Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2

The Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2 was a British fighter and bomber that was used as one of the last propeller aircraft in 1915 against the German Fokker monoplane on the Western Front.


Development and construction:

In 1911, Royal Aircraft Factory began developing the first Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2 under the direction of Chief Designer Geoffrey de Havilland. It was in the basic form to a F.E.1, the cockpit was enlarged to accommodate two crew members. This was made of wood and was covered with a canvas. As the first engine, the 50 hp Gnome rotary engine was initially used and installed as a pressure motor. The first flight of the prototype took place on 18 August 1911 by Geoffrey de Havilland himself.

In April 1912, swimmers were attached to the prototype to make the aircraft usable for the Royal Naval Air Service. On the first test flight on April 12, 1912, however, it turned out that the engine provided too little power, he was exchanged for a 70 hp engine after the flight.

During the remainder of the year, the chassis was readjusted and a Maxim machine gun attached to the observer.

In 1913 work began on a newer version of the F.E.2, with the new prototype becoming larger and heavier than its predecessor. The shape of the upper wing was adopted by the aircraft B.E.2a and instead of ailerons for the lateral control now used wing distortions. The aerodynamics of the nacelle were also adjusted, which meant that both the observer and the pilot received a better field of view. For the drive, a 70 hp Renault engine was used, which was slightly superior to the 70 hp Gnome engine in performance. After a few flights with the prototype, however, there was an accident on February 23, 1914, when the plane crashed. The pilot R. Kemp survived, but his observer died in the crash.

In the middle of 1914 began the development of another version which was classified as F.E.2a version. This model was intended to compete with the Vickers FB.5 as an armed reconnaissance aircraft and fighter aircraft. The wings of the B.E.2c were used for this purpose. Also, the cockpit was revised again, so that the observer was slightly shifted down. The armament was now a Lewis machine gun mounted which was used by the observer. For the aircraft, a Green E.6 engine was initially planned. After the first test flight on January 26, 1915, however, showed that this engine was not sufficient. In series production, therefore, the liquid-cooled Beardmore engine with 120 hp was used. The order of 12 aircraft for the Royal Flying Corps was issued shortly after the beginning of the war and thus before the actual completion of the prototype.

Shortly after the introduction of the F.E.2a, further development began. The version classified as F.E.2b initially had the same engine as the F.E.2a, but this was replaced shortly after the start of production against the more powerful Beardmore engine with 160 hp. In order to speed up and simplify production, the compressed air brake was not adopted in the b version as in the a version, especially since it reduced the landing only to a limited extent. In addition to the device for carrying bombs, a second machine gun was mounted later in the production. This was on a telescopic pole and should actually be operated by the pilot. However, it showed in the fighting that the machine gun was used mainly by the observer. He stood up for this and was thus able to operate the machine gun and shoot backwards over the pilot's head. A total of 1,939 aircraft were built by the Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2b.

From the Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2c version, which was intended as a night bomber, a total of two pieces were built. The biggest difference was that the seats were changed by the pilot and the observer, so the pilot had a better view.

The last mass-produced version was the F.E.2d of which a total of 386 pieces were still built. These were powered by a 250 hp Rolls-Royce Eagle engine, which resulted in a higher climb and faster top speed. Due to the additional power, the aircraft could sometimes carry up to three or four machine guns.



Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2


Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2b


Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2d




Use in the First World War:

In May 1915, the 6th Squadron received the first Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2a aircraft, which were deployed along with the B.E.2s and Bristol Scout aircraft. The 20th Squadron was later fully equipped with the aircraft, on January 23, 1916.

Until the fall of 1916, the Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2 aircraft were used both as a fighter pilot and as a night bomber. The greatest success was achieved by a pilot of the 25th Squadron on June 18, 1916, when he was able to shoot down the German aviator ace Max Immelmann. Only with the replacement of the modern German fighter pilots of the type Albatros D.I and Halberstadt D.II, it was found that the F.E.2 aircraft were no longer sufficient and had to be gradually withdrawn from the front.

After the departure as a fighter pilot the F.E.2 airplanes were used ever more frequently as night bombers. From February 1917, special night bomber squadrons were created that consisted only of these aircraft. By the end of the war, the number was increased to eight squadrons.

After the war, 35 aircraft of various F.E.2 versions were sold to China, where they served as pilots.



A Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2b flying over the western front


A squadron of Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2d aircraft




Technical specifications:

Designation: Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2b
Country: Great Britain
Typ: Bombers, fighter
Length: 9,83 meters
Span: 14,55 meters
Height: 3,85 meters
Mass: 935 kg empty
Crew: Max. 2
Engine A water-cooled series engine Beardmore with 160 hp
Maximum speed: 147 km/h
Reach: Max. 3 hours
Armament: Two to four 7,7mm Lewis machine guns
Up to 235 kg bombs






You can find the right literature here:


The First Air War, 1914-1918

The First Air War, 1914-1918 Hardcover – December 1, 1990

In this concise study, Kennett tells the complete story of World War I's air battles, from Eastern to Western front, from the skies of Europe and its seas to those of the Middle East and Africa.

