Amongst the late John Godden's
papers Jan White found a copy of the first Sopwith Aviation Co.
catalogue, published, it would appear, in 1912. Reproduced below is the
text in all its charming period completeness...
Sopwith Aviation Co.
Under the direction of Mr T.O.M. Sopwith
General Manager - Mr R.O. Carey
Works Manager - Mr F Sigrist
With the issue of this the first Catalogue of the Sopwith Aviation
Company, it would not be amiss to give a brief description of the
Company's works at Kingston-on Thames, and to summarize the ideas and
intentions of the founder, Mr T.O.M. Sopwith.
Sopwith's fame as an aviator is so wide-spread, that it is hardly
necessary to remind the public that he is one of the few English
aviators who have continued to fly successfully without mishap on many
types of machine, since first taking his pilot certificate in November,
1910. A brief summary of his aviation career will be of interest, as
showing the enormous amount of practical experience he is able to place
at the disposal of the Company's customers. The pilot certificate
aforementioned was taken by him on a Monday, and the following Saturday
he put up a then English duration and distance record of 107 miles, in
3 hours 12 minutes. His performance of note was his historic flight
from the Royal Aero Club ground at Eastchurch, Isle of Sheppey, to
Beaumont in Belgium, this being also his first cross country flight,
and constituted a world's record for long distance cross country flight
at that date. This performance secured the £4,000 Baron de
1911 he sailed for America, taking with him both a Monoplane and a
Biplane, and with these machines made a tour of the States, exhibitions
being given in all the principal Cities of the Eastern States,
including New York, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, and Columbus. He
also competed at aviation meetings held in these Cities, and secured
the largest share of the prize money. Whilst there, he gained vast
experience in the handling and construction of various types of
Aeroplanes - both American and European.
On his return to
England in the Autumn of 1911 he took up construction seriously at
Brooklands Aerodrome. The first machine turned out from his sheds was a
Tractor Biplane engined with a 70 h.p. Gnome engine. This proved such
an instantaneous success that he decided to specialise in this type of
plane and it was the forerunner of the present type of Sopwith Tractor
Biplane. The next machine turned out of the same type gave great
satisfaction to the purchasers, and carried a pilot and three
passengers on its first flight.
Another great success was a
biplane of a different design, carrying an All British A.B.C. engine of
only 40 h.p., and with this machine a first place was in 1912 secured
in every competition for which it was entered, numbering twelve in all.
It was on this machine that one of the Company's pilots (Mr.H.G.Hawker)
won the Michelin Long Distance Competition for All British machines in
1912, and at the same time established the present British Duration
Record by remaining in the air 8 hours 23 minutes.
been said to show the high degree of success Mr. Sopwith has met with
in the past, and all the experience then gained is now at the disposal
of the Company's customers. Mr. Sopwith will personally superintend the
construction of the machines and will test them when finished.
Works Manager (Mr.F.Sigrist) is an engineer of the highest
capabilities. He has been with Mr. Sopwith for the past four years, and
has had extensive practical experience, which he has gained while
engaged at nearly all the aviation meetings and competitions which have
been held in England, and also at some of the largest meetings held in
the United States.
All work and material put into the machines
will be of the highest quality only, and the Company's motto -
"Strength with Efficiency" - is to be the keynote of their
construction. In this connection it is as well to say at once that the
Company will not adopt that policy of cutting prices which is so
inimical to good work. It is absolutely impossible to maintain the
highest standard of construction if the prices do not admit of the very
best materials being used and of the most skilled workmen being
The new works are situate within a stone's throw of
Kingston Station. They have a floor area of 30,000 square feet and
contain the latest and most up-to-date wood and metal working machines
driven by Electric Power.
The capacity for output is such that
the Company are prepared to undertake large orders at a moment's
notice, and to complete them in stated time, and here again attention
must be drawn to a point of the highest importance, i.e., Punctuality
of Delivery. This has always been and will continue to be made a
The Company will specialise in two types of
machines - the Bat-Boat Hydro- Aeroplane, and the Tractor-Biplane, but
they are at the same time prepared to construct any type of
Hydro-Aeroplane, Biplane or Monoplane, as may be required by their
customers, and quotations will readily be given for any of these types.
