The Martinsyde F4 Buzzard was developed as a powerful and fast biplane fighter for the Royal Air Force (RAF), but the end of the First World War led to the abandonment of large-scale production. Fewer than 400 were eventually produced, with many exported. Of particular note was the Buzzard's high speed, being one of the fastest aircraft developed during World War I.
In 1917, George Handasyde of Martinsyde designed a single seat biplane fighter powered by a Rolls-Royce Falcon V-12 engine, the Martinsyde F.3, six being ordered in 1917, with the first flying in November that year. While its performance during testing was impressive, demonstrating a maximum speed of 142 mph (229 km/h) and described in an official report as "a great advance on all existing fighting scouts", all Falcon production was required to power Bristol F.2 Fighters, so no orders for the F.3 were placed.
To solve this problem, Martinsyde designed a new fighter based on the F.3, but powered by a 300 hp (224 kW) Hispano-Suiza engine, the F.4 Buzzard. The Buzzard, like the F.3, was a single bay tractor biplane powered by a water cooled engine. It had new lower wings compared with the F.3 and the pilot's cockpit was positioned further aft, but otherwise the two aircraft were similar. The prototype F.4 was tested in June 1918, and again demonstrated excellent performance, being easy to fly and manoeuverable as well as very fast for the time. Large orders followed, with 1,450 ordered from Martinsyde, Boulton & Paul Ltd, Hooper & Co and the Standard Motor Company. It was planned to equip the French Aéronautique Militaire as well as the British Royal Air Force, and production of a further 1,500 aircraft in the United States of America was planned.
Deliveries to the RAF had just started when the Armistice between the Allies and Germany was signed. Martinsyde was instructed to only complete those aircraft which were part built, while all other orders were cancelled. The Buzzard was not adopted as a fighter by the post war RAF, the cheaper Sopwith Snipe being preferred despite its lower performance.
Martinsyde continued development of the Buzzard, buying back many of the surplus aircraft from the RAF, and producing two seat tourers and floatplanes. After the bankruptcy of Martinsyde in 1924, these aircraft were obtained by the Aircraft Disposal Company which continued to develop and sell F.4 variants for several years.
Despite the very limited production, four of the six Martinsyde F.3s ordered were issued to Home Defence squadrons of the RAF in 1918, with two being operated by No. 39 Squadron RAF on 8 July 1918. The RAF received 57 F.4 Buzzards before the end of the First World War, but these did not reach operational squadrons. In the immediate post war period, two Buzzards were used as high speed communications aircraft in support of the British delegation at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, while a few other Buzzards were used at the Central Flying School.
While the postwar RAF did not want the Buzzard, Martinsyde had more success selling the Buzzard overseas, with single and two-seat versions being sold to a number of air forces, including those of Spain (30 aircraft), Finland (15 aircraft) and the Soviet Union (100 aircraft). Some of these aircraft had long careers, with six of the Spanish Buzzards remaining in service at the start of the Spanish Civil War. Following the bankruptcy of Martinsyde, the Aircraft Disposal Company managed to sell eight Jaguar engined versions, the ADC.1 to Latvia, two of these remaining in service until 1938.
Many Martinsydes were sold to civil owners being used as Tourers, racing aircraft and for survey and seal spotting work in Canada.
The Sopwith T.1 Cuckoo was a British biplane torpedo bomber used by the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS), and its successor organization, the Royal Air Force (RAF). The T.1 was the first landplane specifically designed for carrier operations, but it was completed too late for service in the First World War. After the Armistice, the T.1 was named the Cuckoo.
In October 1916, Commodore Murray Sueter, the Air Department's Superintendent of Aircraft Construction, solicited Sopwith for a single-seat aircraft capable of carrying a 1,000 lb torpedo and sufficient fuel to provide an endurance of four hours. The resulting aircraft, designated T.1 by Sopwith, was a large, three-bay biplane. Because the T.1 was designed to operate from carrier decks, its wings were hinged to fold backwards. The T.1 could take off from a carrier deck in four seconds, but it was not capable of making a carrier landing and no arresting gear was fitted. A split-axle undercarriage allowed the aircraft to carry a 1,000 lb Mk. IX torpedo beneath the fuselage.
The prototype T.1 first flew in June 1917, powered by a 200 hp Hispano-Suiza 8Ba engine. Official trials commenced in July 1917 and the Admiralty issued production orders for 100 aircraft in August. Contractors Fairfield Engineering and Pegler & Company had no experience as aircraft manufacturers, however, resulting in substantial production delays. Moreover, the S.E.5a had priority for the limited supplies of the Hispano-Suiza 8. Redesign of the T.1 airframe to accommodate the heavier Sunbeam Arab incurred further delays.
In February 1918, the Admiralty issued a production order to Blackburn Aircraft, an experienced aircraft manufacturer. Blackburn delivered its first T.1 in May 1918. The aircraft immediately experienced undercarriage and tailskid failures, requiring redesign of those components. The T.1 also required an enlarged rudder and offset vertical stabilizer to combat its tendency to swing to the right.
