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Sopwith 2F.1 Ship's Camel

Страна: Великобритания

Год: 1917

Sopwith - Triplane (Hispano-Suiza) - 1916 - Великобритания<– –>Sopwith - B.1 - 1917 - Великобритания

H.King Sopwith Aircraft 1912-1920 (Putnam)

2F.1 Camel

  The easy way out in differentiating the 2F.1 Camel (or ‘Ship's Camel' as it was commonly known with the apostrophe variously placed, if placed at all) from the land-based F.1 was by the Lewis gun perched far forward above the wing, and by the single Vickers gun, offset to port and resulting in revised cowling lines, instead of the twin-Vickers installation with the famous 'hump'. But before detailing the finer points of distinction (some of which are hardly less obvious, once pointed out) one must remark how poetically unjust it was that the Navy - which itself had used twin 'bow-chaser' guns in its ships to shoot at an enemy's sails and slow him down should make such radical changes in a classic form of armament having such a romantic precedent.
  The finer points of distinction in the 'definitive' or 'standard' 2F.1 (though many modifications followed, including, for instance, skid landing gear, a steel-tube gear with jettisonable wheels, special armament, slinging gear and lashing-down points) were these:
  1. Shorter wing-span, resulting from a shorter centre section.
  2. Thinner centre-section struts these being of streamline-section steel tube instead of wood and being far less splayed-out than on the F.1.
  3. A fuselage made in two parts, visibly joined behind the bottom wings, and constructed thus for ready separation and stowage in a ship. (The Ship's Camel was consequently sometimes called the Split Camel).
  4. Extra tankage in place of the starboard Vickers gun and its ammunition.
  5. External elevator-control cables, running from a lever near the fuselage joint, thus facilitating dismounting and reassembly as well as clearing flotation bags inside the rear fuselage.
  6. A tailplane which (not in answer to the German comment quoted in the F.1 chapter, and possibly applicable also to some F.1 Camels) was adjustable on the ground. Thus, official instructions read (verbatim and in part): 'Fit the Nut and Screw Tail Plane Adjustment between the Fitting on the rear Spar Tube, and the corresponding Fitting on the Sternpost, not forgetting to lock the Nut to the Eyebolt provided with wire ... The Incidence of centre line of Tail Plane in normal position is 11/2'; in this position the distance from lop of Longerons to under-surface of Rear Spar Tube should be 115/16". Any adjustments can be made after tests.'
  7. Dihedral angle of the bottom wings increased to 5 1/2 deg. (On the F.1 it was 5 deg).
  In the chapter on the F.1 Camel it was declared that it 'owed something to the Baby as well as to the Pup', and that - as now further explained 'very early (and specialised) Naval interest was manifest in the design.’ It was added that ‘the first Camel was cleared by the Sopwith Experimental Department on 22 December, 1916.’ Perhaps of even greater significance here was the affirmation that the two synchronised Vickers guns 'constituted, in effect, the Camel's very heart’; so in now tracing the development of the 2F.1 on the Navy's specialised account we shall do well to focus attention first on armament, but also on the Baby which (it may be recalled) had that uncommon fitment a synchronised Lewis gun, with mechanical gear of Scarff or Hazelton type.
  Here it becomes necessary to remark that the Lewis gun, with its 47-round or 97- round magazine, and especially when stripped of its cooling radiator, was a lighter weapon than the belt-fed Vickers (250 rounds or more per gun, plus synchronising gear) and the Lewis, further, was more amenable to training, or setting, for upward fire, as, for instance, when using incendiary or other 'special' ammunition against Zeppelins (without the danger of hitting one's own propeller). On the other hand, the belt-fed Vickers clearly offered more continuous fire, and was more suitable for synchronising.
  It must also be noted here that by 1917 the Navy was feeling a need for a shipborne aeroplane for general duties and anti-Zeppelin work, having wheels or floats or both, and superior in performance to the improved Babies developed and produced by Blackburn and Fairey. Accordingly, Sopwith designed the FS.1, a Camel-type aircraft having two unstepped main floats of pontoon form and a faired tail-float. Thus the formula adopted for Pixton's 1914 racer, and adapted for the post-war Jupiter-engined Schneider racer, was generally followed. Jettisonable wheels to permit deck take-offs were intended (having been pioneered in 1915, as noted in the 'Schneider and Baby' chapter). The link between the two familiar forms of the Camel (F.1 and 2F.1) and the Baby was seemingly the aeroplane numbered N4, which crashed in March 1917 and which was otherwise called 'Improved Baby', 'Floatplane Scout' or 'Camel Seaplane". The engine was the 130 hp Clerget, as fitted in late Babies by Blackburn, at a time when Sopwith were busy making Camel landplanes.
  The aeroplane numbered N4 having now been mentioned, and the names Baby and Blackburn having recurred, it is not unedifying to recall the remark by A. J. Jackson, quoted in the 'Schneider and Baby' chapter and mentioning 'a prototype machine, N300'. Could this one-off Baby 'N300' (one wonders) be in any way equated with 'N3"?
