Series: Air Vanguard * 3
Author: Jon Guttman
Artists and Illustrators: Harry Dempsey; Simon Smith; Richard Chasemore; Peter Bull
Formats: Softcover; PDF; ePub
Item: ISBN: 978-1-78096-176-7
is the third title in Air Vanguard, a new series launched by Osprey. It features a great detail of information concisely packed into 64 pages including full color artwork, illustrations, and cutaway art.
Few can read of the First World War air war without becoming acquainted with the Sopwith Camel. Many know that the Camel has one of the best war records of Great War fighters. Some know that Camels were tricky to fly. Camels were also launched from ships and barges against enemy aircraft and ground installations. The Camel is probably most associated with fighting Fokker triplanes and the death of the Red Baron.
This book details the development and deployment of the Camel, exploring the legend and myths of the aircraft, as well as the documented record.
In Sopwith Camel
, the third of Osprey’s new series Air Vanguard, author Jon Guttman reveals the story of one of the world’s iconic fighters through 64 pages in seven chapters of over a dozen sections:
Design and Development
Technical Specifications and Variants
• Sopwith Camel performance figures
• Flying the Camel
• Night fighters and Comics
• A Camel (re)built for two
• Trench Fighter 1
• The shipboard Camel
• Western Front
• The East
• Carrier operations
• Post-war Camels
Legend and myth surrounds the oddly named Camel. The aircraft was designed with two machine guns from the beginning, a first for the Royal Flying Corps (RFC). German Albatros fighters had two guns and triple the weight of fire of the Camel’s family predecessors, the Pup and the Triplane; the Pup just couldn’t handle a second gun. Mr. Sopwith started work on a new fighter. The bulk of the weight was set within the first 7 feet of the airframe, and with big wings and a spinning rotary engine, the Camel was fast and supremely maneuverable.
In the first 31 pages Mr. Guttman covers characteristics of design, development, structure and systems with a good balance of detail and readability. An airframe is only as good as, and never better than, the engine that powers it,
is an adage of fighter design. The Camel mounted several types of rotary engines of various horsepower. These are explored in detail, including interesting comparisons of size, weight, performance, and cost per unit.
There were also differences in airframes, Ship Camels having slightly different wings and other almost imperceivable changes. Performance of various Camels is presented per technical a chart with both variants, and specific airframes. Additionally, several pages are devoted to the night fighters and “Comics”. Different weapon configurations employed by the Sopwith are shown with brief descriptions. That Camels were built by different manufacturers and subcontractors is included to round out the technical history of the aircraft.
A page is devoted to starting and flying the Camel, published from the notes of a RFC Camel pilot for new pilots. It is very detailed and written in functional “pilotese”. Briefer excerpts of impressions and thoughts of flying the Camel are also included, including critics of the Sopwith compared to other Allied types the pilots had experience in.
Finally, Camel developments are not ignored. The Camel was a beast to handle and the book discusses how field modified training Camels popped up within the RFC. I have never heard of the Sopwith Camel Monoplane until this book. Also presented are the Trench Fighter 1 and the shipboard Camels. Very interesting is the work done on ditching apparatus for Camels operating over water.
In the Operational History section I found supplementing the general operations of the airplane a good deal of yank-n-bank narratives, combat narratives, and other action recounts. The first Camel action was assisting Sopwith 1 1/2 –Strutters in forcing an Albatros C.X to land at an Allied aerodrome. The Camel’s role in the rise and fall of the legendary Werner Voss is included. One of the Camel’s legends is its duels in bat-turning dogfights with the legendary Fokker Dr.I triplane; information from British and Germans sources about the encounters is very interesting. Post-war Camel exploits are recounted, including the Camel’s role in an American pilot becoming the only American aerial ace against the Soviet Union. Mr. Guttman dissects the operational effectiveness of the type through discussing observations and records of Camel pilots, allied pilots, and enemy sources. Finally, the text ends with the author’s conclusion about the Sopwith Camel’s place in history, and surviving Camels world-wide. The conclusion may raise eyebrows regardless of your notions about the Camel.
Artwork and Graphics
Over three dozen black and white photographs support the text. Many are high-quality images of designers, “studio” shots, and technical images. Most are of operational Camels at, and over, the front lines, with the expected fuzziness. A photo of Camel N6814 suspended under HMA (His Majesty’s Airship) R23 is a certain inspiration for a diorama! Modelers will also be interested in a photo on page 40 showing weathering on the Camel of Canada’s ace-of-aces, Capt. MacLaren. Three color photos are included although these are contemporary exposures of a replica Camel.
With four artists credited to the book one would expect some fine art. I was not disappointed! They produced a color three-view of Camel B3887 of 2LT Hardit Singh Malik, No. 28 Sqn, October 1917. Eight color plates illustrate Camels: F1s of the RFC, RAF, RNAS, USAS, and Belgium; a Comic; Sopwith 2F1 B7184 in use with Jasta
23B following its capture. Each plate has a descriptive sidebar.
Four color vignettes show different Camel weapons and a two-seater. Each plate has a descriptive sidebar.
Two exceptionally well done digital “in action” illustrations enhance the book. These dynamic full color pictures are a signature of Osprey titles. They are:
1. Camels Over Monte Tomba (Book cover art). No. 66 Sqn Camels attacking Austro-Hungarians of Flik 68/J over Italy.
2. The Tondern Raid. 2F1 Ships Camels departing the German airship base at Tondern after a sunrise bombing of the Zeppelin sheds.
Rounding out the illustrations is a fine two-page foldout cutaway: Sopwith Camel
in British livery. Thirty-two components are identified.
Sopwith Camel performance figures
is featured including dimensions, weights, speeds, endurance, climb rates, engines and other technical data of six individual Camels and three Camel types.
This third title of the new Air Vanguard series is an impressive introduction to Sopwith’s iconic fighter. I found this book to be a fascinating story of the concept and creation of one of the most famous fighters of all times. I am very impressed with just how comprehensive the text is despite the 64-page format constraint. I find the level of detail to be excellent. This book is not meant to present the record of every Camel unit. The personal accounts really sell the book for me. Mr. Guttman is not a cheerleader for the Camel, nor does he “flame’ it. He does a great job in clarifying fact and written record from the hype and propaganda of the victorious side. It is very well written in an engaging style. I greatly appreciate the very interesting detailed description of components. It revealed some surprising data about the aircraft.
Supporting art and graphics leaves me wanting more. The editor provided a fine selection of airframes representing the type. The “in-action” artwork is first rate.
Osprey continues this new series with this superb topic. It is a solid resource for Camel historians and enthusiasts, and offers a wealth of ideas for modelers. I heartily recommend this title.
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