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  1. British Fighter Aircraft in WW1 Design, Construction and Innovation. By Mark C. Wilkins. Casemate Publishers. ISBN 9781612008813 The Great War heralded a fascinating era of aeronautical development, coming as it did just as the very first aviators and their machines were establishing themselves in Europe. As answers to various problems were sought a huge range of designs were tried, from tail first canards, pusher and tractor engines, monoplanes, biplanes, triplanes and more. This book is a natural follow on from the same authors previous work 'German Fighter Aircraft in World war 1', reviewed here in 2019. Filling 192 pages it is richly illustrated with around 250 photographs and drawings, many of them contemporary. It is printed on good quality glossy paper, dimensions 254mm x 203mm, between hardback covers. Sections are: Introduction The British Aircraft Industry The British and Colonial Aeroplane Company (B&CAC)/Bristol The Royal Aircraft Factory Aircraft Manufacturing Company (Airco) A. V. Roe & Company (Avro) Sopwith Aviation Company Engines and Props Conclusion Appendix 1: The 1915 Defence of the Realm act Appendix 2. Aircraft Designer Patents Notes Bibliography Modern full colour photographs are used to illustrate preserved machines such as those owned by the Shuttleworth collection. Others cover reproduction machines under construction such as John Saunders SE5a, and John Shaws beautiful Sopwith Camel, shown below: These are accompanied by detailed drawings/sketches of key components such as tailskids, interrupter gear, and others. All valuable information for modellers. I particularly liked the period advertisements, and factory shots of aircraft under construction which are very atmospheric. The major manufacturers are covered in dedicated chapters, featuring individual aircraft such as the Bristol Scout and F.2B, the RAF BE.2 and SE5a, Avro 504 (not really a fighter, but it fits in well) and Sopwiths Pup, Triplane, and Camel to name a few. This is rounded off with a very interesting chapter on engines and propeller manufacturing. Finally there is a selection of original patent drawings covering Avro's method of seat mounting to Sopwiths method of securing rigging wires (- and it's not a turnbuckle!). It is not a book to give you a detailed history of each aircraft, rather it describes the development of the various companies and some of the deigns they produced. There is as much information on Tommy Sopwith and the establishment of his famous company, as there is about the aircraft themselves. Plenty of anecdotes are sprinkled through the chapters, I particularly like the contemporary accounts from pilots. For example, Elliot White Springs, US 148 Aero Sqn "in a dogfight down low nothing could get away from it...a Camel could make a monkey out of an SE or a Fokker at treetop level but it couldn't zoom and it couldn't dive". Conclusion When looking back to earlier times, nothing is more important than context. To properly understand the story being told, the reader needs to be 'in the shoes' of the people of the time, and see things from their knowledge base and social values. This something this book does so well. The introduction and first chapter set the scene very well, setting out how British design lagged behind the French, and developed in different ways to the Germans. The author makes interesting points that I not considered before, such as the British use of the wooden box girder fuselage on all major designs throughout the war, while other nations used welded steel or plywood semi-monocoques. He also discusses how designs not only had to be good flying machines, but also had to be practical to build, transport, and maintain. There is a great deal of original thought and presentation that lifts this book above being just another book about First World War Aviation. It is a 'Sunday Morning' book, sit in your favourite armchair with a mug of tea, and spend a pleasant hour or so reading and enjoying this lovely book. There are a good few Sunday mornings to be had! Highly Recommended. Review sample courtesy of
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