  In any case, the next aircraft to be considered was numbered N5, and this was a Sopwith-built Naval Camel, possibly ordered at the same time as N4. That N5 was essentially a landplane version of the FS.1 design is sure; likewise that an aeroplane numbered N5 (though conceivably incorporating parts of N4) was flown by Harry Busteed at the Isle of Grain on 4 April, 1917, having already been the subject of a Martlesham Heath report in March. One feature that N5 possessed in common with the FS.1, as drawn at Kingston, was a fixed Lewis gun installed inverted on the top wing - an installation which, with the pistol grip pointed skyward, was reminiscent of a fitment on a Baby, whereby the grip jutted out to port, the gun itself being fixed to lie on its side, and thus offering its magazine-attachment peg to the pilot. With the upside-down arrangement on N5, it may have been supposed, the changing of the magazine - which projected down through a trailing-edge cutout would have been facilitated without recourse to a Foster mounting, or to one of the Admiralty Top Plane type, as eventually adopted. Temporary though it proved to be, the inverted-gun scheme would evidently have demanded a pilot strong in arm, long in reach and high in courage.
  As for the Lewis gun's complete inversion, while this extreme position may not have been foreseen in 1914, it was certainly claimed at that time (as a point in the gun's favour for aircraft use) that it could be 'trained freely in any direction from vertically upwards to vertically downwards.’ A little later, of course, there was the classic story of Capt Louis Strange and his inverted Martinsyde, with Strange literally hanging-on for dear life to his Lewis gun's magazine - which had obligingly jammed on its peg.
  A single Vickers gun was mounted additionally on N5, to port, as on production aircraft; and though the elevator-control cables on this aeroplane were still internal, the slender centre-section struts (already mentioned as a 2F.1 distinction) were present, and the rear part of the fuselage was seemingly detachable.
  During the spring and summer of 1917, N5 was the subject of extensive development, especially respecting its military equipment - though still with the elevator cables snugly inside. A wireless telegraphy set was fitted, the retractable wind-driven generator for which was bracket-mounted on the port side of the fuselage just forward of the cockpit, with the aerial fairlead projecting down between the landing gear struts like one of the downward-firing Lewis guns on the TF.1. Armament, in fact, continued to be of primary concern, and for the Lewis gun on N5 the Admiralty Top Plane mounting was adopted. This fitting was very different from the Foster (track-type) mounting, as used on some night-flying F.1 Camels, though its dual function of permitting upward fire as well as magazine-changing was of similar intent. It is likely, indeed, that the Admiralty Top Plane mounting was developed primarily for the 2F.1 Camel, just as left-hand feed had been developed for the F.1 type.
  The Lewis gun on N5's new Admiralty mounting (for the operation of which there was a centre-section aperture forward of the trailing-edge cut-out) was attached to the main, arc-shaped, member of the mounting by lugs and a collar, while at the rear end the gun's pistol grip was slotted-in to a projecting portion. Associated with the gun-carrying member was a system of steel lubes, knuckle-jointed to allow the gun to be raised or lowered, and spring-loaded by elastic cords. Though intermediate positioning of the gun was not possible, as with the Foster mounting, the gun from which the spade grip was removed - could be readily released by Bowden cable; a second cable of this type was used to fire the gun, the bullets from which passed in forward fire only just clear of the propeller, though the gun sat well above the wing. So close was the gun to the propeller, in fact, that its gas cylinder was a few inches only behind the tips.
  By about the same time (early summer 1917) the armament of N5 had been augmented by eight Le Prieur rockets, as described in the chapter on the Pup. The bottom wings and ailerons were then protected from the rocket efflux.
  The factors which seem to have deferred inauguration of 2F.1 production until the summer of 1917 were apparently indecision or other difficulties attending the fitting of floats (which were, in fact, never adopted partly, perhaps, because the improved Babies were performing quite well as water-based maids-of-all-work); the experimental and development work on equipment and armament, already described; and the Navy's obvious attachment to the F.1, with its greater wing area for ultra-short take-offs - and of a type, moreover, which they already possessed. But even with its smaller wing area than the F.1's - roughly 10 sq ft (0.93 sq m) less - and especially when flying below its maximum permissible weight (which varied considerably according to military load) the 2F.1 was a far deadlier 'ship's aeroplane' than was the Pup – and, as Lieut S. D. Culley was to show when using special light armament, as later noted - a mighty hunter of Zeppelins.
  Sopwith themselves undertook the first production contract (N6600-N6649) and by the autumn of 1917 examples were leaving the Kingston works (N6603, for instance, was at the Isle of Grain early in November). Sopwith's own fifty were stoutly backed (as might have been expected, having regard to development and production of 'ship's Pups') by a hundred from Beardmore which company, in fact, received Sopwith-built N6618 very early in 1918, before this aircraft joined the Navy at Rosyth, a short distance away on the other side of Scotland. Beardmore themselves flew their own first 2F.1 very shortly afterwards (N6750, 20 February) and later had a contract for another fifty, though 30 more still were cancelled. By October 1918, in any case, a total of 129 Sopwith 2F.1s were in service. Other constructors were Arrol, Johnston of Dumfries (who did, in fact, erect the last ten of Beardmore's second batch); Hooper; and Clayton & Shuttleworth; but contracts with Fairey (who eventually built the true 2F.1 replacement, the Flycatcher, in 1922), also with Pegler and with Sage the noted shopfitters, were cancelled with the ending of the war.
