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Without question, the most famous British fighting aircraft of World War I was the Sopwith Camel. Indeed, many experts in military aviation consider the Camel to be one of the greatest fighting aircraft of its time.
Manufactured by the early British aviation pioneer, Sir Thomas O.M. Sopwith, the fast and highly maneuverable Camel was the scourge of the German Air Force, which lost nearly 1,300 aircraft to the little British fighter.
Officially designated as a scout, the Camel was a single-seat biplane with ailerons on both its upper and lower wings. This, together with its rugged air frame and high torque rotary engine, gave the Camel the ability to make snap turns, especially to its right. In the hands of an expert pilot it was a fast, responsive and deadly weapon in aerial combat.
The Camel was also the first British plane to be fitted with twin, belt-fed, rapid-firing Vickers machine guns. Although it was most effective as a fighter, the powerful Sopwith scout was sometimes used for ground-attack missions, during which it carried four 20-pound bombs in addition to its other armament.
When powered by its standard 110-horsepower Rhone rotary engine, the Camel has a maximum combat airspeed of 122 mph at sea level, making it one of the fastest fighter planes of World War I. And, in many cases, the aircraft was fitted with engines of 130, 150--even 180 horsepower.
Although the Sopwith Camel scored numerous victories over enemy aircraft, three of its achievements are of particular importance in the annals of military aviation history. On March 24, 1918, Captain J.L. Trollope, flying a Camel with the 43rd Squadron, became the first British pilot to shoot down six enemy planes in a single day. And, less than a month later, Captain H.W. Woolett of the same squadron duplicated the feat in another Camel.
But the Camel 's greatest moment of glory came on April 21, 1918, when a young Canadian pilot named Captain A.R.Brown of the 209th squadron finally shot down the greatest air ace of the First World War- Germany's Baron Manfred von Richthofen. That one victory alone has secured the Camel's place in aviation history
The preceding information was extracted from the pamphlet,
"The Great Airplanes Sterling Silver Miniature Collection", published by The Franklin Mint, 1979.
Permission was granted to ALLSTAR by The Franklin Mint to use the preceding materials.
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Updated: March 12, 2004