On the 9th of October David Hassard gave his lecture entitled “The Sopwith Story”, compiled to mark the centenary of the foundation of Sopwith Aviation in 1912, to Association Members and to the visitors, including Tommy Sopwith junior, who had come to the Hawker Centre to celebrate the Kingston Aviation Centenary Project. After much research David has managed to identify all the Sopwith types and to relate them to each other in terms of design links and calendar time as well as collating production numbers. This he showed in an original and effective ‘Powerpoint’ presentation. He has also collected together from many sources numerous photographs of the Sopwith aircraft being built, at the manufacturers, and in service or on trials.
In its eight years of existence
Sopwith Aviation produced more than 40 basic designs with many variants bearing
56 names. That is equivalent to a new one every twelve weeks. Some 18,000
Sopwith designed aircraft were built, mostly by licensees and contractors in
David explained how, in 1910 at
the age of 22, Tom Sopwith, after teaching himself to fly, gained the 31st
royal Aero Club flying licence. He took up competition flying and, with his
mechanic Fred Sigrist, went to
Also in 1912, Australian Harry Hawker joined the Company, was taught to fly by Sopwith and soon became the company test, demonstration and competition pilot. More importantly he joined Sopwith and Sigrist to form the unique and effective three man ‘design committee’, each with complementary skills. The first Sopwith design was the ‘Hybrid’ tractor biplane combining existing and newly designed components. This was so successful at gaining records with Hawker that the Admiralty bought it.
As there were by now several
flying schools Sopwith decided to move wholly into aircraft design and
manufacture and chose
As the company
grew he would build a large new factory close by in
Happily, in 1948 Sopwith bought the Ham factory from
From here the speaker went
through every Sopwith type on a year-by-year basis, illustrating each with
excellent photographs, and highlighting particular design features and
achievements. A very important type was the ‘Tabloid’ of early 1916 which set the pattern for all
subsequent fighting scouts. As a seaplane it won the 1914 Schneider Cup in
After the November 1918 Armistice the demand for military aircraft reduced to zero. However, a number of experimental prototypes and one-offs were designed and built of which the most famous is the ‘Atlantic’ in which Hawker and Mackenzie Grieve came so close to making the first non-stop Atlantic crossing. However, it made national heroes of the crew. In 1919 a new Sopwith Schneider was designed and built for the race, and with a top speed of 160 mph was the fastest entry, but fog prevented the race from starting.
In 1920 Sopwith wound up his company to pay a Government bill for excess war profits. He sold land from his estate at Horsley and paid off every creditor in full. The same year Sopwith, Sigrist and Hawker started again when they formed the HG Hawker Engineering Company which became Hawker Aircraft Ltd whose success allowed Sopwith by acquisitions to create Hawker Siddeley Aircraft, Hawker Siddeley Aviation and the great industrial conglomerate, the Hawker Siddeley Group. Not bad for three young men in their twenties who wanted to build aeroplanes in the second decade of the 20th century.
This is but an incomplete summary of David’s highly detailed and informative talk on which he must be congratulated. As Chris Farara said, when giving the vote of thanks, David really should write the book.