weeks ago from Brooklands to Hounslow is now at Sutton’s Farm as the first ‘Snipe’ night fighter with navigation lights and long Holt flare brackets under the lower wing tips whilst the Navy now has two ‘Snipe’ E8111 & E8112 based at the Fleet Practice Station, Turnhouse. 157Sqdn is to be the first ‘Salamander’ squadron and is about to receive some aircraft but there are still just two ‘Salamander’ in France.
On 1st November in poor visibility ‘Camel’ F3944 claims a victory and shares one with two others, D9596 & F3950 each claim a victory, E7279 shares a victory with four others plus a kite balloon with six others, F3930 claims a kite balloon but the pilot of H7079 is taken prisoner, E1555’s is injured forced landing with a failed engine whilst D3411 overturns landing with a failed engine, F6265 also forced lands with an engine failure, F3226 runs into F5923 landing with view obscured by oil, D8104 is wrecked crashing on landing, C124 goes on its nose landing in a cross wind and a Belgian ‘Camel’ overturns on landing. In Italy the pilot of ‘Camel’ E7245 is killed crashing into trees strafing a road convoy, E7246’s is wounded in combat with the aircraft damaged on landing when a wheel comes off, E1503’s is wounded by ground fire, E7170 is also damaged by groundfire, the pilot of E7210 is injured in a crash and D1911 crashes taking off from soft ground after a forced landing. ‘Dolphin’ C3879 claims a victory and C4130 shares one with C4139 & F5961 whilst D5390 crashes on landing. ‘Snipe’ E8187 is wrecked crashing on delivery. At Vendôme the pilot of C17 is seriously injured stalling from a gliding turn. At home the pilot of Leuchars ‘Camel’ E7255 is seriously injured hitting a hill in the mist.
[DH1] On 2nd November in low cloud and rain the pilot of ‘Camel’ H7079 is taken prisoner whilst E1415 crashes on landing. ‘Dolphin’ E4716 claims a victory, a 19Sqdn pilot is wounded in action and D3699 is damaged forced landing with an engine failure whilst C3879 is retired as “old” with 189 hours 45mins flying time. In the Aegean the pilot of Imbros ‘Camel’ D8141 is killed in combat spinning into the sea. In Italy D8212 goes on its nose on landing. At home the pilot of ‘Camel’ E1524 is killed diving into the ground overshooting a target and the pilot of South Carlton ‘Pup’ B6127 is injured spinning-in from a stalled climbing turn.
On 3rd November in continuing low cloud and rain ‘Camels’ D8211, D9494 & F1540 each claim a victory but the pilot of E7198 is killed spinning-in with a fuel tank shot through, E7168’s is taken prisoner and H827 overturns forced landing with a failed engine. 152 night fighter squadron moved from Rochford to Carvin two weeks ago but now F1989 forced lands in the dark with a failed engine, D9571 overturns landing lost in the dark and D6465 crashes. ‘Dolphin’ C8189 claims a victory. At home the pilot of Hooton Park ‘Dolphin’ C8127 is killed in a crash.
On 3rd November at Pulham after the earlier trials with airship R23, unmanned ‘Camel’ D8250 is slung underneath and released at 500ft with fixed neutral rudder and elevators lashed down 2 degrees. It dives until 12ft under the keel before adopting a natural nose down glide angle followed by a series of stalls and glides before overturning on landing. There was no tendency to foul the airship and observers are convinced that a pilot could have had the ‘Camel’ under control before dropping 200ft.
On 4th November after the mist clears there are more ground attacks and high level combats with groups of up to 24 Fokker DVIIs. ‘Camel’ E7189 claims four victories, E7160, E7261, E7279 & H7007 each claim two victories, C71, D9600, D9622, E1481, E7185, F3929, F6037, F6223, F8501 & F3100 each claim one victory, F6355 also claims a victory but the pilot is wounded, C61 shares a victory with F3946 & H6998, F6250 claims a kite balloon but the pilots of D9635, E7193, F6257 & D6455 are killed in action, B5446’s & F1987’s are wounded on low bombing raids, F6110’s is wounded, F1936’s is taken prisoner and F3239’s is injured fainting and diving-in landing from a patrol. E4384 forced lands badly shot-up as does E7159 shot-up and hit by AA fire, C8382, F2139 & F6292 are also badly shot up, F6135 overturns on take-off, C3379 overturns landing in the strong wind, D9643 overturns in a hole whilst F3222, F6291 & H7097 are reported crashed.
