Probably the most famous Allied fighter of the Great War, the Sopwith Camel was developed as a successor to the very popular Sopwith Pup. The Camel name allegedly came from the formed metal hump that covers the fighters synchronised twin .303 Vickers machine guns.
During development, it was simply called the ‘Big Pup’ by Sopwith staff.
Powered by a 130 hp Clerget rotary engine, the compact airframe could be a handful for inexperienced pilots, and killed many. However, in the hands of an expert it was a lethal weapon, being highly manoeuvrable, fast climbing and heavily armed.
While it was outclassed by fighters like the Fokker D.VII by mid-1918, it continued to be highly effective for ground attack.
The Camel has several Australian connections. The Sopwith Head of Works was Australian Harry Kauper, and the company’s Chief Test Pilot was Harry Hawker, from Melbourne. No.4 Squadron AFC flew Camels over France, while No.s 5, 6 and 8 (Training) Squadrons AFC used them in England.
Our Camel was faithfully built from modern materials in Toowoomba and is powered by a 9-cylinder Rotec radial engine. It is painted in the colours of 54-victory Canadian ace Donald MacLaren, who flew F2137 “U” with No.46 Squadron, RFC, over the Western Front during September and October 1918.
Incredibly, MacLaren only entered the air war in February 1918, achieving all his victories in just nine months. He began by sending a German fighter down out of control in his first combat and finished the war with a DSO, Military Cross and Bar, DFC, French Légion d;Honneur and Croix de Guerre.
He flew Sopwith Camels throughout his campaign and there’s little doubt this agile fighter was a key factor in his success.
Length: 5.72 m (18 ft 9 in)
Wingspan: 8.53 m (28 ft 0 in)
Height: 2.59 m (8 ft 6 in)
Wing Area: 21.50 m2 (231 ft2)
Empty Weight: 422 kg (930 lb)
Gross Weight: 659 kg (1,453 lb)
Power/Weight: .15 kW/kg (.09 hp/lb)
Powerplant: 1 x 130 hp (97 kW) Clerget 9B 9-cylinder rotary engine
Maximum speed: 182 km/h (113 mph, 98 knots)
Stall speed: 77 km/h (48 mph, 42 knots)
Range: 480 km (300 miles)
Service ceiling: 5,800 m (19,000 ft)
Rate of Climb: 5.51 m/s (1,085 ft/min)
2 x .303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers machine guns
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