Kit No. 8011
Decals: Two versions – Royal Flying Corps, 1916; and Royal Naval Air Service, 1917
Comments: Nice fabric-over-frame effects; photo-etched details for cockpit and engine; white metal cowling and radial engine; resin machine gun
The Sopwith Pup was a single-seat fighter of the First World War, initially superior to enemy competitors but quickly outmoded due to the rapid pace of fighter development at the time. It flew for the first time in February 1916, and after a number of modifcations, was delivered to squadrons of the Royal Naval Air Service one month later. Its good flying characteristics and maneuverability quickly won favor among its pilots. Officially designated the “Sopwith Scout,” it picked up the nickname “Pup” due to the fact that it resembled the 1½ Strutter but had smaller dimensions. Whilst the “Pup” nickname was never officially recognized, it perserved despite widespread measures by authorities to refer to the aircraft’s official designation ‘Sopwith Type 9901″ or “Scout.” It also led to the practice of naming all subsequent Sopwith aircraft after a bird or animal.
Designed by the talented engineer Herbert Smith, the Pup was sensitive on its controls and fully aerobatic up to 15,000 feet. Its performance at altitude excelled. It was a tribute to the Pups design that its excellent performance was achieved on the relatively low horse-power of the standard 80-hp Le Rhone rotary engine. Like the French Spad, it was under-armed with only one Vickers .303 machine gun, synchronised by the Sopwith Kauper mechanical interrupter gear, but was so light and manoeuvrable it was said to have half the turning circle of a German Albatros. Major James McCudden so praised the Pups harmonious handling characteristics and light wing loading he said “…a practised pilot could almost land it on a tennis court.” The R.N.A.S. presumably thought so too when in early August 1917 under the hands of Squadron Commander E.H. Dunning the Sopwith Pup pioneered carrier landings to became the first aircraft to land aboard a moving carrier ship, the HMS FURIOUS.
The first units of the Sopwith Pup were transferred to the front in October 1916, where due to its speed, manueverablity and good handling, it fared well against German fighters. By the end of 1916 over 20 victories were attributed to the 8th RNAS squadron during the Battle of the Somme. Baron Manfred von Richtofen later commented, “We instantly noticed the superiority of the new enemy aircraft over our machines.” The blend of low weight and a considerably large wing surface allowed British pilots to outperform the enemy in a dogfight.
The Pup’s construction was a model of simplicity. The wings were of equal span and had raked tips, and with their large area provided a great deal of lift. The Pup featured a large cut-out in the trailing edge of the centre-section top wing allowing improved pilot visibility. Its light weight and generous wing gave it a good rate of climb with manoeuvrability enhanced by installing ailerons on both wings. The standard armament of a single Vickers 0.303 machine gun mounted on top of the fuselage in front of the pilot, was at one point augmented by a Lewis machine gun mounted above the upper wing center section, akin to the S.E.5’s armament arrangement, however this configuration remained experimental and never became standard.
For anti-Zeppelin duties, some Pups were fitted with Le Prieur rockets, mounted on the interplane struts with 4 rockets being carried on each wing. To aid in aiming the rockets, transparent panels were incorporated into the upper wing centre- section. The Pup entered quickly into service equipping four R.N.A.S. squadrons and three Royal Flying Corps (RFC) squadrons at the peak of its operational service in the Autumn of 1916. Sopwith however, still heavily engaged in production of 1 ½ Strutters were unable to fill the large orders placed by the R.F.C. and R.N.A.S. Consequently orders were undertaken by sub-contractors, Standard Motor Co., (850) Whitehead Aircraft Co., (820), with Sopwith Aviation Co., ( 96 ) and William Beardmore and Co., (30) numbering a total of 1770 built.
