Saturday, July 2, 2011

Britain - 1918 Martinsyde F.4 Buzzard

The late war saw the development of many aircraft which were geared to the needs of nations who had been locked in bloody conflict and running short on resources to keep the war effort going. Many exceptional aircraft were designed but the contracts were canceled after the Armistice. The Martinsyde F.4 Buzzard was one such aircraft.

One of the Fastest Aircraft of World War I

Martinsyde F.4 Buzzard - 1918
Martinsyde F.4 Buzzard - 1918

The Martinsyde F4 Buzzard was developed as a powerful and fast biplane fighter for the Royal Air Force (RAF), but the end of the First World War led to the abandonment of large-scale production. Fewer than 400 were eventually produced, with many exported. Of particular note was the Buzzard's high speed, being one of the fastest aircraft developed during World War I.

In 1917, George Handasyde of Martinsyde designed a single seat biplane fighter powered by a Rolls-Royce Falcon V-12 engine, the Martinsyde F.3, six being ordered in 1917, with the first flying in November that year. While its performance during testing was impressive, demonstrating a maximum speed of 142 mph (229 km/h) and described in an official report as "a great advance on all existing fighting scouts", all Falcon production was required to power Bristol F.2 Fighters, so no orders for the F.3 were placed.

To solve this problem, Martinsyde designed a new fighter based on the F.3, but powered by a 300 hp (224 kW) Hispano-Suiza engine, the F.4 Buzzard. The Buzzard, like the F.3, was a single bay tractor biplane powered by a water cooled engine. It had new lower wings compared with the F.3 and the pilot's cockpit was positioned further aft, but otherwise the two aircraft were similar. The prototype F.4 was tested in June 1918, and again demonstrated excellent performance, being easy to fly and maneuverable as well as very fast for the time. Large orders followed, with 1,450 ordered from Martinsyde, Boulton & Paul Ltd, Hooper & Co and the Standard Motor Company. It was planned to equip the French Aéronautique Militaire as well as the British Royal Air Force, and production of a further 1,500 aircraft in the United States of America was planned.

Deliveries to the RAF had just started when the Armistice between the Allies and Germany was signed. Martinsyde was instructed to only complete those aircraft which were part built, while all other orders were cancelled. The Buzzard was not adopted as a fighter by the post war RAF, the cheaper Sopwith Snipe being preferred despite its lower performance.

Martinsyde continued development of the Buzzard, buying back many of the surplus aircraft from the RAF, and producing two seat tourers and float planes. After the bankruptcy of Martinsyde in 1924, these aircraft were obtained by the Aircraft Disposal Company which continued to develop and sell F.4 variants for several years.

Despite the very limited production, four of the six Martinsyde F.3s ordered were issued to Home Defense squadrons of the RAF in 1918, with two being operated by No. 39 Squadron RAF on 8 July 1918. The RAF received 57 F.4 Buzzards before the end of the First World War, but these did not reach operational squadrons. In the immediate post war period, two Buzzards were used as high speed communications aircraft in support of the British delegation at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, while a few other Buzzards were used at the Central Flying School.

While the postwar RAF did not want the Buzzard, Martinsyde had more success selling the Buzzard overseas, with single and two-seat versions being sold to a number of air forces, including those of Spain (30 aircraft), Finland (15 aircraft) and the Soviet Union (100 aircraft). Some of these aircraft had long careers, with six of the Spanish Buzzards remaining in service at the start of the Spanish Civil War. Following the bankruptcy of Martinsyde, the Aircraft Disposal Company managed to sell eight Jaguar engined versions, the ADC.1 to Latvia, two of these remaining in service until 1938.

Many Martinsydes were sold to civil owners being used as Tourers, racing aircraft and for survey and seal spotting work in Canada.


  • F.3: Single seat fighter biplane. Powered by Rolls-Royce Falcon. Six built.
  • F.4 Buzzard: Single-seat fighter biplane. Powered by 300 hp Hispano-Suiza engine. Main production type.
  • F.4 Buzzard 1a: Long range escort fighter for Independent Air Force. Three built.


  1. Martinsyde Buzzard. (2010, July 2). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 12:15, August 9, 2010, from
  2. "A Martinsyde for Newfoundland: The Type A Mark II, Sold to the Aerial Survey Company". Flight, 17 August 1922, pp. 463-465.
  3. "Another Interesting A.D.C. Modification: The 'Nimbus-Martinsyde'." Flight, 3 June 1926, pp. 315-317.
  4. Bruce, J.M. "War Planes of the First World War: Volume One Fighters". London: Macdonald, 1965.
  5. Donald, David, ed. "The Encyclopedia of World Aircraft". London: Blitz Editions, 1997. ISBN 1-85605-375-X.
  6. Green, William and Gordon Swanborough. "The Complete Book of Fighters". New York: Smithmark, 1994. ISBN 0-8317-3939-8.
  7. Holmes, Tony. "Jane's Vintage Aircraft Recognition Guide". London: Harper Collins, 2005. ISBN 0-0071-9292-4.
  8. Jackson, A.J. "British Civil Aircraft since 1919", Volume 3. London: Putnam, 1988. ISBN 0-85177-818-6.
  9. Mason, Francis K. "The British Fighter since 1912". Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1992. ISBN 1-55750-082-7.
  10. "The Martinsyde A.D.C. I Single Seat Fighter". Flight, 27 November 1924, pp. 742-745.

1 comment:

Jon Yuengling said...

Looks to be what was needed for the defense of London in 1917.