Sopwith 1½ Strutter

Sopwith 1½ Strutter
Reconnaissance Aeroplane
Mann Egerton & Co Ltd, UK
Number in use
Three - N5644 (March to May 1918), A6968 (mid-1918), F7562 (late 1918)
25 feet 3 inches
10 feet 3 inches
Weights 1305
Dimensions Wing span: 33 feet 6 inches
Speed 102 mph
Engines One 130hp Clerget
  • Climb: 10,000 ft/24 mins 35 secs
  • Endurance: 3.75 hours
Guns: 1 x Vickers MG, 1 x Lewis MG, Bombs: 2 x 65 lb
Ships embarked in HMAS Australia (I)

The Sopwith 1 12 Strutter was a British two seat multi-role biplane aircraft operated by both the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) and the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) / Royal Air Force (RAF) during World War I.  It was given the name ‘ 1 12 Strutter’ because of the long and short cabana struts that supported the top wing.

Design work on the aircraft commenced in 1914 and the first prototype was ready by mid-December 1915 and underwent testing in January 1916.   The 1 12 Strutter was of conventional wire-braced, wood and fabric construction. The pilot and gunner sat in widely separated tandem cockpits, with the pilot in front, giving the gunner a good field of fire for his Lewis gun.  It also had a forward firing .303 Vickers machine gun operated by the pilot.

By the end of April 1916 the aircraft was in service with the RNAS and with the RFC by July of that year.  Initially the aircraft performed well against its German opponents but by early 1917 was being outclassed by new German aircraft types.  Like many other early Sopwith type aircraft, the 1 12 Strutter was very lightly built and its airframe did not stand up well to arduous war service. It was far too stable to make a good ‘dog-fighting’ aircraft and the distance between the pilot and the observer's cockpits hampered communication.

The last operational 1 12 Strutters in the RFC were replaced by Sopwith Camels in late October 1917.  The RNAS used most of their 1 12 Strutters as bombers (in the Mediterranean theatre as well as in France) and on board ships, where it was known as the Ship's Strutter.  It flew from several Royal Navy warships and from the battle – cruiser HMAS Australia.  By 1918 the aircraft was used mainly as a trainer having been withdrawn from operational service.

Around 1,500 1 12 Strutters were built for the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service and approximately 4,500 were built in France.  The aircraft was also operated by Belgium, Japan, Poland, Russia and the United States.

Left: A Sopwith 1 & 1/2 Strutter being craned onboard HMAS Australia in 1918.  Right:  The Ships Strutter being launched from HMAS Australia via a wooden runway built over the top of one of the ships 12 inch gun turrets.