The Pup quickly established an impressive reputation against the German Fokker D.II, Halberstadt D.II and Albatros D.II’s. By the end of 1916 pilots of one R.N.A.S. squadron (8N) had scored 20 victories in the type. During the great infantry battles of Ypres, Messines and Cambrai, the Pup was used with great success, being one of the few British types with a performance equal to that of the contemporary German Albatros. The Pup was used as a shipboard fighter by the R.N.A.S., operating not only from aircraft carriers, but also off platforms fitted to light cruisers. A number of Pups were fitted with skid undercarriages instead of wheels for shipboard use and re-designated the Sopwith 9901a. A small number of these were used in catapult trials, others used in early experimentation with floatation bags and a drop-able undercarriage able to be jettisoned prior to ditching the aircraft at sea.
Altogether Pups were carried by 5 aircraft carriers and 7 Royal Navy cruisers during WWI. The impressive surge of aircraft development by both sides meant the Sopwith Pup’s front line operational success was short and sweet. By spring 1917, the Pup was already outclassed by the newest German fighters sporting improved performance and increased firepower. Sopwith itself was producing more advanced fighters, initially Triplanes, then the more formidable Sopwith Camel. Although retired relatively quickly from the Western Front conflict, the Pup was far from finished in Squadron service. Large numbers were transferred to training establishments, where their qualities made them extremely popular. From July 1917 Pups served with three R.F.C. and five R.N.A.S. Home Defence squadrons, many being fitted with the 100hp Gnome Monosoupape to improve performance; however, these Pups had neither the range nor altitude to deal satisfactorily with attacking German bombers.
Eduard’s Sopwith Pup, released in 1995, is an example of one of the Czech manufacturer’s earlier kits; it lacks the degree of crisp detail in the molding of the plastic parts that Eduard has become known for since, but has sufficient photo-etch detail to more than compensate for this slight deficiency in quality. The kit is molded in light grey plastic, and the core parts, 16 in all, come on a single sprue in a clear plastic bag. Also included is a brass photo-etch fret providing detail parts for the engine, cockpit, and exterior control surfaces. The photo-etch fret provides a great deal of detail augmenting the kit’s relatively few plastic parts.
There are realistic fabric-over-frame effects on the wings and fuselage, although the fuselage halves do not have any internal detail, nor do they need it, due to the provision of photo-etch parts forming the internal cockpit frame or “cage,” seat straps, rudder pedals, control stick, as well as detail parts for the machine gun, engine, and propeller. Coming in their own plastic bag are the white metal cowling and radial engine, as well as a machine gun molded in green resin and two straight pins for the landing gear. The straight pins appear to be provided for the sole purpose of, once heated, puncturing the center of each wheel of the gear so that the main axle can be attached to them, but a small pin vise and a little patient drilling will accomplish this with more precision. There is a plastic part, No.7, for the main axle between the two wheels that form the main gear, and this appears to be all that is necessary to complete the gear assembly.
Finally there are a series of rigging diagrams to assist with the finishing touches. Decals are provided for two World War I versions. The first is for a Royal Naval Air Service machine bearing serial number N9899, of No. 4 Naval Squadron, Dover, October 1917. This version bears the stylized name “Do-Do” on the fuselage sides. The second version is for White 13, a Sopwith Pup bearing serial number A648 of No. 54 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, France, December 1916. There is a white number 13 on the fuselage sides, and for some reason, a marking for the word “Yes” for the top surface of the upper wing. The markings are by Propagteam and have a dull semi-gloss sheen to them; although not glossy, they look realistically thin and appear to be of high quality, but it is not clear whether the white portion of the roundels will be translucent when laid against the darker surfaces of the finished model. The painting guide for both versions of the Pup is identical, indicating a dark color for the fuselage and upper wing surfaces called out as “Royal Flying Corps Green,” but which looks very close to a Floquil enamel called Roof Brown, which is a very dark brown indeed. The undersurfaces of the wings are to be painted doped linen, and the cowling color is simpy indicated as silver, but is more likely flat aluminum.
A simple but relatively detailed kit of an important mid-World War I fighter. Highly recommended.