‘Dolphins’ C8121, C8189, D3584 (above) & E4716 each claim a victory whilst the pilot of C8165 is killed in action, H7245’s goes missing but is OK, D3587 forced lands bursting both tyres and F4667 is damaged losing a wheel taxiing-in. 4AFC ‘Snipe’ (below) are again in the thick of combat with E8074 claiming a victory before, tackling 12 Fokkers, E8050 claims two victories, E8052 & E8088 each claim one but the pilots of E8038, E8062 & E8064 are killed in action. This same day the pilots of E8072 & E8073 are taken prisoner as is the pilot of 43Sqdn ‘Snipe’ E8004.
17th & 148th US Aero Squadrons ‘Camels’ have now moved from RAF control to be formally attached to the USAS and 104Sqdn have immediately adopted 148th US’s white diamond fuselage marking to disguise their departure as seen on one of today’s victors F6037 “FUMS UP IV”. (below)
In Italy the pilot of ‘Camel’ E7214 is injured after tearing off the undercarriage on a hangar pole on take-off whilst the Austro-Hungarians sign an armistice agreement and all fighting stops at 3pm. This signals the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire just five days after the Turkish capitulation and armistice agreement sees the end of the Ottoman Empire.
On 5th November the low cloud and rain return but 45Sqdn ‘Camels’ D8237, E7204 & E7244 each claim a victory whilst E7183 forced lands in the mist.
On 6th November in continuing low cloud and rain ‘Camel’ C3284 and ‘Snipe’ E8081 are wrecked crashing on landing. At home the pilot of Turnberry ‘Camel’ B7470 is killed spinning into a wood caught in the slipstream of another aircraft in mock combat and E7265’s is seriously injured overturning after an engine failure on take-off whist Bekesbourne F2122’s is seriously injured on landing overshooting into a railway cutting.
After the entirely satisfactory un-manned drop 3 days ago, a pilot climbs into ‘Camel’ D8250 and has the engine started before airship R23 climbs away to 3,000ft. The saddle support over the rear fuselage is removed and the aircraft released from the cross frame at an airspeed of 30mph. The airship rises about 200ft whilst the aircraft drops about 10ft and then flies away under complete control.(below) This is a very convincing demonstration of what can be achieved but the debate will continue on whether this is practical for airship protection, useful as an extra power boost for the airship and/or needed as a long-range delivery system for offensive aircraft.
On 7th November in thick mist and rain there are no reports of enemy aircraft but ‘Camel’ E7184 overturns caught in telephone wires and F3105 crashes on landing. At home the pilot of Lopcombe Corner ‘Camel’ E7275 is seriously injured stalling from a turn with a failed engine and ‘Camel’ B9278 is destroyed by fire at Westland Aircraft. This machine was converted with downward firing guns in February as a prototype ‘TF1 Trench Fighter’ and has since been allocated to the Committee for Technical Development at Hendon. ‘Ships Strutter’ A6987 is photographed (below) recovered from crashing and craned over the hangar hatch of HMS Furious It has a small hydrovane on the tail skid and presumably one at the front but they have clearly not helped in this crash.
On 8th November in low cloud and rain the pilot of ‘Camel’ E7161 is killed out on patrol and F6261’s is taken prisoner whilst F3930 is damaged by AA fire, F829 crashes forced landing with a failed engine and F6349 crashes on landing. At home the pilot of Lopcombe Corner ‘Camel’ F9417 is killed diving-in from over 6,000ft practising firing on a ground target, the pilot of Beaulieu ‘Dolphin’ C8061 is killed stalling and spinning-in after his engine bursts into flames whilst ‘Ships Camel’ N6816 is “damaged by the force of weather” aboard HMS Aurora.
On 9th November there is some fine weather at last. ‘Camels’ C191, C8336, D3400, D9648, D9672, F5941 & F8508 each claim a victory, F2137 may also have driven one down but breaks off with jammed guns, F2171 sets fire to a two-seater on the ground, E7279 claims a kite balloon in flames but the pilot of F5982 is wounded by machine gun fire whilst F5913 forced lands battle damaged with a failed engine, F3098 crashes onto a street in Raismes, D8200 crashes into a shell hole, D9651 & F3231 also crash on landing and F3114 overshoots hitting a fence. 152Sqdn F2152 crashes in the dark with an engine failure and ‘Comic Camel’ B2402 crashes on landing. ‘Dolphin’ C8189 claims a victory but the pilot of E4588 is injured hitting a tree on landing, E4586 is wrecked crashing into a shell hole forced to land by engine vibration, D3582 overturns in a forced landing, C8163 is damaged landing with a fuel shortage and E4653 is damaged crashing to avoid another machine on landing. ‘Snipe’ E8191 goes on its nose forced landing with engine failure. In Italy the pilot of ‘Camel’ E7169 is injured in a crash. At home the pilot of Eastbourne ‘Camel’ F2027 is killed when the wings collapse pulling out too suddenly from a dive on a ground target and Rochford H745 overturns landing from night duty whilst ‘Dolphin’ D5275 is paraded in the Lord Mayor’s Show in the City of London with people crowding the windows of the buildings.(below)
In Kingston on 9th November the Sopwith Board Meeting continues to approve international applications for its patents and seals an agreement with the Secretary of State concerning the police enrolled as special constables for the protection of the company’s premises. The Board also resolves to inform the District Association of Engineering Employers and the Government Labour Control Board that they agree with the Trade Unions’ proposed reduction of working hours to 47 but only on “the one break system” and if the Union submit to accept “the principle of payments by result”.
