Sunday, July 31, 2011

Britain - 1917 Port Victoria PV.8

The End of the Line for the Kittens.

My final post on the Port Victoria Marine Experimental Aircraft Depot which deals with the final "Kittens" designs. Even though the design unit was not a profit driven commercial venture, eventually they were forced to closed up shop.

The Port Victoria P.V.8 Eastchurch Kitten was a prototype British fighter aircraft of the First World War designed and built by the Port Victoria Marine Experimental Aircraft Depot on the Isle of Grain. It was a small and light biplane with a conventional wheeled undercarriage intended to operate from platforms on small ships, but while it had good handling, an unreliable and underpowered engine meant that the aircraft did not enter production, only the one prototype being built.

In 1916, the British Admiralty produced a requirement for a small single seater fighter landplane intended to fly off short platforms on the forecastle of the Royal Navy's Destroyers and other small ships to provide a widely distributed airship interceptor. Orders were placed with the RNAS Experimental Flight at Eastchurch and the Marine Aircraft Experimental Department at Port Victoria on the Isle of Grain for single prototypes to meet this requirement.

G.H. Millar, the chief technical officer of the Eastchurch flight, designed a small, angular, single-bay biplane, named the Eastchurch Kitten, powered by the required 45 hp (34 kW) ABC Gnat engine. It was larger and heavier than the Isle of Grain design, with equi-span upper and lower wings, which had bracing wires that ran from the wings through the undercarriage axle to the opposite wing. Initially it had no fixed horizontal tailplane, being fitted with a balanced elevator. Armament was a single Lewis gun mounted to the top wing.

The Eastchurch Kitten was part built when Harry Busteed, the commander of the Eastchurch Experimental Flight, was posted to the Isle of Grain to take command of the Marine Aircraft Experimental Department, taking Millar and the part built Eastchurch Kitten with him to Port Victoria for completion.

The Eastchurch Kitten was given the designation P.V.8, with the competing Port Victoria designed P.V.7, named the Grain Kitten, flying first in June 1917. The Eastchurch Kitten did not fly until 7 September 1917, powered by a 35 hp (26 kW) ungeared Gnat engine, as the originally planned engine was unavailable. After this first flight, when it was found to be unstable, it was fitted with a small fixed tailplane with revised elevators. Thus modified, it had superior performance and handling to the Grain Kitten, but was similarly plagued by the terrible unreliability of the Gnat. Official testing praised the view for the pilot and the handling but considered the aircraft too fragile for regular use.

No orders followed, with adapted versions of the Sopwith Camel, operating both from aircraft carriers and from lighters towed behind destroyers being used instead. The Eastchurch Kitten was packed for dispatch to the United States of America in March 1918 for evaluation, but it is uncertain whether it was actually dispatched.


  1. "Port Victoria P.V.8". (2010, September 18). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 00:32, November 9, 2010, from
  2. Bruce, J.M. "War Planes of the First World War: Volume One Fighters". London:Macdonald, 1965.
  3. Collyer, David. "Babies Kittens and Griffons". Air Enthusiast, Number 43, 1991. Stamford, UK:Key Publishing. ISSN 0143 5450. pp. 50–55.
  4. Green, William and Swanborough, Gordon. "The Complete Book of Fighters". New York:Smithmark, 1994. ISBN 0-8317-3939-8.
  5. Mason, Francis K. The British Fighter since 1912. Annapolis, Maryland:Naval Institute Press, 1992. ISBN 1-55750-082-7.


Jon said...

It appears that poor engines were the death of many designs.

W. I. Boucher said...

Yes indeed they were. There were cases where the power ratings provided were nearly fraudulent. In the case of the Kitten designs the Gnat engine seemed to be a poor choice. Granted it was light, however the horsepower rating was meager to say the least.