A.Jackson De Havilland Aircraft since 1909 (Putnam)
Royal Aircraft Factory B.S.1
During extensive repairs the aircraft was re-engined with an 80 h.p. Gnome and fitted with a divided elevator to accommodate a tall, high aspect ratio rudder with small fixed fins above and below the fuselage. It was then redesignated B.S.2, later changed to S.E.2, but within a few months the rudder was enlarged still more and the machine reappeared with a fabric covered strut-and-longeron rear fuselage.
It was taken over by No. 5 Squadron, R.F.C. in January 1914 and also served with No. 3 Squadron at Netheravon. It was sent to Moyenneville, France in October 1914 and flew offensive patrols until March 1915. Armament consisted of two rifles mounted on the sides of the fuselage to fire outside the arc of the propeller.
SPECIFICATION AND DATA
Construction: By the Royal Aircraft Factory, Farnborough, Hants.
(B.S.2) One 80 h.p. Gnome
Dimensions: Span 27 ft. 6 in. Length 22 ft. 0 in.
Weights: All-up weight 1,230 lb.
Maximum speed 85 m.p.h. Landing speed 47 m.p.h.
Initial climb 700 ft. min.
P.Hare Royal Aircraft Factory (Putnam)
Following its crash in March 1913, the B.S.1 (which see) was rebuilt at a cost of around ?900. Various minor improvements were incorporated, and at the same time it was redesignated S.E.2, S.E. standing for 'Scouting Experimental'.
The only apparent changes from its predecessor were a new tail unit and a revised engine cowling enclosing the 80hp single-row Gnome which replaced the 100hp two-row unit previously fitted. The new tail had symmetrical ventral and dorsal fins, inversely tapered elevators hinged from a semi-circular tailplane, and a high-aspect-ratio rudder, considerably larger than the previous one, which had its bottom edge steel-shod to serve as a tailskid. The undercarriage and wing structure were unchanged, as was the divided tank holding both petrol and oil.
The rebuild was completed by October, several months later than O'Gorman had hoped. Again Geoffrey de Havilland acted as test pilot, although at least one RFC officer had flown the machine by 5 November, when O'Gorman reported on its performance to the Assistant Director of Military Aeronautics at the War Office. His report stated that the lower power of the smaller engine was compensated for by its reduced weight, and that the S.E.2's climb and maximum speed were nearly as good as those of the B.S.1. Its stalling speed was lower. O'Gorman also commented that the monocoque fuselage had proved expensive and slow to build, and suggested that he could make a conventional wire-braced structure at least as strong for the same weight.
A request to be allowed to retain the machine for continued trials was refused, and on 23 December the Factory was instructed to hand it over to the RFC. On 1 January 1914 O'Gorman replied, explaining that the machine was awaiting the replacement of a broken skid, and emphasizing that the S.E.2 was an experimental design and not suited for service use. He also drew attention to a number of defects, which included cracked engine cowls, and suggested that it should remain in the Farnborough vicinity so that it could be attended to whenever necessary.
Despite his protests the S.E.2 was handed to 5 Squadron on 17 January, and was allotted the serial 609. Service pilots found it easy to fly and not difficult to land, although its shallow gliding angle made it hard to get into any field surrounded by trees unless it was very large. The view of the ground from the cockpit was described as good, but the forward view was considered impossible when the nose was raised in taxying or climbing.
Early in April the S.E.2 was returned to the Factory for modification and repair. The monocoque fuselage was replaced by a conventional structure of four longerons, wire-braced and faired to circular section by formers and stringers, as previously suggested by O'Gorman. The engine cowling was again modified, and a new tail, similar to that designed for the S.E.4, was fitted. The wing structure was unchanged, but the bracing wires were replaced by Farnborough's new streamlined 'Raf wires'. Although the designation S.E.2a has often been applied to this version, no official or contemporary use of this suffix can be traced, the surviving Factory drawings referring to this version as the 'S.E.2 rebuilt'.
The modifications were completed by 3 October and, owing to the needs of war, after very brief tests at the hands of Frank Goodden the aircraft was returned to the RFC, joining 3 Squadron in France on 27 October. Never armed with more than service rifles, the S.E.2 remained a high-speed reconnaissance aeroplane, a true 'Scout'. Its eventual fate is unknown.
Powerplant: 80hp Gnome rotary
span 27ft 6in;
chord 3ft 9 1/2in;
gap 4ft 7in;
wing area 188 sq ft;
length 20ft 5in;
height 9ft 3 1/2in.
max speed 85mph at sea level.
Powerplant: 80hp Gnome rotary
length 20ft 10in.
Weight: 1,200lb (loaded).
Conceived by Mervyn O'Gorman as a continuation of the B.S.1/S.E.2 formula, but powered by a nine-cylinder Gnome rotary of 100hp, the S.E.3 was shelved, after some preliminary design work by H P Eolland, in favour of the more advanced S.E.4.
It was to have been an unstaggered biplane with single interplane T struts. Its ailerons could also act together as landing flaps, or could be reflexed to reduce resistance in high-speed flight.
M.Goodall, A.Tagg British Aircraft before the Great War (Schiffer)
Deleted by request of (c)Schiffer Publishing
P.Lewis British Aircraft 1809-1914 (Putnam)
The lack of sufficient rear vertical area was rectified when the machine was rebuilt, and small fins were mounted above and below the fuselage, together with a new larger rudder and divided elevators. A lower-powered nine-cylinder 80 h.p. Gnome took the place of the original engine, and the propeller was replaced by one of smaller diameter and finer pitch. For a short time the rebuilt B.S.1 was designated the B.S.2. It was then renamed S.E.2, the S.E. signifying Scouting Experimental in place of the earlier Santos Experimental. The S.E.2, known also as "The Bullet", was a better flying machine, but the lower power naturally resulted in a reduced performance, the top speed falling to 85 m.p.h.
Later in 1913 the S.E.2 was taken into the workshops to be modified once again. In its final form as the S.E.2a, a new rear fuselage of fabric-covered stringer type was incorporated in place of the monocoque. Once more the fin and rudder were increased in size, but the original wings with their warping lateral control were retained, together with the two-wheel undercarriage and its pair of skids.
In January, 1914, the S.E.2a, as No. 609, was taken on to the strength of No. 5 Squadron, R.F.C. During the following October it was sent to France to be used operationally by No. 3 Squadron, R.F.C., on the Western Front, its armament consisting of the pilot's .45 cal. revolver and a rifle mounted on each side of the fuselage to clear the propeller. In March, 1915, the S.E.2a's employment against the enemy came to an end with its return to England. A further modification of the design to be known as the S.E.3 was not proceeded with.
Description: Single-seat tractor biplane scout. Wooden structure, fabric covered.
Manufacturers: Royal Aircraft Factory, Farnborough, Hants.
Power Plant: 80 h.p. Gnome.
Dimensions: Span, 27 ft. 6 ins. Length, 22 ft.
Weights: Loaded, 1,232 lb.
Performance: Maximum speed, 85 m.p.h. Landing speed, 47 m.p.h. Climb, 700 ft./ min.
J.Bruce British Aeroplanes 1914-1918 (Putnam)
THE S.E. series began nominally with a peculiar canard biplane which appeared in 1911. It was named Santos Experimental No. 1, or S.E.1, after Santos Dumont; for the great Brazilian pioneer was regarded as the originator of the tail-first arrangement. The S.E.1 crashed on August 18th, 1911.
The later S.E. aeroplanes were descended from a remarkably clean single-seat tractor biplane built in 1912 and designated B.S.1, or Bleriot Scout. It was the first aeroplane in the world which was built as a single-seat high-speed scout. The B.S.1 crashed in March, 1913, after having been timed at a speed of 91-4 m.p.h. over a measured course. It was rebuilt with a completely new tail-unit, and was fitted with an 80 h.p. Gnome engine in place of the 100 h.p. two-row Gnome which was originally fitted.
The rebuilt machine was renamed B.S.2, but the designation was soon changed to S.E.2. Now, however, the initials S.E. signified Scout Experimental. A further reconstruction in 1913 produced the S.E.2a.
Like its predecessors, the S.E.2a was a clean single-seat biplane with single-bay staggered wings. The 80 h.p. Gnome had a cowling of good aerodynamic form, and a spinner was fitted to the airscrew. The fuselage was of circular cross-section: aft of the cockpit the covering was of fabric over a built-up structure of longerons and spacers, whereas the fuselages of the B.S.1 and S.E.2 had been wooden monocoques. The tail-unit was again modified, and the area of the fin and rudder was greatly increased. Lateral control was by wing warping, but auxiliary mid-bay flying wires were fitted to the upper mainplanes. The S.E.2a was one of the first aeroplanes to have streamlined Rafwires instead of cables for the interplane bracing. The undercarriage was a normal twin-skid structure.
In January, 1914, the S.E.2a was taken on the strength of No. 5 Squadron, R.F.C. Apparently it was not flown very much by that unit, for in the spring of 1914 it stood in one of No. 3 Squadron’s hangars at Netheravon until Major J. F. A. Higgins flew it to Farnborough. The S.E.2a did not go to France when war broke out, but in October, 1914, it was sent to join No. 3 Squadron at Moyenneville.
The S.E.2a’s active service lasted until March, 1915. When it first went to France its performance was better than most of its contemporaries, and of it was said: “Its speed enabled it to circle round the enemy’s machines and gave it a decided ascendancy.” Among the pilots who flew the S.E.2a in France was Lieutenant A. R. Shekleton. The armament appears to have varied from one .45 Service revolver to two rifles, mounted on either side of the fuselage and firing outwards to clear the airscrew.
Manufacturers: The Royal Aircraft Factory, Farnborough, Hants.
Power: 80 h.p. Gnome.
Dimensions: Span: 27 ft 6 in.
Weights: Loaded: 1,200 lb.
Performance: Maximum speed at ground level: 96 m.p.h.
Armament: Two rifles, one mounted on either side of the fuselage, pointing outwards to miss the airscrew; or one .45-in. Service revolver.
Service Use: Pre-war: No. 5 Squadron, R.F.C. Western Front: No. 3 Squadron, R.F.C.
Production: One S.E.2a was built in 1913.
Serial Number: 609.
P.Lewis The British Fighter since 1912 (Putnam)
The B.S.1’s fiat spin had damaged it but rebuilding was put in hand with particular attention to the tail unit. This was given small fins above and below the fuselage, a larger rudder of entirely new design and divided elevators in place of the former one-piece type. The engine was altered to a nine-cylinder 80 h.p. Gnome matched by a propeller of smaller diameter and finer pitch. On leaving the workshops the machine was redesignated B.S.2 for a short while but this was then changed to S.E.2. to signify Scouting Experimental in keeping with the aircraft’s avowed duty, and was in line with the revision of S.E. from the old Santos Experimental used solely for the ill-fated tail-first S.E.1.
Despite a lower speed of 85 m.p.h., the S.E.2 was found to be a superior flyer in its new form and its sprightly performance, unmatched by any of its contemporaries, earned it the soubriquet of the Bullet.
Continued flying of the machine encouraged further development and once again, during 1913, the S.E.2 went under cover to be brought into the open after its metamorphosis as the S.E.2a. The after portion of the fuselage monocoque had been replaced by a fabric-covered former and stringer structure terminating at the rear in a revised tail unit with larger fin and rudder, the alterations being accompanied by a slight reduction in weight.
The solitary S.E.2a, which had belonged to No. 5 Squadron of the R.F.C., found itself part of No. 3 Squadron at Moyenneville in France in October, 1914, where it flew armed with the pilot’s .45 cal. revolver and also with a rifle fitted at an angle on each side of the fuselage to fire outside the propeller. Its high speed gave it clear superiority over any of the enemy’s aircraft but the S.E.2a remained at the Front for some six months only, returning to England during March, 1915, a lonely machine of brilliantly advanced design at the time of its conception and which deserved a far better fate than it received.
F.Mason The British Fighter since 1912 (Putnam)
It has already been stated that the Royal Aircraft Factory’s B.S.1, having crashed in March 1913, was rebuilt as the B.S.2, and that this machine was shortly to be re-designated the S.E.2, these initials denoting Scout Experimental.
The revision of the B.S.1 had centred largely upon the vertical tail surfaces, as its failure to recover from the spin from which it crashed pointed to a serious lack of directional control, a characteristic confirmed by those pilots who had flown it. Small fixed dorsal and ventral fins were added, and these certainly improved the aeroplane’s handling, serving to prompt a further rebuild in which more extensive changes were made.
The new configuration, termed the S.E.2A and allotted the Army number 609, featured much enlarged dorsal and ventral fins and a revised rudder whose contours blended smoothly into the fins. A tailskid was now added in place of the strengthened lower segment of the rudder on which the S.E.2 had rested while on the ground. The wooden monocoque fuselage of the B.S.1 and S.E.2 was replaced aft of the cockpit by a structure of longerons, stringers and frame spacers covered with fabric. The engine cowling was given longer chord with a smaller diameter front aperture, and a large spinner was added to the propeller. All wing and undercarriage struts were replaced by members of improved section, the bracing wires were changed to Raf-wires and the landing skids improved (the latter were later removed altogether). Responsibility for these extensive alterations was entrusted to a design section leader at Farnborough named Henry Phillip Folland.
The S.E.2A was taken on charge by No 5 Squadron RFC, commanded by Maj J F A Higgins (later Air Marshal Sir John, kcb, kbe, dso, AFC, raf) at Farnborough in January 1914, and soon afterwards joined No 3 Squadron at Netheravon. Later, in October that year, it flew out to France for operations over the Western Front, where its armament was said to vary from the pilot’s 0.45in Service revolver to a pair of army rifles mounted on the sides of the fuselage to fire outside the propeller arc.
It is perhaps of interest to note that, apart from being faster than almost all other aircraft in France, the S.E.2A was faster than the Sopwith Tabloid at the time its seaplane version won the Schneider Trophy race, and that it achieved this performance with an 80hp Gnome.
Type: Single-engine, single-seat, single-bay scout biplane.
Manufacturer: The Royal Aircraft Factory, Farnborough, Hants.
Powerplant: One 80hp Gnome engine driving two-blade propeller.
Structure: All-wood construction. Wooden monocoque rear fuselage of the S.E.2 replaced by built-up wooden structure covered by fabric in the S.E.2A. Twin wheel-and-skid undercarriage.
Dimensions: Span, 27ft 6in; length, 22ft. All-up Weight: 1,200lb.
Performance: (S.E.2) Max speed, 80 mph; (S.E.2A) 96 mph at sea level.
Armament: Two 0.303in fixed rifles mounted on the sides of the fuselage firing forward and angled outwards to avoid the propeller blades.
Prototype: One only, No. 609; this later served with Nos 3 and 5 Squadrons RFC between January 1914 and March 1915.
W.Green, G.Swanborough The Complete Book of Fighters
ROYAL AIRCRAFT FACTORY S.E.2 UK
The S.E.2 was a rebuild of the unarmed B.S.l, which was designed at Farnborough by Geoffrey de Havilland assisted by H P Folland and S J Waters, and flown in early 1913. Designated as a ‘‘Bleriot Scout”, the B.S.l was an attractive single-bay equi-span biplane with a circular-section fuselage which was of monocoque construction aft of the single-seat cockpit. Power was provided by a partially-cowled 100 hp Gnome rotary engine. The B.S.l achieved 92 mph (148 km/h) and a climb rate of 900 ft/min (4,6 m/sec) in early tests, but was badly damaged on 27 March 1913. It was then rebuilt with a redesigned tail unit that included a semicircular tailplane with a lifting profile, divided elevators, a small fin and large rudder. With a fully-cowled 80 hp Gnome nine-cylinder rotary engine, the aircraft flew again in October 1913, being redesignated S.E.2 as a Scouting Experimental (although the S.E. series had earlier been intended for ‘‘Santos Experimental”, of canard configuration). RFC handling trials took place (with No 5 Squadron) early in 1914, after which the S.E.2 was again rebuilt, with a more conventional rear fuselage of wooden construction and fabric covering, larger fin and rudder, constant-chord tailplane and other smaller changes. Taken to France (by No 3 Squadron) later in 1914, the S.E.2 was fitted with two Army rifles firing at outward angles to clear the propeller, and other (revolver) armament was also tried during the several months it remained with the squadron.
Max speed, 85 mph (137 km/h) at sea level.
Empty weight, 720 lb (327 kg).
Loaded weight, 1,132 lb (513 kg).
Span, 27 ft 6 in (8,38 m).
Length, 20 ft 5 in (6,22 m).
Height, 9 ft 316 in (2,83 m).
Wing area, 188 sq ft (17,47 m2).
H.King Armament of British Aircraft (Putnam)
S.E.2. Two rifles, one on each side of the fuselage, pointing outwards to clear the airscrew, appear to have formed the earliest armament of this single-seater. These were later discarded, and only a pistol was then carried.