In the evening Sopwith Aviation’s Women’s Club are “delightfully amused” at a concert they have arranged in St Peter’s Parish Hall by the DH9 Pierrot Troupe from Hendon in aid of the French War Emergency Fund. “Mrs Sopwith’s absence is explained by the arrival of her brother after two years away at the Front.”
‘Baby’ floatplanes have been progressively withdrawn from service this year with an average of just 19 serviceable since 1st May. The few remaining ones in Britain are at Hornsea Mere like N1413 (below) bombed-up for yet another anti-submarine patrol.
On 10th November ‘Camels’ D8219 & F6223 each claim two victories, C196, D9496, F3106, F3224 & F6193 each claim a victory, D8218 shares a victory with D9648, D9675 & F8505 but the pilots of C8391 & F6283 are killed colliding on a low bombing mission, F8509’s is also killed in action, F6269’s is wounded by ground machine gun fire, F3947’s is injured crashing lost on a delivery flight, H7092 also crashes landing lost on a delivery flight, H7098 crashes forced landing in darkness on a delivery flight whilst F3939 hits overhead wires on a forced landing, F3107 runs into a hedge landing to report the position of enemy troops and F3114 overshoots into a fence. ‘Dolphin’ D3584 claims three victories two of which collided whilst C4070 and C8188 forced land one with engine failure. In Italy ‘Camel’ B5171 swerves and overturns on take-off.
With the Allies’ relentless advances along the whole Western Front, the spreading mutiny by German sailors, public unrest and revolutionary fervour across Germany, the German army now refuses to continue to support the Kaiser who, already at Spa in Belgium, finally agrees to abdicate and flees to neutral Holland.
On Monday 11th November Camel’ C3322 overturns striking a ditch taking-off in mist, E5168 overturns forced landing with a failed engine, E3346 also crashes and ‘Dolphin’ B7978 forced lands and overturns in a shell hole whilst all over Europe people are waiting to see if the Armistice Agreement is finally signed.
In Kingston around 11am maroons are heard in the distance and eventually one in the town centre confirms the good news. “Within minutes the town is a blaze of bunting in the spanking breeze with national flags and those of our gallant and loyal allies. Itinerant vendors appear with barrow loads of flags, children wave small flags, girls wear tri-colour ribbon in their hair or bows and rosettes in red, white and blue. The streets throng with people bent on making holiday and some workers from Sopwith’s aviation factory who have downed tools in ebullient glee pass through the streets in a motor van carrying an effigy of the Kaiser. It is not all rejoicing, there is a ghost at the feast, the mourning attires and sad set faces of many women tell their own sorrowful stories and the hearts of all those anticipating the return home of those near and dear to them go out in deep sympathy to those who have experienced the tragedy of war in its bitterest form”. During the afternoon the bells of the Parish Church continue to peal, residents and shop keepers ignore the restrictions on showing lights, the shades are removed from the electric tram cars which “whizz through the streets like fairy palaces and in the evening all the places of entertainment are crowded to fullest capacity”.
As one example of celebrations elsewhere, an instructor from 63 Training Squadron at Redcar flies his ‘Camel’ low up and down the Tees, twice going through Middlesborough’s transporter bridge (below) before the squadron indulge in a bonfire, fireworks and dancing to four o’clock in the morning.
Meanwhile the last of the three interned Tondern Zeppelin raid ‘Camel’ pilots has arrived back in Britain.
On Tuesday 12th November in France the pilot of 203Sqdn ‘Camel’ E4422 is fatally injured spinning-in. At home the pilot of Upavon ‘Camel’ E1416 is killed spinning-in turning to land too slowly, Scampton B7136’s is seriously injured crashing stalled from a low level engine failure and Bekesbourne F2124’s is injured hitting a hangar. The pilot of Tadcaster ‘Pup’ B4181 is fatally injured spinning-in.
