Sopwith Camel F.1 (F6314)  [@ RAF Hendon]

In the Camel F.1, designed by Thomas Sopwith as the successor to the Pup, the Sopwith Aviation Company produced a fiery, temperamental little biplane that became the highest scoring fighter of the First World War. In the hands of an experienced pilot the Camel could out manoeuvre any contemporary airplane, with the possible exception of the Fokker Triplane. It was the first British type to carry twin Vickers guns; their breeches were enclosed in a 'hump', which gave the Camel its name. First issued to No 4 Squadron RNAS [Royal Navy Air Service] and No 70 Squadron RFC on the Western Front in July 1917. By November 1918 the many squadrons operating it had claimed the destruction of at least 3000 enemy aircraft.

Much like a real camel, this aircraft could turn and bite you. Noted for its tendency to kill inexperienced flyers, many pilots feared its vicious spin characteristics. Due to its very small wingspan, and its purposely-unstable characteristics, coupled with the gyroscopic effect of a rotating engine and propeller, it could easily flip into a ground loop with the Camel crashing on its starboard wingtip at low speeds. Consequently, in landing and taking off, a tremendous number of fatal accidents occurred. During WW1, 413 pilots died in combat and 385 pilots died from non-combat related causes while flying the Sopwith Camel. While at low speeds, Camel pilots maintained full right rudder to counteract the torque of the rotary engine.

Total production reached 5490, many serving with foreign air arms. Early production Camel F.ls were powered either by the 130hp Clerget 9B or the 150hp Bentley BR.1 rotary engine, but subsequent aircraft were fitted with either the Clerget or the 110hp Le Rhone 9J. In addition to serving overseas, the Camel F.1 also equipped a number of Home Defence squadrons, the night fighter version being equipped with a pair of Lewis guns. The final production version was the Camel 2F.1, designed for shipboard operation. As well as being flown from the aircraft carriers HMS Furious and HMS Pegasus, the 2F.1 could also be catapulted from platforms erected on the gun turrets and forecastles of other capital ships, or launched from a lighter towed behind a destroyer.