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Sopwith Aviation Company

One of the most recognisable aviation names of World War 1

Sopwith Aviation Company

British aircraft  manufacturers  and designers Sopwith Aviation Company was founded in Kingston upon Thames by Thomas Octave Murdoch (T.O.M) Sopwith in June 1912.
Sopwith Hangars at Brooklands
Sopwith Hangars at Brooklands in 1911
Sopwith was already a well-known sportsman with interests in aviation, yachting and motor racing and many of these influences are reflected in many of his early designs.  The first Sopwith factory opened in December 1912 at a disused Ice Rink in Canbury Park Road, Kingston and it was here that they produced 
one of its first aircraft, the Sopwith Three-seater for the newly formed Royal Flying Corps.  
This initial venture was followed a year later by a collaboration with S.E. Saunders Boatyard in Southampton which resulted in the Sopwith Bat Boat, designed and produced for the Royal Naval Air Service and built at Woolston.
However, it was their victory in the Schneider Trophy Race of 1914 that brought Sopwith real success and resulted in orders for the production of 42 Sopwith Tabloids and 136 Schneider Float Plane variants.
During World War I more than 16,000 Sopwith designed aircraft were built in Britain and France and the company employed over 5,000 people.  As part of the war effort many Sopwith designs were also being manufactured by sub-contractors throughout the country.
Sopwith Salamanders at The Hawker Ham Works, Richmond
  Sopwith Salamader production at the National Aircraft Factory Ham Works
Towards the end of the conflict Sopwith took out a lease on the National Aircraft Factory No 2, at Ham to the north of Kingston and just a mile from the Canbury Park Works.  This allowed them to increase the production rate of the Sopwith Snipe, Dolphin and Salamander. 
However, with the end of hostilities came a financial crisis for Sopwith and the company attempted to produce aircraft for the civil market based on their wartime designs such as the Pup and Camel.  Unfortunately, the wide availability of war-surplus machines meant that this was never economically viable. Sopwith even tried to produce motorcycles under licence from ABC and set up ABC Motors Limited in 1919 but this also failed.
By 1920 the Sopwith Aviation Company was unable to face the financial demands from the Governments Excess War Profits Duty and were forced into liquidation.  
The lease on the Ham Works was sold to Leyland Motors and other assests were disposed of.
Despite this huge failing of one of the country’s largest aircraft manufacturers, T.O.M. Sopwith, Harry Hawker and Chief Designer Fred Sigrist went on to form the hugely successful HG Hawker Engineering Company (see separate page) which quickly acquired the Sopwith Aircraft design patents, as well as taking on the support of pre-existing Sopwith aircraft.


1912   Sopwith Aeroplane Company                                                                                      
1920  Went into liquidation


1912 Wright Biplane                  1917  Dolphin                                                
1912  Hybrid Biplane 1917  B.1
1912  Three-seater 1917  Hippo
1913  Bat Boat 1917  Cuckoo
1913  Sociable 1917  Rhino
1914  Circuit of Britain floatplane 1918  Snipe
1914  Admiralty Type C 1918  Dragon
1914  Special torpedo seaplane Type C 1918  Salamander
1914  1914 Schneider Racer 1918  Buffalo
1914  Type SPGN or Gunbus 1918  Bulldog
1914  Admiralty Type 137 1918  Scooter (See also Swallow)
1914  Type 806 1918  Swallow (See also Scooter)
1914  Type 807 1918  Snail
1914  Type 860 1919  Cobham Twin Engine Bomber
1914  Two-Seat Scout 1919  Snapper
1914  Tabloid 1919  Snark
1915  Baby 1919  Gnu
1916  Sparrow (See  Pup) 1919  Schneider Cup Seaplane
1915  1½ Strutter 1919  Atlantic
1916  Pup 1919  Wallaby
1916  Triplane 1919  Rainbow (Racer)
1916  L.R.T.Tr. 1920  Antelope
1916  Bee 1920  Grasshopper
1916  Camel    

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