Plans for the RAF RE.8 (Royal Aircraft Factory Reconnaissance Experimental 8) were drawn up in late 1915 as a replacement for the pre-war lineage BE series of two seaters. Utalising many components from the BE.2e such as wings, undercarriage and tailplane, the main design difference of the RE.8 was the addition of a forward firing machine gun for the pilot and moving the passenger (observer-gunner) to the rear of the pilot. On the BE.2 series the passenger was placed in front of the pilot between the centre section struts where, with the propeller in front of him, pilot to the rear, wings above and below and struts all around him, he had a devil of a job performing his observation and gunnery duties.
Much maligned because of its quirky looks (not one bit of the RE.8 appears to point in the direction of flight), apparent lack of performance and, according to various reports, because it was too stable or unstable (too stable to adequately defend itself or too unstable to perform low level turns), the RE.8 nevertheless performed its intended tasks of bomber, reconnaissance and artillery spotting with rugged dependability through to the end of the Great War. Aircrew quickly gave it the affectionate nickname ‘Harry Tate’, RE.8 rhyming well with the popular Scottish music hall comedian’s name and, possibly, because of its similarly comic appearance. Built in large numbers by various contractors the RE.8 entered front line service with 52 Sqn in late 1916 and despite a career not entirely free of controversy, it remained in production and front line service until the armistice. In the hands of a confident aircrew that flew it aggressively, the RE.8 could defend itself almost as well as the great Bristol Fighter. Any history of this significant aircraft here is of necessity very brief, therefore we encourage you to seek out any, or all, of the reference books mentioned below for a more thorough understanding.