  Certainly it must be noted that the 2F.1 Camel, with Bentlev B.R.I engine, was still regarded as a standard RAF type as late as 1921 (as was the Clerget-engined ship's version of the 1 1/2 Strutter) - which was certainly not the case with the far more widely built and even more famous F.1 Camel.
  Although one of the most significant operations by 2F.1 Camels was the strike on the Tondern Zeppelin sheds, using relatively heavy bombs, the 2F.1 was essentially an intercepter and destroyer of aeroplanes and airships in their own element - to which end the type was flown from the rotating turret-platforms of capital ships, from the fixed foredeck platforms of cruisers, from the full-scale flying-off decks of aircraft-carriers, from special destroyer-towed lighters, and even from special rigs on airships.
  The three last-named schemes must be considered in particular. Thus, concerning 'real' aircraft-carriers it must be recorded that in one month (June 1918) Furious (already familiar in associations with the Pup and Pup-carrying light cruisers) flew-off 2F.1s to attack German seaplanes, as did similar aircraft from the light cruisers Sydney, Melbourne and Galatea. One seaplane was forced down on to the water by a 2F.1 from Furious, and (such was Naval/air co-operation) was eventually finished-off by a destroyer. But with Furious and 2F.1s, in any case, we most fittingly associate not the interception of enemy aircraft in the air but a classic strike at one of their bases. This operation involved the indispensible elements of sea-and-air collaboration, surprise, special training, swift and telling blows - and audacity and skill of high order. The date was 19 July, 1918; the target was the airship base at Tondern; the Sopwith aircraft involved in the strike were six of seven specially prepared 2F.1s, with pilots specially trained (in two flights) in the techniques of low-bombing with 50 lb bombs - two of which projectiles were carried by each 2F.1; the result was the destruction of Zeppelins L54 and L60 in one shed and damage to another shed. Only two of the Camels managed to return to the Naval force which had conveyed them from Rosyth; three landed in Denmark; one ditched fatally.
  For a special note on 50 lb bombs the reader is referred to the chapter 'Folder Seaplane Type 807'. Having regard, however, to the persistent affirmation - apparently based on a remark by Marshal of the RAF Sir William Dickson, who was one of the pilots engaged (then holding the RAF rank of captain) that the bombs were 'specially made 60 lb Coopers', one would reaffirm that the 20 lb Cooper bomb was a common Camel weapon but would add that the Cooper delay-action nose fuse might be applied to bombs of other types. This fuse itself weighed 2 lb, whereas the 20 lb Cooper bomb (which actually weighed nearer 25 lb) contained only 4 lb of Amatol explosive.
  'Dickson' (whatever rank we now accord him) was one of the two pilots who, as earlier remarked, 'managed to return to the Naval force which had conveyed them from Rosyth' - this by way of stressing that these stalwarts did not land back aboard Furious but ditched near a destroyer and were plucked from the deep.
  All such considerations aside, the Tondern raid by 2F.1 Camels was the first true carrier-borne strike and one that was not only successful but historic also. As for details concerning bombs etc, one would only recall Sir William Dickson's virtual apology, after his appointment as Chief of the Air Staff in 1953, for his possibly disappointing personal appearance. To which one's reaction was: did it really matter - especially with a record like Sir William's, which included service at the Isle of Grain and award to him of the Dunning Cup in 1921 for 'flying from aircraft carriers in experimental machines'. (In any case, concerning the Tondern bombs, we indubitably have the equation 2 x 60 lb the latter being the 'Dickson' figure - equalling 112 lb. Which is precisely the heaviest bomb-weight quoted in the F.1 Camel chapter!).
  Having thus digressed to consider bombs, we must further pursue inquiry into 2F.1 activities aboard what we have earlier termed "real" aircraft-carriers, including among these not only the big-and-famous Furious, Argus and Eagle but the smaller and less familiar Vindictive (a conversion of the light cruiser Cavendish, with flying-off deck forward and landing deck aft) and Pegasus, which had been laid down as a Great Eastern Railway packet, and is not to be confused with the Ark Royal that was renamed Pegasus in 1934 and which rendered possibly untold service to the development of Naval flying. For special trials in 1919 with deck-arrester gear Argus, with her flush deck, was the chosen vessel, and in the summer of 1920 Eagle was operating the 2F.1 Camel type with three large arrester-gear clips on the landing gear spreader bar, a strut-braced propeller guard forward and a quick-release bridle further aft. For Fleet co-operation work with wireless, a few F.1s, as well as 2F.1s, were modified. Indeed, both forms of the production Camel served the Navy afloat-an F.1 with jettisonable steel-tube landing gear being carried on a lighter, and a 2F.1 for similar employment having an F.1's armament of two Vickers guns. Three 2F.1s from Vindictive went to Riga in November 1919 to serve with the Latvian forces, and, as already intimated, the 'Ship's Camel’ was still regarded as a standard RAF type as late as 1921, though its lower power and smaller wing area clearly placed it at some disadvantage compared with the ‘interim' Nieuport Nightjar (even though that type, which entered service in 1922, was "derated" from a 320 hp Dragonfly radial to a 230 hp Bentley B.R.2 rotary).
