THE SOPWITH DOVE IN THE CONTEXT OF POST-WAR BRITAIN
Unlike the situation in America in the immediate post-WWI era, when there was a huge upsurge in private flying (just think of the number of Jennies in the mid-west), there was no similar movement in Britain, other than among the very rich or very well connected. One of the biggest surprises to present-day enthusiasts is that so few of the really nice aeroplanes made it to the civil register. There must have been hundreds of Sopwith Pups just left to rot: they were the most popular of aircraft; easy to fly and maintain, sweetly harmonised and with a decent range and ceiling. The military QFIs of the day so enjoyed their Pups that they painted them in garish schemes, yet no entirely genuine Pup survives today. Apparently Sopwith Camels were available for a mere £25 in 1919 and some did indeed fly in air races in the early 20s, but they can hardly be described as easy to fly even though one or two were converted to carry a passenger.
THE DOVE’S ROYAL CONNECTION
It is therefore ironic that there was a perfectly adequate light touring aircraft was made in small numbers, capable of 100 mph, with 2 hours 30 minutes endurance. This was the 2-seat Sopwith Dove (flown from the front seat), a very close relative of the Pup and by all accounts as easy to fly. Only 10 were made and nine of them were sold abroad, including 6 to Australia. G-EACM, the prototype, had a brief moment of glory when the Prince of Wales was taken on a 30-minute flight by the Canadian hero Major Billy Bishop VC (who still had one arm in plaster). The Prince had an interview without coffee with his father King George V the following morning: ”What are you doing flying with this man?” the Prince was asked. “Well you know Father” he is supposed to have replied, “He is a very gallant man and you gave him the Victoria Cross, so I supposed it was alright for me to fly with him”
Despite the front page pictures this event generated, the fact was that Britain was deeply in debt, with over a million men killed in the war, and more dying in the influenza pandemic that followed meant there was little appetite for leisure flying. Not until the late 20s, when the next generation of young men were itching for adventure, did popular flying become accessible.
Almost the only other reference to the aircraft is when it was offered by Sopwiths to Bert Hinkler so he could enter as a solo pilot in an air race from England to Australia, but the Royal Aero Club would not accept his entry, believing it was not possible for a solo pilot to complete the race.
MAJOR BISHOP’S AIRCRAFT
There are 3 photographs in “Sopwith, the Man and the Aircraft” (SMA) including the famous one where Bishop and the Prince are getting ready to fly and Sopwith is looking very dapper but also very nervous! The second is more interesting and shows the two helmeted and goggled fliers in the cockpits with numerous small details including the centre section cut-away, the word “Dove” in sans serif capitals on the rear fuselage in the Sopwith style and the fact that the rear centre section struts are slightly narrower than the front ones. The final picture is a useful side view with much detail evident. Unlike the production aircraft, the fin and rudder are obviously from a Sopwith Camel. The rudder is striped blue, white and red and yet another variation of the Sopwith trademark can be seen on the fin: this time it is (facing forward, starboard side):
KINGSTON ON THAMES
(The spacing and relative sizes of the lettering, including the enlarged initial letters, is correct. However the letters themselves are slightly wider spaced on the aircraft)
The Dove is overall natural linen, with highly polished alloy cowling, side and top panels and varnished wood cockpit coaming. A small flat windscreen protects the front cockpit and there is a pitot tube on the starboard upper wing. The flying wires appear only to be single – perhaps King George V had a valid point!. The varnish on the flying surfaces gives them a semi-gloss appearance where they catch the light: a feature that hardly ever appears on scale models. There are no serial numbers or registration. This aircraft is the prototype, G-EACM which was exported to Canada by Bishop in 1920 as G-CAAY
THE SKYSPORT REPLICA
The only Dove flying now is the replica built by Skysport: this is also the subject of Norman Holme’s plan, the second part of which is in this issue. This aircraft originally had the registration G-BLOO but now bears G-EAGA and is resident at the Shuttleworth collection. A David Boddington Photopack was available some time ago, code 19/006/37 and some photos from it were included in Radio Control Scale Aircraft for Aug/Sep 1994, supporting the 1/8th scale Boddington plan and article by Andy Ward, who built a 1/6 scale version from the plan.
