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Sopwith Camel


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Sopwith Camel 91k A Sopwith Camel on the No. 4 turret of the Texas (BB-35). The structure above the wing of the Camel may be a framework for an awning. Note that the planking along the barrels is not in place allowing the guns to be elevated independently.
The Sopwith Camel was one of the most successful fighters of the First World War and was the mount of many aces serving with the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service from the spring of 1917 to the end of the war. Among these aces was the US Navy’s first and only ace of the war, Lt. David S. Ingalls, who claimed 6 aerial victories (1 balloon and 5 airplanes) while flying with No. 213 Squadron of the Royal Air Force (the RFC and the RNAS were merged into the RAF in April of 1918).
During the war the Royal Naval Air Service experimented with means of providing fighter coverage for ships at sea beyond the range of land based aircraft. Among the solutions was land based fighters launched from towed barges and fly-off platforms built on the top of the turrets of battleships. The US Navy was exposed to these shipboard fighters while serving along side the Royal Navy in 1917 and 1918 and decided to conduct experiments of its own after the war’s end. To that end, the Texas was fitted 2 fly-off platforms while still in England and returned home with 2 former RNAS Camels on her platforms.
In this photo, a Sopwith Camel on the forward turret of the Texas showing structure supporting the permanent portion of the Fly-off platform.
In this photo, a Sopwith Camel appears on the forward turret of a US battleship {probably Texas.) It is still wearing British camouflage but American roundels.
The Navy later acquired 4 more Camels from the US Army.
On 9 March 1919, Lt. Cmdr. E. O. McDonnell successfully launched a Sopwith Camel from the No. 2 Turret of the Texas at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and flew to shore, landing in a field. This was the first military flight from a US Navy ship. (Eugene Ely and his Curtiss Flyer were civilians). The US Navy improved the survivability of the aircraft when making water landings by adding a horizontal vane, called a hydro-vane, attached to the undercarriage at the same level as the axle and extended forward to below the engine. When the undercarriage struck the water this vane would plane across the surface and bear the weight of the engine thus preventing the aircraft from pitching nose down. In addition the US Navy added 2 inflatable floats to the underside of the lower wing and extending forward about as far as the hydro-vane. With only 6 Camels in inventory these aircraft were used primarily in these experiments and for training for new pilots in fly-off platform operations. When the Battle Fleet’s home base was shifted to San Diego in August of 1919, those battleships equipped with fly-off platforms were carrying the Hanriot HD-1, not the Camel.

SPECIFICATIONS:
Crew: 1
Length: 18’ 9”
Wing Span: 26’ 11”
Wing Area: 231 Sq. Ft.
Height: 8’ 6”
Weight: Empty: 930 lbs. Gross: 1455 lbs.
Max. Speed: 115 mph
Range: 290 miles
Ceiling: 21,000 ft.
Armament: 2 Vickers MG
Engine: Clerget 9B 130 hp Rotary Engine.
Text & photos courtesy of Chris Hoehn.

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