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How Did They Do That?

The most dangerous fighter plane of World War I – for its enemy and pilot alike
ILLUSTRATION: SOL 90 X1, BRIDGEMAN IMAGES X1

SOPWITH CAMEL

No other Allied craft achieved more aerial victories in World War I than the quick and powerful Sopwith Camel. With one pilot, two machine guns, four wings and nine cylinders in its engine, the British bi-plane was credited with shooting down at least 1,294 enemy craft from mid-1917 to the end of the war, while some claim it racked up 3,000.

With the right pilot, it was a manoeuvring masterpiece, as it was more agile than its predecessor, the Sopwith Pup, and its German foes. To the inexperienced, however, the Camel was a temperamental beast, even a dangerous one. Devilishly tricky to control, hundreds of trainee pilots died when their plane would stall and spin. No wonder the men of the Royal Flying Corps would joke that the Camel offered a choice between, “a wooden cross, the Red Cross or a Victoria Cross”.

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About History Revealed

The March 2016 issue of History Revealed.