The Sopwith Camel

The Sopwith Camel

The Sopwith Aviation Company F.1 Camel was a single-seat fighter biplane powered by a rotary engine (various engine types being fitted, the most common being the 130hp Clerget).
It was equipped with two forward-firing synchronized machine guns mounted just ahead of the pilot’s cockpit under a raised fairing, which is said to have inspired the name Camel (initially used as a nickname, but subsequently adopted as the official name of the type).
The type was highly maneuverable and popular with its pilots although the combination of the short-coupled aircraft and the rotary engine produced some handling quirks that could catch out inexperienced pilots. The Sopwith Camel proved to be very successful in aerial dogfights and is said to have achieved more victories in combat than any other single type during the First World War.
The first aircraft was cleared for flight at Brooklands on 22nd December 1916 and flown then, or shortly thereafter. It was utilized extensively by both the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) after it entered service in mid-1917.
The prototype Camel 2F.1 (with a 150 hp Bentley rotary engine) first flew in March 1917 and carried the Serial N5 and it was this variant that was mainly used for naval service. The 2.F1 variant can be distinguished by its use of slim steel center-section struts, replacing the wooden struts of the F.1 Camel.
Sopwith Aviation only built around 10% (503) of the total, with Boulton & Paul Ltd (1,625 aircraft) and Ruston, Proctor & Co. Ltd (1,575) being the other major contractors.
Several other firms also built the type, including orders placed with British Caudron (100), Clayton & Shuttleworth (600), Hooper (375), Marsh, Jones & Cribb (175), Nieuport & General (300), Portholme Aerodrome (250).
Sopwith Camel 2F.1 contracts were placed with William Beardmore (200) and Hooper (30) although not all of these contracts were completed before production was canceled at the end of the war.
Wide variations can be found in terms of total production numbers. A figure of 5,747 (F.1 and 2F.1 Camel) is often given but a figure of 5,490 is also documented as is 5,695 plus a total of 230 2F.1 of which at least 100 were canceled.  Therefore, an approximate total would appear to be between 5,490 and 5,900 aircraft, and the type was eventually retired in January 1920 after just 3 years of service.


F.1 Camel
2F.1 Camel
One 130 hp Clerget 9B
One 150 hp Bentley BR1
28 ft 0 in
Maximum Weight
1,453 lb
1,523 lb
Capacity & Armament
Pilot, two forward firing Vickers machine guns. Optionally four 25 lb bombs under fuselage.
Pilot, one Vickers gun firing through propeller, one Lewis gun above upper wing.
Maximum Speed
117 mph
125 mph
2.5 hours



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