The iconic Sopwith Camel, so named for the "hump" over its guns, is possibly the most famous of all First World War aircraft, if not by sight, then by name. Sopwith developed the Camel in late 1916 in an effort to overcome the single gun handicap suffered by their successful 80hp Pup and improve performance with a more powerful engine. The initial Sopwith F.1 Camel prototype was unveiled in late December 1916 and featured a single piece top wing, 2 Vickers Mk.1* machine guns and a 110hp Clerget 9Z engine. Unlike their previous Pup and Triplane, the Camel featured a top wing with no dihedral coupled with a high 5 degree dihedral bottom wing which, combined with its concentrated centre of gravity, would help contribute to it"s high maneuverability and well deserved reputation as a difficult (and frequently dangerous) aircraft to fly. Additional prototypes were produced with various improvements including a 3 piece top wing with centre section cut-out and 130hp Clerget 9B engine. Testing by selected operational pilots in early 1917 brought mostly positive reports along with a few recommendations for additional improvements, some of which made their way on to early production aircraft.
The Sopwith F.1 Camel went into production in January 1917 and aircraft began equipping land based Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) and Royal Flying Corps (RFC) Squadrons in May and June 1917. In an effort to continue the great work done by shipboard Sopwith Type 9901a “Pups” a Navalised Camel was developed and a Clerget engine powered prototype appeared in March 1917. New features included steel tube cabane struts, lifting clevises on the centre section, a smaller wingspan and a two piece fuselage to facilitate loading and stowage aboard ships. A single Vickers gun was fitted in the front cowling and a Lewis gun was mounted upside down on the top wing. By June 1918 the Lewis gun was now positioned the right way up, a wireless and generator was installed and 8 Le Prieur "anti-Zeppelin" rockets were attached to the interplane struts. As far as can be determined at this time, it appears that the wireless and rockets were not carried on production 2F.1. When the 2F.1 “Ship"s Camel” eventually went into production in early September 1917 it featured floatation bags and redesigned elevator controls to ease assembly of the two piece fuselage. Almost all production 2F.1 Camels were powered by the the 150hp BR.1 (Bentley Rotary 1) engine (included in this model) which was the preferred powerplant of the Royal Navy. Most of the 276 Sopwith 2F.1 Camels built saw service aboard Royal Navy ships, taking off from very small platforms atop gun turrets, rudimentary early carriers or from towed Lighters and frequently had to ditch into the sea and await salvage if suitable land could not be reached. Sopwith 2F.1 Camels saw limited post war service with the RAF fighting the Bolsheviks in 1919 as well as with the Canadian Air Force and a few in Latvia. The last serving 2F.1 Camel was not retired in Canada until the late 1920s.
WW1 aircraft colours are contentious at the best of times and we have done our best to provide what we consider to be accurate painting information. Because Sopwith 2F.1 Camels were manufactured by several different companies and Sopwith"s own factory drawings designate both PC10 and PC12 it is practically impossible to determine which colour a particular aircraft was finished in. PC10 was made from mixes of yellow ochre, iron oxide and lamp black pigments and could vary between olive drab and chocolate brown depending on the mix and time spent exposed to the elements. PC12 is slightly less controversial although previous reports of it being red brown are in error and it was actually a dark chocolate brown. The rough service life of “Ship"s Camels” meant that aircraft were invariably re-doped and repaired with components salvaged from other aircraft resulting in them wearing various combinations of doped finish. The undersides of the wings, tailplane and often the fuselage were left CDL (Clear Doped Linen) but evidence exists of at least one being painted bright sky blue. Exterior wooden fuselage panels and interplane struts were given a dark brown varnish, although on some aircraft these were clearly painted. Metal cowlings were usually painted but some were left unpainted aluminium, with a "turned" finish on Sopwith built aircraft. Metal brackets and fittings were usually black unless overpainted, although some appear to have been painted BSG. All fabric surfaces exhibited a gloss appearance when new which would lose its shine relatively quickly in service.