In Kingston Sopwith aviation workers are taking a holiday until tomorrow and the rejoicings continue. They form a long procession of motor lorries and motor cars crammed with men and women with considerable numbers on foot behind. “The foremost lorry carries, by the side of gallows, effigies of the butcher of Berlin and his chief aider and abettor in all his crimes – his eldest son. Led by a big drum with a jangle of improvised instruments, bugles blaring and flags flying the procession passes slowly through the streets greeted by vociferous cheering to the Market Place where the effigies of the Two Willies are burnt.” Elsewhere prayers are said at council meetings and in churches as people reflect upon the significance of this moment in history.
At the time of the armistice, Sopwith aircraft equip 41 of the 77 British fighter squadrons, 33 with ‘Camels’, 5 with ‘Dolphins’ and 1 with ‘Snipe’ (there are also ‘Snipe’ in two ‘Camel’ squadrons) plus 1 ‘Dolphin’ and 1 ‘Salamander’ squadron not yet operational. 19 of the other fighter squadrons are equipped with SE5s, 14 with Bristol F.2Bs and 3 with Avro 504K night fighters. By location Sopwith aircraft equip 15 of 23 home based squadrons, 21 of 45 in France and Belgium, all 3 in Italy, both in the Aegean and none of the 4 in Macedonia, Mesopotamia, Egypt or Palestine. There are also the 2 USAS and 2 Belgian ‘Camel’ squadrons plus the Australian ‘Snipe’ squadron on the front line. This analysis excludes training units and aircraft in service with the Fleet.
The Armistice is only a cease fire but all indications are that the war is effectively over and Thomas Sopwith and his Board need to start implementing some of their plans for the company’s peacetime future. At the current rate of production their outstanding orders for ‘Dolphins’ will last less than 3 months as their final order for 500 has just been reduced to 200. ‘Snipe/Salamander/Dragon’ outstanding orders will last about 9 months but that is likely be reduced dramatically by the cancellation of un-started orders. The most obvious short-term step is to slow down the rate of output with reduced working hours and sooner or later sacking many of the dilutees including many of at least 1,000 women they now have on the 3,500 payroll. There have never been such a high proportion of women in the workforce, This posed photograph (below) of some of them with one of the ‘Salamander’ trench fighters now emerging from the Ham Works reflects women’s move beyond their traditional roles of fabric sewing and doping. It also shows the compact complexity of the powerful, lightweight Bentley BR2 engines which cost almost as much as the whole Sopwith airframe.
Meanwhile the first prototype Buffalo H5892 is back with Sopwith from France for the agreed modifications. The experimental team have already modified the second prototype H5893 with armour plate extended further aft, refined flank fairings from the engine cowl, rear defensive Scarff gun ring and larger rudder. It has been photographed outside Sopwith’s original sheds at Brooklands (below) beside the ‘Swallow’ monoplane.
Despite the two-seat armoured Buffalo’s design being structurally approved for production, it seems unlikely now that there will be large orders for it or any other new Sopwith military types like the ‘Swallow’ or twin-engined ‘Cobham’. Thomas Sopwith has already spoken publicly about the promising future for civil aviation and the practicality of an attempt at the prize for the first non-stop trans-Atlantic flight. These are exciting opportunities for the design team and experimental shop but hardly likely to provide enough production orders for the 5½ acre largely two-storey factory in Canbury Park Road let alone the leased 8 acre National Aircraft Factory at Ham. The company needs other high-volume products to which end Thomas is already negotiating a manufacturing licence for 400cc horizontally-opposed twin-cylinder ABC motorcycles designed by his old friend Granville Bradshaw of ABC Motors at Hersham who will supply the engines. Production will require considerable risky capital investment in new metal-working plant and machinery and new skills in the workforce.
On 13th November the 151Sqdn South African ace night fighter pilot in ‘Camel’ C6713 is killed spinning-in while stunting. (above with a 208Sqdn ‘Snipe’ in the background) The pilot of ‘Camel’ F3132 is killed spinning in from a low speed turn whilst H802 overturns hitting a bump on take-off and F1931 overturns on landing. ‘Dolphin’ D3580 crashes on landing as does D3745 stalling to avoid shell holes on the airfield. At home the pilot of Weston-on-the-Green ‘Camel’ F6381 is killed crashing on its back in a flat spin whilst CDP (ferry) Pool London F1539’s is seriously injured crashing near Ipswich with a failed engine.
On 14th November in France ‘Camel’ E7311 crashes onto its nose after breaking an axle on landing and F8524 crashes landing on uneven ground. Australian ‘Snipe’ E8052 is wrecked crashing whilst out on a formation flight. At Lympne the American pilot of ‘Camel’ C3293 is seriously injured crashing from a low speed turn on landing whilst at Chattis Hill the pilot of ‘Pup’ B5271 is injured spinning in on landing and B7276 also crash lands. In the Firth of Forth ‘Pup’