Warning: Illegal string offset 'component' in /data02/nornet2/public_html/westernnew2/plugins/system/sourcerer.php on line 209

Warning: Illegal string offset 'component' in /data02/nornet2/public_html/westernnew2/plugins/system/sourcerer.php on line 212
Aircraft Types The First World War: join the Western Front Association, the premier organisation for study, learning and research into all aspects of The Great War 1914-18, and to understanding more about the phenomenon which shaped the 20th century http://westernfrontassociation.com/great-war-at-sea-in-air/aircraft-types.html Thu, 23 Oct 2014 13:04:21 +0000 Joomla! 1.5 - Open Source Content Management en-gb Sopwith Aircraft: a Guide to Sopwith Military and Naval Aircraft of the Great War http://westernfrontassociation.com/great-war-at-sea-in-air/aircraft-types/1163-sopwith-aircraft-a-guide-to-sopwith-military-and-naval-aircraft-of-the-great-war.html http://westernfrontassociation.com/great-war-at-sea-in-air/aircraft-types/1163-sopwith-aircraft-a-guide-to-sopwith-military-and-naval-aircraft-of-the-great-war.html sopwith-pupIntroduction

In 1914 a mixture of Sopwith types appeared with the RFC and RNAS. From 1916 the company concentrated on the production of single-seat scout (fighter) aircraft powered by rotary engines but also experimented with other types. Many aspects of the period of swift development in aircraft design represented by the Great War can be followed through the products of the company. This guide features all Sopwith aircraft which saw use either on squadron operations or on limited operational trials during the Great War. The suggested reading list, at the end of this guide, will enable those who seek more information, particularly about the varied data associated with some of the types, and further analysis to find what they require.

Contents:

1914

Tabloid ; Other Pre-war Sopwiths; Type 807 Folder Seaplane.

1915

Two-seater Scout; Type 806 Gun Bus; Type 860 Seaplane; Schneider; Baby.

1916

1½ Strutter; Pup.

1917

Triplane (Clerget); Hamble Baby; Hispano-Suiza Triplane.

B1 Bomber; Camel.

1918

Dolphin; Snipe; T1 (Cuckoo); Salamander; Buffalo

 

The Aircraft

1914

Tabloid

Single seat fighting biplane

The Tabloid was a remarkable pre-war design and was the forerunner of a stable of rotary-engined fighters (scouts) which established the reputation of Sopwith as a manufacturer of first-class, reliable and well-built machines.  A few Tabloids had experimental mountings for Lewis guns including one with the gun firing through the propeller disc, deflector plates protecting the blades.  On 8 October 1914, using 20lb. bombs, Flt Lt R L G Marix destroyed Zeppelin Z IX in a raid on Dusseldorf.  Four went to the Dardanelles aboard HMS Ark Royal.  Two variations, built for the 1914 Gordon Bennett air race, served with the Fast Flight at Hendon.

tabloid

Operational Service

May 1914 – May 1915, with RFC and RNAS

Production

36

Airframe

Wooden structure, fabric and ply covered.

Engine

One 80hp Gnome

Armament

One Lewis gun, Small (20lb) bombs

Dimensions

Span: 25ft 6in Length: 20ft 4in Height: 8ft 5in Wing area: 241 sq ft

Weights

Empty: 730lb Loaded: 1,120lb

Performance

Max speed: 92 mph at sea level. Endurance: 3½ hours

Other Pre-war designs

Several other pre-war Sopwith types were taken up by the RNAS for limited war use.

The Bat Boat, the first flying boat to be built in Britain, was used on patrols from Scapa Flow until Nov 1914.

Six Three-Seater Tractor Biplanes served with the RNAS from Dunkirk and Gt. Yarmouth.

The sole Sociable saw RNAS service at home and briefly in Belgium.

At least one Anzani Tractor Seaplane saw service in the early days of the war.

One example of the six Type 806 Gun Bus machines saw brief service in France. It was a pusher type which mounted a free-firing machine gun in the front of the nacelle.  Thirty more were ordered and sub-contracted to Robey of Lincoln.  Slow production meant that by the time some were ready two-seat pushers were obsolete and the machines were withdrawn, stored and scrapped.

Two Pusher Seaplanes (Nos 123 & 124) saw little service and were deleted in February 1915 as unsatisfactory.

Of five Greek Seaplanes two served at Killingholme, one was wrecked at Great Yarmouth and two were converted to landplanes.

The Special Seaplane, apparently with an 80ft wing span, proved difficult to take off with full load and was dismantled in April 1915.

Two Daily Mail Seaplanes, for the round-Britain race, saw some service, the second as a landplane.  A contract for thirty was cancelled.

Two Type 137 tractor seaplanes served experimentally (including torpedo-dropping) and on patrol work until Jan 1916.

Three Type C seaplanes were delivered in 1914 but did little work before loss or deletion by March 1915.

three-seater

Type 807 Folder

Two-seat twin-float seaplane

This type was supplied to the RNAS from July 1914.  It used folding wings, a system for which Horace Short had taken out a patent.  Sopwith paid Short a royalty of £15 to use the system.  807s served on patrol duties at Calshot and Gt Yarmouth, in the Dardanelles and East Africa, and on the seaplane carrier HMS Ark Royal.  These aircraft were underpowered and some had trouble with flooding floats.

807

Operational service

1914 - 1915

Production

12

Airframe

Wooden structure, fabric and ply covered

Engine

One 100hp Gnome Monosoupape

Armament

Small bombs

Dimensions

N/A

Weights

N/A

Performance

Max Speed: 80 mph

1915

Two-Seater Scout

Patrol aircraft

Known to officialdom as the Two-seater Scout this type was, to a great extent, a landplane version of the Type 807 seaplane.  It was used for anti-Zeppelin patrols from Gt. Yarmouth, Hendon, and Killingholme but with such a low service ceiling there was little prospect of success.

807

Operational service

March 1915 and withdrawn by the end of 1915 - served with RNAS.

Production

24

Airframe

Wooden structure, fabric and ply covered.

Engine

One 100hp Gnome Monosoupape

Armament

Grenades, pistols, rifles.  Small bombs.

Dimensions

Wing Span: 36ft.

Weights

N/A

Performance

Speed: 80 mph.  Service ceiling: 3,000ft.

Type 806 Gun Bus

Two-seat pusher gun carrier

One example of this type saw brief service in France. The rest were delivered to Detling, Eastchurch and Hendon. The 806 was a pusher type which mounted a free-firing Lewis gun in the front of the nacelle.  Thirty more were ordered, and sub-contracted to Robey of Lincoln.  Seventeen complete machines were delivered by Robey.  The rest of the order was made up in spares.  However, by the time the order was completing, late in 1915, two-seat pushers were already obsolete.  Remaining 806s were withdrawn in the summer of 1916.

806

Operational service

1915 - one aircraft to France.

Production

23 assembled machines and 13 sets of spares.

Airframe

Wooden structure, fabric and ply covered.

Engine

One 100hp Gnome Monosoupape/One 110hp or 150hp Sunbeam (authorities vary).

Armament

One Lewis gun.  Underwing bomb carriers fitted (Robey).

Dimensions (Robey)

Wing span: 50ft.  Length: 32ft. 6in. Wing area: 474 sq. ft.

Weights

N/A

Performance

Max Speed: 80 mph.

Admiralty Type 860

Two-seat torpedo-carrying twin-float seaplane

Lifting an 810lb torpedo demanded a powerful engine.  Sopwith finally managed the task with the 860 powered by a 225hp Sunbeam engine.  An 860 first lifted a torpedo on 27 Jan 1915, at Calshot.  The 860 saw limited RNAS service: three at RNAS Isle of Grain, at least one at each of RNAS Calshot, Dover, Dundee, Felixstowe, Great Yarmouth, and Killingholme. Four were sent to HMS Engadine and Ben-my-Chree but were not much used.  Two were sent to the Aegean for service with HMS Ark Royal.  The 860 never launched a torpedo in action.  Official reports described the 860 as unsatisfactory and the Admiralty decided to use Short Bros., which had more seaplane experience than Sopwith, as its main seaplane supplier.

860

Operational service

1915 -1916 - Served with RNAS

Production

22 (18 known to have been delivered)

Airframe

Wooden structure, fabric and ply covered

Engine

One 225hp Sunbeam Mohawk

Armament

One Lewis gun.  One 14" 810lb torpedo

Dimensions

N/A

Weights

N/A

Performance

N/A

Schneider

Single seat fighting seaplane

This type was similar to the floatplane Tabloid which had won the Schneider Trophy in April 1914. Most Schneiders had a Lewis gun on the centre section arranged to fire above the propeller disc.  Flight Sub-Lieutenant A F Brandon achieved a late success on this type on 21 Nov 1916 by shooting down an enemy aircraft at Mudros.  Flt Lt. Welsh launched successfully from a deck ramp aboard the seaplane carrier HMS Campania on 6 Aug 1915.  It had been found that the Schneider's floats were insufficiently robust for taking off from water on operations.

schneider

Operational service

Early 1915 - (at least) Nov 1916 - Served with RNAS

Production

136

Airframe

Wooden structure, fabric and ply covered

Engine

One 100hp Gnome Monosoupape

Armament

One Lewis gun.  Various bomb loads - e.g. 1-65lb./4-16lb.

Dimensions

Span: 25ft. 8in.  Length: 22ft. 10in.  Height: 10ft.  Wing area: 236 sq. ft.

Weights

Empty: 1,226lb.  Loaded: 1,715lb.

Performance

Max speed: 87 mph  Service ceiling: 8,000ft.

Baby

Single seat fighting seaplane

The chief difference from the Schneider was the Baby's Clerget engine and the new horseshoe-shaped cowling made the Baby's appearance noticeably different from that of the Schneider. Used for anti-submarine and anti-airship work, the Baby was delivered to the RNAS from September 1915.  Some had centre-section Lewis guns but later models had a Lewis synchronised to fire through the propeller disc. Babies served until the end of the war.

baby

Operational service

Sept 1915 - Nov 1918 - served with RNAS

Production

286

Airframe

Wooden structure, fabric and ply covered

Engine

One 110 hp or 130 hp Clerget

Armament

One Lewis gun and a 65lb. Bomb or 2-65lb. bombs

Dimensions

Wing span: 25ft. 8in.  Length: 23ft. Height: 10ft.  Wing area: 236 sq. ft.

Weights with 130 hp Clerget

Empty: 1,226lb.  Loaded: 1,715lb.

Performance with 130 hp Clerget

Max. speed: 100 mph.  Endurance: 2¼ hours

1916

1½ Strutter

Two-seat scout/single and two-seat light bomber

The 1½ Strutter was the first RFC and RNAS fighter to have a forward-firing synchronised Vickers machine gun.  Pilots liked the Strutter.  Its forward-firing gun was, to start with, a surprise for the Germans.  As the Germans introduced more manœuvrable aircraft, from the Albatros DI onwards, the Strutter began to struggle.  July 1917 saw the start of its replacement on the Western Front by improved aircraft.  In Home Defence squadrons they were largely replaced by the end of 1917 with only 78 squadron keeping them until July 1918.  The bomber version carried out strategic raids on German industry as well as attacking  Zeppelin sheds.

one-and-a-half-strutter

Operational service

April 1916 - July 1918

Served with RFC, RNAS, French, Belgian and American air forces and some went to Russia.  Also Romania, Latvia and Japan

Production

1,534 in the UK and c. 4,500 under licence in France

Airframe

Wooden structure, fabric and ply covered

Engine

One 110 hp or 130 hp Clerget. (Other power plants also used)

Armament

One fixed forward-firing synchronised Vickers gun and one free Lewis gun in rear cockpit.