COMPARISON WITH THE PUP
The structure of the Dove was very similar to that of the Pup and power was an 80 hp Le Rhone rotary engine. Dimensions were (Pup dimensions in italics where different): Span: 24 ft 9.1/2ins (26’6”), Length: 19 ft 4 ins, Height: 9 ft (9’5”), Gap 4 ft 4 ins (4’5”), Wing Chord: 5 ft 1.1/2 ins, Stagger 1 ft 6 ins, Dihedral 3 degrees, Incidence 2 degrees (1.5 degrees), Empty weight 1065 lbs (780 lbs), Loaded: 1430 lbs 1234 lbs).
In typical Sopwith fashion, the Dove was not just a Pup with sweepback. There are a number of detail differences between the two types and even the 20” less wing span was not “just due to the 5 degrees sweepback” as David Boddington says in his “Prototype Parade” article. In fact due to the Pup’s wingtip shape, 5 degrees of sweepback makes hardly any difference to the span, and anyway the tip shape on the Dove was almost a reverse of the Pup and more like the Bee. In addition, the 3-view included in SMA shows the same number of wing ribs, but having a different spacing. Apart from the obvious differences in fuselage contours to accommodate the passenger, in the 3-view neither the fin nor the rudder are from a Pup and the tailplane is a smaller version of the one on the Grasshopper although on the photograph in SMA this is not the case.
Note that The Skysport Dove has a cut-out in the upper centre section (in the style of the RNAS Pups), extending from just inside the TE to about the 1/3rd chord position. On the Norman Holme plan this cut-out would be between the TE and main spar, between the two R1 ribs.
The Skysport replica is painted very pale grey/blue (dove grey perhaps?) on the upper surfaces and is natural linen on the under surfaces and fuselage sides, with registration in black letters on a white rectangle on upper and lower wings and fuselage sides, and the “G” on rudder and tailplane. The fin was marked with the Sopwith trademark with the name “Colombe Bleu” (Blue Dove) in script behind the cockpit. The markings and colours on Norman’s Dove are not correct but capture the essence of the aircraft nicely. The exact markings and colour shades can be seen in a number of sites on the Internet.
There are some superb pictures of the replica Dove being covered and painted at www.vintagefabrics.co.uk , the website of Vintage Fabrics Ltd.
4 black and white prints of the original Dove are available from www.ajjcollection.co.uk as well as a number of other sites offering contemporary photographs.
10 Doves were made by the Sopwith works: G-EACM, -EACU –EAFI –EAGA and –EAHP which were all sold abroad, G-EAJI, -EAJJ,-EAKH and -EAKT were sold to Australia and G-EBKY, which remained in UK and was converted to a Pup in the Shuttleworth collection. (SMA p237)
David Boddington included a 37” span 1/8th scale plan of the Dove in one of the classic RCSA Specials, number 84, published some time in 1984 and long out of print. There is very little information on the aircraft itself and no supporting documentation. The finished model weighed about 3 lbs and was designed for a .15 - .20 2-stroke.
Some 10 years later he re-drew the plan in RCSA Aug/Sep 94, also at 1/8 scale, with instructions for enlarging to 1/6th scale: a popular ploy in those days. Andy Ward’s 1/6th scale model spanned 49”, weighed 7 lbs 8 oz (including 1 lb 9 oz of lead!) with a .48 Surpass driving a 12 x 8” prop. There are a number of photographs of the replica Dove and a short “Prototype Parade” article, which included pictures of the Skysport aircraft under construction.
RCM Flyer June 2003 has a plan of Woodvale free flight winner Michael Smith’s Sopwith Dove for 1.5cc diesel.