Although, as previously stated, it is not the intention of the Company
to cut prices, they will always be prepared to make special quotations
when the order is for more than one machine. A brief description of
some of the Company's construction features will be found at the end of
In conclusion, it is hoped that intending
customers will visit the Works, and see for themselves the close
attention which is being given to ensure the carrying out of the
Company' motto - "Strength with Efficiency."
(Then follow the Specifications, abbreviated below, and prices for the
90 h.p. Bat Boat Hydro-Aeroplane
(two-seater pusher biplane). Weight (light) 1,200 lbs., useful load 500
lbs., speed 42 - 65 m.p.h., motor 90 h.p Austrian Daimler.
Price complete £1,500.
80 h.p. Tractor Biplane (three-seater). Weight (light) 1,000 lbs.,
useful load 750 lbs., speed 40 - 70 m.p.h., motor 80 h.p.
Gnome. Price complete £1,185.
50 h.p. School Tractor Biplane (two-seater). Price
80 h.p. Scout (single-seater tractor biplane). Weight (light) 750 lbs.,
useful load 390 lbs., speed 50 - 74 m.p.h., motor 80 h.p.
Gnome. Price complete £1,085.
70 h.p. Armoured Warplane
(two-seater pusher biplane). Weight (light) 1,200 lbs., useful load 800
lbs., speed 36 - 55 m.p.h.,
motor 70 h.p. Renault. Price
complete £1,250. Gun extra.
Special Points in the Sopwith Construction.
SOPWITH AEROPLANES owe much of their great strength to the steel clips
by which the various parts are united. In the case of other machines
where a wooden member has given way the break has nearly always
occurred at a point where the wood has been pierced. By the Sopwith
method of construction, where the piercing of a spar is unavoidable, a
steel socket is used which entirely encases the pierced member and
prevents the slightest chance of splitting.
In the construction
of the main planes, the sockets which hold the stanchions in position
are built right round the main spars. As the clips also form the
anchorage for the load wires, the load is not only distributed over
quite a considerable portion of the spar, but the weight is taken from
beneath the spar, or from above in the case of the upper plane.
the flight wires are of stranded steel cable, and even this is doubled
in the case of the load wires. Further the warping cable is in one
length, running from one wing-tip over specially designed gunmetal
pulleys through the fuselage and across to the other wing-tip. The
cable which actuates the warp is quite separate from this and is joined
on to the main cable.
The main plane spars and most of the
compression struts in the machines are built up with ash cores and
hollow spruce sides, glued together under great pressure and firmly
bound, the whole is then given four coats of the best hard varnish.
ribs of the planes are made from a very elastic wood, giving greater
ease of warp. It is possible to twist one of the ribs through an angle
of over 90 degrees and on being released it regains its normal shape.
Sopwith undercarriage is a complete unit, the machine resting on the
wheels and the heels of the skids. Upturned tips to the skids have been
replaced by wheels, as a broken skid often flies into the propeller and
breaks it, while the stump may catch a small hillock and wreck the
whole machine. A tail-skid is fitted to take the weight when the
machine is at rest.
The design of the undercarriage gives great
strength and flexibility, combined with a minimum of head-resistance. A
neat point is the streamlining of the axle. When in the air, the axle
drops into a groove in a distance piece of stream-line section.
windows are of non-inflammable material, which is pliable and
practically unbreakable. Another refinement is the upturned lip in
front of the pilot's and passenger's seats; this slight lip is
sufficient to throw the slipstream up and over the heads of the
The tail unit is built largely of steel tubing as are also the tips of
the planes, and the trailing edge of the main planes.
hears much of the compression of the fuselage at the point where the
planes are attached. The main spars of the Sopwith machines are
continued to the centre of the body, where they butt together and are
joined by steel plates. Thus there is no strain whatever on the
fuselage; a saving in weight is also effected by this method of
construction, as the body does not need to be reinforced to such a
great extent as in machines in which the spars fit into sockets in the
fuselage, but do not meet in the centre.
It will be noted that
the above remarks deal more specially with the 80 h.p. Tractor-
Biplane. The other machines are designed on exactly similar principles
of construction, and it is always the endeavour of the firm to justify
in this respect its motto of "STRENGTH WITH EFFICIENCY," and be it
noted that STRENGTH comes first.