After undergoing service trials at RAF East Fortune, the T.1 was recommended for squadron service. Deliveries to the Torpedo Aeroplane School at East Fortune commenced in early August 1918. Fairfield and Pegler finally began production in August and October, respectively.
The T.1 was not used operationally before the Armistice. In service, the aircraft was generally popular with pilots because the airframe was strong and water landings were safe. The T.1 was easy to control and was fully aerobatic without a torpedo payload. The Arab engine proved unsatisfactory, however, and approximately 20 T.1s were converted to use Wolseley Viper engines. These aircraft, later designated Cuckoo Mk. II, could be distinguished by the Viper's lower thrust line. The Arab-engined variant was designated Cuckoo Mk. I.
A total of 300 T.1s were ordered, but only 90 aircraft had been delivered by the Armistice. A total of 232 aircraft had been completed by the time production ended in 1919. Blackburn Aircraft produced 162 aircraft, while Fairfield Engineering completed 50 and Pegler & Company completed another 20. After the Armistice, many T.1s were delivered directly to storage depots at Renfrew and Newcastle.
The Cuckoo's operational career ended when the last unit to use the type, No. 210 Squadron, disbanded at Gosport on 1 April 1923. The Cuckoo was replaced in service by the Blackburn Dart. Today, no complete Cuckoo airframe survives, but a set of Cuckoo Mk. I wings are preserved at the National Museum of Flight in Scotland.
Throughout 1917, Commodore Sueter proposed plans for an aerial torpedo attack on the German High Seas Fleet at its base in Germany. The carriers HMS Argus, HMS Furious, and HMS Campania, and the converted cruisers HMS Courageous and HMS Glorious, would have launched 100 Cuckoos from the North Sea. In September 1917, Admiral Sir David Beatty, commander of the Grand Fleet, proposed a similar plan involving 120 Cuckoos launched from eight converted merchant vessels. Training took place in the Firth of Forth, where Cuckoos launched practice torpedoes at targets towed by destroyers. Cuckoos of No. 185 Squadron embarked on HMS Argus in November 1918, but hostilities ended before the aircraft could conduct any combat operations.
The Sopwith TF.2 Salamander was a British World War I ground attack aircraft which first flew in April 1918. The war ended before the type could enter squadron service, although two were in France in October 1918.
By 1917, the use of close support aircraft had become an essential part of an infantry attack. On the German side, specialist aircraft were designed specifically for the task, such as the Halberstadt CL.II and the armored Junkers J.I – the British however relied for this work on ordinary fighters such as the DH 5, and the Camel, and general purpose two seaters such as the F.K.8. Ground fire took a heavy toll of aircrew involved, and an equivalent to the armored German machines was sought. The first British aircraft to be built specifically for "ground strafing", as close support was known, was an armored version of the Camel, known by the company as the "TF.1" (for "trench fighter"). This did not go into production, but information gained in testing it was used for the Salamander design.
Design of the Salamander, conceived as an armored version of the Sopwith Snipe, began in January 1918. The forward portion of the fuselage was a 650 lb (295 kg) box of armor plate. The rear portion was a generally similar structure to the Snipe's, but flat sided, to match the forepart. The wings and tail unit were identical with the Snipe, and the same Bentley BR2 rotary engine was fitted. This was protected by a standard (unarmored) cowling – the foremost armor plate forming the firewall.
Originally an armament of three Lewis guns was planned, as for the TF.I. Two would have fired forward and downwards through the cockpit floor, while a third would have fired upwards. In the event a conventional battery of two synchronised Vickers guns was mounted in front of the cockpit, as on the Snipe, although they were staggered, the starboard gun being mounted a few inches forward of the port one.
The prototype underwent its initial trials in April 1918, and was sent to France for evaluation on 9 May, but subsequently crashed on 19 May during test program while with No. 65 Squadron when the pilot had to avoid a tender crossing the aerodrome responding to another crash. . By this time four prototypes were flying, undergoing many of the same modifications to the tail and ailerons as the Snipe in order to correct the initially rather heavy and unresponsive controls.
Production was intended to be on a very large scale – The Air Navigation Co., Glendower Aircraft, and Palladium Motors all signed contracts to supply Salamanders, as well as the Sopwith company itself. By the end of the war, however, only 37 Salamanders were on RAF charge, and only two of these were in France. None had as yet been issued to an operational squadron.
With the Armistice, the immediate need for a specialist close support aircraft evaporated, and no squadron was ever fully equipped with the type, which had disappeared from RAF service altogether by the mid 1920s. The type was not developed, but was used in trials of various patterns of disruptive camouflage in the early post war years. One example went to America, and was apparently still in existence at McCook Field in 1926.
A descendant of the Sopwith Camel, the Sopwith Snipe was equipped with a more powerful engine and provided better visibility from the cockpit. Though not much faster than the Camel, the Snipe had a better rate of climb and pilots found it much easier to fly.
On 27 October 1918, Canadian ace William Barker made the Sopwith Snipe famous in a single-handed battle with more than 60 enemy aircraft that earned him the Victoria Cross. Flying the Sopwith Snipe, Captain Elwyn King scored 7 victories making him the highest scoring ace to fly this aircraft.