  From 'real' aircraft-carriers we turn to destroyer-towed lighters - a form of aircraft-carrier particularly associated with the very large Felixstowe F.2A flying-boat and the very small 2F.1 Camel - though for the Camel not merely as a carrier, but as a flying-off platform also. With the development and operating techniques of towed lighters one name especially is linked-that of Lieut Col C. R. Samson, for that rank "Sammy" held in August 1918 when he set down some considerations concerning the use of ‘Camel Aeroplanes' from lighters. With the 150 hp B.R.I engine, Samson explained, the Camel could be armed with two synchronised Vickers guns; or one synchronised Vickers gun and one Lewis gun which could be ‘moved in elevation' (evidently meaning the standard 2F.1 scheme involving the Admiralty Top Plane mounting), or 'two Lewis guns on the top plane'. Clearly, this last-mentioned scheme was not only light (the guns being fixed, and their magazines unchangeable in flight) but allowed the firing with impunity above the Camel's propeller of 'special' (anti-Zeppelin) ammunition.
  It was Samson himself who made the first Camel/lighter test, on 30 May, 1918, using N6623 fitted with skids like those of a Pup, supposedly to run in guide-troughs. The skids got fouled-up; 'Sammy' got a ducking and was run-over by the lighter into the bargain. He survived until 1931.
  To Lieut S. D. Culley really fell the honour of vindicating the lighter scheme, and in this wise:
  On the evening of 10 August, 1918, the Harwich Light Cruiser Force had sailed for a special operation in the Heligoland Bight. The composition of this force was appropriately 'special', consisting as it did of four light cruisers, eight destroyers, and six attendant F.2A flying-boats (three on towed lighters, the others operating from Great Yarmouth) - the cruisers carrying six motor torpedo-boats for swift and potent strikes, and one of the destroyers - HMS Redoubt - towing yet another lighter. Upon this lighter was a 2F.1 Camel (Beardmore-built N6812) for which the pilot was Lieut Culley.
  Early on the morning of 11 August the ships transmitted 'spoof wireless signals to proclaim their presence and lure out Zeppelins - a class of craft which had hitherto been shadowing the Harwich Force, to its discomfiture and embarrassment. Off Terschelling the motor torpedo-boats were lowered into the water and scudded off towards the River Ems. The three lighter-borne flying-boats could not be operated by reason of their overloaded state, a long swell and lack of wind; but the three from Great Yarmouth appeared and went to search for the now-overdue motor torpedo-boats (which had in fact, met trouble). From one of the flying-boats, however, Maj Robert Leckie saw a Zeppelin approaching at 15,000 ft, and duly warned the surface force by visual means. Leckie was told that the Camel was being prepared for launching, and that he himself was to go home.
  At 08.25 the Zeppelin L53 was spotted by the ships; Vice-Admiral Sir Reginald Tyrwhitt, who was commanding the force, ordered the destroyers to lay a smoke-screen (and thus to lure the Zeppelin further); and L53 nosed on from cloud to cloud.
  Working up to thirty knots and heading into wind Redoubt now had the situation in hand - with her lighter in tow. Culley in the Camel's cockpit, and the sea-drenched handling crew at their perilous posts. The engine having been swung into life (at particular peril) and the quick-release holding-down shackle on the landing gear spreader bar operated, the helpers made themselves scarce by lying flat, and the Camel was up and away in a mere five feet.
  Culley climbed, but lost sight of the Zeppelin, though he did see haze and ice. At length through the murk the Camel rose, though slowly, for the height was nearing ceiling - and then the Zeppelin, at 19,000 ft. began to head for home. The Camel was now at just about its ceiling, but from 300 ft below, Culley pulled back on the stick and fired at the airship above. After getting off only seven rounds one of his two fixed Lewis guns (for which there was an Aldis sight, offset to starboard) jammed; but not the second gun - and L53 burst into flame and broke in two. The Camel fell out of the action, and Culley felt the heat from the last German airship to be shot down in the war then soon to finish.
  As the sailors of the Harwich Force sent up their cheers and L53 hit the water, Culley began to find himself not only in navigation trouble but in engine trouble too, as the main tank emptied; though with his emergency petrol supply itself running out he was able to ditch near Redoubt.
  Lighters-and-aircraft engaging in battle with lighter-than-air craft had another symbolism for the RAF, quite aside from Culley's exploit - and one hardly less exciting, though far less known. For this last reason the writer has particular pleasure in acknowledging the researches of Philip Jarrett, who draws attention not only to the antiquity of the idea of lighter-than-air craft launching ones heavier than air, but avers that plans to experiment with the attachment of a Camel to, and its release from, the airship HMA R23 had been formulated before July 1918 referring in particular to photographs taken on or before 25 July and showing 2F.1 Camel N6622 suspended beneath the then-obsolete R23 in a Pulham shed. The Camel was attached by the 'Little-Crook anchoring gear', and one of the co-inventors (Maj I. C. Little, RAF) reported at the time the photographs were taken that the airship's forward engines were run at full speed, the slipstream passing over the Camel, which then ran its own B.R.I engine. This rig was probably only used for 'dry runs' and not for airborne-dropping trials.
