Britain's Forgotten Fighters of the First World War by Paul R. Hare

By Paul R. Hare

People with any curiosity within the First international conflict may have have heard of the planes so much linked to that clash - the mythical Sopwith Camel and Royal plane Factory’s S.E.5a, that are referred to as the «Spitfire» and «Hurricane» of the nice battle. Aviation fanatics could even comprehend of the Camels predecessors, the Sopwith puppy or the Triplane.

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The Sopwith Camel was the highest scoring British fighter of the First World War. 5a that was flown by Britain’s highest scoring aces, including Mannock, Bishop and McCudden. The RFC appears to have embraced both views and added to its growing fleet of general purpose aeroplanes a number of fast scouting machines. It was therefore hoped that these aircraft could evade enemy scouts as well as gather information vital to British operations. Also, it was anticipated that the armed aeroplanes would be able to protect unarmed machines as they went about their business.

This incorporated some further refinements, including a further enlarged rudder and streamlined bracing wires. Later examples had smaller ailerons and, as in response to feedback from squadrons operating the type, had their wing-tip skids moved from under the interplane struts to a position closer to the wing tip. Some, especially the Navy’s batches 8951–9000 and N5390–5400, were fitted with the 100-hp Monosoupape engine, its larger diameter necessitating a modified cowling. At least three examples, 5554–5556, were powered by the 110-hp Clerget engine in a further modified cowling, necessitating a step in the fuselage sides with 5555 also having a large diameter shallow spinner fitted to its propeller boss, anticipating the arrangement later fitted to the Bristol M1 monoplane.

The Scout was successfully released at 1,000 feet, but the idea was not developed further. A Bristol Scout being prepared for launching from HMS Vindex in November 1916 showing the baulks of timber needed to hold it in flying position. Bristol Scout, 8953, that attacked Zeppelin L17 seen at Filton after completion. The identity of the man stood alongside is unknown. The Bristol Scout served in small numbers in Palestine with the RFC’s Nos 14, 67 (Australian) and 111 Squadrons, with at least one example remaining in active use until October 1917.

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