The F.2B, also known as the Bristol Fighter, was used by 1 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps in Palestine in 1917-18. Some of the Squadron's aircraft cooperated with Lawrence of Arabia and his force of Arab irregular fighters in operations against Turkish forces. In late 1918 the Squadron participated in ground attacks which destroyed much of a retreating Turkish army.
The Bristol Aeroplane Co. modified the F.2B after the war into a civilian two or three-seat passenger aircraft called the Bristol Tourer, eight of which were flown in Australia in the 1920s. Sir Charles Kinsgford Smith flew one of these around Australia.
The TAVAS replica was built by Ed Storo in the USA and first registered in 1992 as N624. It was subsequently sold to TVAL in NZ in late 2001 and changed colour scheme. After TVAL brought it across ‘the ditch’ for the Australian International Airshow at Avalon in February 2015, it remained in Australia and is now operated as part of the TAVAS collection.
We repainted the aircraft to represent the F2B flown by Capt. Ross McPherson Smith of No.1 Squadron, Australian Flying Corp in the Middle East, serial number B1229.
After serving with the 3rd Light Horse Brigade at Gallipoli, Smith transferred to the Australian Flying Corps in 1917 in Egypt. He scored his first victory on the morning of 1st September 1917, shooting down an Albatros D.III near Beersheba, whilst flying a B.E.2e. Flying the Bristol Fighter, Smith and his observers were credited with 10 more victories in 1918.
The great offensive of September 1917, was led by 1 Squadron AFC, and the initial blow was a bombing raid by Captain Ross Smith dropping sixteen 112 pound (51kg) bombs on the telegraph station and railway yards at El Afule, destroying both. The rest of the squadron attacked other key positions completely isolating the Turkish Army further south of the attack. The Turks’ turn came on September 21, at Wadi Fara, where William’s 40th led the attack, the Turkish 7th Army "ceased to exist". It was a total massacre resulting from attacks from the air.
On September 22, the famed Lieutenant Colonel T E Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) called for air assistance for his Arab army that were being constantly attacked by German air forces. Led by Captain R Smith, he and two others from No 1 Squadron, in their Bristol fighters went to Lawrence’s aid, shooting down several German invaders. Order was restored, and to keep the offensive going, Smith had petrol and ammunition flown into his position by a Handley-Page bomber so he could remain with Lawrence’s army to protect it. The rest of the offensive went with the RFC and AFC having total air supremacy.
After the war, Smith and his older brother Keith were knighted for completing the first flight from England to Australia in 1919.
He was killed in a crash at Brooklands during a practice flight in preparation for an attempt to fly around the world. Smith was inducted into the Australian Aviation Hall of Fame in 2012.
His log book is kept by the AWM Canberra. It can be viewed online if you click here.
1 Sqn AFC started flying operation on 12th June 1916. In June 2016, TAVAS operated their 1 Sqn Bristol F2B, alongside current 1 Sqn RAAF Super Hornets over Amberley to mark the centenary of operations and to highlight just how far aircraft development had come, operating 1 Sqn's first true fighter attack aircraft alongside their latest.
Length: 7.87 m (25 ft 10 in)
Wingspan: 11.96 m (39 ft 3 in)
Height: 2.97 m (9 ft 9 in)
Wing Area: 37.62 m2 (405 ft2)
Empty Weight: 975 kg (2,145 lb)
Maximum Weight: 1,474 kg (3,243 lb)
Powerplant: 1 x 275 hp (205 kW) Rolls-Royce Falcon III liquid cooled V-12 engine
Maximum Speed: 198 km/h (123 mph, 107 kn) at 5,000 ft
Range: 593 km (369 miles)
Service Ceiling: 5,500 m (18,000 ft)
Rate of Climb: 4.5 m/s (889 ft/min)
1 x .303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers machine gun for the Pilot
1 or 2 x .303 in Lewis Guns in the Observer’s cockpit
110 kg (240 lb) bomb load
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