4 - 65lb Bombs or more light bombs (single seat bomber)

Dimensions

Wing span: 33ft. 6in.  Length: 25ft. 3in.  Height: 10ft. 3in.  Wing area: 346 sq. ft.

Weights

Empty: 1,305lb.  Loaded: 2,150lb.

Performance with 130hp Clerget

Max speed: 107 mph at sea level.  Service ceiling: 15,500ft.

Pup

Single-seat scout

The success of Pups in the early spring of 1917 caused German pilots to seek to avoid combat. Von Richthofen: "We saw immediately that the enemy aircraft was superior to ours." McCudden: "[The Pup] could turn twice to an Albatros' once." The Pup's first victory claim was by F/ Sub-Lt. S.J. Goble on 24 September 1916, against an LVG two-seater.  Many Pups saw service on aircraft carriers and warships with flying-off platforms.  Such was the speed of development in fighting aeroplanes that by the summer of 1917 the Pup began to find itself in need of replacement in France.  It was still, however, of use in Home Defence, and at sea.  Beardmore produced a modified version for naval use.

pup

Operational service

Sept 1916 - May 1919 - served with RFC and RNAS

Production

1,770

Airframe

Wooden structure, fabric covered.  Steel tube wingtips and tail unit with fabric covering

Engine

One 80 hp Le Rhone/Gnome or Clerget, or 100 hp Gnome monosoupape

Armament

One fixed forward-firing synchronised Vickers gun or an upward-firing Lewis gun. Some armed with Le Prieur rockets.

Dimensions

Wing span: 26ft. 6in.  Length: 19ft. 3¾in.  Height: 9ft. 5in.  Wing area: 254 sq. ft.

Weights Le Rhone

Empty: 787lb.  Loaded: 1,225lb.

Performance Le Rhone

Max. speed: 111½ mph at sea level.  Service ceiling: 17,500.  Endurance: 3 hours

1917

Triplane (Clerget)

Single-seat scout

The Triplane's narrow chord wings were designed, as was the second wing's eye level location, to improve pilot visibility.  Ailerons on all six wings gave it remarkable manœuvrability and with that linked to its impressive climb rate it proved much better than its main opponent, the Albatros DIII.  Responding to German pilots' stories of the Triplane's superiority Fokker developed his own version, the Dr1.  The Sopwith Triplane was phased out in favour of the Camel from July 1917. The first Triplane (N500) did service trials in June 1916 and was very well received.  Squadron equipment began in Dec 1916 but the Triplane units began large scale service on the Western Front in Feb 1917.

triplane-clerget

Operational service

Feb - Dec 1917 - served with RNAS, French Navy, & Russia (one machine)

Production

145

Airframe

Wooden structure, fabric covered

Engine

One 110 hp or 130 hp Clerget. (Latter on most aircraft)

Armament

One fixed forward-firing synchronised Vickers gun. (Two on some aircraft)

Dimensions

Wing span: 26ft. 6in.  Length: 18ft. 10in.  Height: 10ft. 6in.  Wing area: 231 sq. ft.

Weights with 130hp Clerget

Empty: 1,101lb.  Loaded: 1,541lb.

Performance with 130hp Clerget

Max speed: 117 mph at 5,000ft.  Service ceiling: 22,00ft.  Endurance: 2 hours

Fairey Hamble Baby

Single-seat anti-submarine patrol seaplane

The Hamble Baby retained the Sopwith Baby fuselage but otherwise was re-designed by Fairey with new wings, floats and tail.  Fairey's patent camber changing gear enabled the introduction of flaps which could also be used as ailerons.  The camber increase provided by the flaps increased lift for the heavier Hamble Baby.  74 Babies built by Parnall were converted to landplanes and were known as Converts. Hamble Babies served from coastal stations at home and abroad and from seaplane carriers.

fairey-hamble-baby

Operational service

1917 - 1918.  Served with RNAS/RAF

Production

180

Airframe

Wooden structure, fabric covered

Engine

One 110 hp or 130 hp Clerget.

Armament

One fixed forward-firing synchronised Lewis gun. 2 - 65lb bombs

Dimensions

Wing span: 27ft. 9¼in.  Length: 23ft. 4in.  Height: 9ft. 6in.  Wing area: 246 sq. ft.

Weights with 110hp Clerget

Empty: 1,386lb.  Loaded: 1,946lb.

Performance

Max speed: 92 mph at sea level.  Service ceiling: 7,500ft.  Endurance: 2 hours.

Hispano-Suiza Triplane

Single-seat scout

Two Hispano-Suiza engined Triplanes were built.  One (N510) was lost early because tail flutter caused the tail assembly to break off.  The second of this type (N509) was briefly tested at Dunkirk and later flew four sorties from Manston against German bombers in the period May to July 1917.  It was damaged in a collision in August and deleted in October 1917.

hispano-suiza-triplane

Operational service

1917 - Trial work - only one aircraft

Airframe

Wooden structure, fabric covered

Engine

One 150hp Hispano-Suiza

Armament

One forward-firing synchronised Vickers machine gun

Dimensions

Wing span: 28ft. 6in.  Length: 23ft. 2in.  Height: 10ft. 6in.  Wing area: 340sq.ft.

Weights

N/A

Performance

Max speed: 120 mph at sea level

B1 Bomber

Single-seat bomber

Two examples of this type were built.  The first spent two weeks in May 1917 with 5 Naval squadron at Dunkirk.  It flew on operations beside 5N's DH4s but did not warrant a production order.

b1

Operational service

1917 - Trial work - only one aircraft

Airframe

Wooden structure, fabric covered

Engine

One 200hp Hispano-Suiza

Armament

20 - 25lb bombs.  One fixed forward-firing synchronised Lewis gun during service trials only

Dimensions

Wing span: 38ft. 6in.  Length: 27ft.   Height: 9ft. 6in.

Weights

Empty: 1,700lb.  Loaded: 3,055lb.

Performance

Max speed: 118½ mph at 10,000ft.  Service ceiling: 19,000ft.  Endurance: 3¾ hours

F1 and 2F1 Camel

Single-seat scout

The Camel was designed to be a better armed fighter than the Pup and Triplane but to retain their manœuvrability.  For the novice, or those used to the pleasant flying characteristics of the Pup and Triplane, the Camel was difficult to master but once mastered its striking manœuvrability proved a winning attribute.  The Camel became a dominant player in the air war.  Upper wing Lewis guns eliminated glare for night-fighting pilots.  2F1s replaced Pups at sea.  2F1 N6812 flown by Lt Culley, and launched from a lighter towed by HMS Redoubt, shot down Zeppelin L53 on 10 August 1918.

camel

Operational service

June 1917 - Nov 1919

Served with RFC, RNAS, RAF, Australian Flying Corps, U.S. Air Service

Production

5,825

Airframe

Wooden structure, fabric covered

Engine

One 110 hp or 130 hp or 140hp Clerget. 110hp or 180hp Le Rhone, 100hp or 150hp Gnome monosoupape. 150hp B.R.1

Armament

F1: 2 fixed forward-firing synchronised Vickers gun.

2F1: Usually 1 forward-firing Vickers and 1 Lewis on upper wing. Home defence versions: 2 Lewis on upper wing.

Ground attack: 4 - 25lb bombs

Dimensions F1

Wing span: 28ft.  Length: 18ft. 9in.  Height: 8ft. 6in.  Wing area: 231 sq. ft.

Weights with 130hp Clerget

Empty: 929lb.  Loaded: 1,453lb.

Performance with 130hp Clerget (with 150hp BR1)

Max. speed: 117 mph at sea level (125mph).  113 mph at 10,000ft. (121mph)

Service ceiling: 19,000ft. (22,000ft.).  Endurance: 2½ hours (2½ hours)

1918

5F1 Dolphin

Single-seat scout

Inspired by the need for pilots to have a good view above and around whilst in air combat the Dolphin's designer, Herbert Smith, was obliged by the aerodynamic and centre-of-gravity considerations caused by the positions he chose for the pilot and the top wing to put the bottom wing in a back-staggered location.  On trials in France both Capt Bishop and Lt Lewis commented favourably on its manœuvrability. Engine troubles and other teething problems led to delays before production aircraft began to appear in October 1917.  In France 19 Squadron became fully-equipped in early January 1918.  The intended four-gun arrangement did not always win favour in the field, with pilots opting to dispose of one or both of the Lewis guns.  Over 75% of the production was in storage at the war's end - awaiting engines.

dolphin

Operational service

Dec 1917 - July 1919.  Served with RFC/RAF

Production

2,074 (not including first prototypes)

Airframe

Wooden structure, fabric and ply covered. Back staggered wings. Centre section of steel tubing.

Engine

One 200hp Hispano-Suiza

Armament

Two forward-firing synchronised Vickers guns on nose and one/two fixed Lewis gun(s) mounted on front centre-section wing spar. Some pilots removed the Lewis guns.

Dimensions

Wing span: 32ft. 6in.  Length: 22ft. 3in.  Height: 8ft. 6in.  Wing area: 263¼ sq. ft.

Weights

Empty: 1,410lb.  Loaded: 1,959lb.

Performance

Max speed: 136 mph at sea level.  114 mph at 15,000ft.  Service ceiling: 20,000ft.

7F1 Snipe

Single-seat scout

The Snipe turned tightly like other rotary-engine types but was easier to control than the Camel.  The Snipe was first flown as a single-bay machine with flat sides. As it was developed it acquired two-bay wings, a curved fuselage and a new tail.  43 Sqn began to equip with Snipes as replacements for its Camels in August 1918, 4 Sqn AFC re-equipped in early October, and 78 Sqn had one on charge in October. 201 Sqn hosted Maj Barker's ten-day instructor's front line refresher during which (27 Oct) he won a VC in an epic dog-fight with at least fifteen Fokker DVIIs - shooting down three and forcing down two others. The action developed after he had forced down a Rumpler C type.

snipe

Operational service

Aug 1918 - Nov 1926.  Served with RAF and Australian Flying Corps

Production

2,172 (not including prototypes)

Airframe

Wooden structure, fabric, ply and sheet metal covered

Engine

One 150hp BR2.

Armament

Two forward-firing synchronised Vickers guns on nose.

Dimensions

Wing span: 31ft. 1in.  Length: 19ft. 9in.  Height: 8ft. 9in.  Wing area: 271 sq. ft.

Weights

Empty: 1,312lb.  Loaded: 2,020lb.

Performance

Max speed: 125 m.p.h. at sea level.  121 m.p.h. at 10,000ft.  Service ceiling: 20,000. Endurance: 3 hours.

