Serving Midwest Aviation Since 1960

The Mystery Airplane

May Mystery Airplane Contest Photo

Thomas Octave Murdock Sopwith (1888-1989), later Sir Thomas, formed Sopwith Aviation at Kingston-on-Thames in 1912. Famous as a pilot, balloonist, car racer, and yacht racer, Sopwith, with Fred Sigrist and Harry Hawker, were the backbone of a company that supplied the RFC, RNAS, and RAF with combat aircraft during WWI. Finances forced the liquidation of Sopwith after the war, but it returned to aircraft manufacturing as H. G. Hawker Engineering in November 1920.

Known for the 1 ½ Strutter, the Pup, Triplane, Camel, Dolphin, and the Snipe, Sopwith aircraft served with over two dozen nations during and after WWI. First flown in October 1917, the first service Snipes joined action on the Western Front in September 1918 with 43 Squadron. Powered by a 230 hp Bentley B.R. 2 rotary, the Snipe was capable of 121 mph at 10,000 feet, had a service ceiling of 20,000 feet, and carried a pair of Vickers machine guns. The most famous Snipe pilot was Major William Barker of 201 Squadron, who fought a solo engagement versus 15 Fokker D. VIIs on 27 October 1918. Barker was awarded the Victoria Cross for his valor. The battle-damaged fuselage of Barker's E8102 is displayed in the Canadian War Museum.

Snipe E6938, based at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, Ottawa, was built by Nieuport and General Aircraft in 1918. It was rescued by former RFC pilot and Hollywood actor Reginald Denny in 1926. E6938 was flown in "Wings" and "Hell's Angels." It decayed over the years before being acquired by the Canadian War Museum in 1964. Restored, it was flown for a time at Rockcliffe until grounded in June 1967.

John Edgren of Oskaloosa, Iowa, takes this month’s honors. Regulars Ed Wells, Joe Connell, and Dave Lundgren also knew the Snipe. Thanks to all who joined us at the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame Banquet. An outstanding evening! Blue skies.


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