Sir Thomas O.M, Sopwith
Collection of Rolland DeRemer, 8-12-03

Sir Thomas O.M, Sopwith
Sir Thomas O.M, Sopwith
Sir Thomas O.M, Sopwith
Tom Sopwith's old bus - 1910
from CHIRP, June, 1937 Number 20

     One of the many Early Birds to win international fame is Sir Thomas Sopwith, and the Spring, 1956 issue of the Jet Age put out by A. V. Roe Canada Limited for its member companies carries an excellent story on his many contributions to aviation and the new jet age. We are reproducing the story here together with some of the artwork which accompanied it.
       Pioneer air pilot, racing car driver, motorboat champion, Sir Thomas Sopwith has been famous in all three roles. But perhaps his greatest contribution to progress has been made through aircraft designing and manufacturing, a particularly as head of the Hawker Siddeley Group.
     In 1906, at 18, while auto-racing at Brookland --- which at that time was also being used as an airfield --- he became greatly interested in flying, and soon bought his first aeroplane --- a 40 h.p. Howard Wright monoplane. On October 22, 1910, he made his first flight . . . and crashed. Within a month, with a new biplane, he obtained his pilot's certificate, No. 31, and the same day took up his first passenger.
     Soon afterwards he commenced building biplanes and obtained an order from the War Office for 12 aircraft. His company won the Schneider Trophy at Monte Carlo in 1914.
     During the First World War, Sir Thomas produced many successful aircraft. The "Pup", "Triplane", "Camel", "Snipe", "Dolphin", and "Salamander" were the greatest contributions to eventual British air supremacy.
     Following the war, after a rather unsuccessful attempt to build motorcycles, he teamed up with Harry Hawker and formed the H. G. Hawker Engineering Co., in the developement of military aircraft. Among the sucessful aircraft developed were the "Fury", "Hart", "Nimrod", and "Audax."
     In 1934, he bought Gloster Aircraft. Next year he purchased the Armstrong Siddeley interests and established the Hawker Siddeley Group, and in 1936 started work on a monoplane fighter, which later became the famous "Hurricane," which was a great factor in winning the Battle of Britain. During the war the Group turned out 40,000 aircraft, and in 1941 developed the first British jet engine, the "Meteor," the only Allied jet used operationally during the war.
     Since that time, many successful jet aircraft and engines have been developed by the Hawker Siddeley Group, notably the "Hunter," "Sea Hawk," Javelin," the Canadian "CF-100," and the giant four-jet "Vulcan Bomber, and, in the jet engine field, the "Sapphire," the Canadian "Orenda," the "Viper," the "Double Mamba" and others.
     Sir Thomas was made a Knight Bachelor in 1953, a fitting tribute to a great pioneer --- truly one of the fathers of our Jet Age.

Sir Thomas O.M, Sopwith
Another Cole Brothers Belmont Park Aviation Meet 1910 view of TOM Sopwith. He along with Earle Ovington and Paul Peck carried the mail at Garden City Long Island which is considered our first official air mail flight.
Contributed by Jerry Blanchard, 7-30-10

     If you search for "SIR THOMAS O.M. SOPWITH +aviation", using the Google search engine, (8-31-03), you will find about 50 links. Among the most helpful are the following.
     "Without question, the most famous British fighting aircraft of World War I was the Sopwith Camel. Indeed, many experts in military aviation consider the Camel to be one of the greatest fighting aircraft of its time."
     This paragraph from the All Star Network website, introduces a short article on the Camel, manufactured by Sir Thomas O.M. Sopwith. It includes a link to a short biography of him on a related page. To access the website, click on the title above.
by Brian D. Marlatt
     This website, which was recommended to me by Brian D. Marlatt, offers several beautiful photographs of Sopwith Camels, along with a narrative description of the plane and compares it to photographs of the Nieuport 17.
      In his email to me, which is reproduced below, he corrects some of the statements which are found in the article and adds a number if interesting facts about other flyers of the Camel.
To access the site, click on the title above.

via email from Brian D. Rogers, 1-16-04
     According to Wayne Ralph Barker VC DoubleDay Canada: Toronto,1997, p. vii, Lt. Col. William George Barker earned the Victoria Cross, Distinguished Service Order and Bar, Military Cross and two Bars, Croix de Guerre (France), two Silver Medals for Valour (Italy), and was Mentioned-In-Dispatches three times. A photograph of the medals, now held by the Canadian War Museum, appears opposite p. 149. Barker was and is Canada's most highly decorated military officer and achieved 50 confirmed victories in the air.
     Don MacLaren, with 54 victories, was the highest scoring Camel pilot, and Lt. Col. William Avery Bishop V.C. , D.S.O. and Bar, M.C., D.F.C. etc., generally agree to have achieved 72 air victories (there is some disagreement) was the highest scoring Canadian. Bishop flew Nieuport 17s and the SE 5a.
     (As an aside, I should note that Bishop and Manfred von Richtofen fought one engagement against one another - to a draw - and that a distant relative of mine, Lt. W. Porter, was shot down over Combles in France and killed by Richtofen on 24 March 1918. Porter was flying a SE 5a of 56 Squadron.)
     I suppose I should take some comfort in the fact that Lt. Col. Barker (who enlisted in the 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles in 1914 with the rank of private soldier) is mistakenly assigned various combinations of medals, including the DFC (first issued in June, 1918 as an air equivalent of the Military Cross), in a number of contemporary publications. The Ralph book, checked by the author against the list of medals gazetted, and medals in the War Museum are, I assume, definitive.

by John H. Lienhard
      "Today, we meet the oldest airplane designer. The University of Houston's College of Engineering presents this series about the machines that make our civilization run, and the people whose ingenuity created them".
      This is a transcription of a radio broadcast series and offers a fascinating story of Sopwith and the Sopwith Camel. You can read the whole story by clicking on the story above. You may want to read other stories in the series.

Sir Thomas O.M, Sopwith died in 1989

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