The British Sopwith F.1 Camel shot down more enemy aircraft than any other Allied World War I fighter. Best characterized by its unmatched maneuverability, the camel was difficult to defeat in a dogfight. Tricky handling characteristics, however, made the Camel a dangerous aircraft to fly. More than 380 men died training to fly the aircraft, nearly as many who died while operating it in combat.
The Camel first went into action in June 1917 with No. 4 Squadron, Royal Naval Air Service where it was hailed for its superiority over German aircraft. Earning a fearsome reputation, the Camel was widely distributed through British aviation squadrons and later also equipped several U.S. Army Air Service squadrons.
Two of these squadrons, the 17th and 148th Aero Squadrons, saw combat while assigned to British forces during the summer and fall of 1918. Armed with their Camel fighters, these units counted a number of high-scoring American aces among their ranks. Famous aces Capt. Elliot White Springs, Lt .George A. Vaughn, and Lt. Field E. Kindley all gained fame with the 17th and 148th Aero Squadrons. Another American unit, the 185th Aero Squadron, used the Camel as a night fighter during the last month of the war.
Although 5,490 Camels were produced, few remain in existence today. USAF personnel built the Camel on exhibit from original WWI factory drawings, completing it in 1974. The aircraft is painted and marked as the Camel flown by Lt. George A. Vaughn Jr. of the 17th Aero Squadron, America's second-ranking Air Service ace to survive the war.
Armament: Two Vickers .303-cal. machine guns
Engine: Clerget rotary of 130 hp
Maximum speed: 112 mph
Range: 300 miles
Ceiling: 19,000 ft.
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