H.King Sopwith Aircraft 1912-1920 (Putnam)
The 'Sopwith Kitten'
Although Commander Harry Busteed was at one time in charge of the RNAS Experimental Flight at Eastchurch, and - in the course of his work - also had a close relationship with the Sopwith company (being, in any case, one of the three original 'Aussie Harrys' together with Hawker and Kauper) there is scant reason to suppose that the name 'Sopwith Kitten' was justly applicable to the ship's ultra-light armed scout which was otherwise called the Port Victoria P.V.8 Eastchurch Kitten. The ascription might, nevertheless, have been fostered by structural features, the most obvious being the plank-type interplane struts. (The true designer was, it seems, Capt Gilbert Henry Millar, who, after a period as a prisoner of war, escaped. Millar had yachting experience, had joined the RNVR and was transferred successively to the RNAS and the RAF. Although he became a pilot himself, he served also as an observer with the Fleet).
The photograph herewith of the charming little aeroplane just mentioned is reproduced for two reasons - apart from the discredited name 'Sopwith Kitten' and from the fact that this particular picture appears not to have been previously published: (1) The photograph was given to the present writer by Sir Frank Spriggs, who was with Sopwith from 1913 to 1920, and later became managing director of Hawker Siddeley. Though received together with views of indubitable Sopwith types, this Kitten picture had no accompanying text. (2) This same photograph shows a tailplane of seemingly unfamiliar form, though one of another shape was apparently fitted after the aircraft had been initially flown with no horizontal fixed tail-surfaces whatever.
Yet another derivative of the Sopwith Baby was the one-off Port Victoria P.V.1, with wings of higher aspect ratio, heavily cambered and heavily staggered.
P.Lewis The British Fighter since 1912 (Putnam)
The next designation in the Port Victoria design series, P.V.6, was allotted to an uncompleted project for a fast scout landplane. Attention was next turned to meeting a call for a very small, low-powered scout capable of being flown from minor warships. The engine specified was the two-cylinder, geared 45 h.p. A.B.C. Gnat. Besides the Port Victoria Depot, the Experimental Flight at Eastchurch was asked also to submit a design.
Each machine was a diminutive biplane, that designed at Port Victoria being designated the P.V.7, while the Eastchurch-conceived machine, through transference to Port Victoria for completion, became the P.V.8. Respectively, the aircraft were called the Grain Kitten and the Eastchurch Kitten.
Both types constituted early examples of the often-attempted light fighter, each being a well-conceived and competent approach to an interesting challenge.
Grain’s P.V.7 was the smaller of the two, following the normal layout for a single-seat, single-bay biplane of unequal span and showed traces in its outline of its predecessors from the same design source.
The Eastchurch Kitten was rather more angular and of cleaner cut than the Grain machine and received equal-span wings, set with accentuated stagger on single I-type interplane and centre-section struts.
Both the P.V.7 and P.V.8 were forced to use the lower output of the direct-drive 35 h.p. A.B.C. Gnat as the 45 h.p. version of the engine was not available. Each was armed with a single Lewis gun on the upper centre-section and each machine was modified in several respects after completion in mid-1917 and, of the pair, the P.V.8 showed itself to be the superior aeroplane.
H.King Armament of British Aircraft (Putnam)
P.V.8 (Eastchurch Kitten). Built to meet the same requirements as the P.V.7, the P.V.8 had its Lewis gun offset to starboard. This type likewise had a cut-away trailing edge to allow elevation, though it was officially reported that the gun would be awkward to fire because of the pilot's cramped position.
W.Green, G.Swanborough The Complete Book of Fighters
PORT VICTORIA P.V.8 (EASTCHURCH KITTEN) UK
Although designed by Lt G H Millar of the RNAS Experimental Flight at Eastchurch and partly built by that establishment, this competitor for the P.V.7 as a lightweight single-seat interceptor was completed in the workshops at Port Victoria and assigned the designation P.V.8. Becoming known as the Eastchurch Kitten, the P.V.8 was an angular single-bay staggered biplane intended, like the P.V.7, to be powered by the geared ABC Gnat engine, but of necessity fitted with the 35 hp ungeared version of this two-cylinder power plant. When initially flown on 1 September 1917, the P.V.8 possessed no fixed tailplane, but the horizontal tail surfaces were redesigned to incorporate a small tailplane prior to the second flight. Proving itself superior to the P.V.7 in every way, the P.V.8 suffered similar problems with its engine. On 13 March 1918, the Eastchurch Kitten was packed for despatch to the USA, where it was to be evaluated, but there is no record that it ever reached its destination.
Max speed, 94 mph (151 km/h) at 2,000 ft (610 m).
Time to 6,500 ft (1 980 m), 11.0 min.
Empty weight, 340 lb (154 kg).
Loaded weight, 586 lb (266 kg).
Span, 18 ft 11 1/2 in (5,78 m).
Length, 15 ft 7 1/2 in (4,76 m).
Height, 5 ft 2 in (1,57 m).
Wing area, 106 sqft (9,85 m2).