H.King Sopwith Aircraft 1912-1920 (Putnam)
Of the various Sopwith aeroplanes which (men associated with them have assured the present writer over the years) were 'chalked out on the floor of the Experimental Shop by/for Harry Hawker etc. etc' (see also under 'Bee') this little, though evidently larger, precursor of the Pup appears to have the strongest claim to that dubious distinction. That Hawker laid down the general lines of the design, by dictation if not by draughtsmanship, can be accepted; and that he used this 'light tractor biplane' for that nomenclature is implicit in the designation given above - as a 'runabout' is wholly credible. The name 'Hawker's Runabout' appears, indeed, to have gained general currency, though Hawker used it also for aerobatics.
Hardly less certain is the notion that Hawker's personal ideas for a single-seat fighter were developed possibly with the intention of having a Lewis gun on the high-set top wing while he was flying this aeroplane during 1915. A Lewis gun scheme, in fact, may well have had a special appeal to him, particularly when flying near Brooklands; for it was in this same area (at Bisley) that the Lewis gun had first been demonstrated in England by BSA and where Harry's own father is said to have shot, with a rifle, for Australia. (This last asseveration notwithstanding, the name Hawker does not appear among winners of the Queen's Prize between 1860 and 1900 as, according to one account, it should have done).
Upward view for possible combat may certainly have been less in Harry Hawker's early thoughts than armament, though lightness and simplicity were targets clearly shared with Sigrist and the drawing office staff. Lightness was implicit in the installation of a low-powered engine a 50 hp Gnome (the actual one, it was said, from the Burgess-Wright bought by Tom Sopwith in 1911), this unit being cantilevered from a single rear mounting and having a circular cowling, quite different from the 'fish-mouth' of the Tabloid. (The term 'cantilevered' here implies that the engine had a circular bearer-plate, or plates, boiled directly to an engine-bearer in the fuselage, and leaving the front end of the crankshaft unsupported - the rear end being located by a transverse member in the fuselage. This last-mentioned member also resisted any bending moments tending to pull the engine out of alignment).
Simplicity was proclaimed by adherence to wing-warping for lateral control. Of hardly less significance (the deficiency in upward view having earlier been intimated) was the sharp stagger of the wings, with evident advantages to forward and downward fields of vision. Rearward rake on the tips of the wings and tailplane were other features portending the Pup, though the narrow-span centre section was carried on vertical (not splayed-out) struts.
Concomitant with lightness and simplicity were aerodynamic cleanness and an air of daintiness - characteristics evident in the photographs, which, truth to tell, contribute most of the information which might usefully be added in this text. One exception to this honest declaration is evidence that, with an 80 hp Le Rhone or 100 hp Gnome Monosoupape engine, a second seat and ailerons instead of wing-warping, the airframe still existed in 1926.