Sopwith 2F1 Camel (Windsock Datafiles 6 )
By J.M. Bruce
Publisher: Albatros 2004 20 Pages
PDF 16 MB
THE prototype of the Sopwith F1 Camel was completed just before Christmas 1916, and the design was soon ordered in quantity for both the RNAS and the RFC. At about the same time the Sopwith design staff were working on the design of a replacement for the Sopwith Baby single-seat seaplane; this, prepared under the company type designation FS1, was known as the Sopwith Improved Baby. The serial numbers N4 and N5 were allotted for two prototypes, which were on order in January 1917.
Details of N4's history are extremely scanty, and photographs of it have still to be found; but such references as exist suggest that it was built with its float undercarriage (which had provision for a droppable wheeled dolly for deck take-off) but crashed (so it has been suggested) in March 1917. All surviving references to, and photographs of, N5 suggest that it always had a wheeled undercarriage. Its airframe proper had all the characteristics of the FS1: separable rear fuselage (for ease of stowage aboard ship) with special control runs to the tail unit, armament consisting of one fixed and synchronised Vickers gun in the fuselage and a Lewis gun mounted inverted on the centre section, and steel-tubing centre-section struts. The engine was a French-made 130-hp Clerget rotary.
One of these two prototypes was officially recorded as delivered during the week ending March 19 1917. This is likely to have been N5, which arrived at Martlesham Heath on March 15 1917 to undergo performance tests, and was officially allotted to RNAS Grain on March 19. Its performance tests were flown on March 27, and it was at Grain by April 4, when it was flown by Harry Busteed: of that flight he recorded that he was 'not very favourably impressed'.
By June 7 N5 had been extensively modified in terms of operational equipment. Launching tubes for eight Le Prieur rockets were fitted, four on each pair of interplane struts; the Lewis gun was carried on an Admiralty Top Plane Mounting, for which a small central cutout was made in the centre section; air bags were fitted in the rear fuselage; and, remarkably, a wireless set was installed in the fuselage, with wind-driven generator and trailing aerial.
Clearly the RNAS were hoping to develop an effective fighter aircraft, particularly with anti-Zeppelin capability in mind. The original FS1 seaplane concept was not pursued and the landplane version was ordered in quantities. Sopwith gave the aircraft the designation 2F1; in service it was known as the 'Ship's Camel' or 'Split Camel'.