T1 (Cuckoo)

Single-seat torpedo carrier

The Admiralty asked Sopwith, in late 1916, to produce designs for aircraft capable of carrying one or two 18" torpedoes.  However, no sense of urgency surrounded the provision of a torpedo bomber for the Fleet at a time when the pressing need was for fighters for the Front.  Cuckoo, as it was later named, production was initially entrusted to two companies with no experience of aeroplane construction: Fairfield and Pegler.  Blackburn, whose production of Babies was coming to an end, had to be brought in to rescue the programme.  The preferred Hispano-Suiza engines were allocated to the SE5As and the heavier Sunbeam Arabs were substituted.  Beatty's October 1917 scheme to attack the German fleet in harbour thus came to nothing as the T1s were not ready in time.

cuckoo

Operational service

Oct 1918 - April 1923.  Served with RAF

Production

232

Airframe

Wooden structure, fabric covered

Engine

One 200hp Sunbeam Arab

Armament

One 18" torpedo.

Dimensions

Wing span: 46ft. 9in.  Length: 28ft. 6in.  Height: 10ft. 8in.  Wing area: 566 sq. ft.

Weights

Empty: 2,199lb.  Loaded: 3,883lb.

Performance

Max speed: 103½ m.p.h. 2,000ft.  Service ceiling: 12,100ft  Endurance: 4 hours.

TF2 Salamander

Single-seat ground attack fighter

As the two examples of the TF1 Camel interim trench fighter flew to France for trials on 7 March 1918, the specially designed successor was already taking shape and made its first flight on 27 April and flew to France on 9 May for operational trials.  The front fuselage was made of 650lbs of armour plate.  The Vickers guns had 1,000 rounds per gun instead of the usual 750.  At least one Salamander was flown, experimentally, with a battery of eight downward firing Lewis guns.  In mid-August Captain J W Pinder test flew an example and reported that it had manœuvrability in the Bristol Fighter class and might cope with an Albatros below 10,000ft.  Production was increasing swiftly in the autumn of 1918 but only two aircraft were in France on 11 November 1918.

salamander

Operational service

1918 - Trial work - only two aircraft to France

Production

210 completed from an order of 1,100

Airframe

Wooden structure, fabric, ply and sheet metal covered with armour plate.

Engine

One 230hp BR2

Armament

Two forward-firing synchronised Vickers guns on nose.

Dimensions

Wing span: 31ft. 2?in.  Length: 19ft. 6in.  Height: 9ft. 4in.  Wing area: 272 sq. ft.

Weights

Empty: 1,844lb.  Loaded: 2,512lb.

Performance

Max speed: 125 m.p.h. at sea level.  Service ceiling: 13,000ft.    Endurance: 1½ hours.

Buffalo

Two-seat contact patrol fighter

The first prototype Buffalo went to France for trials and arrived at Marquise on 20 October 1918.  It was quite well received but its trials were incomplete when the Armistice came into force.  No production resulted.

buffalo

Operational service

1918 - Trial work - only one aircraft to France

Production

Two prototypes

Airframe

Wooden structure, fabric, ply and sheet metal covered with armour plate.

Engine

One 230hp BR2

Armament

One forward-firing synchronised Vickers gun on nose and one Lewis gun in rear cockpit..

Dimensions

Wing span: 34ft. 6in.  Length: 23ft. 3½in.  Height: 9ft. 6in.  Wing area: 326 sq. ft.

Weights

Empty: 2,178lb.  Loaded: 3,071lb.

Performance

Max speed: 114 m.p.h. at 1,000ft.  Service ceiling: 9,000ft

 

Suggested Reading

A E Bramson, Pure Luck - The Authorised Biography of Sir Thomas Sopwith, 1888 -1989, 1990

M Davis, Sopwith Aircraft, Marlborough, 1999

H F King, Sopwith Aircraft, London, 1981

F K Mason, The British Fighter since 1912, London, 1992

F K Mason, The British Bomber since 1914, London, 1994

B Robertson, Sopwith -The Man and his Aircraft, Letchworth, 1970

J W R Taylor, Combat Aircraft of the World, London, 1969

O Thetford, British Naval Aircraft since 1912, London, 1962

]]>
webmanager@westernfrontassociation.com (David Seymour MA, MPhil) Aircraft Sun, 21 Feb 2010 15:56:06 +0000
The most successful British Bomber Aircraft of The Great War http://westernfrontassociation.com/great-war-at-sea-in-air/aircraft-types/965-most-successful-british-bomber-aircraft-greatwar-.html http://westernfrontassociation.com/great-war-at-sea-in-air/aircraft-types/965-most-successful-british-bomber-aircraft-greatwar-.html Handley_Page_O-400.jpgIntroduction

If one were asked to choose a paradigm to represent the effect of a major war on the speed of technological change, the evolution of heavier-than-air aircraft in the Great War would be a good choice. But of particular note would be the dramatic development of the immediate pre-war basic wood and fabric, single-seater bi-plane, such as the Sopwith Tabloid ex-racing plane, into the dedicated machines of total war such as the Handley Page Type O/400 heavy bomber of 1918.

The advent of the aircraft as an effective weapon of war and terror made it possible for the first time to strike the enemy far beyond the range of ground artillery, or the shell-fire of even the largest warships. It also brought into range virtually the entire population of the enemy, both military and civil. Only small segments of the civil population were eventually safe from the threat from the skies and all felt its malign effects on their way of life.

Whilst the epic effort of the German aircraft manufactures and the German Army Air Service (GAAS) to create a powerful force of bomber aircraft is discussed elsewhere on the WFA website, this article will deal with the production of one British manufacturer, Handley Page Ltd.

At the outbreak of the Great War in August 1914, the British Royal Flying Corps (RFC) - later, on 1st April 1918, to be combined with Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) to become the Royal Air Force, (RAF) - had no bomber aircraft in service and none was on order.

Prototypes

Handley Page Ltd quickly responded and came up with a design identified as the Type O, later redesignated as the Type O/ 100. Four prototypes were built.

In specification it was:

  • Construction:  bi-plane; wings with a parasol type bracing towards the end of the upper wing and a bi-plane tail; wooden frame covered with doped fabric (linen); glazed cockpit and armoured plating to protect the crew and engines. The complete bi-plane wing folded to a maximum width of 34ft (10.4m) and height of 18ft (5.5m) thus facilitating under-cover storage.
  • Crew: four or five – pilot, observer and two or three gunners.
  • Engines: two Rolls Royce 260hp Eagle II, V-12 cylinder, water-cooled, mounted in two nacelles, situated between the wings one on each side of the fuselage and powering tractor propellers. The fuel tanks were located in the engine nacelles.
  • Dimensions: wingspan = 100ft (30.5m); length = 62.8ft (19.1m); height = 22.0ft (6.7m).
  • Speed: 76mph (122kph) at 6,500ft (1850m).
  • Operational ceiling: 8,500ft (2,590m)
  • Armament: one or two 0.303in (7.7mm) Lewis guns mounted in each of the forward, dorsal and ventral gun turrets – total three to six guns.
  • Maximum bomb load: 6,000lbs (2,700kg) carried in internal bomb bay as eight 250lb (93kg) bombs, or sixteen 112lb (42kg) bombs plus a 1,650lb (616kg) bomb carried externally.

The first prototype flew on 7 December 1915, but was found to be overweight. Accordingly, the cockpit glazing and armoured plate was removed in the second prototype which first flew in April 1916. This type became the production model and a total of 42 production O/100’s were built.

 

Handley Page O/400 lands at RAF Andover, November 1918Service history of Handley Page Type O/100 (hereafter HP O/100)

The first bomber squadron of the HP O/100 was formed in August 1916 and was deployed on the Western Front in November 1916 by 7A Squadron, RNAS, stationed at Dunkirk, France.

The HP O/100 first saw service in a night attack on the 16/17 March 1917, when a single aircraft attacked a German railway station at Moulin-lès-Metz in occupied France. Also daylight attacks began including a successful attack on a German destroyer in April 1917. However, due to a loss of an aircraft to German fighters, the HP O/100 was restricted to night attacks, usually by single aircraft, whilst the targets were changed to enemy-occupied Channel ports, airfields and the railway system.

Other deployments were anti-U-boat patrols in British waters and to Greece where a HP O/100 based at Mudros, Lemnos attacked Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire.

One HP O/100 fell into German hands in January 1917 when it strayed behind enemy lines, but it subsequently crashed whilst being test-flown.

Handley_Page 0/100The HP O/100 was successfully flown throughout the war but was superseded by a more powerful engined Type, with some additional technical modifications, the HP O/400.


Handley Page Type O/400 (hereafter HP O/400)

The more notable specification changes of this Type were:

  • Engines: two 360hp Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII, V-12. Other compatible engines were used i.e. Liberty (USA), Sunbeam Maori and Cossack (British) and Fiat (Italian).

  • Fuel tanks: relocated from the two engine nacelles to the fuselage.

  • Speed: 97mph (156kph).

 

Handley Page 0/400 - source Canadian ForcesService history of HP O/400

The first HP O/400s went into service in April 1918 in the role of ground support for the troops on the Western Front – where it played a vital role in the German 1918 Spring Offensive - and as a general service strategic bomber for the RAF where up to 40 bombers were deployed in a single raid. In all, ten RAF squadrons were equipped with the HP O/400, ie Squadrons 58, 70, 97, 100, 115, 116, 207, 214, 215 and 216, and five RNAS squadrons, ie Squadrons 7, 7A, 14, 15 and 16. Additionally, one HP O/400 was deployed with the Australian Flying Corps in the Middle East.

A total of 663 HP O/400s were built including 107 that were built under licence in the United States by the Standard Aircraft Corporation (SAC) fitted with the aforementioned USA Liberty engines. An order for more than 1,000 more of the SAC production was cancelled after the Armistice.

 

Handley Page V/1500 (hereafter HP V/1500)

Another Type of the HP heavy bomber aircraft, an even larger four-engined version designated the Handley Page V/1500 (the Super Handley), first flew in May 1918. It entered into service with the RAF in October 1918, principally as a night bomber, and three became operational with 166 Squadron in November 1918. But it never saw combat service due to the end of the war: the first sortie on Berlin by three aircraft on the night of 10 November 1918 was literally taxi-ing on the runway when the flight was called off because of the imminent declaration of the Armistice the next morning.

The principal differences in specification between the HP V/1500 and the HP O/400 were:

  • Crew: eight or nine.

  • Engines:  four Rolls Royce Eagle VIII, 375hp V-12 cylinder mounted in twos tandem-wise between the wings on either side of the fuselage respectively powering traction and propulsion propellers (pull and push). Alternative engines were BHP Galloway ‘Atlantic’ 500hp or Napier ‘Lion’ 450hp.

  • Wingspan:  126.0ft (38.4m). Upper and lower wings were of the same span with a pronounced sweepback.

  • Length:  64.0ft (19.5m).

  • Height:  23.0ft (7.0m).

  • Operational ceiling:  11,000ft (3,350m).

  • Operational range: 625 miles (1,000km) i.e. Eastern England to Berlin.

  • Armament: Six to eight 0.303in (7.7mm) Lewis guns - additional turret in tail.

  • Maximum bomb load: 7,500lb (3,400kg) as thirty 250lb (113kg) bombs, or two 3,300lb (1,497kg).

Postscriptum

The HP O/400 aircraft only remained in squadron service for a short while after the Armistice, being replaced by the Vickers Vimy heavy and Airco DH 10 Amiens medium bombers.

