Royal Naval Air Service Biplanes

Scout, Pup, Triplane, Camel and DH4

In no particular order - Biplane aircraft of the Royal Naval Air Service and Fleet Air Arm of the RAF, 1914-1918.

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British & Colonial Aeroplane Company, Type 3 Bristol Scout D, RNAS East Fortune 1916.

Its always the simplest and quickest builds that give the greatest satisfaction. I picked up this diminutive Libra/Scaleplanes vacform at the IPMS Avon show for the grand sum of a pound. The instructions mentioned etched brass, but all I got was a sheet of polystyrene and some aerofoil section rod. To simplify things a bit I used various modified parts (struts, wings undercarriage) from another biplane kit (an Academy Camel). Building took a whole evening, with a bit of sanding and painting the next day. Decals from the spares box.

Bristol's unarmed Scout was one of the very first military aircraft. Its designer, Captain Frank Barnwell RFC, (incidentally, the first man to achieve a powered flight in Scotland) served as a fighter pilot on the Western Front during the Fokker Scourge of 1915. As an experienced aircraft designer, Barnwell, was given leave to return to the UK, where he quickly converted and improved the Scout's pre-war "sports aircraft" design to fit the conditions of war. His real aim, however was to design a new purpose built fighter warplane, putting into effect all that he had learned on the Front. The result was Barnwell's crowning glory, the outstanding Bristol F.2 "Brisfit" Fighter.

Used by both the RNAS and RFC, the Scout C made naval history when Sub Lt H F Towler made the world's first carrier launch of a wheeled land-plane, from the deck of the seaplane carrier HMS VINDEX on 3 Nov 1915. The final Scout D variant was more powerful and maneuverable, but still lacked effective armament, despite various ad-hoc attempts to mount Lewis and Vickers guns on the fuselage and upper wing (in which Major Lanoe Hawker (the first airman to receive the VC) played a major part) plus the unsuccessful use of free falling "Ranken Darts" for dropping on attacking Zeppelins.

Sopwith Type 9400 1½ Strutter

Toko’s WW1 kits build into very pleasing replicas.  This is the more recent Eastern Express issue of this kit, which features nicely sharp details and is a relatively easy build.

Sopwith’s Type 9400 was an innovative two-seat fighter and the first British fighter to be fitted with interruptor gear to allow its gun to fire through the propellor arc.  Powered by a 110 Horsepower Clerget rotary engine, it was widely known as the 1 ½ Strutter because of its short W shaped cabane struts.

The first aircraft reached No 5 Wing RNAS in France in April 1916, with the RFC’s 70 Sqn forming on transferred naval aircraft in July 1916. As well as service as a fighter on the Western Front, RNAS 1½ Strutters also saw service as bombers at sea and in the Aegean and Mediterranean theatres.   

Over 1,500 were built for the RNAS and RFC, but ultimately, the largest user of the 1½ Strutter was the French Air Force, with over 4,500 built.

The aircraft depicted by this model is that flown by Flight Sub-Lieutenant Raymond Collishaw RN as a bomber escort within 3 Naval Wing on the Western Front. Collishaw was a Canadian who became the RNAS’ most successful ace, with over 60 official victories recorded.  However, it is believed that as many as 81 unofficial kills  couldhave been attributed to him, which would place him at the top of First World War flying aces, ahead of the "Red Baron" and top official British Empire ace and fellow Canadian, Billy Bishop

Sopwith Pup - HMS Furious 1917 (Sqn Cdr E H Dunning RNAS)

This is the Airfix kit with my own cobbled together decals. A very nice kit of a well proportioned little aircraft.

Officially titled the Sopwith Scout, the Pup was so named because it looked to be the offspring of its 1 and 1/2 strutter predecessors. Used by both the RNAS and RFC, the Pup was maneouverable and deadly, albeit lightly armed; it dominated the Western Front between 1916 until 1917. Pups operated from RN Ships, with Flt Cdr F J Rutland making the first take of from a light cruiser (HMS YARMOUTH) in June 1917, and Sqn Cdr E H Dunning making the first ever deck landing in Aug 1917, onboard HMS FURIOUS (Dunning was killed a few days later, trying to repeat the feat).

Sopwith Pup - Naval 4,  RNAS, Western Front 1917

Another Airfix kit, this time built out of the box


Sopwith Triplane - Naval 1, Royal Naval Air Service, France 1917

Revell UK produced an excellent set of WW1 aircraft in the 1960s and 1970s. This Triplane is a perfect example, accurate and well engineered. Rigging was rather fun though!.

The Triplane caused a major stir when it appeared on the Western Front; a development of the successful Pup, with its low wing loading, astonishing manouevrability and excellent visibility (due to the narrow chord wings), it was far ahead of contemporary German aircraft and played a major part in ensuring Allied air superiority in 1917. Captured examples formed the basis of the infamous Fokker Triplane, which was never as successful as the Sopwith; the German "Tripe" copy had an alarming tendency to lose its wings in a dive.

.... and the real thing (well a replica) hidden away at Yeovilton:

Sopwith F1 Camel, B Flight Naval 10, Royal Naval Air Service 1917.

This is the Academy kit, which I believe has also been released by ESCI and TOKO. Not the best example of a Camel; its hump is far too small.

The Camel is perhaps the most famous fighter of WW1. Maneouverable, fast and well armed, it served at sea and ashore, with both RNAS and RFC.

Sopwith/Wm Beardmore 2F1 "Ships Camel", Royal Naval Air Service, 1918

Roden's 1/72 Camel series are hard to beat, although they are expensive.

All "Ships Camels" were built under licence by Wm Beardmore at Dumbarton, near Glasgow. The fuselage was designed to split just aft of the cockpit for easier onboard stowage. Like the Pup before it, the Camel served with great success at sea, as an anti U-Boat weapon and a long range strike aircraft.

DeHavilland/Airco DH4, Royal Naval Air Service 490/557/558 Flt, RNAS Great Yarmouth, 1918

Airfix's DH4 is a good kit. However, my one came out of its sealed vintage box with the lower wings missing, so the wings you see here are entirely scratch built from an old ice cream carton and styrene strip !

This model represents the aircraft flown by former RN airmen Major (later Sir) Egbert Cadbury (pilot - and yes, he was later a key figure in the chocolate industry) and Captain (later Air Cdre) Robert Leckie (gunner) of 212 Sqn RAF when they destroyed Zeppelin L-70 off the Norfolk Coast, effectively bringing the era of the Zeppelin raid to an end. Onboard L-70 was Fregatenkapitan Peter Strasser, overall commander and driving force of the German Naval Airship Service.

Fleet Air Arm Props - Index The RNAS - 1914-1918 Biplanes 1918-1946 WW2 Monoplanes Post WW2
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