M.Goodall, A.Tagg British Aircraft before the Great War (Schiffer)
Deleted by request of (c)Schiffer Publishing
H.King Sopwith Aircraft 1912-1920 (Putnam)
Although the names 'Sociable' and 'Tweenie' have both been justly applied to this enlarged development of the original Tabloid two-seater, it is important to note these facts: (1) the term 'sociable' was in common use during 1913/14 - from which period the aircraft dates for any aeroplane having side-by-side seats; (2) that ‘Tweenie' was a colloquial description signifying that, in the Sopwith hierarchy, the type came somewhere between the Tabloid and the Three-seater (also remembering that a 'tweenie' in the purely domestic sense was a 'between-floors' maid - in this instance, it may later be considered, a maid-of-all-work). The name Churchill is nevertheless adopted here not only because it is equally 'correct', but because of its particular associations with 'a former Naval person' - and in the knowledge also that this is the name by which it would be best remembered by the British people who made it.
In any case, that in December 1913 Winston Churchill, as First Lord of the Admiralty, dictated its general specification (wherein dual control was a dominant consideration) is both plausible and laudable - especially so having regard to this one-off aeroplane's future military service. And while apportioning personal credit we must reintroduce Lieut Spenser Grey, who not only took delivery of the machine in February 1914 and acted as aeronautical mentor to the First Lord, but took this same machine to war.
Unlike the Tabloid two-seater, the Churchill had two-bay wings, staggered, and carrying inversely-tapered ailerons. The fuselage was long and slender, thus giving the aeroplane an overall resemblance to an Avro 504, notably by reason of the long lever-arm afforded for the 'comma'-form balanced rudder. There was no fin, and the landing gear was of the twin-wheel/twin-skid type that was common on Tabloids. The 80 hp Gnome engine originally fitted was later replaced by a Gnome of 100 hp - presumably Monosoupape, though at what stage is uncertain. By March 1914, it does seem sure, however, that the number 149 had been painted on the rudder; and by this time also Spenser Grey - flying solo - had taken the machine to 10,600 ft (3.140 m).
Clearly, here was an aeroplane fit for military service, and this it was to see in September 1914, crewed, in particular, by Sqn-Cdr Spenser Grey and Lieut Newton Clare. Dates and details of raids at this period are difficult to determine with absolute accuracy; but that Spenser Grey 'lost' a bomb from No.149 seems well-founded this projectile supposedly having vibrated off the 'pipe-rack' holder provided for it, together with an additional number of other bombs.
C. G. Grey (who, though not related to Spenser Grey, knew him well) related the circumstances which followed 149's return to Antwerp (having got itself ‘completely lost’) in the following terms - which the reader is invited to interpret as he will.
‘When Spenser Grey and Newton-Clare [sic - the latter name was variously rendered, as, for that matter, was the former, though Spenser was positively spelt as given here] landed they saw a vacant space in the pipe-rack which showed that one of the bombs had vibrated itself off. They only hoped that it had fallen in Germany and not in Belgium.
'After dinner they were sitting in the lounge of their hotel - war was a comfortable game in those days when an excited Belgian staff-officer dashed in and told them that a complaint had come from the Dutch Government that one of the Allied aeroplanes had dropped a bomb in the city of Maastricht, and had blown up a school and some houses and had killed a lot of women and children, and that the Dutch Government were seriously contemplating declaring war on Belgium. Spenser turned to Newton-Clare and remarked 'That must have been a damned good bomb.'
On this Churchillian note our brief appreciation of Sopwith tractor biplane No.149 might well be concluded - except, perhaps, to remark that the Navy of the period would have been well pleased to possess a bomb of the potency attributed.
Yet even now one footnote remains to be added, and this on the personal authority of Sir Thomas Sopwith. Once again, Spenser Grey is the dominant figure, though in this instance accompanied by Jerry Aldwell, a Naval engineer officer. The pair, Sir Thomas recalled, were flying the Churchill at Eastchurch when they got into a spin and went into the ground. They had been flying at about 90 mph (149 km h) in this aircraft which Sir Thomas' figure, a shade high though it may seem stalled at about 50 mph (80 km/h). The stick then being pulled hard back, the spin occurred, the outcome being not only the sudden finish mentioned, but a better understanding of the nature of a spin and its avoidance.
Thus in several ways, the Churchill may be reckoned a more useful product of Winnie's toy-shop' than some that came in later years. Moreover, it is not uninteresting to note that the affair of the 'lost bomb', as earlier recounted, occurred in or about September 1914, and that on 3 October there arrived at Antwerp from Dunkirk the very man whose name heads this chapter.
P.Lewis British Aircraft 1809-1914 (Putnam)
The dual-control side-by-side two-seat Sociable was initially fitted with an 80 h.p. Gnome engine, and made its first flight at Hendon on 23rd February, 1914, piloted by C. Howard Pixton, who later in the same day flew the machine with Lt. Spenser Grey, R.N., as passenger. A more powerful Gnome of 100 h.p. subsequently replaced the original engine, the aircraft afterwards being flown regularly by Lt. Spenser Grey at Hendon, where it was used for training, fulfilling the same role also at Eastchurch. The then First Lord of the Admiralty, Mr. Winston S. Churchill, flew in the Sociable, which was No. 149 and gained for itself the nickname "Tweenie".
O.Thetford British Naval Aircraft since 1912 (Putnam)
Also known as the Tweenie and the Churchill, this two-seat side-by-side biplane was fitted with dual control and used for training by the Naval Wing of the RFC in 1913-14 at Hendon and Eastchurch. It was fitted first with an 80 hp and later a 100 hp Gnome engine and had the official serial number 149. The photograph shows the Tweenie at Hendon, where it was flown extensively by Lt Spenser Grey, RN.