However, the later types of the Handley Page bomber continued to fly and some were converted to passenger airliners – the former HP O/400 carried 10 passengers and the HP V/1500 took 40 - whilst others were used on endurance and route proving flights.

 

Recommended reading:

Jane’s Fighting Aircraft of World War (reprinted 2001) Random House Group, London. ISBN 1 85170 347 0.

Angelucci, E. et Matricardi, P. Avions 1/des orgines à la première guerre mondiale. L’edition francaise. (1978) Elselvier Séquoia, Bruxelles. ISBN2-8003-0243-7.

Visit the WFA Online Book Store.

 

Contributed by Dr David Payne.

 

All images sourced from Wikimedia. The third image shows a Handley Page O/100 aircraft 1459 "Le Tigre" of No 3 Wing, RNAS, March 1917at Ochey, France.

]]>
webmanager@westernfrontassociation.com (Dr David Payne) Aircraft Sat, 04 Jul 2009 22:05:47 +0000
The Zeppelin Staaken R.VI Bomber of the Great War http://westernfrontassociation.com/great-war-at-sea-in-air/aircraft-types/953-zeppelin-staaken-rvi-bomber-great-war.html http://westernfrontassociation.com/great-war-at-sea-in-air/aircraft-types/953-zeppelin-staaken-rvi-bomber-great-war.html great war zeppelin cartoonIntroduction

In terms of the Great War, the name Zeppelin is synonymous with the lighter-than air, hydrogen gas filled, airships (dirigibles) that terrorised the eastern parts of England, and the capital, London, in particular, from January 1915 to August 1918. However, due to increasing losses from more effective British homeland air defences of anti-aircraft guns, fighter aircraft and barrage balloons, they were largely replaced, from May 1917, by the heavier-than-air German bomber aircraft called the Gotha IV and V. These two Gotha types carried out 27 night raids over England; primarily London.

But there was another Zeppelin product, one of its stable of heavier-than-air aircraft that was also to terrorise the British population from the 17th September 1917. This was a strategic bomber aircraft called the Zeppelin-Staaken R.VI. (R=Riesenflugzeug = Giant aircraft). It flew 52 missions over Britain releasing 2,772 bombs weighing a total of 196 tonnes (193 tons) including the first bomb of 1,000kg (2,200lbs) which fell on the Royal Hospital, Chelsea in London on the 16th February 1918. It had the largest wingspan (= 42.2m/138.5ft) of any bomber aircraft of the Great War being even bigger than British Lancaster bomber of the Second World War (wingspan = 31.1m/102.1ft).

Conception and manufacture

The Zeppelin-Staaken was designed by Ferdinand von Zeppelin, aided by Robert Bosch GmbH engineers, and the first three engined prototypes – VGO I and VGO III  - were constructed at the Gothaer Waggonfabriek A.G. site. In 1916, production moved to the Zeppelin Staaken Werke in the suburbs of Berlin, where several Zeppelin-Staaken R prototypes were built and evaluated.

In late 1916, the four-engined R.VI prototype was chosen for mass manufacture and went into production at the factories of: Luftschiffbau Schutz-Lanz GmbH (9 aircraft), Automobil-und- Aviatik-Werke GmbH (6) and Albatros Flugzeug-Werke GmbH (3) making 18 R.VI’s in all. A total of 13 of these production aircraft saw active service during the Great War.

Great War Staken Bomber

(Wikimedia)

Specification

Construction: Bi-plane wings and tail-plane. Fuselage, wings and tail-plane were fabricated mainly of wood and ply-wood spars, ribs and struts - braced with steel cables/wires - and some aluminium control surfaces, plus sheet steel and tubing reinforcements.  Doped fabric was used to cover the naked wood-work except for the glazing of the innovative enclosed cockpit and the open forward and aft gun turrets.

Engines: Four Mercedes D. IVa, six cylinder, in-line, water-cooled, of 260 hp = 1,040hp. The Staaken R.VI’s supplied to the German Naval Air Service in a float-plane format were supplied with four Maybach 300hp engines = 1,200hp.

The basic arrangement was two sets of two tandem engines, back-to-back, driving tractor and pusher propellers, mounted in nacelles located between the wings on either side of the fuselage.

An additional Mercedes D.II engine of 120hp was installed on to two of the R.VI’s to power a supercharger. This permitted an operational altitude ceiling of about 6000m (19,695ft) for the avoidance of enemy anti aircraft fire and fighter aircraft.

Dimensions: Length = 22.1m (72.6ft); Wingspan = 42.2m (138.5ft); Height (on tricycle undercarriage) = 6.3m (20.7ft) carrying 18 wheels; front under-carriage of two wheels, main under-carriage  two sets of  eight wheels.

Performance: Maximum speed 135km/hr (84.4mph) at sea level, with an operational range of 800km (500miles), an altitude ceiling of 4,320m (14,180ft) and a flight duration of seven to 10 hours.

Armament: Four to six air-cooled machine guns of various types, and up to seven bombs carried on racks in the fuselage, or two 1,000kg (2,200lb) bombs suspended longitudinally under the fuselage between the wing spars. A small cabin and tunnel on the underside of the aircraft allowed a machine gun to be fired to the rear underneath the aircraft.

Aircrew:  Total seven. Gunner/observer/bomb-aimer in the forward turret; two pilots; wireless operator; two mechanics (one located in each engine nacelle to service the engines whilst in flight) and a gunner for the main/rear turret.

Video

Deployment

The first delivery of the Staaken R.VI’s was made in June 1917 and the first deployments were to the Eastern Front (Kurland, Russia).

In September 1917, some R.VI’s were transferred to the Western Front (Ghent, Belgium) where they began operations against French and British targets. Later, more R.VI’s were transferred to France (Castinne) for operations against French targets, primarily sea ports and aerodromes.

The attacks using the R.VI against mainland Britain began in September 1917. Sorties by around five aircraft were flown against the capital at night and between September 1917 and May 1918. A total of 11 such raids took place during which 30 tonnes (29.5 tons) of bombs were dropped without the loss of a single R.VI aircraft over Britain; two aircraft crashed on returning to their home bases.

As was to be the case in the Second World War, London’s river Thames provided an ideal navigation tool, and individual R.VI’s were able make their independent way to their specified targets.

Conclusion

This ‘giant’ aircraft, in both name and size, was planned in the early months of the war, but did not become operational until June 1917, and then on a very limited scale – only 13 went operational. However, such was their operational superiority, not one was lost on the 11 operations (30 sorties) flown over Britain, and only one was shot down over France (Abbeville) in August 1918.

The R.VI was extremely complex to manufacture and it became a considerable drain on the German aircraft industry as the Allied blockade tightened over time.

Intended as an additional terror-weapon to the on-going air-raids by German airships and the Gotha bombers, it is impossible to evaluate the exact additional effect the R.VI had on the considerable panic, fear, anxiety and dislocation to British public life that the overall German bombing campaign definitely engendered, and in which around 800 British civilians were killed and 2,000 wounded. Damage to property was also widespread and estimated at £3 million. Indubitably, considerable additional manpower and material resources were diverted from the Western Front by the British to combat the aerial threat from Germany. But it is equally certain that the German air-raid campaign failed to spread the devastating panic, and even insurrection, that the German High Command hoped it would.

Additionally, the immunity of the R.VI’s to the British air defences did cause much concern to the British authorities, and ultimately spawned the defeatist slogan “The heavy bomber aircraft will always get through” that remained firmly fixed in the psyche of some British military men and politicians for many years after the war.

As far as the British public was concerned, The Zeppelin Staaken R.VI was as close to being the perfect terror weapon of the Great War as was the V2 rocket of the Second World War.

]]>
webmanager@westernfrontassociation.com (Dr David Payne) Aircraft Tue, 26 May 2009 19:51:59 +0000
Aircraft of the Great War http://westernfrontassociation.com/great-war-at-sea-in-air/aircraft-types/61-aircraft-great-war.html http://westernfrontassociation.com/great-war-at-sea-in-air/aircraft-types/61-aircraft-great-war.html de-havillandIntroduction

There is a well-known saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. It is equally true to say to see something ' in the flesh' is worth a thousand pictures.

For those who are interested in the aircraft of the Great War, whether as a serious student, researcher, or 'just plain interested', the Royal Air Force Museum at Hendon, in north-west London, has exhibits of many of the 'key' aircraft that participated in the air-war of the Great War.

Of course, the collection of aircraft at Hendon is just not restricted to the military aircraft of the Great War. It covers all of the era of British Royal Air Force, from it inception as the Royal Flying Corps (RFC), and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) to the present day Royal Air Force (RAF). The collection also has examples of the aircraft used by its Allies and enemies.

It is entirely understandable that the Great War enthusiast may drift away from the Great War exhibits to experience sensations such as the awe of standing beneath the amazing bulk of the British Avro Vulcan B2 Bomber of the Cold War era (1945-1990) in the Bomber Hall.

Another of many sources amazement that are to be experienced amongst the exhibits, is the larger size of the WWII (19139-1945) Avro Lancaster1 Heavy Bomber when compared with that of the American equivalent, the Boeing B17G (Flying) Fortress Heavy Bomber. This quite unexpected and notable difference in size can be readily appreciated since they stand side by side in the Bomber Hall.

The presence and sophistication of these more modern aircraft, only help to accentuate the apparent frailty and vulnerability of the Great War exhibits.

Also, a careful examination of the almost entirely wooden airframe of the WWII de Havilland Mosquito B35 Light Bomber (Milestones of Flight Hall) is warranted. It gives some indication of the impressive development that took place in the short period of time between the appearance of the purpose built wooden framed Great War aircraft and the introduction of the almost all wood Mosquito in 1942. It will be seen that the development of the wooden-framed aircraft reached its acme of perfection in the very fast Mosquito.

The Great War aircraft exhibits.

Four of the five exhibition halls house Great War aircraft: the Milestones of Flight Hall (MoFH), the Historic Hanger Hall (HHH), the Bomber Hall (BH), and the Grahame-White Factory (G-WF) buildings.

As will be seen from the Table below, currently - (mid-2004)* - the Milestones of Flight Hall displays three Great War aircraft, the Historic Hanger Hall another two and the Bomber Hall one more. The remaining 11 Great War aircraft in the collection are housed in Grahame-White Factory building.

*NB: The following list of 17 Great War aircraft, and their current location, is only intended as a guide; the actual location of the exhibits may change from time to time.

List of Great War aircraft at RAF Museum, Hendon 

Type

  Nationality 

  Mark/Model 

  Number 

  Location 

Avro

British

504K

E449

G-WF.

Bleriot

French

XVII

433

G-WF.

Bleriot

French

XI

164

MoFH.

Bristol

British

F.2B Fighter

E2466

HHH.

Bristol

British

M.1C

C994

G-WF.

Caudron

French

G.III.

3066

G-WF.

De Havilland

British

DH.9A

F1010

HHH.

Fokker

German

D.VII

8417/18

MoFH.

Hanriot

French

HD.1

75

G-WF.

R.A. Factory

British

S.E.5A

F938

G-WF.

Sopwith

British

1.1/2 Strutter

A8226

G-WF.