Click here!



Aircraft of World War I 1914-1918 (Essential Identification Guide)

Aircraft of World War I 1914-1918 (Essential Identification Guide) 2nd Edition

Illustrated with detailed artworks of combat aircraft and their markings, Aircraft of World War I: The Essential Aircraft Identification Guide is a comprehensive study of the aircraft that fought in the Great War of 1914–18. Arranged chronologically by theatre of war and campaign, this book offers a complete organizational breakdown of the units on all the fronts, including the Eastern and Italian Fronts. Each campaign includes a compact history of the role and impact of aircraft on the course of the conflict, as well as orders of battle, lists of commanders and campaign aces such as Manfred von Richtofen, Eddie Rickenbacker, Albert Ball and many more. Every type of aircraft is featured, including the numerous variations and types of well- known models, such as the Fokker Dr.I, the Sopwith Camel and the SPAD SVII, through to lesser-known aircraft, such as the Rumpler C.1, and the Amstrong Whitworth FK8. Each aircraft profile is accompanied by exhaustive specifications, as well as details of individual and unit markings. Packed with more than 200 color profiles of every major type of combat aircraft from the era, Aircraft of World War I 1914–1918 is an essential reference guide for modellers, military historians and aircraft enthusiasts.

Click here!



World War One Aircraft Carrier Pioneer: The Story and Diaries of Captain JM McCleery RNAS/RAF

World War One Aircraft Carrier Pioneer: The Story and Diaries of Captain JM McCleery RNAS/RAF Hardcover – June 13, 2011

Jack McCleery was born in Belfast in 1898, the son of a mill owning family. He joined the RNAS in 1916 as a Probationary Flight Officer. During the next ten months he completed his training at Crystal Palace, Eastchurch, Cranwell, Frieston, Calshot and Isle of Grain, flying more than a dozen landplanes, seaplanes and flying boats, gaining his wings as a Flight Sub-Lieutenant. In July 1917 he was posted to the newly commissioning aircraft carrier HMS Furious, which would be based at Scapa Flow and Rosyth. He served in this ship until February 1919, flying Short 184 seaplanes and then Sopwith 1½ Strutters off the deck. He also flew a large number of other types during this time from shore stations at Turnhouse, East Fortune and Donibristle.

He served with important and well-known naval airmen including Dunning, Rutland (of Jutland) and Bell Davies VC. He witnessed Dunning’s first successful landing on a carrier flying a Sopwith Pup in 1917 and his tragic death a few days later. He also witnessed the Tondern raid in 1918, the world’s first carrier strike mission. He took part in more than a dozen sweeps into the North Sea by elements of the Grand Fleet and Battle Cruiser Fleet. He carried out reconnaissance missions off the coast of Denmark, landing in the sea to be picked up by waiting destroyers. He witnessed the surrender of the High Seas Fleet. Promoted to Captain, he acted as temporary CO of F Squadron for a time postwar.

Click here!



A World War 1 Adventure: The Life and Times of RNAS Bomber Pilot Donald E. Harkness

A World War 1 Adventure: The Life and Times of RNAS Bomber Pilot Donald E. Harkness Paperback – June 25, 2014

A deeply personal and revealing eyewitness narrative of one airman's life as a bomber pilot in England 's RNAS (Royal Naval Air Service) in WWI. It is a true story, an adventure, and a war memoir carefully constructed from Captain Donald E. Harkness's unpublished diaries, letters, sketches and photographs - only recently uncovered nearly a century later - that documented his remarkable experiences and military adventures over England, France and Belgium. The first book written by a highly decorated WWI flyer from New Zealand that captures the "behind the scenes" life of RNAS pilots, as well as the surprises, terrors, traumas, humor, and sheer excitement of an aerial form of combat never before experienced by anyone, anywhere - and only eleven short years after the Wright Brothers historic flight at Kitty Hawk. With a talent for writing, Don begins an epic journey at a major turning point in history when the world is poised at the dawn of flight, and bracing itself for unknown dangers of unprecedented sophistication and savagery. Don's journal reveals unique insights and vivid imagery of another time and experience, to wit: - the terror and devastation of a Zeppelin bombing raid in London - the training regimen of early flying schools, and their serious & comic episodes - the wonder, awe, and poetry of flying aloft in the majestic heavens - vivid bombing raids, plus the raid that earned him the DSC - his crash-landing and capture - working with the underground to help downed pilots evade capture - London's unrestrained exuberance on Armistice Day; . . . and much, much more.

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