Sopwith One and a Half Strutter – crazy name, great aircraft
Tags: '1 1/2 Strutter', 'A8226', 110 hp Clerget rotary engine, 130 hp Clerget 9B, 27 May 1917, 2nd Lieutenant A.S. Carey, 400 yard walk, a 'W' arrangement between the fuselage and the upper wings, a surprise to the Germans, absorbed the total Sopwith production, acquired by the RAF Museum, aircraft, aircraft preserved in museums, Albatross D.V, Australia, Aviation, aviation in the U.K., Belgium, between April and July 1917, Britain, British Admiralty, British production totalled 1439, built from original Sopwith plans, Captain Geoffrey Hornblower Cock, Captain L.W. MacArthur, Cardington facility, centre-section, Claude Grahame-White, Clerget 9B, docile aircraft, early aviation, early factory buildings, Europe, first unit to arrive at the front, First World War, flying replicas, former RAF Hendon site, forthcoming joint attack with the French, forward-firing armament, France, French, French production higher at around 4500, front lines on the Western Front, fully refurbished, fuselage, G-BIDW, G-BIDW flew in 1980, genuine Clerget 9B, German, Goldhangar, Grade II* Listed, Graded II* Listed, Grahame-White Factory, Great Britain, half-length cabane struts, Hendon, Home Defence duties, Home Defence duties from Goldhangar and Stow Maries in July 1918, Jagdstaffel 28, Japan, July 1918, Land's End Aerodrome, last 'Strutter' unit was No. 70 Squadron, late 1970s, Leutnant Max von Müller, London, machines diverted from Admiralty orders, MC, more fuel and internal stowage for the 260lb bomb load, museum, Museums, newly created RAF, Nikon, No. 45 Sqn. RFC, No. 5 Wing, No. 70 Squadron RFC, on the strength of 'C' Flight No. 45 Sqn. RFC, other aviation companies, outclassed by 1918, Polish - Soviet War 1919 - 1921, prototype first flew in December 1915, RAF, RAF Hendon, RAF Museum, really significant WW1 aircraft, rear cockpit, restored to fly in New Zealand, RNAS, rotary engine, Royal Air Force, Royal Air Force Museum, Royal Flying Corps, Royal Naval Air Service, Royal Naval Air Service squadrons, Royal Navy, Russia, Ruston-Proctor, Ruston-Proctor built aircraft, Scarff mounting, shot down 13 German aircraft, single Lewis gun, single-seater bombers, single-seater fighters, Somme, Somme sector of the front, Sopwith Aviation Company, Sopwith Type Two-seater, Soviet and White Russian forces, stationary crankshaft, Stow Maries, superb early aircraft, synchronised, The Admiralty, the Armistice, the observer, twin Vickers, two-seat fighter and bomber versions, two-seat fighter/reconnaissance/bomber aircraft, Type 9400, upper wings, USA, Vickers, Vickers .303" machine gun, Viv Bellamy, warbird, water-cooled inline engines, Western Front, World War One
The Grahame-White Factory at Hendon is a virtual shrine to early aviation. Even setting aside the prominent rôle its founder, Claude Grahame-White, had in the establishment of aviation in the U.K., and the significance of the early factory buildings themselves (Grade II* Listed), the Royal Air Force Museum, London, has chosen to display some superb early aircraft (plus some replicas) in this wonderful setting. It is a pity, therefore, that few people choose to taken the 400 yard walk, through what was part of the former RAF Hendon site, to reach this treasure trove. On a day when the main collections were very busy, I had this gem all to myself for more than 30 minutes! I think my trusty Nikon was feeling rather fatigued when I finally dragged myself away.
In World War One, the rotary engine was king, lighter than the heavy, water-cooled inline engines, the main problem came from the gyroscopic effect of the whirling mass of cylinders around the stationary crankshaft. So it was natural that the Sopwith Aviation Company would choose the 110 hp Clerget rotary engine for their new Type 9400 two-seat fighter/reconnaissance/bomber aircraft ordered by the British Admiralty for their Royal Naval Air Service squadrons. The prototype first flew in December, 1915, and was a docile aircraft with almost no vices. The first unit to reach the front lines on the Western Front was No. 5 Wing, RNAS in February 1916. The Royal Flying Corps urgently needed the Sopwith design, for their forthcoming joint attack with the French on the Somme sector of the front. The Admiralty had absorbed the total Sopwith production, so other aviation companies such as Vickers and Ruston-Proctor were sub-contracted for the RFC orders (as the Sopwith Type Two-seater). No. 70 Squadron, RFC were the first Army unit to arrive at the front, with machines diverted from Admiralty orders. When the new aircraft entered action, they became the first British aircraft to be equipped with a synchronised, forward-firing armament (a Vickers .303″ machine gun); it also had a single Lewis gun on a Scarff mounting for the observer, in the rear cockpit. As such, the armament was a surprise to the Germans; Captain Geoffrey Hornblower Cock, MC, RFC shot down 13 German aircraft – mostly Albatross D.V – between April and July 1917. Almost no-one referred to the Sopwith by its type number; because of the half-length cabane struts, making a ‘W’ arrangement between the fuselage and the upper wings (there was no centre-section, as such) it was universally known as the ‘1 1/2 Strutter’. Many uses were found for the Sopwith, with single-seater fighters (twin Vickers) and single-seater bombers (more fuel and internal stowage for the 260lb bomb load) joining the two-seat fighter and bomber versions. British production totalled 1,439, and French production was even higher at around 4,500. As well as Britain and France, other users included Russia and Japan (both licence built), Belgium, the United States, and Australia. Outclassed by 1918, even when fitted with the 130 hp Clerget 9B, the last ‘Strutter’ unit was No. 70 Squadron of the newly created RAF, on Home Defence duties from Goldhangar and Stow Maries in July 1918.
The aircraft you can see here is a replica, built from original Sopwith plans by Viv Bellamy at Land’s End Aerodrome in the late 1970s. It flew just twice (registered as G-BIDW) in 1980, then was acquired by the RAF Museum, and fully refurbished (including fitting a genuine Clerget 9B, from Museum stocks) at their Cardington facility. It depicts ‘A8226’, a Ruston-Proctor built aircraft, on the strength of ‘C’ Flight, No. 45 Sqn. RFC in 1917. Unfortunately, the real ‘A8226’ was shot down by Leutnant Max von Müller, of Jagdstaffel 28 on 27 May, 1917; both Captain L.W. MacArthur and 2nd Lieutenant A.S. Carey were killed.
The 1 1/2 Strutter didn’t stop fighting when the Armistice arrived. Soviet and White Russian forces both used it, as did both sides during the brief Polish – Soviet War (1919 – 1921). There are several other aircraft preserved in museums (France, Belgium), with a genuine aircraft being restored to fly in New Zealand, as well as other flying replicas. This was a really significant WW1 aircraft.
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