Sopwith Dolphin

The Sopwith Dolphin was a British, single-seater fighter pilot who was deployed in the Royal Flying Corps in early 1918 and later in the Royal Air Force.


Development and design:

At the beginning of 1917, under the direction of the chief designer of the Sopwith Aviation Company, Herbert Smith, the development of a new fighter pilot was started, which was to be designed for the 200 hp Hispano-Suiza 8B engine.

With the internal designation 5F.1 an airplane was developed, with which the upper wing was divided to improve the view of the pilot. In order to adjust the centre of gravity of the aircraft, the lower wing was moved forward by 33 cm and was therefore no longer directly below the upper one.

Due to missing engines the first prototype was equipped with a 150 HP Hispano-Suiza 8B V8 engine. On 23. May 1917 the first test flight of the new airplane took place. In June the transfer to the French Saint-Omer took place where pilots of the 60th squadron tested the airplane extensively. After the completion the airplane could convince both the pilots and the British Ministry of Defence, so that first 700 airplanes were ordered.

Shortly after the first test flights a second prototype was built. Instead of a frontal cooler an upper wing cooler was installed. In addition, the lower wings were given some cut-outs to improve the pilot's downward visibility. However, these modifications were not included in the later series production.

Also the third and the fourth prototype contained some changes at radiator, fuselage lid, fin and rudder, whereby the fourth prototype was used as basic type for the series production afterwards, which started from October 1917.

The initial delivery problems with the actually planned Hispano-Suiza 8B engine were mainly due to the bad metal which was used for the processing. This led to numerous failures of the reduction gear and to a slowdown of production. In addition, the French aircraft of type SPAD S.XIII were to be equipped with the engines first, before the Sopwith Dolphin received them. The supply with the engines improved only at the beginning of 1918, after another French company was assigned with the licence construction.

By the end of the war 2.072 aircraft could be built.


Sopwith Dolphin


Drawing of the Sopwith Dolphin


Cockpit of a Sopwith Dolphin




Use in the First World War:

In February 1918 the delivery to the 19th and 79th squadrons began. In March followed the 87th and 23rd season. At the beginning of the missions the new airplanes were inadvertently held for German airplanes, so that these were attacked by British air defence cannons or also by British and Belgian pilots. In addition, the split upper wing caused fears, especially among inexperienced pilots, that a crash landing could lead to serious injuries to the head and upper body. However, the fears were quickly refuted by tests.

After the first missions, the aircraft quickly became more and more popular with pilots. It was fast, agile and with experience easy to fly. In addition, it could be used at great heights and thus the German reconnaissance planes of the type Rumpler C.VII could be fought decisively.

Altogether four squadrons were completely equipped with the Sopwith Dolphin, other squadrons had these airplanes as supplement. With 89 shot down German airplanes the 87th squadron was one of the most successful with these airplanes.

Beside the British air force also at the end of the war it was started to equip a Canadian squadron with the Sopwith Dolphin airplanes, however this was operational only shortly after the surrender of the German Empire. After the war the air force of the USA bought also some airplanes for test purposes.


A Sopwith Dolphin of the Canadian Air Force




Technical data:

Designation: Sopwith Dolphin
Country: Great Britain
Type: Fighter
Length: 6,78 meters
Span: 9,91 meters
Height: 2,59 meters
Weight: 641 kg empty
Crew: Max. 1
Engine: A Hispano-Suiza 8B engine with 200 hp (149 kW)
Maximum speed: 211 km/h
Range: Max. 315 kilometres
Arming: 2 x 7,7 mm Vickers Machine Gun

Up to 2 x 7,7 mm Lewis machine guns

4 x 12 kilogram 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.

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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.

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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.

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Dolphin and Snipe Aces of World War 1 (Aircraft of the Aces)

Dolphin and Snipe Aces of World War 1 (Aircraft of the Aces) Paperback – May 12, 2002

This book focuses on the combat careers of the last of the famous Sopwith fighters to enter service during World War 1, the Dolphin and the Snipe, both of which were built on the strong scouting heritage of the Pup and Camel. The Dolphin featured the unique negative-staggered biplane wing arrangement, which provided the pilot with the best possible tactical view forward for seeking out his enemy. Used extensively on the Western Front, the Dolphin proved very effective in combat, with a substantial number of British aces scoring kills with the fighter. The Snipe was built as the successor of the highly successful Camel, and entered service with the fledgling Royal Air Force in the summer of 1918. Although seeing just a few months of action before the Armistice, the Snipe nevertheless proved its superiority over virtually all other fighters.

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