British and Colonial Aeroplane Co.

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British and Colonial Aeroplane Co. was founded by Sir George White, 1st Baronet, whose family was associated with the Bristol Tramway Co. at Brislington, to design and manufacturing aircraft on a commercial scale. Original board included G White and his brothers, Samuel White and George Stanley White; Henry White-Smith was secretary and Sidney E. Smith was manager. They acquired a 21-acre estate Filton, just outside Bristol, and built a factory there. Designers included George Henry Challenger, chief engineer and works manager, 1910-1913; Bertram Dickson, 1910-1912?; E. C. Gordon England, 1911-1912; Pierre Prier, 1911- (French); Henri-Marie Coandă, chief designer, 1912-1914; Robert Grandseigne, 1911-1913?; Harry Busteed (Australian), and Frank S. Barnwell (who joined as a draftsman in March 1911), 1912-1938, chief designer from August 1915 (except for time in the RAF., Nov 1914-Aug 1915, and time in the Royal Australian Air Force, Oct 1921-Oct 1923).

Wilfrid Thomas Reid was chief designer from during Barnwell's WWI absence. These designers, except for Challenger and perhaps Reid, were pilots. C. W. Tinson was a draftsman from 1911-1914, assigned for most of that time to Barnwell; absent from the firm from ca. Nov. 1914-1922, he rejoined Bristol in 1922, becoming chief draftsman upon Barnwell's return, a position he held until 1932; between 1932 and his retirement in 1955, he held several positions including technical assistant, flight development engineer, and sales liaison engineer. From late 1915-?, L. G. Frise, a mechanical engineer, was Barnwell's principal assistant. White-Smith and Herbert J. Thomas were made directors in 1915. Sir George died in November 1916 and was succeeded as chairman by George Stanley.

The company began with a license to build French Zodiacs but first example was unsatisfactory and production stopped. The first aeroplane of its own design, a Challenger pusher biplane based upon Henry Farman design (known as Bristol Box Kite) appeared in June 1910. Also in 1910 was Challenger's school biplane.

  • In 1911 the company made a Challenger-Dickson biplane and two Prier monoplanes.
  • In 1912 B&C made two more Prier monoplanes, 3 England military biplanes, a Coanda military monoplane, and Barnwell's conversion of an England biplane to a seaplane. First government order was from Russia in early 1911, followed in March 1911 by Britain. In 1912, orders came from Spain, Germany, Italy, Romania, and Bulgaria. British military banned monoplanes in 1912, so they were then sold only as exports.
  • In 1913 B&C made a Coanda biplane and biplane seaplane and Grandseigne racing biplane.
  • In 1914 B&C made two Coanda biplanes and the first Scout, a joint design of Barnwell and Busteed.
  • Up to 4 Aug 1914, B&C had built 260 aeroplanes and its flying schools had trained more than 300 pilots. During WW1, 400 Scout types, known by the nickname Bullet, and some 3,500 2-seat fighters, known as the Brisfit, were built, mostly by other firms. By the end of Oct 1914, the Filton works were devoted to producing Royal Aircraft Factory BE2cs and the few Scouts on order. Barnwell joined the R.F.C. in Nov 1914, serving until August 1915 when he was released at the rank of captain to rejoin B&C; Barnwell was chief designer from then until his accidental death in 1938. Tinson joined the A.D. in late 1914 and served there and at Frederick Sage and Co. until 1922 when he returned to Bristol.
  • In 1915 and 1916 the company made more Scouts and Barnwell monoplane fighters. Up to end of 1916, all aeroplanes had used wooden structural members and steel fittings; 1917 saw first all-metal aeroplane, a 2-seater reconn. biplane.
  • In 1917, more than a 1,000 B&C aeroplanes were built
  • 1918 was the peak year of production when over 2000 aeroplanes were built. Also in 1918, Barnwell designed a triplane for long-range bombing.
  • In 1919, almost 1000 machines, mostly Britfits, were built.

B&C's aircraft were always designated as "Bristol." On 31 Dec 1919 the company's name was changed to Bristol Aeroplane Co. Ltd.; the assets were transferred in March 1920.[1]

After 1919, B&C turned to civilian production. Dir1920 lists Filton and an office in New York City; ad on p. 39 says "Oldest aircraft constructors in Great Britain . . . workshops cover nine acres." After leaving B&C, Challenger went to Vickers, England free-lanced, and Coanda returned to Romania to help its war effort. Grandsiegne appears to have been absent in 1912, during which time he was engaged in experiments for Adolphe Clément-Bayard.

Treadwell, 2011, British & Allied Aircraft Manufacturers of WWI, p. 77 says:

One of the most famous aircraft companies in the world started life not as one company, but as four. They consisted of:

  • The Bristol Aeroplane Company Limited
  • The Bristol Aviation Company Limited
  • The British & Colonial Aeroplane Company Limited
  • The British & Colonial Aviation Company Limited
Patents for which this firm was an applicant

Patents associated with organization named British and Colonial Aeroplane Co.

A patent says the firm was located at Clare Street House, Bristol, Great Britain.[2]


  • 1912FM1024
  • 1914FM346
  • 1919FM100-105, 155
  • 1938FM124
  • 1939FM600-614
  • 1948FM76
  • 1950FM215-216
  • 1954FM338-342
  • 1955FM843
  • 1957FM791
  • Gunston, 1993, p58-59
  • Gunston, 2005, p75-76
  • SD60-61
  • Dir1920, 39, 44


  1. Hugh Driver, The Birth of Military Aviation: Britain, 1903–1914; Royal Historical Society / Boydell Press, 1997; pp. 106. "In fact, on 19 February 1910 Sir George White simultaneously established three other companies as well: the Bristol Aeroplane Co., the Bristol Aviation Co., and the British & Colonial 'Aviation' Co., with a nominal capital of ₤100 each. IN 1920 the trading company (the British & Colonial Aeroplane Co.) went into voluntary liquidation as a means of circumventing excess profits duty, and its assets were transferred to the Bristol Aeroplane Co."
  2. Patent GB-1912-7553

Names British and Colonial Aeroplane Co. Ltd. (B&C, Bristol), name changed 31 Dec 1919 to The Bristol Aeroplane Co. Ltd.
Country Great Britain
City Factory at Filton, near Bristol, England; flying schools at Larkhill in Salisbury and at Brooklands.
Started aero 1910
Ended aero
Key people George White, Herbert J. Thomas, Henri-Marie Coandă, Frank S. Barnwell, Wilfrid Thomas Reid
Wikidata id