SOPWITH AIRCRAFT

Reviewed by Nick Bloom

As a history book, it is written in a rather dry, academic style striving for thoroughness and accuracy rather than entertainment. While some readers may accept this, others will perhaps find it rather frustrating. I suspect that what most of us want to know is what each aircraft was like to fly, how exactly it was constructed, how easy it was to maintain, what its weak points were in service, and how well it coped in a dogfight and why. Some of this information is provided, but it's incomplete and somewhat haphazardly distributed. On the other hand, there is plenty of rather dull data about the number of aircraft of each type given to each squadron on a given date, and statistics about how the aircraft fared.

However, I did learn that on 23 February 1918, handed axle caps were introduced to stop the wheels coming adrift on Sopwith Camels. Prior to that date, both had had a right handed thread and Camels had been losing their port wheel. Around that time, Camels were being mass produced at such speed that some were issued with spars with spiral graining, causing aeroplanes to break up as soon as they were flown. This kind of information helps bring the past to life.

Unless you are a completist where Sopwith aeroplane books are concerned, I would wait until this one turns up in the remaindered bookshops. Reduced to, say, a fiver or a tenner, it has to be worth anyone's money. Nick Bloom.