Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5

The Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5 was a biplane fighter aircraft and belonged together with the Sopwith Camel to the best British airplanes of the First World War and ended the German air superiority.


Development and design:

Under the direction of Henry Folland, John Kenworthy and Major Frank Goodden, the Royal Aircraft Factory started to develop a fighter aircraft, which should take the powerful Hispano-Suiza 8 engine with 150 HP, which was already used in the B.E.2, F.E.2 and R.E.8 aircraft.

The first prototype could already be flown on 22 November 1916, in the coming weeks further prototypes followed. The engine proved to be very unreliable at first, and the developer Major Frank Goodden was killed when his prototype crashed on January 28, 1917.

Only the third prototype could convince with some modifications and adaptations and flew not only very stable, but the airplane survived also crash flights with maximum speed where other airplanes could not keep up any longer. Finally the S.E.5 achieved a speed of about 222 km/h and was one of the fastest aircraft of the war next to the SPAD S.XIII.

After the first series of 77 built aircraft, the construction of the series S.E.5a was started. With this series the nose, the radiator fins as well as the exhaust pipes were extended. In addition, the chassis was reinforced and the headrest of the pilots was removed to improve the all-round visibility. With the 200 HP strong Hispano-Suiza or Wolseley-Viper engines the performance of the airplanes could be further clearly increased.

A 7.7 mm Vickers machine gun served as armament from the beginning, which belonged to the first machine gun of the Royal Flying Corps synchronized with the transmission of the engine. At the beginning it was mounted on the side of the engine, but later in production the gun was placed over the engine. A 7.7 mm Lewis machine gun was placed on the upper wing to be able to fight enemy aircraft from below.


Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5

Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5


Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5

Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5


View of the cockpit of a Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5

View of the cockpit of a Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5


The pilot of a Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5 inspected his 7.7mm Lewis machine gun

The pilot of a Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5 inspected his 7.7mm Lewis machine gun




Use in the First World War:

In March, the 56th Squadron in Great Britain was equipped with the first S.E. 5 aircraft. After the Squadron had been fully equipped and moved to France, the first flights on the Western Front began on 22 April. Already after the first flights the Squadron leader Major Blomfield ordered the exchange of the large windscreens against clearly smaller ones. Also the complaints of too weak performance changed from June 1917 with the introduction of the stronger S.E.5a variants of the aircraft.

Due to the delivery difficulties with the Hispano-Suiza engines by the French companies, only a few British squadrons could be equipped with the S.E.5a aircraft until the year 1918. In addition after the war entry of the USA also two squadrons were developed in the service of the US Army with these airplanes. By the end of the war there were 21 British squadrons and 5,265 aircraft built.

Beside the Sopwith Camel the S.E.5 belonged to the airplanes with which the Allies succeeded in shifting the German air superiority at the western front to their favour starting from the summer 1917 bit by bit. Even when the Germans introduced the Fokker D.VII, which was the best fighter aircraft of the First World War, the S.E.5 was the only British aircraft to be able to keep up to some extent.

After the war, many of the aircraft were sold to private individuals for 5 pounds. A former British pilot wrote letters with a S.E.5 to the sky over London for the first time on 30 May 1922.




Technical data:

Designation: Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5a
Country: Great Britain
Type: Fighter plane
Length: 6,38 meters
Span: 8,11 meters
Height: 2,89 meters
Weight: 639 kg empty
Crew: Max. 1
Engine: A Wolseley Viper V8 or Hispano-Suiza 8 engine with 200 hp
Maximum speed: 222 km/h
Range: Max. 483 kilometres
Arming: 1 × 7,7 mm Vickers machine gun

1 × 7,7 mm Lewis machine gun

Up to 44Kg 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.

Click here!






This post is also available in: Deutsch (German) Français (French) Italiano (Italian) 简体中文 (Chinese (Simplified)) Русский (Russian) Español (Spanish) العربية (Arabic)

Comments are closed.

error: Content is protected !!