Wednesday, 4 April 2012

One Hump or Two

            Following yesterday's Gypsy Moth, I thought I'd put another biplane post up. This model is a Revell kit from 1964, bought on ebay for £1.81 + £1.80 p&p., of a Sopwith Camel.

The Camel got its name from the hump shaped metal fairing mount for the twin Vickers machine-guns. The guns were synchronised to fire through the rotating propeller. The Sopwith Camel entered service with the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) on the Western Front during WWI in 1917. It was difficult to fly, but in the hands of an experienced pilot it offered outstanding manoeuvrability, and Camels shot down more enemy aircraft than any other allied plane.

This model has the markings of the 209th Squadron of the Royal Air Force (RAF) - which was formed on April 1st. 1918, when the RFC merged with the RNAS (Royal Navy Air Service). It represents the plane flown by Captain Arthur Roy Brown, a Canadian airman who had joined the RNAS in 1915. On April 21st. 1918, Capt. Roy Brown led the 209th on patrol over the Somme when they encountered the German Jagdstaffel 11, which was led by the 'Red Baron', Manfred von Richthofen. Both sides engaged, and during the battle Brown saw von Richthofen's famous red Fokker Dr 1 triplane chasing his friend Lt. May at low level, so he put his Camel into a steep dive and fired at the enemy, before having to pull out to avoid hitting the ground. In his report of the action, Capt. Brown wrote that his encounter was 'indecisive', but his commanding officer altered this to 'decisive' and Brown was credited as the man who shot down the Red Baron.

When Capt. Brown pulled out of his dive, he lost sight of the Red Baron's aircraft, and did not see that the German had continued to chase Lt. May's Camel at low altitude. The two planes flew over the Australian trenches on the Somme, and, from the evidence, it seems that von Richthofen was actually killed by ground fire from the Australian troops. An autopsy showed that he died from a single wound from a .303 round, a rifle bullet, to the heart and lungs. Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen was the ace-of-aces of the First World War, credited with 80 air 'kills', more than any other airman. Capt. Brown went to see his body the following day and later wrote, " .. there was a lump in my throat. If he had been my dearest friend, I could not have felt greater sorrow".

I had a model of a Sopwith Camel around about 1964, although it was an Airfix kit rather than a Revell one. It was one of the first models I ever built. I find it strange that I can buy one from that time so cheaply - if at all.

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