Bristol F.2B (E2581) [@ RAF Duxford]
The British and Colonial Aeroplane Company designed many aeroplanes after the Boxkite of 1910, so by 1916 had a wealth of experience available for building a two-seat fighter aircraft. Bristol (as the company became known) designed a large, rugged two-seater and named it the F.2A. The two-seat Bristol F.2A Fighter made its operational debut during the Allied spring offensive of 1917. Fifty F.2As were built, powered by a 190hp Rolls-Royce Falcon engine giving a top speed of around 115 mph (185km/h) and armed with a centrally mounted forward-firing Vickers gun and a single Lewis mounted in the rear cockpit. The first examples arrived in France with No 48 Squadron towards the end of March and were rushed into action before their pilots had time to get used to them or to develop proper tactics.
E2581 was built by the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company at Filton and is from a batch of 500 ordered in early 1918 for the Royal Air Force. It has been preserved by the Imperial War Museum at South Lambeth and later at RAF Duxford since withdrawal from service.
Bristol F.2B (D8096) [@ Shuttleworth Collection]
The combat debut during the Battle of Arras in April 1917 was far from auspicious. Five German fighters led by Manfred von Richthoven, the famous Red Baron, shot down four out of six aircraft from No.48 Squadron on their first patrol. The Royal Flying Corps crews had used the standard two-seater tactic of leaving the observer to defend the aircraft but when the British pilots began to fly the aircraft as it were a single-seat fighter and used the forward-firing Vickers gun to full effect, the 'Brisfit' was extremely effective and went on to log a formidable record of success in action.
D8096 was built in 1918 and although it was too late to see service during the First World War I D8096 was used in Turkey in 1923 by 208 Squadron. Restored to flying condition in 1952 and refurbished during 1980-82, D8096 still flies regularly and is one of only two Bristol Fighters that are airworthy in the world, although a third is being restored to airworthiness by the Shuttleworth Collection.
Bristol F.2B (E2466) [@ RAF Hendon]
Several hundred Bristol Fighters were ordered in 1917, these being the F.2B version with a 220hp Falcon II or 275hp Falcon III engine, wide-span tail planes, modified lower wing centre sections and an improved view from the front cockpit. The F.2B eventually served with six RFC squadrons on the Western Front, four in the UK and one in Italy. The Royal Air Force was formed on 1st April 1918 and it was Bristol fighters of No.22 Squadron that flew the first sortie of the new Service. When production ceased in 1927 more than 5,250 had been built and in the post-war role of army co-operation the type served in Britain and overseas until 1932. As well as the RAF, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Fire, Greece, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Peru and Spain operated the type.
E2466 is a composite aircraft, comprising an original frame and some other original parts from the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company. It was re-built to represent the aircraft flown by Captain W.F.J. Harvey and Captain D.E. Waight, No.22 Squadron, from Agincourt who on 1st July 1918 modified their aircraft to take an extra Lewis machine gun on the centre section of the top main-plane and hence improve its effectiveness as a fighter.