Sopwith Camel (GU801)
Scale : 1:12
Wing Span: 28 inches
The Sopwith Camel was a British First World War single-seat biplane fighter aircraft introduced on the Western Front in 1917. It was developed by the Sopwith Aviation Company as a successor to the earlier Sopwith Pup and became one of the best known fighter aircraft of the war.
The Camel was powered by a single rotary engine and was armed with twin synchronized machine guns. Though proving difficult to handle, it provided for a high level of maneuverability to an experienced pilot, an attribute which was highly valued in the type’s principal use as a fighter aircraft. In total, Camel pilots have been credited with the shooting down of 1,294 enemy aircraft, more than any other Allied fighter of the conflict. Towards the end of the First World War, the type had also seen use as a ground-attack aircraft, partially due to it having become increasingly outclassed as the capabilities of fighter aircraft on both sides were rapidly advancing at that time.
The main variant of the Camel was designated as the F.1; several dedicated variants were built for a variety of roles, including the 2F.1 Ship’s Camel, which was used for operating from the flight decks of aircraft carriers, the Comic night fighter variant, and the T.F.1, a dedicated ‘trench fighter’ that had been armored for the purpose of conducting ground attacks upon heavily defended enemy lines. The Camel also saw use as a two-seat trainer aircraft. In January 1920, the last aircraft of the type were withdrawn from RAF service.
When it became clear the Sopwith Pup was not competitive against newer German fighters such as the Albatros D.III, the Camel was developed to replace it, as well as the Nieuport 17s that had been purchased from the French as an interim measure. It was recognized that the new fighter needed to be faster and have a heavier armament. The design effort to produce this successor, initially designated as the Sopwith F.1, was headed by Sopwith’s chief designer, Herbert Smith.
Early in its development, the new aircraft was simply referred to as the “Big Pup”. A metal fairing over the gun breeches, intended to protect the guns from freezing at altitude, created a “hump” that led pilots to call the aircraft “Camel”, although this name was never used officially. On 22 December 1916, the prototype Camel was first flown by Harry Hawker at Brooklands, Weybridge, Surrey; it was powered by a 110 hp Clerget 9Z.
In May 1917, the first production contract for an initial batch of 250 Camels was issued by the British War Office. Throughout 1917, a total of 1,325 Camels were manufactured, almost entirely of the initial F.1 variant. By the time that production of the type came to an end, approximately 5,490 Camels of all types had been built.In early 1918, production of the navalised “Ship’s” Camel 2F.1 began.
In the aftermath of the First World War, the Camel saw further combat action. Multiple British squadrons were deployed into Russia as a part of the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War. Between the Camel and the S.E.5, which were the two main types deployed to the Caspian Sea area to bomb Bolshevik bases and to provide aerial support to the Royal Navy warships present, Allied control of the Caspian region had been achieved by May 1919. Starting in March 1919, direct support was also provided for White Russian forces, carrying out reconnaissance, ground attack, and escort operations. During the summer of 1919, Camels of No. 47 Squadron conducted offensive operations in the vicinity of Tsaritsyn, primarily against Urbabk airfield; targets including enemy aircraft, cavalry formations, and river traffic. In September 1919, 47 Squadron was related to Kotluban, where its aircraft operations mainly focused on harassing enemy communication lines. During late 1919 and early 1920, the RAF detachment operated in support of General Vladimir May-Mayevsky’s counter-revolutionary volunteer army during intense fighting around Kharkov. In March 1920, the remainder of the force was evacuated and their remaining aircraft were deliberately destroyed to avoid them falling into enemy hands.