1917 Sopwith Camel


Early Aeroplanes 1907-1918

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Tommy Sopwith started the Sopwith Aviation Company at Kingston in 1912. He won the Schneider Trophy in 1914 with Australian Harry Hawker at the controls of a Tabloid. Herbert Smith, a Yorkshireman, was hired as a draughtsman in 1914 and became his chief engineer in 1916. The Sopwith Camel was a British First World War single-seat biplane fighter introduced on the Western Front in 1917. It succeeded the ‘Pup’, and the Triplane. It had a short-coupled fuselage, heavy, powerful rotary engine, and twin synchronized machine guns. Though difficult to handle (it tended to spin), to an experienced pilot it provided unmatched manoeuvrability. A superlative fighter, the Camel was credited with shooting down 1,294 enemy aircraft, more than any other Allied fighter of the war. It also served as a ground-attack aircraft, especially near the end of the conflict, when it was outclassed in the air-to-air role by newer fighters. The first aircraft was cleared for flight at Brooklands, Surrey, UK on 22nd December 1916 and flown then, or shortly thereafter. It was utilised extensively by both the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) from mid-1917. Sopwith built only around 10% (503) of the total, with Boulton & Paul Ltd (1,625 aircraft) and Ruston, Proctor & Co. Ltd (1,575) the major contractors.

Additional information

Dimensions 47.5 × 34.5 cm