Sopwith

British

Camel

F6134

MoFH.

Sopwith

British

Pup

N5912

G-WF.

Sopwith

British

Tabloid

168

BH.

Sopwith

British

Triplane

N5912

G-WF.

Vickers

British

FB.5

2345

G-WF.

Vickers

British

Vimy

F5814

G-WF.

Aircraft types are currently (mid-2004) under restoration/rebuild: the German LVG (Luft-Verkehrs Gesellschaft) G.VI, and the British R.A. Factory FE2B and Sopwith Dolphin.

One aircraft type is held in storage: the French Farman F.141.

In addition, some of the dismounted aircraft engines used in the Great War aircraft are also on display in the G-WF building and elsewhere. Rotary engines are particularly well represented.

Information about the Great War aircraft on display

Each exhibit has its own information card that details the general facts about it. In the Grahame-White Factory they are straightforward, stand-alone, written cards. But in the Milestones of Flight Hall, these cards are supplemented by an interactive computer screen display. Using a simple 'Touch Screen' technique, one can access a whole range of additional illustrated and textual information on items such as 'Technical' (details), 'History' (of the actual aircraft on display), and so on. There is also a five-question quiz on each of the aircraft.

A coloured representation of each of the aircraft can be viewed in a 360 degree moving panorama.

The two aforementioned Great War aircraft - the British Sopwith Camel and the German Fokker D.VII - in the Milestones of Flight Hall collection are also given this more sophisticated treatment.

In the Milestones of Flight Collection Hall, there are 10 of these strategically located computer terminals, each of which covers all the aircraft on display in the Hall. So, even on busy days, visitors are assured of ready access to a screen.

Access routes

The RAF Museum, Hendon, in north-west London, is readily approached by:-

Public Transport

  • Underground Northern Line at Colindale Station.
  • London Transport Bus No. 303 to Grahame Parkway.
  • Mill Hill Broadway Railway Station.

Road

  • M25/M1 then A41 or A5. Follow special brown and white signs reading RAF Museum (Hendon).

Parking

There is ample on site free parking for coaches and private cars.

Opening times, entry fees and facilties

  • Open every day from 1000 - 1800 hours (10am to 6pm) except 24th to 26th December inclusive, and New Year Day.

Times of Grahame-White Factory are 1200 - 1700 hours, (mid-day to 5pm) but also see Warning below.

  • Entry to all the buildings of the Museum is free.
  • There is a fee to use the Flight Simulators in the Historic Hangers and Milestones of Flight buildings.
  • A guide and illustrated brochure are available at modest cost from the Reception Desk in the main building.
  • An excellent selection of souvenirs, memorabilia, books, VHS cassettes (in both European and American standard formats) and CD's is available at the on-site shop located in the Milestones of Flight building.
  • There is a restaurant with bar (Wings) and two cafés (Aces and Wessex). Opening times and days vary somewhat, best enquire on the day.

Time required and on-site access

  • The RAF Museum guide lists a two-hour recommended short itinerary.
  • A good study of just the Great War exhibits would take a similar amount of time. A really satisfying schedule covering most, if not all, of the exhibits in the Museum would require around five hours, including a leisurely lunch and a tea-break. Obviously, more than one visit is required to see and study the complete collection and to use all the facilities, including the cinemas and the Aeronauts Interactive Centre.
  • Comfortable shoes are advised as the site is fairly extensive.
  • Access for disabled visitors is excellent.
  • Guides are available for parties of 12 persons or more; fee payable is £20.00.

Warning

The Grahame-White Factory building that houses 11 of the 16 Great War aircraft in the collection, is not always open when the rest of the Museum is.

Therefore, it is always prudent that the Great War enthusiast should telephone the Museum at (00 44 [0] 8205 2266) in advance to ensure that the Grahame-White Factory will be open on that day. And to ascertain at what precise times, so the visit can be scheduled accordingly.

It seems special arrangements can be made for groups if the Museum is warned in advance.

Publicity

The Museum has a very interesting and informative web site: www.rafmuseum.org. It gives full details of the collection, and vibrant colour illustrations of many of the exhibits.

Conclusions

The RAF Museum is a must for Great War enthusiasts and approaches an earthly paradise for all afficinados of the aircraft of the Great War and the associated paraphernalia.

The more active of the younger visitors are also well catered for, by the additional technical delights of the aircraft simulators and the Aeronaut Interactive Centre.

]]>
martinphornby@aol.com (Dr David Payne) Aircraft Wed, 18 Feb 2009 00:00:00 +0000
Engines of the Principal Military Aircraft of the Great War http://westernfrontassociation.com/great-war-at-sea-in-air/aircraft-types/922-principal-military-aircraft.html http://westernfrontassociation.com/great-war-at-sea-in-air/aircraft-types/922-principal-military-aircraft.html Background information

In-line engine = All the cylinders, i.e. 4, 6, 8 or 12 in number, were ranged in a single row in the engine block above the crankshaft that was driven by the reciprocating pistons. The airscrew (propeller) was fixed to one end of the crankshaft and was rotated by it.

V engine = Two rows of cylinders were arranged in a V shaped engine block set at an angle that on different models varied from 45 to 90 degrees and numbered from 6 to 12. The pistons drove the crankshaft that was located at the base of the V and the airscrew was fixed to the crankshaft and was rotated by it.

Radial engine = There was no crankshaft. The cylinders were arranged around the hub of the master-rod like the arms of a starfish. The pistons jointly drove the hub, and the airscrew, which was fixed to the hub, and was rotated by it.

Rotary engine = The cylinders with the pistons, and the entire engine block, rotated around a fixed crankshaft. The airscrew was fixed to the engine block and rotated with it. It had a very high power-to-weigh ratio and produced a pronounced gyroscopic effect that increasingly affected the handling of the aircraft the heavier and more powerful the engine was. Most modern pilots would look askance at having to deal with this potentially dangerous gyroscopic effect, and rotary engines went out of favour after the Great War.

A further disadvantage inherent in rotary engines was its need for additional lubrication - usually Castor Oil. The aviation fuel was mixed with air and fed into the engine via the crankshaft housing where it picked up any excess Castor Oil. The enriched mixture was fed into the cylinders for combustion. Unburnt Castor Oil was ejected from the engine exhaust. A cowling was usually fitted to contain this excess oil but inevitably both pilot and fuselage received a constant spray of it to the discomfort of the former. Hence the need for the famous fliers' muffler and goggles.

Introduction

War has long been known as the 'Mother of Invention' and the Great War proved the truth of this in a quite exceptional way. One of the areas of the most spectacular and rapid technical development was in the war planes, and in the engines that propelled them above the battlefields.

In 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright successfully achieved the vital equation essential for manned flight with their 12 horsepower (hp) engine of four in-line cylinders, i.e.

Weight of pilot + weight of aircraft + weight of engine and fuel.
= Less than
Aerodynamic lift of wing of aircraft and airframe design + propulsion power of engine.
=
Controlled manned flight.

The duration and speed of their flight was directly related to the capacity of their engine to drive the aircraft through the air in forward motion, the ability of the wings to provide the aerodynamic 'Lift' and the design of the airframe that allowed directional control.

Within 11 years of the Wright brothers' breakthrough, aviators were flying military aircraft above the Great War battlefields of France and Belgium as purposeful machines of war. Remarkably, these Great War aircraft were powered by petrol internal combustion engines of an astonishing range and variety.

Means of aircraft propulsion

The internal combustion engine was uniformly used in the Great War to turn the airscrew(s) that provided the thrust to force the aircraft through the air. Most airscrews were two bladed helices - usually carved from wood - and connected together at 180 degrees by a hub that attached them to the engine of the aircraft. They were based on the principle of the Achimedes Screw.

Exceptionally, four-bladed airscrews were widely used by the Royal Airforce Factory (RAF) on their light aircraft and less frequently by other manufacturers. However, they were more generally employed on larger aircraft such as bombers.

Contra-rotating propellers (two airscrews turning simultaneously in clockwise and anticlockwise directions on co-axial shafts) were not used in the Great War although they had been invented 40 years previously.

The pitch (or, more correctly, the effective pitch) of a airscrew blade is the distance that the blade moves forward in one revolution in air. This is determined by the 'angle of attack' of the airscrew - normally around 2 to 4 degrees - and in the Great War this angle was fixed by the manufacturer of the engine. The variable pitch propeller was not used on military aircraft until much later.

The faster the airscrew turns the higher speed that the aircraft is propelled through the air. Subject, of course, to wind resistance, or drag, created by the aerodynamics of the plane itself.

Aircraft engine systems employed in the Great War

Two engine systems were employed:

  • The Traction Engine
  • The Pusher Engine

The Traction Engine pulled the aircraft through the air. Accordingly, the airscrew and the engine were mounted on the front of the aircraft, and usually in front of the pilot. This reduced the forward vision of the pilot. It also meant that any forward firing gun had to be situated to fire outside of the arc of the airscrew, making aerial ballistics difficult to master. This problem was resolved in 1915 by the invention of the machine-gun interrupter gear. This device synchronised the timing of the firing of the bullets so each passed between the airscrew blades without hitting them. The synchronised interrupter gear was the key that made possible the genesis of the purpose built fighter aircraft that became such a critical factor in the air war of 1915-1918.

The Pusher Engine pushed the aircraft through the air. To achieve this, the engine and airscrew were mounted in the rear, usually behind the pilot. This arrangement gave the pilot and any observer an excellent forward view. It also meant that a machine gun(s) could be mounted on the very front of the aircraft giving a clear field of fire. The arrival of the interrupter gear largely cancelled out any limited advantage that pusher planes might have had, and they were phased out of the war.

On the heavier aircraft, such as the large bombers, one, two, or four engines were used to power multiple airscrews. A single engine mounted on the fuselage would have separate drive trains to two engines; or two or four separate engines could be mounted outboard of the fuselage either on the wing(s) or on a bi-plane, sandwiched between the wings. One of these heavier aircraft, the Handley Page V 1500, had two tractor and two pusher engines mounted in tandem.

A final means of propulsion was the glide. Here, an aircraft that had lost the power of its engine, whilst at sufficient altitude, could be flown in a controlled dive to provide a speed sufficient for the aircraft to glide to a soft landing on the ground. Of course, the aircraft had to be still structurally sound and air-worthy and a suitable landing site fortuitously located nearby.

Production of aircraft engines used in the Great War

The authoritative publication, Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War I, lists a total of 65 national producers of aero-engines during the Great War. Inexplicably at least one, possibly more, manufactures was omitted e.g. Peugeot. The total listed national manufacturers by country are: 

Germany 18
Britain 17
USA 15
France 6
Italy 3
Austria 3
Holland 1
Denmark 1
Spain 1

From these companies the following engines were used in the corresponding national aircraft that went into service during the months of war in 1914 -18.

The supply of aero-engines to the principal new aircraft of the major airforces, 1914-1918.