A scan of the relevant pages of the RCSA Special and 1994 magazine can be supplied on request, with copies of the plans if required, all from Mike Roach on 01202 477553 or email@example.com. Anyone with more information on this elusive aircraft is welcome to get in touch.
SUBSEQUENT INFORMATION PROVIDED BY JOHN HOPTON, AUTHOR OF “THE AEROPLANE IN AUSTRALIA”
(not yet published)
K-122 G-EACM G-CAAY
The prototype had a fin and rudder from a Sopwith Camel and slightly more dihedral than the Australian Doves. This is the one pictured in “Sopwith the Man and the Aircraft” (SMA) with Major Barker and the Prince of Wales in 1919. In May 1920 it was taken to Canada by Bishop-Barker Aeroplanes Ltd. (But see note below for the fate of this aircraft)
2 aircraft went to Sweden:
K-133 G-EACU S-AFAA
To Maj Olaf Enderlein (Swedish Air Force) Jan 1923
K-148 G-EAFI S-AYAA
To Norway, July 1921. To Oscar Bladh (Sweden) Aug 1924
6 aircraft went to Australia
Photographed as K-157 25 Jan 20, at Warrnambool, Victoria and at (?) Glenhuntly, Victoria, date not known. In common with other Australian Doves, it had only very slight dihedral (perhaps 1 degree either side) and the fin and rudder were similar to the 3-view drawing in SMA. There is a light-coloured panel on the fuselage (possibly containing the serial number) and a letter or number on the fin.
Operated by Larkin-Sopwith Aviation Co.
G-EAJI G-AUDN VH-UDN
Operated by Larkin-Sopwith Aviation Co (1919) as G-EAJI, Aviation Service Co Ltd (1920) and E.O. Cudmore (1921-22) as G-AUDN. Fine photograph showing full registartion on light-coloured upper wing, and on bar on fuselage, “DOVE” on fin and illegible company name on rudder. Registration changed to VH-UDN on 28 Mar 1929, owned by TJE Stratton and other until 16 Mar 1934 when it was SOR. Photo of VH-UDN showing registartion on fuselage and VH on rudder and a headrest fitted to the rear cockpit.
Operated by Larkin-Sopwith Aviation Co. SOR 25 June 1925
Operated by Larkin-Sopwith Aviation Co. SOR 19 June 1928
Operated by Larkin-Sopwith Aviation Co then AL Long, Hobart,Tasmania.
One additional aircraft remained in England.
Owned by DL Hollis Williams until 1930, then by CH Lowe-Wylde at West Malling, England. It was bought by RO Shuttleworth at Old Warden in July 1937 and converted into the well-known Sopwith Pup.
G-BLOO G-EAGA The Skysport Replica
- There is a wonderful photograph of an unknown Dove at Birdsville Track, SA which includes a camel and a large dog accompanied by 2 ladies, a white cat (or possibly a smaller dog) accompanied by 2 more not so quite so well dressed ladies. The Dove is decorated with black? diamonds on a white? background on the fuselage, fin and rudder and at least the upper wing surface. The aircraft has no dihedral on the upper wing.
- JH concludes that more Doves may have been constructed and shipped to Australia as he has more data than is accounted for by the list above.
- G-CAAY crashed in 1921: Source Quebec Telegraph Friday 16 Sept 1921
“Had Narrow Escape Sault St. Marie, Ontario
September 16 - Aviator Albert Highstone, while piloting a Sopwith Dove plane, crashed 1200 feet in a trial flight, but escaped with minor injuries. The machine was to have been an attraction at the fair here and was being placed in readiness for a series of flights. It landed in a tree near the wireless station and will be almost a total loss"
I believe this to be Albert R Highstone of St. Ignace Michigan (1883-1959) This information was kindly provided by Paul McMillan (Paul.McMillan@emc.com) via email