  In the September following. Brigadier-General E. M. Maitland, Superintendent of Airships, listed the functions of the airship-carried fighter as attacks against hostile territory (the machines returning to neutral territory) and defence of the airship against hostile attack; while there was still a scheme propounded by Lieut-Col F. L. M. Boothby - in which the attached aircraft doubled as the principal motive power of the airship.
  By 3 October, 1918. R23 had flown for three hours with a Camel (almost certainly the Beardmore-built 2F.1 numbered N6814) in position, and on 3November, 1918, the F.1 Camel D8250 was air-tested beneath R23, the (unpiloted) Camel's rudder being secured in the neutral position and the elevators lashed about 2 deg down. The airship rose to 500 ft, turned into wind, and the tail support raised clear of the Camel, which was then released (turning over on landing). On 6 November possibly with 'Ship's Camel' N6814 again R23 ascended with Lieut R. E. Keys in the fighter's cockpit, and on 15 November Keys reported:
  'On Nov 6th 1918 I carried out experiment of dropping a Camel from a Rigid Airship.
  'My engine was started before leaving the ground and I kept it running at 500 revs. The Rigid Airship attained the height of 3000 ft. during which time the aeroplane was quite rigid and satisfactory. The saddle fitting over the after end of the fuselage was then removed. I gave the signal to be released and on being released the machine dropped about 10 ft and picked up her glide and was immediately under control. The machine showed no tendency whatever to get out of control. The speed of the Rigid Airship was 30 mph.
  'While being released from the Airship I had my controls neutral. I thoroughly tested the machine and found she had in no way suffered from being suspended from the Airship. I consider this method of attachment is entirely satisfactory.’
  It matters little whether the particular fighter concerned was a 2F.1 or an F.1; nor does the inconsistent spelling of Key's name with one or two 'e's - though it was evidently not 'Keyes' as typed on the report. What does, however, matter is that here was one Camel at least which 'showed no tendency whatever to get out of control' in distinctly unusual circumstances (and which, be it noted, remained rigid under its Rigid).
  Although 2F.1 Camel N7352 was fitted in February 1921 with an 'Airship and Overhead Wire Landing Gear for Small Craft' (following early-1920 tests with a Camel having an overwing cable-engaging hook, the patterns whereof were varied) no airship trials were involved. N7352, nevertheless, was fitted with a strikingly elaborate propeller-guard, had an entirely stripped centre section for optimum pilot-view, and - with its hook above - presented a singular appearance.
  But these and similar schemes were not Sopwith developments, and are noted here in token of that company's wide involvement in curious and stringent trials - if not beyond the call of duty, then beyond a clause of contract. More fittingly, perhaps, this present chapter may conclude as follows:
  Quite early in the account of the F.1 Camel it was remarked that the type 'owed something to the Baby as well as to the Pup', while in this present chapter on the 2F.1 the name 'Improved Baby' makes a similarly early appearance. Thus one recalls especially vividly the remarks of a Sopwith Schneider pilot serving in the RNAS (no less applicable to the Baby – and, in fact, even more so) to this effect; 'The duties of the Schneider Flight (at Yarmouth) were extraordinary in their variety. It was the machine for the lover of solitude and independence and a wandering kind of life. The Schneider was a sort of detective, exposing all mysteries, such as whales mistaken for submarines, streaks of oil, and rescuing colleagues in difficulties. Any wild rumour-out went the Schneider to investigate ...'
  How opportune, now, to re-emphasise the relationships between all the Sopwiths by appending this recollection by a Camel pilot (F.1 or 2F.1 seems immaterial) of a certain salty sortie: 'One day in May I was ordered to the Shipwash patrol on a Camel. When almost over this light vessel at a height of approximately 3,000 feet, I saw what appeared to be a submarine on the surface, or rather, going along with only the periscope above water. The visibility was poor, and the submarine, when challenged later, did nothing but proceed in a "suspicious manner".
  'After an interval, therefore, two dives were made and several bursts given from the two Vickers guns. Whereupon, the supposed submarine disappeared downwards, taking cover supposedly. In great glee I turned inland and landed ... I was suitably celebrating my success when I was told by the orderly. "You're wanted on the 'phone. Sir".
  'My submarine was a whale.'
  So, to round off these Camel chapters - from sending down other aeroplanes, and bombs of quite surprising sorts, to being hoisted-up by an airship and taken in by a whale - one would only affirm that if Sopwith's Camel never actually passed through the eye of a needle, then it must have come pretty close even to that attainment. Indeed, as someone once declared, it became so famous that the Arabs named an animal after it.
  As for the 2F.1, now under particular scrutiny, production orders were:
  Sopwith N6600-N6649.
  Arrol, Johnston N7350-N7389 (some not delivered, but company erected last ten of Beardmore's second order).
  Beardmore N6750-N6849; N7100-N7149.
  Clayton & Shuttleworth N8180-N8229 (deliveries halved).
  Hooper N8130-N8179.