Austria/Hungary

* = Number of cylinders.
** = Number of engines, 

Year Engine Power Airspeed Type
1915 Hiero, 6* in-line. 145hp. 128kph Lloyd C.II.
1915 Austro-Daimler, 6 in-line. 120hp. 109kph Aviatik B.II.
1916 Austro-Daimler, 6 in-line. 160hp. 140kph Hansa- Brandenburg C.I.
1916 Austro-Daimler, 6 in-line. 160hp. 137kph Lohner C.I.
1916 Benz Bz.III, 6 in-line. 150hp. 175kph Hansa- Brandenburg CC.
1916 Austro-Daimler, 6 in-line. 160hp. 187kph Hansa- Brandenburg D.I.
1917 Austro-Daimler, 6 in-line. 200hp. 185kph Aviatik D.I.
1918 Hiero, 6 in-line. 230hp. 177kph Phonix C.I.
1918 Hiero, 6 in-line. 230hp. 190kph Ufag C.I.
1918 Hiero, 6 in-line. 200hp. 180kph Phonix D.I.

Like the Austro-Hungarian aircraft manufacturers, the three national engine makers relied on German technology and stuck to the German philosophy of in-line engines totally eschewing both radial and rotary engines. The locally produced Hiero and Daimler engines were of high power and durability, although some problems with over-heating with the more powerful Daimler engines were never fully resolved.

France

* = Number of cylinders.
** = Number of engines,

Year Engine Power Airspeed Type
1914 Gnome A, 7* rotary. 70hp 106kph Blériot XI.
1914 Gnome A, 7 rotary. 80hp 100kph Farman HF.20.
1914 Gnome A, 7 rotary. 80hp 114kph Deperdussin TT.
1914 Gnome A, 7 rotary. 80hp 116kph R.E.P.N.
1914 Renault, V8*. 100hp 106kph Farman MF.11.
1914 Le Rhone 9*J, rotary. 110hp 165kph Morane-Saulnier N.
1914 Canton Unné, 9* radial. 120hp 120kph Voisin 3.
1914 Le Rhone 9J, rotary. 110hp 156kph Morane-Saulnier P.
1914 Canton-Unné, 9 radial. 130hp 109kph Breguet 1914.
1915 Le Rhone, 7 rotary. 80hp 146kph Morane-Saulnier BB.
1915 Canton Unné, 9 radial. 150hp 105kph Voisin 5.
1915 Anzani Star, 9 radial x 2**. 100hp 132kph Caudron G .4.
1915 Clerget 9B, rotary. 130hp 110kph F.B.A. C.
1915 Le Rhone, 7 rotary. 80hp 156kph Nieuport 11 (Bébé).
1915 Le Rhone 9J, rotary. 110hp 130kph Spad A.2.
1915 Clerget 9B, rotary. 130hp 155kph Nieuport 12.
1915 Renault, V8. 160hp 135kph Farman F.40.
1915 Renault, V8. 220hp 142kph Breguet Br. M.5.
1916 Le Rhone, 7 rotary x 2. 80hp 137kph Morane-Saulnier T.
1916 Hispano-Suiza, V8. 150hp 109kph Nieuport 14.
1916 Peugeot, 8 in-line. 220hp 132kph Voisin 8.
1916 Hispano-Suiza 8Aa, V8. 150hp 192kph Spad VII.
1916 Le Rhone 9J, rotary. 110hp 177kph Nieuport 17.
1916 Hispan-Suiza 8Aa,V8. 235hp 176kph Spad XI.
1917 Renault, V8. 190hp 152kph Dorand AR.1.
1917 Gnome N, 9 rotary. 160hp 208kph Morane Saulnier A.1.
1917 Le Rhone 9J, rotary. 110hp 183kph Hanriot HD.1.
1917 Lorraine-Dietrich x 2. 160hp 132kph Letord 4.
1917 Salmson, 9 radial. 160hp 130kph Salmson-Moineau S.M.1.
1917 Renault, V8. 265hp 135kph Paul Schmitt 7.
1917 Renault FCX, V12. 300hp 177kph Breguet 14 Br. B.2.
1917 Hispano-Suiza 8 Bec, V8. 235hp 222kph Spad XIII.
1917 Le Rhone 9Jb, rotary. 120hp 187kph Nieuport 27.
1917 Gnome N, 9 rotary. 160hp 196kph Nieuport 28.
1918 Lorraine-Dietrich, x 2. 250hp 151kph Farman F.50.
1918 Hispano-Suiza, V8. 300hp 237kph Nieuport 29.
1918 Canton-Unné 9, radial. 260hp 185kph Salmsom 2.
1918 Hispano-Suiza 8.B, V8 x 2. 220hp 183kph Caudron R.11.

In terms of commercial activity and innovation, France was indubitably at the forefront of military aviation when the Great War began. This momentum and domination continued throughout the early years of the war until British and German aviation industries got into their stride and surpassed French production. However, it was the French who mainly supplied the needs of both Belgium and Russia and met the early requirements of the Americans when they entered the War. Also in times of crisis the British also sought French help.

It will be seen that the majority of French Great War aircraft were fitted with aero-engines by the manufacturers: Gnome/Le Rhone; Renault, and Hispano-Suiza. Gnome/Le Rhone were rotary engines, whilst Renault and Hispano-Suiza were V-engines.

Uniquely, Canton-Unné radial engines were also widely used.

Many French engines were also supplied to other manufacturers of Allied aircraft: mainly under licence or produced by sister companies.

Germany

* = Number of cylinders.
** = Number of engines,

Year Engine Power Airspeed Type
1914 Mercedes, 6* in-line. 100hp 109kph Otto B
1914 Mercedes, 6 in-line. 100hp 103kph Etrich Taube (Albatross A).
1914 Mercedes, 6 in-line. 100hp 105kph Albatross B.II.
1914 Mercedes, 6 in-line. 100hp 120kph D.F.W. B.I.
1914 Mercedes, 6 in-line. 110hp ? A.E.G. B.II.
1915 Mercedes D.III, 6 in-line. 160hp 120kph Aviatix C.I.
1915 Benz II, 6 in-line x 3**. 150hp 130kph Siemens-Schuckert R.1.
1915 Mercedes, D.III, 6, in-line. 160hp 130kph L.V.G. C.II.
1915 Mercedes, D.III, 6, in-line. 160hp 132kph Albatross C.I.
1915 Mercedes, D.III, 6, in-line. 160hp 152kph Rumpler C.I.
1915 Oberursel, 9* rotary. 100hp 141kph Fokker E.III.
1915 Mercedes D.III, 6 in-line. 100hp 165kph L.F.G. Roland C.II.
1915 Benz, Bz.IV, 6 in-line. 220hp 135kph A.G.O. C.II.
1916 Mercedes D.III, 6 in-line. 160hp 140kph Albatross C.III.
1916 Mercedes D.III, 6 in-line. 160hp 161kph Albatross W.4.
1916 Mercedes D.IVa, 6 in-line. 260hp 166kph A.E.G. G.IV.
1916 Mercedes D.III, 6 in-line. 220hp 170kph Albatross C.V.
1916 Benz II, 6 in-line. 150hp 172kph Hansa- Brandenburg KDW.
1916 Mercedes D.III, 6 in-line x2. 150hp ? Albatross G.II.
1916 Mercedes D.II, 6 in-line. 120hp 145kph Halberstadt D.II.
1916 Mercedes D.III, 6 in-line. 160hp 175kph Albatross D.II
1916 Mercedes D.III, 6 in-line. 160hp 158kph A.E.G. C.IV
1916 Siemens-Halske, rotary. 110hp 175kph Siemens-Schuckert D. I.
1916 Benz Bz.IV, 6 in-line. 200hp 170kph Albatross C.VII.
1916 Mercedes D.III, in-line. 160hp 130kph Sablatnig S.F.2.
1916 Benz Bz.IV, 6 in-line. 200hp 155kph D.F.W. C.V.
1916 Mercedes D.III. in-line. 160hp 153kph Rumpler 6B.1.
1917 Mercedes D.IVa, 6 in-line. 260hp 176kph Albatross C.X.
1917 Mercedes D.VIa, 6 in-line x 2. 260hp 141kph Friedrichshafen G.III
1917 Mercedes D.VIa, 6 in-line x 2. 260hp 140kph Gotha G.V.
1917 Mercedes D..IVa, 6in-line x 4 260hp 135kph Zeppelin Starken R.VI.
1917 Mercedes D.IIIa, 6 in-line. 176hp 176kph Albatross D.III.
1917 Le Rhone 9J-Thulin, rotary. 110hp 165kph Fokker Dr.1
1917 Mercedes D.III, 6 in-line, 160hp 165kph Halberstadt CL.II.
1917 Benz Bz.III, 6 in-line. 180hp 161kph Hansa-Brandenburg W.12.
1917 Mercedes D.III, 6 in-line. 160hp 165kph Pfalz D.III.
1917 Mercedes D.III, 6 in-line. 160hp 169kph L.F.G. Roland D.II.
1917 Mercedes D.IIIa, 6 in-line. 180hp 187kph Albatross D.Va.
1917 Siemens-Halske Sh.III, rotary. 160hp 180kph Siemens-Schuckert D.III.
1917 Mercedes D.III, 6 in-line. 160hp 199kph Rumpler DI.
1917 Siemens-Halske Sh.III, rotary. 160hp 201kph Pfalz Dr.I.
1917 Mercedes D.IV, 6 in-line. 260hp 171kph Rumpler C.IV.
1917 Mercedes D.IV, 6 in-line. 200hp 125kph Sablatnig N.I.
1917 Benz Bz.IV, 6 in-line. 200hp 140kph Albatross J.I.
1918 Benz II, 6 in-line. 150hp 175kph Hansa-Brandenburg W.29.
1918 Benz Bz.IIIa, 6 in-line. 200hp 190kph L.G.V. C.VI.
1918 Argus, 6 in-line. 180hp 165kph Hannover CL.IIIA.
1918 Benz Bz.IIIa, 6 in-line. 200hp 183kph L.F.G. Roland D.VIb.
1918 BMW IIIa, 6 in-line. 185hp 186kph Junkers D.I
1918 Benz Bz.IV, 6 in-line. 220hp 170kph Halberstadt C.V.
1918 Mercedes D.III, 6 in-line. 160hp 189kph Fokker D.VII.
1918 Mercedes D.IIIa, 6 in-line.
180hp 169kph Junker CL.I.
1918 Mercedes D.IIIa, 6 in-line. 180hp 180kph Pfalz D.XII.
1918 Mercedes D.IVa, 6 in-line. 260hp 176kph Albatross C.XII.
1918 Oberursel UR.II, 9 rotary. 110hp 185kph Fokker D.VIII.
1918 BMW IIIa, 6 in-line. 185hp 201kph Dornier D.I.
1918 Siemens-Halske Sh. III, rotary. 160hp 190kph Albatross D.XI.
1918 Benz Bz.IV, 6 in-line. 200hp 155kph Junker J.I.

The German aviation industry got off to a slow start. However, their major source of engines for the entire Great War was almost exclusively the Mercedes-Daimler Company - the company had won national prizes for excellence of their aero-engines in 1911 and 1913. The figure of between 85 to 90% is quoted as the level of domination of the market by Mercedes. Benz and a few other manufacturers had a sizeable production but a relatively small overall output.

From the start the Germans chose the 6 cylinder in-line engine as their standard and this format proved to be both highly reliable and durable. A few rotary engines were used by the Germans, but nowhere near the scale of the deployment by the Allies. In all 48,537 aircraft were supplied with German engines of which something in excess of 40,000 were Mercedes.

