|Sopwith Snipe for the RAF Museum|
|Monday, 27 August 2012 00:00|
A Sopwith 7F.1 Snipe, incorporating numerous original parts, arrived in the UK on July 31 from Wellington, New Zealand. The 1917-designed fighter has been built over the past year-and-a-half for the RAF Museum by The Vintage Aviator Ltd (TVAL). The museum’s Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.8 and Albatros D.Va reproductions, also built by TVAL (see exclusive first report in News, July 2012 Aeroplane, and from page 50 of this issue), arrived in the same shipment, and all three aircraft were then transported to Old Warden, Bedfordshire. The RE.8 and Albatros are scheduled to fly in the Shuttleworth Collection show there on September 2 before going to Hendon. The Snipe is a non-flyer.
During 2009, one of the Snipe propellers held by the RAFM was exchanged for a complete set of newly manufactured Snipe flat metal parts produced by Nick Caudwell in Melbourne, Australia, who is building a Snipe replica to the original drawings. Original Snipe components held by the RAF Museum included a pair of Ruston & Hornsby made interplane struts, acquired from the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough, port and starboard upper ailerons, complete with their fabric covering, a pair of wartime-produced lower ailerons of unknown provenance, and a starboard aileron. There were also incomplete port upper and starboard lower mainplanes, acquired from a private donor in Bedford. Two 230 h.p. Bentley BR.2 rotary engines of the type fitted to the Snipe were also available. Additional Snipe components held at the RAFM store at Stafford included unused wooden bearers for the main fuel tank, unused fuselage struts and mainplane strengthening/compression struts, spar/wing rib fragments, a pair
On November 19, 2010 all of the parts were despatched to New Zealand by airfreight for assessment by TVAL. As construction got under way it was possible for TVAL to incorporate many of the original Snipe items into a new-build composite airframe, including wing ribs and fuselage/interplane struts. The fuselage frame and wings had been completed in great secrecy by January 2012.
Finishing touches included painting the Snipe in the silver, post-war RAF scheme of E6655, one of 150 Snipes ordered from Coventry Ordnance Works on March 20, 1918, E6655 being the second to last to be delivered in September 1919.
The prototype Snipe first flew in October 1917, the type going into action for the first time in September 1918. It was to become the RAF’s standard single-seat fighter in the immediate post-war years, being replaced by the Gloster Grebe during 1924. The last examples were retired in 1926. Only two complete original Snipes have survived. The Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa has E6938 on show, and E8105 is displayed at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC.