Sopwith
Buffalo

Sopwith's final design of the First World War
Sopwith Buffalo H5893 The second prototype Sopwith Buffalo, H5893, with Scarff-ring gun mounting.
 
Sopwith Aviation Company developed the Sopwith Buffalo around the same time as the Sopwith Salamander ground-attack aircraft. The similarly armour-plated Sopwith Buffalo was a two-seat two-bay tractor biplane, designed for the armed reconnaissance and Army Co-operation roles.
 
Essentially a further evolution of Sopwith's conception of the 'Trench Fighter', the Sopwith Buffalo was designed to incorporate extensive armour plating in its structure. This was not merely added as an afterthought and provided as wide a field of vision as possible for the pilot.
 
It was also designed to deliver a stable platform for its offensive armament which comprised one fixed forward-firing 0.303in Vickers machine-gun which was operated by the pilot, and one Lewis gun in the rear seat. The rear gun was initially fitted to a rocking-pillar mounting and slot for the observer, but the second prototype incorporated a Scarff ring for the gun instead.
 
Two prototypes (H5892 and H5893) were ordered in July 1918, the first of which making its maiden flight at Brooklands on 19th September 1918. The following month it was sent to France for a field evaluation, which may have prompted modifications to be made to the second prototype, including revised engine fairings, armament, armour and tail surfaces.
 
The second prototype was delivered for UK trials a week after the Armistice, on 11th November  1918 although this essentially robbed the new type of its prospective active service role and thereafter no further examples were built.
 
As with its contemporary stable-mate, the Sopwith Salamander, the Sopwith Buffalo was powered by a 230hp Bentley B.R.2 rotary engine. This gave a rather sluggish maximum speed of 106 mph and a low ceiling of just 9,000 ft, although in fairness it had been developed essentially as a low-level machine and carried the weight penalty of its protective armour.
 
After the end of the war the two aircraft were sent to serve with RAF No 43 Sqn, then part of the British Army of Occupation near Cologne, Germany and during which both were damaged in accidents.
 
The second prototype is thought to have been used for engine tests, although little is known of the ultimate fate of the only two examples of a type. What is thought is that the Sopwith Buffalo would have been built in greater numbers if the war had continued.
 
Sopwith Buffalo General Arrangement drawing A General Arrangement drawing of the Sopwith Buffalo.
 

Variants & Numbers


Two aircraft only, serials H5892 and H5893 (with Scarff ring gun installation in rear cockpit).

 

Specification


Powerplant
One 230hp Bentley B.R.2 rotary engine
Span
34ft 6in
Maximum weight
3,070lb
Capacity & armament
Pilot and observer/gunner; one fixed forward-firing 0.303in Vickers machine-gun and one defensive Lewis gun
Maximum speed
106 mph at 6,500ft
Range
275 miles

 

Survivors


No examples of the Sopwith Buffalo survive.
 

Other information