Sopwith Salamander

The Sopwith Salamander was a British, single-seat combat aircraft, which was developed especially for the attack on ground targets but could no longer be used in the First World War.


Development and design:

In August 1917 during the third Battle of Ypres and in November 1917 during the Battle of Cambrai, the Royal Flying Corps first used tactics to coordinate fighter aircraft against ground targets. It used Airco DH.5s aircraft. The tactics proved to be very successful, but at the same time the Royal Flying Corps had high losses because the aircraft used were insufficiently equipped for such attacks and insufficiently armoured against ground fire.

The German Reich also used its aircraft to fight ground targets. The used Junkers J.I. were better armored in contrast to the British airplanes however and thus the losses were clearly smaller.

Based on the experience from tactics and the technology used by the Germans, Sopwith Aviation Company began to develop a special aircraft for this purpose. For this purpose a Sopwith Camel base was used and the front armour was reinforced accordingly. The now used armour had a total weight of 275 kilograms. The front plate had a thickness of 8 mm, the bottom plate 11 mm and the sides 6 mm. Thus the pilot, the engine as well as the tanks of the airplane should be sufficiently protected against bombardment.

To engage the targets, two 7.7 mm Lewis machine guns were mounted at a 45 degree angle. A third machine gun was also mounted on the upper wing to fight enemy aircraft. This prototype, known as TF.1, was modified before series production so that the two Lewis machine guns for ground attack were replaced by two Vickers machine guns and mounted as on the fighter planes.

The rear part of the fuselage was based on the design of the Sopwith Snipe, but was flatter to offer less attack surface. The wings were also based on the Snipe, but had to be reinforced to carry the extra weight due to the heavy armour.

A 230 hp Bentley BR2 engine was used to power the snipe, providing sufficient power for the weight of the aircraft.

On 27 April 1918 the first flights with the prototype could be accomplished, before this was brought on 9 May to north France to the test. During one of the test flights by pilots of the 65th squadron, an accident occurred on 19 May during a landing, in which the prototype was completely destroyed.

Despite the accident, the concept of the Sopwith Salamander aircraft was regarded as promising and an order for 500 aircraft was placed. Shortly thereafter, the number was increased and extended to other companies as licensed construction, so that a total of 1.400 aircraft were to be built.


Sopwith Salamander


Sopwith Salamander


Sopwith Salamander production line




Use in the First World War:

Due to production problems with the armour plates and supply bottlenecks with the Bentley engines, only 37 aircraft could be built by the end of October 1918, of which only two were already transferred to France.

In Great Britain the installation of the 157th squadron, which was to be fully equipped with the new aircrafts, already began. By 21 November 1918, however, there were only 24 aircraft available for the squadron.

After the armistice the 157th squadron was dissolved again and most of the ordered airplanes were cancelled. Nevertheless 497 aircrafts were completed by 1919 and served in Great Britain for experimental purposes or were sold to Egypt or the USA.




Technical data:

Designation: Sopwith Salamander
Country: Great Britain
Type: Ground combat aircraft
Length: 5,9 meters
Span: 9,52 meters
Height: 2,85 meters
Weight: 838 kg empty
Crew: Max. 1
Engine: One Bentley BR2 230 hp (172 kW) rotary engine
Maximum speed: 201 km/h
Range: Max. 1 hour and 30 minutes
Arming: 2 x 7,7 mm Vickers Machine Gun

1 x 7,7 mm Lewis machine gun

4 x 10 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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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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