Thomas Octave Murdoch Sopwith

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Thomas Octave Murdoch Sopwith (T.O.M. Sopwith) was a founder of the Sopwith Aviation School c. 1911 and Sopwith Aviation Company Limited in 1912.

Sopwith learned to fly a balloon at age 18; by age 22 (1910), had taught himself to fly an airplane, earning Britain's 31st aviator certificate; raised money for his airplane manufacturing company by stunt flying.

Sopwith was interested in motor cycles, and took part in the 100-mile Tricar trial in 1904 where he was one of four medal winners.[1] He also tried hot air ballooning, his first ascent being in C.S. Rolls' balloon in June 1906.[2] Together with Phil Paddon he bought his own hot air balloon from Short Brothers.[2] For a while he was in business with Phil Paddon selling automobiles as Paddon & Sopwith, Albermarle St, Picadilly, London.[2][3]
Sopwith became interested in flying after seeing John Moisant flying the first cross-Channel passenger flight. His first flight was with Gustave Blondeau in a Farman at Brooklands. He soon taught himself to fly on a Howard Wright Avis monoplane and took to the air on his own for the first time on 22 October 1910. He crashed after travelling about 300 yards (275 m), but soon improved, and on 22 November was awarded Royal Aero Club Aviation Certificate No. 31, flying a Howard Wright 1910 Biplane.[3]
On 18 December 1910, Sopwith won a £4000 prize for the longest flight from England to the Continent in a British-built aeroplane, flying 169 miles (272 km) in 3 hours 40 minutes. He used the winnings to set up the Sopwith School of Flying at Brooklands.[3]
In June 1912 Sopwith with Fred Sigrist and others set up the Sopwith Aviation Company, initially at Brooklands.[4] On 24 October 1912 using a Wright Model B completely rebuilt by Sopwith and fitted with an ABC 40 hp engine,[5] Harry Hawker took the British Michelin Endurance prize with a flight of 8h 23m. Sopwith Aviation got its first military aircraft order in November 1912, and in December moved to larger premisies in Kingston upon Thames. The company produced more than 18,000 British World War I aircraft for the allied forces, including 5747 of the Sopwith Camel single-seat fighter. Sopwith was awarded the CBE in 1918.[3]

Notes on patent applications

On patent applications Sopwith is most often simply Thomas Sopwith; on Patent US-1917-1249535 it's Thomas Octave Murdock Sopwith, with an atypical spelling of Murdock.

Sopwith is often seen co-patenting with Sopwith Aviation Company Limited.


  1. Reminiscences of Motor Cycling, Ixion, EP,
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Hugh Driver. The Birth of Military Aviation, Royal Historical Society, 1997, ISBN 978-0-86193-234-4
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 w:Thomas_Sopwith
  4. The ABC Motor Cycle, Motor Cycle, 19 Dec 1918, p541
  5. The Sopwith-Wright biplane, Flight magazine, 23 Nov 1912, pages 1075–79,


Names Thomas Octave Murdoch Sopwith; Thomas Octave Murdock Sopwith; Thomas Sopwith
Birth date 1888-01-18
Death date 1989-01-27
Countries GB
Locations London; Kingston-on-Thames
Occupations manufacturer
Tech areas Airplane, Military
Affiliations Sopwith Aviation School, Sopwith Aviation Company Limited
Wikidata id Q1361332

Patents whose inventor or applicant is Thomas Sopwith or Thomas Octave Murdoch Sopwith

Publications by or about Thomas Sopwith or Thomas Octave Murdoch Sopwith

Thomas Sopwith (or Thomas Octave Murdoch Sopwith) participated in these events: