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)
There are, one feels, two justifications for this present short chapter both of them aeroplanes. The first of these machines, as shown in the accompanying photographs, was very distinctive, not only in matters of detail wherein it differed from any known form of the Tabloid, but in palpably basic features also. That this particular aeroplane had a special claim to the name 'Gordon Bennett' or 'Gordon Bennett Racer’; that it was taken over by the Admiralty as No. 1215; and that it had associations - at Hendon - with Lieut Spenser Grey are indisputable facts; but concerning the second aeroplane mentioned some haziness persists, though in having tucked it away under the 'Tabloid' heading one feels relief and confidence in equal measure. Let us then recognise what the photograph showing it fitted with a deflector propeller proclaims it to be a Tabloid, or a very close derivative. But equally let us admit the possibility of its having been intended (in one form or another) as a standby, or second siring, for the 1914 Gordon Bennett Aviation Cup.
On the purely sporting aspects of the matter once again we seek counsel from Peter Lewis, writing of 1914. Thus: 'Racing had been extremely popular for some three years, but relatively few attempts had been made in Great Britain to design small machines exclusively for the purpose.' (Here we shall do well to remember Sir Thomas Sopwith's own assurance that Pixton's victorious Schneider Trophy mount of 1914 was originally a Tabloid from an RFC production batch). But to allow Mr Lewis to finish: 'Among the efforts just before the war began was the Sopwith single-seater derived from the Tabloid with the express intention of competing for the 1914 Gordon Bennett Aviation Cup. It used an 80-hp Gnome equipped with a deep-chord cowling blended into a finely conceived circular fuselage but was never raced and, instead, saw war service at Hendon in the RNAS as 1215.'
The most noticeable differences between the special Gordon Bennett machine and a typical Tabloid were the slender fuselage, with convex side-fairings running back to the deep-chord tailplane, and blending forwards with a particularly smooth cowling having an annular air-intake of very small diameter, behind the propeller spinner; the vertical tail-surfaces alarmingly small in area, even though disposed both above and below the fuselage (the triangular fins seeming almost negligible ahead of the deep-chord, shallow and rounded rudder); and the slimness of the V-form landing gear struts.
Yet there were distinctions also in the wing cellule which, though generally of Tabloid form, had no stagger, and was braced by notably slender steel-tube struts - those immediately forward of the cockpit converging sharply upwards in side elevation, though the rear struts were single, and not inverted-Vs as on the 1915 Martinsyde two-seater, which had a somewhat similar arrangement. Behind the cockpit was the merest suggestion of a head-fairing, and another probably more significant subtlety was the blending of the lower wing-roots with the rounded fuselage, somewhat as on the Gloster IV racing seaplane of 1927.
It appeared, indeed, that the only discernible feature having some possible commonality between Gordon Bennett No.1215 and Tabloid (or Tabloid-derivative) No.1214 was the low-drag landing gear; and that 1215 should be appreciably the faster of the pair having a reputed speed of 105 mph (169 km/h) with a Gnome engine of only 80 hp can well be understood.
Less comprehensible - having regard to the fact that the 1913 Gordon Bennett contest had been won, by a Deperdussin monoplane, at 124 mph (200 km h) - is that any hope whatever should have been entertained for competitive success, though a more powerful engine may well have been in view.
P.Lewis British Aircraft 1809-1914 (Putnam)
Sopwith Gordon Bennett Racer
Two examples of these single-seat tractor biplanes were constructed during 1914 for the Gordon Bennett Race of that year, and were improved versions of the Tabloid with circular fuselages. The power was provided by a 50 h.p. Gnome, enclosed in a long-chord cowling. Both were taken into service by the Admiralty on the outbreak of the 1914-18 War for intended use as high-speed scouts, and were given the serials 1214 and 1215. Maximum speed, 105 m.p.h.
H.King Armament of British Aircraft (Putnam)
Gordon Bennett Racer. Almost identical with the Tabloid, one of two machines of this type was fitted in 1915 with a fixed, stripped Lewis gun on the starboard side of the fuselage. The airscrew was provided with plates to deflect the bullets. A minute written by Winston Churchill in April 1915, calling for a single-seat Naval aircraft 'with a Lewis gun firing through the deflector propeller', may be mentioned in this context.