Our Sopwith Triplane is a replica of N500, the first Triplane prototype. First flying in early June 1916, it by-passed the normal test-flying and went straight to France to be test-flown in service with A Flight, No1 Squadron of the Royal Naval Air Service, where it is reputed to have been sent up in pursuit of an enemy aircraft within 15 minutes of arriving.
By early 1917 two RNAS squadrons, Nos 8 and 10, had been equipped with Triplanes. They were very popular with the pilots, being able to out-climb and out-turn any contemporary enemy scout aircraft.
Only 150 Triplanes were built and they were only used by the RNAS, with the exception of a few which were given to the French and one to the Russians. Their service life was short, by late summer 1917 they started to be replaced by Camels.
Although it was later painted in both green and brown dope, N500 first went to France in clear-doped linen, and it is this stage of its life which our replica represents. Built over a three year period by Ernie Hoblyn, it first flew in 1997. It is currently owned by Gordon Brander.
Fokker Dr1 Triplane
Designed by Reinhold Platz, the Dr1 was a direct attempt to copy the successful Sopwith Triplane. Armed with two forward firing Spandau machine guns, it was highly manoeuvrable, and was a favourite mount of a number of German aces such as Werner Voss and the legendary Manfred von Richthofen.
We have two Fokker Dr1s, 403/17 which was built by John Day and first flew in 2006, replicates the Dr1 flown by Leutnant Johann Janzen
The other aircraft is 556/17 which was built by its owner, Peter Bond in 2010. It replicates the Dr1 flown by Leutnant Ludwig “Lutz” Beckmann also of Jasta 6 in March 1918 which was then based at Lechelle. Beckmann survived the Great War and commanded a transport unit of the Luftwaffe in WW2.
Royal Aircraft Factory BE2c
The BE2c was designed and built in 1912 at the Royal Aircraft Factory at Farnborough and was Britain’s first-ever military aeroplane. Designed with artillery observation in mind, it was the most stable aeroplane ever built.
At the outbreak of hostilities, the BE-2, was a mainstay of the Royal Flying Corps, along with French types such as Bleriot monoplanes and Maurice Farman ‘pusher’ biplanes. This aircraft is a replica BE-2c commissioned in 1969 by the
makers of the film ‘Biggles Sweeps the Skies”. Designed by film model specialist David Boddington, it was built and flown in just sixteen weeks by vintage aircraft specialist Charles Boddington at Sywell, Northamptonshire, based on de Havilland Tiger Moth components.
Flown, crashed and stored for 25 years in the USA, it was restored to fly again by co-owners Matthew Boddington, son of the original builder, and Steve Slater, back at its birthplace in the UK.
The original BE prototype made its first flight at Farnborough on 1st January 1912. It was certified by the Army Aircraft Factory on 14th March, becoming the first aeroplane in the World to be issued with an airworthiness certificate. The first aeroplane, BE-1, was originally powered by a watercooled Wolseley engine (with the radiator mounted in the pilot’s line of vision!).
Royal Aircraft Factory SE5a
The RAF SE5, originally with a 150HP direct-drive Hispano-Suiza engine, first flew in November 1916. Only 77 of these were built before the engine was replaced by a geared 200HP version. The type went into squadron service in March 1917 and, with another engine change to the 200HP Wolseley Viper, they continued in service right up to the end of the war, with a total of 5,265 being built.
We have three SE5as in the Team which are owned by Dave Linney, Vic Lockwood and Mike Waldron.
Dave’s aircraft was built in 1978 and was the first SE built from the Replica plans to be built in Europe. First flight was in Dec 1978 and the story was featured in Aeroplane Monthly at that time. It was completely refurbished in 2000. His SE5a represents Zulu of 85 Squadron, which was led by both Billy Bishop and Mick Mannock in 1918.
Vic’s SE5a represents Blue 19 of the American 25th Aero Squadron, the only USAS squadron using S.E.5a during the war. Based at Toul, only 2 patrols were flown by this squadron before the armistice. The aircraft was built in America, later sold to Holland and has been owned and operated by Vic since 2005.
Mike built his aircraft in 1995 and it represents B595 of 56 Squadron, flown in June 1917 by Lieutenant M E Mealing who gained an MC for his tally of 12 enemy aircraft.
The Junkers CL1 was a ground-attack aircraft, based on the Junkers J8 but with an extended fuselage to carry a gunner. First flying in late 1917 it was accepted by Idflieg, which oversaw all German military aviation, but only 47 were built by the time of the Armistice. They are the only two-seaters in the Team and one of the occupants is a dummy. See if you can work out which one it is!
Both of our aircraft are modified Bowers Fly-Babys, remodelled to look like typical CL1s. The first was originally built in 1988 by John Day, first flying with the Team in its modified form in 2003. It is now owned by Andrew Berry.
The second CL1 was also modified by John Day, first flew with the Team in 2009 and is now owned and flown by Richard Piper.
For more information on The Great War and Display Team, please visit this website www.greatwardisplayteam.com