Death Comes to the Sky: Early War British Aircraft
In the early days of the war it became quickly apparent that new aircraft designs would be needed to enter the fight for the sky. Gone were the flying kites. In their place were machines that would evolve in the coming years into deadly weapons of war.
Fairly sturdy and easy to fly, the Avro 504 was used by the Royal Naval Air Service to conduct bombing raids into German territory at the beginning of the war. The first plane to strafe troops on the ground, it was also the first British plane to be shot down by enemy ground fire. Better aircraft soon replaced the Avro 504 in combat, but it remained the standard British trainer for the duration of the war.
The Martinsyde Scout 1 was a British single-seat biplane aircraft built by Martinsyde Limited and deployed in the early part of the First World War. The S.1 was powered by a Gnome engine mounted in a tractor configuration.
Sixty of the S.1 were built and these were used for about 6 months on the Western Front by the Royal Flying Corps before it was relegated to training. Although initially intended for use in Home Defense operating from the UK, it was found to be inadequate for that too.
The B.E.2 was designed by Geoffrey de Havilland as a development of the B.E.1, and first flew in February 1912 with de Havilland as the test pilot. On 12 August 1912 it set a British altitude record of 10,560 ft (3,219 m). It started production as a reconnaissance machine, and two years later formed part of the equipment of three squadrons - squadrons equipped with a single type of airplane were still to come. These were all sent to France shortly after the outbreak of war. The early B.E.2a and b aircraft were replaced during 1915 by the B.E.2c, so extensively modified as to be virtually a new type, based on research by Edward Teshmaker Busk to develop an inherently stable airplane. The c began to be superseded by the final version, the B.E.2e, nicknamed the "Quirk", in 1916.
Introduced toward the end of 1913, the Sopwith Tabloid won the Schneider Trophy at Monaco in 1914. An unarmed single-seater, it was one of the first British biplanes to be used in combat.
On the afternoon of 9 October 1914, in the first successful bombing mission of the war, the Royal Naval Air Service sent two Tabloids to attack the Zeppelin sheds at Dusseldorf and Cologne. Only one of them reached its target but Zeppelin Z-9 was destroyed in its shed at Dusseldorf when the Tabloid pilot released two 20 pound bombs from a height of about 600 feet.