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Camel operational service dates

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David Seymour View Drop Down
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    Posted: 23 Dec 2009 at 18:45
I read in F K Mason, The British Fighter, that Camels entered operational service with 4(N) in May 1917 and that they were still in RAF service (although he does not say with which squadron) eighteen months after the war.  Searching for the final Camel squadron in C. G. Jefford's RAF Squadrons I have found that 17 Sqn had Camels until Nov 1919, i.e. not 18 months after the war.  Please could someone advise on this conundrum?
Many thanks for any help you can give.
David
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Adrian Roberts View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Adrian Roberts Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Jan 2010 at 01:40
I always understood that Camels were replaced by Snipes fairly soon after the war. Some may have been with Training Squadrons after they were withdrawn from front-line use.
 
However, I had another thought re this. Could the discrepancy in the dates refer to those in Naval Service?  I don't think the Snipe ever served with the Navy; the first post-war shipboard fighter was the Nieuport Nigthjar, and unless some Camels were retained into 1920, there would have been a period when the FAA had no single-seat fighters. Remember that the Fleet Air Arm was part of the RAF, not the RN, until 1939. Certainly Camels were operating from HMS Vindictive against the Bolsheviks in 1919, as well as with 47 sqdn in the Crimea - but I'm not sure when 47 sqdn was withdrawn, 1919 or 1920?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote David Seymour Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Jan 2010 at 15:50
Jefford says that 47 was DB 20/10/19, and that it had Camels from Sept to Oct. 19.  However, your mention of Nightjars led me to 203 Sqn and under that number in Jefford I find that Camels were issued to that squadron from Mar 20 to Aug 22.  So, although I can't find any continuous service from the war until May 1920 there is this further point of interest of the type's post-war re-issue!  Curiouser and curiouser!!
 
With best wishes,
David
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Adrian Roberts Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Jan 2010 at 01:24
Its particularly strange given the wholesale scrapping that took place after the war: I'm surprised any Camels were left by then.
 
Assuming that Jefford is correct about 203 sqdn, the only explanation I can think of is that I have an idea that the Nightjar wasn't especially satisfactory, so in order to have a single-seat shipboard fighter, they may have returned to the Camel as the only tried and tested type, until the Fairey Flycatcher came along in about 1922/3.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote David Seymour Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Jan 2010 at 16:31

I have just found this extract from H F King, Sopwith Aircraft, London, 1981:  "Certainly it must be noted that the 2F.1 Camel, with Bentley B.R.1 engine, was still regarded as a standard RAF type as late as 1921...."

Regards,

David

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Adrian Roberts Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Jan 2010 at 01:07
Well, we know some Camel pilots had reservations about the Snipe, so perhaps its not so surprising.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote NickForder Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Jan 2010 at 09:03
There is a noted lack of investment in naval aviation in the first few years of the RAF, probably because most of the Admiralty initiatives did not directly support the role of the RAF on the Western Front. The lower priority of naval aviation can be seen in 1918 with the development of the Sopwith Cuckoo.
 
Arguably the priority for the RAF in the 1920s was colonial policing (aeroplanes were cheaper than battalions of infantry), and so 'Army Co-op' aircraft were the favoured type (Brisfit, Ninak, Wapiti, Wallace etc).
 
There was a lack of fighters inthe RAF generally in the 1920s. 111 Squadron, reformed in 1923, was not up to strength as a unit with a standard type until the end of 1925. The squadron's Grebe II flight seems to have consisted of no more than two 2-seaters, and the Snipe flight had only three aircraft !
 
In this context, the navy was doing very well to get any new aircraft at all, let alone Nightjars and Plovers, and then Flycatchers. One must remember, also, that the seaborne naval air arm at the end of WW1 was not confined to fixed wing and seaplane carriers, as major warships had flying off platforms fitted to gun turrets. As they had no 'flying on' platforms this does indicate a commitment to a high level of wastage...
 
My understanding is that the Snipe was considered rather 'sedate' compared to the Camel, and did not offer the improvement of performance hoped for. Whether it was the right type to choose for production is an interesting point to consider, though the emphasis at this point was more volume than the further development of new types, and in this context the Snipe was probably the best contender.
 
Other Snipe competitors were presented as possible naval scouts, but none were considered to offer such an increase in performance to switch production away from the 2F1.
 Nick 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote NickForder Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Feb 2010 at 08:27
Non-Obsolete (Naval) Aircraft on RAF Charge 31.12.1919
(source RAF Serials J1-J9999 & WW1 Survivors, Air-Britain)
Aircraft based in UK, unless noted otherwise
 
Fairey IIIC - 24
Felixstowe F2A - 128
Felixstowe F3 - 99 (+ 21 on Malta)
Felixstowe F5 - 38
NT2B - 103
Parnall Panther - 27
Short 184 - 220 (+ 11 in Middle East, + 30 in Malta)
Sopwith 2F1 Camel - 179
Sopwith 1 1/2 Strutter - 39
Sopwith Cuckoo - 176
Misc - 3
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote NickForder Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Feb 2010 at 08:55
The last operational use of the Camel by the RAF would appear to be in 1919 against the Bolseviks. HMS Vindictive sailed with 12 aircraft on board, which included 2F1 Camels, Strutters, Short 184s and Grain Griffins, despite the fact that the design complement was 4 aircraft, and the operational establishment was 2 fighters and four spotters. Vindictive had been used for trials of the Griffin, which explains why it/they were included.
 
Vindictive left Russia in late December 1919. It then went to Portsmouth for a £200,000 refit, largely to repair damage resulting from running aground on 6 July 1919. Work was not completed until 1921. In 1923-25 Vindictive was reconverted to a cruiser, but retained its forward hangar.
 
Vindictive's aircraft were operated mostly from land in Russia, except for the 30 July 1919 raid on Kronstadt.
 
Stuart Culley is noted as flying Camel N6612 (bombing Petrograd 6.10.1919) and N7106 (bombing a Bolshevik destroyer 16.10.1919).
 
RAF use of the 2F1 Camel after the Russian intervention seems to have been limited to 203 Squadron. This reformed at Leuchars on 1.3.1920 with Camels. These remained in service until August 1922 when they were replaced with Nightjars. Aircraft involved included N6757, N7355, N7361, N7366 (which appears to have been in service until 6.10.1922 - the latest service date found) and N8191 (though the Camel File has the latter as 205 Squadron, which I believe is a typo).
Nick
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote NickForder Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Feb 2010 at 08:58
Overseas, the last Camel seems to have been struck from the US Navy list on 2.8.1922.
 
A 2F1 was in service in Latvia as late as 7.8.1921.
 
A F1 was flying in Poland in 1922.
 
IV Fighter Group operated CF1 Camels in Belgium 1920-1923.
 
Canada had 2F1 Camels at least until 1925, and some were shipped out as a source of spares later than this, suggesting that Canada was the last operator.
Nick 
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