Great Britain

* = Number of cylinders.
** = Number of engines, 

Year Engine Power Airspeed Type
1914 Gnome A, 7* rotary. 80hp 83mph Avro 504.A.
1914 RAF 1.a. V8*. 90hp 73mph R.A.F. BE 2.c.
1914 Gnome B.2, 9* rotary. 100hp 71mph Vickers FB.5.
1914 Beardmore, 6* in-line. 120hp 78mph R.A.F. RE.5.
1914 Gnome A, 7 rotary. 80hp 96mph Martinsyde S.1.
1914 Gnome A, 7 rotary. 80hp 96mph R.A.F. B.E.8.
1914 Gnome A, 7 rotary. 80hp 96mph R.A.F. S.E.2a.
1914 Gnome A, 7 rotary. 80hp 93mph Sopwith Tabloid.
1915 Gnome A, 7 rotary. 80hp 100mph Bristol Scout D.
1915 Beardmore/Green, 6 in line. 100/120hp 81mph R.A.F. F.E.2a.
1915 Beardmore, 6 in-line. 120hp 88mph Airco D.H.1A.
1915 R.A.F. 1a, V8.     90hp 90hp 88mph Armstrong Whitworth F.K.3.
1915 Beardmore, 6 in-line. 160hp 91mph R.A.F. F.E.2b.
1915 R.A.F. 4a, V12. 150hp 86mph R.A.F. RE.7.
1915 Sunbeam, V12,     240hp 240hp 88mph Short 184.
1916 Gnome B2, 9 rotary. 100hp 83mph Vickers F.B. 9.
1916 R.A.F.1a, V8. 90hp 83mph R.A.F. B.E.2e.
1916 Gnome B2, 9 rotary. 100hp 94mph Vickers F.B.12.
1916 Beardmore, 6 in-line. 120hp 81mph R.A.F. F.E.2c.
1916 R.A.F, 4a, V12. 150hp 102mph R.A.F. RE.8.
1916 Le Rhone 9J, rotary. 110hp 98mph Vickers F.B.19.
1916 Gnome B2, 9 rotary. 100hp 94mph R.A.F. FE.8
1916 Rolls Royce Eagle, V12. 250hp 94mph R.A.F. F.E.2d.
1916 R.A.F. 4a, V12. 150hp 103mph R.A.F. RE.8.
1916 Gnome B2, 9 rotary. 100hp 94mph Airco D.H.2.
1916 R.A.F. 4a, V12. 150hp 103mph R.A.F. BE.12.
1916 Clerget 9Z, rotary. 110hp 101mph Sopwith 1.1/2 Strutter.
1916 Le Rhone 9C, rotary. 90hp 112mph Sopwith Pup.
1916 Rolls Royce Eagle II, V12 x 2**. 250hp 96mph Handley-Page 0/100.
1916 Rolls Royce Eagle III, V12. 250hp 78mph Short Bomber.
1916 Beardmore, 6 in-line. 120hp 96mph Martinsyde G.100 (Elephant).
1916 Rolls Royce Falcon I, V12. 190hp 111mph Bristol F.2A.
1917 R.A.F.1a, V8. 90hp 66mph Airco D.H.6.
1917 Le Rhone 9J, rotary. 110hp 131mph Bristol M.1C.
1917 Hispano-Suiza, V8. 150hp 123mph R.A.F. S.E.5.
1917 Rolls Royce Eagle VIII, V12 x 2. 345hp 96mph Felixstowe F.2A.
1917 Rolls Royce Eagle VIII, V12 x 2. 360hp 98mph Handley-Page 0/400.
1917 Rolls Royce Falcon III, V12. 275hp 123mph Bristol F.2B.
1917 Wolsley W.40 Viper, V8. 200hp 139mph R.A.F. S.E.5a.
1917 Clerget 9B, rotary. 130hp 113mph Sopwith Triplane.
1917 Clerget 9B, rotary. 130hp 116mph Sopwith F.1 Camel.
1917 B.R.1, 9 rotary. 150hp 125mph Sopwith 2F.1 Camel.
1917 Beardmore, 6 in-line. 160hp 99mph Armstrong Whitworth F.K. 8.
1917 B.R.1, 9 rotary. 200hp 138mph Austin-Ball A.F.B.1.
1917 Clerget, 9B, rotary, 100/130hp 99mph Sopwith Baby.
1917 Rolls Royce Eagle VIII, V12. 375hp 144mph Airco D.H.4.
1917 Le Rhone 9J, rotary 110hp 103mph Airco D.H.5.
1917 Rolls Royce Eagle VIII, V12. 345hp 81mph Fairey F.17 Campania.
1917 Sunbeam Arab, V8. 200hp 104mph Sopwith T.1 Cuckoo.
1917 Rolls Royce Falcon III, V12, 200hp 130mph Martinsyde F.3.
1918 B.H.P., 6 in-line. 230hp 113mph Airco D.H.9.
1918 Le Rhone 9J, rotary. 110hp 91mph Avro 504.K.
1918 Hispano-Suiza 8.F,V8 300hp 133mph Martinsyde F.4,Buzzard.
1918 Rolls Royce Falcon II, V12 x2. 225hp 101mph Blackburn Kangaroo.
1918 Liberty, V12. 400hp 124mph Airco D.H.9A.
1918 Rolls Royce Eagle VIII, V12 x 4. 373hp 91mph Handley-Page V/1500.
1918 Bentley B.R.2, 9 rotary. 250hp 122mph Sopwith 7F.1 Snipe
1918 Rolls Royce Eagle VIII, V12 x 2. 360hp 103mph Vickers Vimy.
1918 A.B.C. Wasp I, 7 radial. 170hp 129mph B.A.T. Bantam Mk1.

The British aviation industry produced a large number of indigenous aircraft and engines to match. Other marques were produced under licence. Large numbers of rotary engines, mainly of French design, were used, e.g. in the highly successful Sopwith F.1 Camel. But only one radial entered service on the Western Front - the British Aerial Transport Company's B.A.T. Bantam, Mk. 1 - of which only 12 were constructed.

The Rolls Royce series of V engines, were extremely successful during the latter part of the War. And it is interesting to note how the output of the most powerful Rolls Royce engine used in the Great War - the Eagle VIII at 360hp- compared with that of the Merlin Mark III engine which powered both the Battle of Britain Mark IA Spitfire and Hurricane I, and delivered 1,030hp.

One British aircraft type was fitted with the new American Liberty engine in 1918 and, had the War continued into 1919, no doubt many more would have been supplied.

Italy

* = Number of cylinders.
** = Number of engines, 

Year Engine Power Airspeed Type
1914 Gnome A, 7* rotary. 80hp 125kph Macchi Parasol.
1914 Gnome A, 7* rotary. 80hp 130kph Caproni Ca.2.
1915 Isotta-Fraschini, 6* in-line. 150hp 110kph Macchi L.1.
1915 Isotta-Fraschini, 6 in-line. 160hp 160kph Macchi L.2.
1916 Isotta-Fraschini, 6 in-line. 160hp 145kph Macchi L.3.
1916 Fiat A12, 6 in-line. 260hp 120kph S.I.A S.P.2.
1917 Isotta-Fraschini, 6 in-line. 170hp 162kph Macchi M.8.
1917 Isotta-Fraschini V4.B, 6 in-line, 150hp 137kph Caproni Ca.3.x 3**.
1917 Fiat A12, 6 in-line. 260hp 187kph S.I.A. 7B.1.
1917 Fiat A12, 6 in-line. 300hp 162kph SAML S.2
1917 Isotta-Fraschini, 6 in-line. 170hp 142kph S.I.A.I. S.8.
1918 Isotta-Fraschini, 6 in-line. 250hp 207kph S.V.A.10.
1918 Fiat A.12 , double 6 in-line. 300hp 187kph Macchi 9.
1918 Isotta-Fraschini, 6 in-line x 3. 270hp 126kph Caproni Ca. 4.
1918 S.P.A. 6.A, 6 in-line. 220hp 220kph Ansoldo A.1.Balilla. (Hunter).
1918 Fiat A12, 6 in-line. 260hp 194kph Pomilio PE.
1918 Fiat A12, double 6 in-line, x 3. 300hp 152kph Caproni Ca.5
1918 S.P.A. 6.A, 6 in-line. 220hp 230kph Ansaldo S.V. A.5.  
1918 Isotta-Fraschini V6B, 6 in-line. 250hp 205kph Macchi M.5.
1918 S.P.A. 6A, 6 in-line. 220hp 219kph Ansaldo S.V. A.9
1918 Fiat A12, 6 in-line double. 300hp 175kph Fiat R.2.
1918 Fiat A14, V12*. 700hp 205kph S.I.A. 9.B

The construction of purely Italian aircraft for the Great War, only started around the time Italy entered the war in 1915. Up to then French Gnome rotary engines were used.

All three Italian aero-engine manufactures made contributions and uniformly followed the 6 in-line cylinder format except Fiat which produced a V12 engine in 1918. At 700hpthe Fiat A14, V12 was the most powerful aero-engine of the War.

In 1917 alone, 6,726 Italian engines were produced.

Russia.

* = Number of cylinders.
** = Number of engines,

Year Engine Power Airspeed Type
1915 Sunbeam, V6* x 4** 150hp 121kph Sikorsky Ilya Mourometz V
1916 Salmson, 9* radial 150hp 134kph Lebel 12
1917 Salmson, 9 radial 150hp 144kph Anatra DS

Russia had a weak aviation industry that was ultimately seriously affected by the disorganisation wreaked by the October Revolution in 1917. According, throughout the War it depended for its supply of engines from its European Allies, France and Britain.

United States of America.

* = Number of cylinders.

Year Engine Power Airspeed Type
1916 Curtiss OX5, V8* 90hp 76mph Curtiss JN. 4 (Jenny)
1917 Curtiss OXX2, V8 100hp 113mph Curtiss S. 3
1917 Curtiss OX6, V8 100hp 71mph Curtiss N. 9
1917 Le Rhone, 9* rotary 180hp 96mph Thomas-Morse S. 4
1918 Gnome N, 9* rotary 160hp 133mph Orenco B.
1918 Liberty 12A, V12 400hp 132mph Packard Le Pere-Lusac 11
1918 Le Rhone, 7 rotary 80hp 100mph Standard E-1
1918 Wright-Hispano H, V8 380hp 148mph Wright-Martin M.8
1918 Liberty 12A, V12 400hp  ? mph Bristol-Curtiss F.28
1918 Liberty 12A, V12 380hp 133mph Curtiss HA
1918 Liberty 12A, V12 x2** 400hp 88mph Curtiss H. 16
1918 Kirkham K12, V12 400hp 169mph Curtiss 18. T

The input of American planes and engines was relatively small during the Great War, although very large orders of American aircraft and engines were in the pipe-line at the time of the Armistice. Once the Americans arrived on the Western Front the interim was filled with exclusively French aircraft of the types Nieuport and Spad. The earlier American manufactured aircraft on the Western Front were fitted with rotary engines by Le Rhone.

The 1917 Liberty V12 engines were exceptionally powerful, delivering 400hp.

