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World War One: Sopwith F.1 Camel

Perhaps the most famous British fighter aircraft of the 'Great War', the Camel became a household name during, and after the war. While almost five and a half thousand Camels were produced from 1917, very few remain today, and no original airworthy examples exist.

 

This aircraft is an authentically built full scale reproduction, with a number of original parts, including the 160 horse power Gnome rotary engine (which is now the oldest operating aircraft engine in New Zealand). Recently repainted, this Camel now represents the aircraft flown by Blenheim (New Zealand) born man, Clive Collett.

Brooding CamelCredited with being the first ace to achieve a victory while flying a Sopwith Camel, Collett went on to achieve a score of 12 downed enemy aircraft. Unfortunately, before the war's end, he was killed in a flying accident while testing a captured German aircraft (Albatros) in Scotland. 

An agile and highly maneuverable aircraft, this type accounted for more aerial victories than any other Allied aircraft during World War One. A total of almost 1300 enemy aircraft were downed by Camels, compared with the 413 pilots who died in combat while flying the type. Unfortunately, the Camel also had a tendency to kill inexperienced pilots, and a further 385 were killed in non-combat related incidents while flying the type.

From BehindArther Cobby, an Australian who flew Camels with the Australian Flying Corps, and achieved a score of 29 victories while flying the type, had this to say:

"A great number of trainee pilots had been killed learning to fly this machine, as its tricks took some learning, although they were simple to overcome. Owing to its very small wingspan, its purposely unstable characteristics, and the gyroscopic effect of a rotating engine, it flipped into a spin very easily at low speeds. Consequently, in landing and taking off, a tremendous number of fatal accidents occurred, and a general feeling of dislike for the machine was prevalent. It really had people frightened."

 


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