Sopwith Aviation Company Limited

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Thomas Octave Murdoch Sopwith founded Sopwith Aviation Company in 1912. With him at the beginning were engineer Fred Sigrist, who became works manager, and pilot Harry George Hawker (both Australians); R.J. Ashfield was hired as draftsman. In December 1913, Sopwith Aviation Co. Ltd. registered the business formerly carried on by Sopwith Aviation Co.; first directors were Sopwith, Miss Gertrude M. Sopwith, and Reginald O. Cary.[1]

Sopwith Aviation Co. built numerous biplanes, mostly if not all of the tractor type, and even a triplane, but did not build a monoplane until 1918 when two proto- types were built. Gunston calls the Bat Boat flying boat, introduced early 1913, the first Sopwith of distinction, while Flight Magazine, 1919, called the Tabloid 2-seater, introduced later in 1913 and notable for having more lateral control and speed than thought possible in a biplane, the "beginning of the greatness of the House of Sopwith." Most remembered, however, are its wartime aircraft, particularly the 1 1/2 Strutter bomber and fighters, dating from late 1915, the first British aircraft to carry a synchronized gun firing through the propeller, and the Sopwith Camel land and sea fighters, dating from late 1916, the first to carry two machine guns. Some 6,000 Camels and more than 10,000 other Sopwith military planes were built in WWI either by Sopwith or contractors. While it tried to continue building aircraft postwar, it also diversified, adding the manufacture of A.B.C. motorcycles.[1]

"The two-seater tractor biplane produced by Sopwith and piloted by H G. Hawker, showed that it was possible to produce a biplane with at least equal speed to the best monoplanes, whilst having the advantage of greater strength and lower landing speeds."[2]

Sopwith, Sigrist, and Hawker were credited (in 1960) with designing the 1 1/2 Strutter, Pup, and Camel, the latter being derivatives of the Tabloid; earlier designs are generally credited to Sopwith with Sigrist or to Hawker alone. In Nov 1914, Herbert Smith was put in charge of new design, apparently becoming de facto Sopwith's first chief designer. In early 1919, keeping its works at Kingston-on-Thames, the firm acquired offices and showrooms in London and changed its name to Sopwith Aviation and Engineering Co. Ltd. It built a small twin-float tractor biplane that entered the Schneider Cup Race on 10 Sept 1919. Whether due to business slow down, a large claim from the British Treasury for excess war profits duty, losses on the motorcycle side, or a combination thereof, the firm voluntarily liquidated in Sept 1920. In Nov 1920, Sopwith, Sigrist, and Hawker registered a new company, H. G. Hawker Engineering Co. Ltd., which purchased the Sopwith company patents and took over the old works at Kingston-on-Thames. Smith went to Japan to design for Mitsubishi; Hawker died, 1921.[1]

  • Address: Canbury Park Road, Kingston-on-Thames, County of Surrey.[3]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 * Gunston, 1993, p287-288
    • Gunston, 2005, p436-437
    • SD268-269
    • RAFM11, 14
    • Sopwith Obit
    • 1912TA307
    • 1912FM1223
    • 1913FM251, 1370; 1416
    • 1919FM163-174; 189; 585, 1154, 1183, 1250-1251, 1574
    • 1919AeronauticsUK247
    • 1920AAW400
    • 1920FM990, 1008
    • 1921FM494
    • 1922FM733
    • 1923FM324
    • 1924FM303
    • 1955FM528-532
    • 1960FM1013
    • HOW Hawker
  2. Vivian, 1921, A History of Aeronautics, p. 297.
  3. Patent AU-1917-4390‎

Names Sopwith Aviation Company, Sopwith Aviation Company Limited, Sopwith Aviation and Engineering Company Limited
Country GB
City Kingston-on-Thames; London
Keywords airplane, biplane, tractor, tractor biplane, Sopwith Camel, military, storage
Started aero 1912
Ended aero 1920
Key people Thomas Octave Murdoch Sopwith, Frederick Sigrist, Herbert Smith
Wikidata id Q1426219

Patents associated with organizations named Sopwith Aviation Company, Sopwith Aviation Company Limited, Sopwith Aviation and Engineering Company, or Sopwith Aviation and Engineering Company Limited

People affiliated with Sopwith Aviation Company or Sopwith Aviation Company Limited or Sopwith Aviation and Engineering Company or Sopwith Aviation and Engineering Company Limited