  N.B. Although the U S Navy may have had some 2F.1 Camels, the six known Camels used by that Service - sometimes from gun-turret platforms on battleships and sometimes also having external notation bags and a hydrovane - were seemingly of F.1 type. On 9 March, 1919, a Camel made the first turret-platform take-off from a US battleship (Texas). Paradoxically, the pilot's name was McDonnell!

2F.1 Camel (150 hp B.R.I)

  Span 26 ft 11 in (8.2 m): length 18 ft 9 in (5.7 m); wing area 221 sq ft (20.5 sq m). Empty weight 1,036 lb (470 kg); maximum weight 1,530 lb (694 kg). Maximum speed at 10,000 ft (3,050 m) 122 mph (196 km/h); maximum speed at 15,000 ft (4.570 m) 117 mph (188 km/h); climb to 10,000 ft (3,050 m) II min 30 sec; climb to 15,000 ft (4.570 m) 25 min; service ceiling 17.300 ft (5,270 m).

O.Thetford British Naval Aircraft since 1912 (Putnam)

Sopwith 2F.I Ship Camel

  Unlike the F.I Camel. which served both the RNAS and RFC, the 2F.I was designed specifically as a shipboard fighter and, to this end, incorporated a number of features that distinguished it from the earlier Camel. The fuselage was made in two parts, the rear half being detachable just behind the cockpit: this conserved space aboard ship. Another distinguishing feature was the use of steel tubular centre-section struts instead of the wide wooden struts of the F.I.
  The prototype 2F.I Camel (N5) flew in March 1917, and the 230 production aircraft that followed were built by the major sub-contractor Beardmore and six other companies after an initial 50 by Sopwith.
  The main operational function of the 2F.I Camels was to intercept Zeppelins over the North Sea. For this purpose they were carried in numerous warships, where they were flown from platforms mounted above gun turrets in the same way as the Pups they superseded. They were also flown from aircraft-carriers such as Furious. Yet another means of getting the Camels to the scene of operations was from lighters towed by destroyers of Harwich Force; the first successful take-off by this method was achieved by Lt S D Culley on 31 July 1918. A few days afterwards, on 11 August, the same officer shot down the Zeppelin L53 whilst flying from a lighter in Camel N6812. It was the last Zeppelin to be destroyed in air combat.
  Another method of attacking Zeppelins was to bomb them in their sheds - a technique much favoured by the RNAS from the earliest days of the war. In June 1918 a specially trained force of 2F.I Camels joined Furious for an audacious strike on the airship sheds at Tondem. Escorted by the First Light Cruiser Squadron. Furious flew off seven Camels on 19 July 1918. Six of the Camels, each carrying two 50 lb bombs, succeeded in reaching Tondem and the Zeppelins L54 and L60 were destroyed.
  By October 1918 there were 129 2F.1 Camels in service and 112 were carried in ships of the Grand Fleet. Camels aboard Argus took part in some of the earliest experiments with deck-arrester gear in 1919.

  Carriers: Argus, Furious, Manxman, Pegasus and Vindictive. Turret platform launch from 47 battleships, battle cruisers and cruisers. RNAS shore stations: Cranwell, Dover (No.233 Squadron), East Fortune, Felixstowe (No.230 Squadron), Great Yarmouth (Nos.212 and 273 Squadrons), Isle of Grain, Leuchars, Manston (No.219 Squadron), Port Victoria and Turnhouse. Air launch experiments from airship R23.

  Description: Single-seat ship-board fighting scout.
  Manufacturers: Sopwith (N6600-6649) and seven sub-contractors (serials ranging from N6750 to 8204).
  Power Plant: One 150 hp Bentley B.R.I.
  Dimensions: Span, 26 ft 11 in. Length, 18 ft 9 in. Wing area, 221 sq ft.
  Weights: Empty, 1,036 lb. Loaded, 1.530 lb.
  Performance: Maximum speed, 117 mph at 15.000 ft. Climb, 25 min to 15.000 ft. Service ceiling, 17.300 ft.
  Armament: One fixed, synchronised Vickers gun above the fuselage and one Lewis gun above the wing centre section. Four 25 lb bombs.

H.King Armament of British Aircraft (Putnam)

Camel 2F.1. This was the "ships'" version of the Camel and normally had only one Vickers gun (port) and one Lewis gun above the centre-section. The type was a derivative of a design known as the FS.1 which may actually have been constructed as the 'Camel Seaplane' and of which a landplane version was certainly built. Like the FS.1, this aircraft had a Vickers gun to port and a Lewis gun over the centre-section. This gun was fixed and was installed in the inverted position, with the ammunition drum projecting through a trailing-edge cut-out so that it could be changed by the pilot without recourse to a movable mounting of Foster or Admiralty Top Plane type. The latter was, however, standardised. Two double drums were provided for the Lewis gun, and there were 250 rounds for the Vickers gun, which had a ring-and-bead sight mounted upon it. At least one aircraft was modified to have twin Vickers guns, and the most famous 2F.1 of all - used by Lieut S. D. Culley to shoot down Zeppelin L.53 on 10 August, 1918 - had two Lewis guns above the centre-section. An experimental installation of eight strut-mounted Le Prieur rockets was made.
  It has been stated that for the raid on the Tondern Zeppelin sheds on 19 July, 1918, the bombs used by the seven Camels engaged were of 50-lb type. Marshal of the RAF Sir William Dickson, who took part in the raid, has, however, described them as 'specially made 60-lb Coopers'. He has also recorded that before the raid the pilots experimented with various forms of sight to improve their aim.

W.Green, G.Swanborough The Complete Book of Fighters


  A shipboard version of the F.1 Camel single-seat fighter, the 2F.1 differed essentially in having an abbreviated upper wing centre section and correspondingly shorter lower wing; narrower, steel-tube cabane struts; external elevator cables, and a detachable rear fuselage to facilitate stowage aboard ship. The standard engine was the 150 hp Bentley B.R.1, but the 130 hp Clerget 9B was regarded as an alternative, and armament comprised one synchronised 0.303-in (7,7-mm) machine gun and a second weapon of similar calibre above the wing centre section. Deliveries of the 2F.1 to the RNAS began in the autumn of 1917 against an initial order for 50 fighters placed with the parent company. William Beardmore & Co subsequently became the major contractor for this version of the Camel, building a further 150 of which the first flew on 20 February 1918. The 2F.1 Camels were employed by the RNAS and (after the amalgamation of that service with the RFC on 1 April 1918) RAF from shore bases, towed lighters, battle cruisers, large light cruisers and from the carriers Argus, Furious, Pegasus and Eagle. On 31 October 1918, 129 were on charge with the RAF, of which 112 were with units of the Grand Fleet. The 2F.1 Camel remained in service as a carrier-borne fighter for some years after World War I, a number was supplied to Latvia and Estonia, and others supplied to Canada continued in use until the late ’twenties. The following data relate to the B.R.1-powered 2F.1 Camel.