Conclusions

The further development of the aircraft engine that took place during the Great War was an incredible technical achievement, particularly so in France where an important part of the munitions infra-structure was in German occupied territory. Some of the more important technical innovations were made before the Great War began, but they greatly influenced the design of the engines that were developed during the Great War.

The number of engines produced for each type of aircraft obviously varied enormously. Some had extremely long runs, like the Gnome and Le Rhone rotaries and the Mercedes six cylinder in-lines. But others had quite short production runs as a result of curtailment by operational failure or the unanticipated rapid ending of the War.

As far as increased engine performance was concerned, a big factor was the improvement in metallurgy that amongst other advances produced aluminium alloys that hardened with age. An alloy of aluminium, copper, magnesium and magnesium was patented pre-War by the Germans as Duralumin, or Dural. The British discovered another alloy - aluminium, copper, nickel and magnesium - with similar strengthening properties, and called it 'Y Alloy'. These and other alloys provided engines with enhanced performance and durability characteristics, although the major developments with this technology only came at the end of the Great War and afterwards.

If one were to choose a small number of aero-engines which best chart this rapid development, perhaps a reasonable selection would be:

1. 1906: Antoinette, 50hp French

Although this French engine was designed long before the Great War, it had some original features that greatly affected the design of the Great War engines.

It was a robust eight-cylinder 'V' engine with the banks of four cylinders set at 90 degrees. It offered exceptional power for the time and refinements such as direct fuel injection.

2. 1909: Anzani, 25hp French.

Also a pre-war designed engine. Although lacking in power, it had design features that greatly influenced the early engines used in the war. It had three cylinders, was air-cooled, and was a semi-radial with automatic inlet and outlet valves.

2, 3. 1909: Gnome, 50hp French.

A completely revolutionary design of rotary engine with seven cylinders, air-cooled and a single valve per cylinder - the famous Monosoupape. The design was developed in ever more powerful versions throughout the Great War; particularly for use in Allied fighter aircraft. As the engine size and power increased, so did the gyroscopic effect of the rotating engine and inexperienced pilots did get into difficulties. More experienced pilots used the effect to their advantage to produce tighter turns in aerial combat.

3. 4. 1913: Le Rhone, 80hp French.

From the same stable as the Gnome, this was a revolutionary rotary engine of nine cylinders with good reliability, although the gyroscopic effect could, and did, cause difficulties in inexperienced hands. It was used throughout the war in many Allied aircraft types. It had outstanding engine torque (traction power) and a smooth running action.

5. 1915: Rolls Royce Eagle 360hp(and Falcon 280hp), British.

A huge V12 (angle = 60 degrees) water-cooled power-plant of impeccable performance, with a excellent mechanical balance and a superior power-to-weight ratio.

6. 1917: Mercedes, 180hp German.

Highly reliable and durable six cylinder vertical in-line water cooled engine. The chosen power-plant for many German aircraft types throughout the duration of the war.

7. 1917: Liberty, 400hp American

A wholly American government sponsored aero-engine - with the active co-operation of Britain, France and Italy - for which the highly standardised parts were made by every US motor car manufacturer. One of the most powerful aero-engines of the Great War it was a V12 (angle = 45 degrees) and water-cooled. Although a thousand Liberty engines were manufactured in the USA, it arrived too late on the front-line to have the significant effect expected of it.

The Liberty aero-engine was the first truly international model and had provision for four standardised versions with from four to twelve cylinders.

]]>
martinphornby@aol.com (Dr David Payne) Aircraft Tue, 17 Feb 2009 05:00:00 +0000
The Bristol Braemar http://westernfrontassociation.com/great-war-at-sea-in-air/aircraft-types/811-bristol-braemer.html http://westernfrontassociation.com/great-war-at-sea-in-air/aircraft-types/811-bristol-braemer.html The heavy bomber triplane was designed in 1917 for the newly formed 41st Wing Royal Flying Corps, it was made as a response to the Giant German Gotha bomber which carried out raids on London. This long-range plane was designed by Captain Frank Barnwell and W T Reid, and built by the British and Colonial Aeroplane Co. Ltd of Filton Bristol. Its purpose was to carry out heavy bombing attacks on Berlin.

The design was sound if somewhat ungainly due to its flat sides.

Originally the motors housed in the nacelles mounted on wings to either side of the fuselage, drove, by means of a series of gears, sets of four bladed propellers. However this design proved troublesome and flight was difficult so the configuration was changed to that of 4* Armstrong Siddeley Puma of 230hp. These were placed in tandem along the central plane, thus each pair of motors moved a puller propeller and an pusher impeller. To provide power the designers considered using gas and even steam turbines fed from a fuselage engine room fueled by coal. Enhanced power was latter added by the upgrading of the motors to 400hp Liberties.

With the first flight made in 1918 during the last stages of The Great War, its purpose as a bomber had became obsolete. As the redesign flew well there was brief reprieve when the aircraft was reconfigured as an earlier passenger aircraft that could carry 14. Unfortunately the poor visibility of the newly enclosed cockpit together with its high landing speed made the aircraft dangerous and all three models that were made had either crashed or being dismantled by the end of 1921.

Filton

braemerFrom 1910 -1920 the British & Colonial Aeroplane Company (BCAC) was set up and produced such successful craft as the WWI Bristol fighter. During the latter stages of the BCAC, it produce the Breamar aircraft. A machine that the author's Great Uncle; Frank Yard helped to construct between the years of 1918 and 1920.

The postcard above was sent from Frank Yard to his Aunty Mini Kate in South Wales whilst he and his mates worked on the Braemar Mk II in the winter of 1918/19. The caption on the back reads: "Dear Aunty this is for your perusal to find me, from Frank".

By 1920 BCAC had become 'The Bristol Aeroplane Company' which produced such greats as the Belnheim Bomber. By 1959 the company was the British Aircraft Corporation which was the manufacture of the Concorde and a collaborator on the Airbus.

Engineering specifications (Applies to Mk I unless stated)

Name: Bristol Type 24 Braemar I / Type 25 Braemar II / Type 26 Pullman

Type: 4 Engined Heavy Bomber / Early passenger plane

Purpose: Capable of bombing raids to Berlin from the UK with flight times of over 12 hours and a theoretical round trip of over 1000 miles. With the end of WWI production became unnecessary and the aircraft was reconfigured as a passenger plane and renamed the Pullman class

Design: Captain Frank Barnwell submitted first layout, detailing by W T Reid 1917

Constructor: The British and Colonial Aeroplane Co. Ltd; Filton Bristol

Project team 33 including two Pilots

Dates of construction:

1917-1920

  • Conception 1917
    Mk I 1918 one manufactured
    Mk II 1918-1919 upgraded engines, undercarriage wheels changed, one constructed
    Pullman Mk III 1919-20 enclosed flight deck and passenger reconfiguration only one made.

Numbers manufactured: 3; one of each mark only.

Flight Records:

  • First flight: 13 of August of 1918
  • Last know recorded flight 16 August 1921
  • Flight services 3 years

Motor configuration:Its four engines were in nacelles (sheltered boxes) in tandem pairs on top of the middle wing, in propeller /impellors (pull/push) pairs.

Power plant:

  • Mk I - 4 linear motors Armstrong Siddeley Puma of 230hp of power
  • Mk II - 4 Motors Liberty 12, of 400hp of power
  • Pullman Mk III - 4 Motors Liberty 12, of 400hp of power

Wing configuration:Three bay, unstaggered triplane. Outer wings swept slightly with no dihedral. Ailerons on upper and middle wings

Fuselage: Deep and rectangular flat sided fuselage mounted above lower wing and below middle wing.

Tail Unit: Biplane tail and elevator, with triple fins and rudder.

Landing Gear: Split under carriage, each unit having two wheels in tandem Wheels changed from Mk I to Mk II. Tailskid fitted.

Materials of construction: Wood and fabric

Accommodation:

Mk I & II - Crew of four. Open cockpit forward of wing for two pilots. Gunner positions provided in nose and aft of wing

Mk III Closed "flight deck" with space for 14 passengers and 2 crew

Armament:

Mk I & II Six 250 lb bombs carried in an internal bomb bay. Single movable guns at each of the two gunners stations.

Mk III The enclosed cockpit was fairly new and pilots were known to carry axe's with them in the event of a crash.

Dimensions, weights and performance:

  • Length: 51 ft 6 in(15.70 m) MkI MkII ; 52ft (15.85m) Pullman
  • Height: 20 ft (6.30 m)
  • Wing Span:81 ft 8 in (24.89 m)
  • Wing area: 1,905 sq ft (176.97 m2 )
  • Empty Weight::10,650 LB (5084 kg)
  • Max Weight: 16,500 LB (7490 kg)
  • Max Speed:106 mph (170 kph) MkI; 125 mph (196 kph) MkII; 135 mph (217 kph) Pullman
  • Landing Speed in excess of: 50 mph (80 kph) Pullman
  • Absolute Ceiling: 14,000 ft (5180 m)
  • Theoretical range (London-Berlin *2) ie this was never tested but only a design specification Approx 1200 miles (2000 km)

The Aircraft

Mk I c/n3751 serial- C4296

First flight: 13 of August of 1918, developed as a long-range bomber capable of attacking Berlin

Unlike the latter passenger model, both the Mk I & II had an open cockpit with a small and cramped gun position forward of that (a further gunner was placed to the rear of the plane behind the wings). Back at the time of the first flight in 1918 there were no safety straps for crew nor provision for a parachute. The basic hand controls of the craft were for front engines and rear engines. The control column wheel was to control both pitch via the elevators and roll using the ailerons. Foot pedals moved the rudder.

braemer-controlsMk.ll - c/n 3752, serial C4297
The Braemar Mk II was a much modified Mk I but still suffered poor pilot visibility and from vibration. Power and speed were increased from the earlier design by the upgrading of the 230hp Puma engines to four 400hp Liberty's. The 'Pullman' passenger plane was developed from this machine.

The Mk II aircraft was sent to Martlesham Heath, in Suffolk, for testing at the Aircraft & Armament Establishment. Unfortunately, on 16 August 1921, it swung on take-off and hit a hangar wall with disastrous consequences. It was totally wrecked and the pilot, Flt Lt O M Sutton (inventor of the Sutton Harness) and his assistant were killed.

Pullman C4298

The Mark III Braemar, renamed Pullman was designed as a passenger plane and improved on the Mk II by having an internal "flight deck", its first flight was in May 1919. It flew at Olympia Aero show held in July of that year and as a fixed display the following year. Being the largest aircraft at the show and with its highly approved ornate interior, its appearance and the novelty of air travel in its infancy were a sensation.

However the wicker chairs of the interior were narrow and had no seat belts. Furthermore the harsh reality was that if it ever took passengers, their ride would have been slow, cold and bumpy.

The registration of C4298 was temporarily replaced with the civil code of G-EASP between 14 April and 13 of May of 1920. This change was made in readiness for the Air Ministry Civil Aircraft Competition in August 1920. Unfortunately with landing speeds in excess of 50 mph deemed too high, the plane was never entered.

Sadly these factors contributed to the aircraft never taking passengers and eventually the only example of this craft was dismantled.

]]>
martinphornby@aol.com (Matthew Hughes) Aircraft Mon, 20 Oct 2008 03:03:29 +0000