Thursday, January 19, 2012

Sopwith Camel

The Sopwith Camel is probably one of the most famous fighters from the First World War, at least on the Allied side. If you asked people to list aircraft from the biplane era you would probably get the (Fokker) "Triplane" and the Camel more than anything else.

Biggles flew a Camel (he flew other planes too but people remember this one the most) and it was a Camel flown by Captain Roy Brown that was involved in the shooting down of the Red Baron (it may have been ground fire that dealt the fatal shot).

This example here is preserved at the Imperial War Museum in London, of which more below.
Imperial War Museum P7160032
The Camel's service life was fairly short, though this was the norm in the early days of military aviation with technology advancing at a furious rate. First flying in late 1916 it entered service a few months later in mid-1917. The Camel helped the Allies achieve air superiority over the Western Front and is credited with 1,294 "kills". The Camel was not an easy plane to fly, highly agile and responsive in the hands of a skilled pilot but also unforgiving (often with fatal consequences) to an inexperienced or careless pilot.

By early 1918 it was already outclassed by newer machines in aerial combat but remained in service in the close support role until the end of the war when it was retired from British service though it remained with foreign air arms for a while.

The IWM's Camel N6812 is a Camel 2F1 which was a navalised version used by the Royal Naval Air Service. N6812, while being flown by Flight Sub Lieutenant Stuart Culley, shot down the German zeppelin L53 in August 1918.

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