Max speed, 122 mph (196 km/h) at 10,000 ft (3 050 m).
Time to 10,000 ft (3 050 m), 11.5 min.
Empty weight, 1,036 lb (470 kg).
Loaded weight, 1,530 lb (694 kg).
Span, 26 ft 11 in (8,20 m).
Length, 18 ft 8 in (5,69 m).
Height, 9ft 1 in (2,77 m).
Wing area, 221 sq ft (20,53 m2).

Журнал Flight

Flight, February 6, 1919.



The Sopwith "Camel" (Sea Type)

  This design was almost identical with the above, except that the fuselage was made detachable at the rear of the pilot's seat, enabling the machine to be conveniently stowed aboard ship. It was used for flying from the deck of seaplane carriers, and, in addition to this, was also carried on some of our fast cruisers. The method of launching was off the Barbet guns. It will be appreciated that it required a machine of considerable efficiency to get off with certainty and satisfaction with so short a run.

В.Кондратьев - Самолеты первой мировой войны
"Кэмел", восстановленный до летного состояния. Современный снимок.
H.King - Sopwith Aircraft 1912-1920 /Putnam/
Familiar though generally in retouched form, with even the Brooklands huts removed this view of N6635 remains as the classic study of a 2F.1 Camel. So excellent is the Sopwith original ('S.58 - Camel - 150 A.R.I Engine Type 2.F.1') that even the tiny pillar-mounted bead for the ring-sight on the Vickers gun is distinctly seen above the cowling. Equally so, the aircraft number - on the fuselage side behind the cockpit.
H.Cowin - Aviation Pioneers /Osprey/
A development of the earlier IF Camel, the Sopwith 2F Camel was evolved specifically for naval use, being characterised by its shorter wingspan and detachable rear fuselage to facilitate shipboard storage. Powered by either a 150hp Bentley BR I, the standard engine, or a 130hp Clerget 9B, the first 2F Camel was completed and flying by March 1917, however, it then took around six months before production deliveries began to flow to the service users. Developed specifically as a Zeppelin killer, the 2F Camel had a top level speed of 122mph at 10.000 feet, decreasing to 117mph at 15.000 feet. Its time to climb to 10.000 feet was 11 minutes 30 seconds, increasing to 25 minutes to reach 15.000 feet, while its ceiling was 17.300 feet. The machine's armament consisted of a nose-mounted Vickers, along with an overwing Lewis gun, while two 50lb bombs could be slung below the centre section. The 2F Camel was deployed in depth around the North Sea and on both sides of the English Channel; they were carried about and launched from atop battleship and battle cruiser main turrets, they were put aboard the Royal Navy's first aircraft carriers, while more venturesome minds, such as that of Charles Rumney Samson, conceived the idea of launching them from lighters, towed at high speed by destroyers. That they achieved the task set them is attested to by the fact that they accounted for three Zeppelins, L 54 and L 60 being destroyed at their Trondern base by seven 2F Camel bombers, launched from HMS Furious on 17 July 1918, while less than a month later, L 53 was brought down by Lt S.D. Culley, RN, from a towed lighter launch on 11 August 1918. Perhaps the most surprising thing about the 2F Camel saga was the fact that there were relatively so few of them produced, with Sopwith building 50, backed by Beardmore, who assembled a further 100 machines. The image shows a frontal aspect on the prototype 2F Camel, serial no N5.
H.King - Armament of British Aircraft /Putnam/
Armed to meet RNAS requirements: the Camel 2F.1 with Vickers gun to port, with ring-and-bead sight mounted on gun, and Lewis gun on Admiralty Top Plane mounting.
K.Delve - World War One in the Air /Crowood/
A Sopwith Camel modified with cut-away in the centre section of the upper wing to allow an upward-firing gun to be fitted. This is possibly N6643, one of 50 Sopwith 2F1 'ships Camels' delivered in early 1918.
Сайт - Pilots-and-planes /WWW/
This Sopwith 2F.1 Camel (N6812) was flown by Lt S.D.Culley on 31 July 1918 when he destroyed Zeppelin L53. The Camel was launched from a lighter at sea to perform the interception
O.Thetford - British Naval Aircraft since 1912 /Putnam/
Both guns are clearly installed on the Beardmore-built N7136, seen here at Dalmuir. Note also the external elevator-control cables, running from the lever just behind the fuselage joint.
W.Green, G.Swanborough - The Complete Book of Fighters
A pair of the 2F.1 shipboard versions of the Camel serving at Turnhouse in 1918.
Сайт - Pilots-and-planes /WWW/
A ground crewman pulls though the propeller of this 2F.1 Camel (N7376) of the Royal Canadian Air Force Exhibition Flight. The aircraft was preparing to conduct a demonstration flight at Camp Borden, Toronto, during 1928
H.King - Sopwith Aircraft 1912-1920 /Putnam/
Far more than mere 'dignity and impudence' poses, these picture shows N7120 with standard armament, and a Handley Page V/1500 for company and scale.
H.King - Sopwith Aircraft 1912-1920 /Putnam/
Far more than mere 'dignity and impudence' poses, these picture shows twin Vickers guns and a jettisonable steel-tube landing gear, with the Felixstowe Fury flying-boat obliging in a like capacity. Note how distinct are the features mentioned, tiny though the Camels are.
H.King - Sopwith Aircraft 1912-1920 /Putnam/
On battleships - especially those with 15 in guns - the 2F.1 was sometimes blasted by the firing of the great guns themselves. Less so in a cruiser - illustrated here by N6779 aboard Calliope, with the Camel sitting proud on its platform above the forward 6 in gun. Note that the aeroplane has fully as much extra hamper - in the form of battens and strops, to keep things Sopwith-shape - as the cruiser has herself; and the man in the foreground suggests that the whole affair should be told to the Marines.
H.Cowin - Aviation Pioneers /Osprey/
The picture is of serial no N6797 on its launching platform atop 'X' turret of the battle cruiser, HMS Tiger.
Журнал - Flight за 1919 г.
A SOPWITH CAMEL, SEA TYPE, TAKING OFF FROM THE DECK OF A BATTLESHIP. - Note the platform carried on the guns and rota table with them.
O.Thetford - British Naval Aircraft since 1912 /Putnam/
The picture is of Lt S.D. Culley, RN, during the first successful tow lighter demonstration, made on 31 July 1918. Here it should be recalled that Cdr Samson had nearly lost his life attempting this feat some weeks earlier, when his Camel snagged some ties during launch.
A reminder that the 2F.1 Camel was developed essentially for Naval use with seaborne forces, and epitomising also the glorious victory by Lieut Stuart Culley over Zeppelin L53 just before the Armistice, as described in the text. (A reminder also that although the 2F.1 was operated from 'real' aircraft-carriers it was not a true deck-landing aircraft, as were its successors, though like other Sopwiths, it helped to show the way).
H.King - Sopwith Aircraft 1912-1920 /Putnam/
A final reminder of the truth of the foregoing caption - and illustrating also salient recognition characteristics of the standard 2F.1 version of the Camel (high-set Lewis gun, and centre section less splayed than on the F.1).
H.King - Sopwith Aircraft 1912-1920 /Putnam/
The Royal Marines having now entered the picture, their motto 'Per mare, per terrain" may be borrowed for the 2F.1 Camel - especially as shown in these two views: Top, with skid landing gear for Samson's lighter trial, which ended (see text) very much per mare: lower, a 'split' specimen, distinctly per terrain.
Журнал - Flight за 1919 г.
Sopwith 2F.l Camels on the flying-off deck of HMS Furious in 1918.
AT THE WAR IN THE AIR EXHIBITION. - "All lined up and somewhere to go." "Off we go to strafe the Zepps." The machines are lined up on the deck of H.M.S. "Furious," ready to fly to the sheds at Tondern, in Schleswig-Holstein where the Zepps. had a lair. But the bombs found their target and Germany moaned the low of her much-prized "Gas-bags," one loaded shed being destroyed and others damaged.
Сайт - Pilots-and-planes /WWW/
In 1920 deck-flying trials were conducted with several types of aircraft on HMS Eagle. One of those involved was this 2F1, without armament
H.King - Sopwith Aircraft 1912-1920 /Putnam/
An element extra to those named in an earlier caption is implicit here, with N6814 snugly stowed beneath the airship R23 for tests connected with air-launching.
Журнал - Flight за 1919 г.
LEFT, THE AEROPLANE IN POSITION. - This picture shows how the aeroplane is attached to the airship. AND ON RIGHT, DROPPING OFF. - The aeroplane released from the airship.
Sopwith 2F Camel, serial no N6814, of No 212 Squadron, RAF, slung from beneath R 23 at Pulham. The second Camel used in these trials was serial no 6622 and came from the same squadron. While the first release from R 23 involved an unmanned Camel with locked controls, at least one 'live' release was made, with Lt R.E.Keys landing the Camel back at Pulham.
Журнал - Flight за 1919 г.
AT THE WAR IN THE AIR EXHIBITION. - Ready to fight the enemy. An airship carrying a fighting aeroplane which can be released instantly in case of attack by enemy aircraft.
H.Cowin - Aviation Pioneers /Osprey/
Built at their Barrow-in-Furness facility, the Vickers R 23 was the first quasi-operational British airship and the lead machine of four, then two improved class of dirigibles. Powered by four 250hp Rolls-Royce Eagles, the 17 man crew R 23 had a top level speed of 52mph and cruised at 40mph. Short on bouyancy, the R 23's ceiling was an alarmingly low 3,000 feet, whilst its maximum bomb load of 400lb was around a ninth that of its near contemporary, the Imperial German Navy's 'u' class, L 48. First flown in September 1917, the R23 was delivered to the RNAS Airship Station at Pulham in Norfolk on the 15th of that month. Subsequently mainly employed on training duties, the R 23 was adopted as a mother ship for two Sopwith Camels during the summer of 1918. The other airships in this class consisted of the Beardmore-built R 24, Armstrong Whitworth's R 25 and the Vickers-built R 26. The two R23X or Improved R 23 Class airships were Beardmore's R 27 and Armstrong Whitworth's R 29. The image shows R 23 being 'walked' at Pulham.
H.King - Sopwith Aircraft 1912-1920 /Putnam/
The Admiralty Top Plane mounting, with its Lewis gun, is featured in this photograph. The magazine is of the 'single' (47-round) pattern.
O.Thetford - British Naval Aircraft since 1912 /Putnam/
Sopwith Camel 2F.I