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WW1 British Sopwith F.1 Camel Original Illustration Art by Jerome Biederman
Item #: VF4119
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WWI original aircraft on art board that measures 25″x20″. Illustrated image measures 19″x14.25″. This particular aircraft is identified at the bottom and sighed by the artist. Jerome Biederman was born February 1, 1913 in Braddock, Pennsylvania. He was a graduate of Chicago’s American Academy Of Art. He maintained studios in Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Nashville during his career. This original Gouache watercolor illustration is of a British Sopwith F.1 Camel and was part of a series of aviation paintings that Jerome did in 1975. His artwork routinely sells for over a thousand dollars and he is listed with Artfact with many of his artworks with a selling history.
 

Design and development

Replica Sopwith Camel showing internal structure

The Camel's predecessor, the Sopwith Pup, was no longer competitive against newer German fighters, such as the Albatros D.III, and thus the Camel was developed specifically to replace the Pup, as well as the Nieuport 17s that had been purchased from the French as an interim measure. It was recognised that the new fighter would need to be faster and have a heavier armament. To meet this demand, Sopwith's chief designer, Herbert Smith, opted to develop a successor, the Sopwith F.1.

The "Big Pup", as it was known early in its development, and powered by a 110 hp Clerget 9Z was first flown by Harry Hawker at Brooklands on 22 December 1916. Its design was conventional for its time, featuring a wooden box-like fuselage structure, an aluminum engine cowling, plywood panels around the cockpit, and fabric-covered fuselage, wings and tail. While having some clear similarities with the Pup, it had a noticeably bulkier fuselage. For the first time on an operational British-designed fighter, two 0.303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers machine guns were mounted directly in front of the cockpit, synchronised to fire forwards through the propeller disc. A metal fairing over the gun breeches, intended to protect the guns from freezing at altitude, created a "hump", and it was this feature that led pilots to refer to the aircraft by the name Camel. This was never an official designation for the aircraft however.

Harry Cobby sitting in the cockpit of a Sopwith Camel

The bottom wing was rigged with 3° dihedral but the top wing had no dihedral, so that the gap between the wings was less at the tips than at the roots; this change was made at the suggestion of Fred Sigrist, the Sopwith works manager, in order to simplify construction. The upper wing features a distinctive central cutout section to improve upwards visibility for the pilot. Production Camels were powered by various rotary engines, most commonly either the Clerget 9B or the Bentley BR1. To avoid a production bottleneck being imposed on the aircraft by a potential engine shortage, other engines were also used.

In May 1917, the first production contract for an initial batch of 250 Camels was issued by the War Office. During 1917, 1,325 Camels were manufactured, almost entirely of the initial F.1 variant and by the time production came to an end, approximately 5,490 Camels of all types had been built. In early 1918, production of the navalised "Ship's" Camel 2F.1 began.

Unlike the preceding Pup and Triplane, the Camel was considered to be difficult to fly. The type owed both its extreme maneuverability and its difficult handling to the close placement of the engine, pilot, guns and fuel tank (some 90% of the aircraft's weight) within the front seven feet of the aircraft, and to the strong gyroscopic effect of the rotating mass of the cylinders common to rotary engines.

The Camel soon gained an unfortunate reputation with pilots. Many crashed on take-off when the load of fuel usually carried pushed the centre of gravity beyond the rearmost safe limits. In level flight, the Camel was markedly tail-heavy. Unlike the Sopwith Triplane, the Camel lacked a variable incidence tailplane, so that the pilot had to apply constant forward pressure on the control stick to maintain a level attitude at low altitude. The aircraft could be rigged so that at higher altitudes it could be flown "hands off". A stall immediately resulted in a dangerous spin.

A two-seat trainer version of the Camel was later built to ease the transition process: in his Recollections of an Airman Lt Col L.A. Strange, who served with the central flying school, wrote: "In spite of the care we took, Camels continually spun down out of control when flew [sic?] by pupils on their first solos. At length, with the assistance of Lieut Morgan, who managed our workshops, I took the main tank out of several Camels and replaced [them] with a smaller one, which enabled us to fit in dual control." Such conversions, and dual instruction, went some way to alleviating the previously unacceptable casualties incurred during the critical type-specific solo training stage.

Operational history

Western front

Camels being prepared for a sortie.

In June 1917, the type entered service with No. 4 Squadron of the Royal Naval Air Service, near Dunkirk. Its first combat flight and reportedly its first victory claim were both made on 4 July 1917. By the end of July 1917, the Camel also equipped No. 3 and No. 9 Naval Squadrons; and it had become operational with No. 70 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps. By February 1918, 13 squadrons had Camels as their primary equipment.

The Camel proved to have better maneuverability than the Albatros D.III and D.V and offered heavier armament and better performance than the Pup and Triplane. Its controls were light and sensitive. The Camel turned more slowly to the left, which resulted in a nose-up attitude due to the torque of the rotary engine. But the engine torque also resulted in the ability to turn to the right quicker than other fighters, although that resulted in a tendency towards a nose-down attitude from the turn. Because of the faster turning capability to the right, to change heading 90° to the left, some pilots preferred to do it by turning 270° to the right.

Agility in combat made the Camel one of the best-remembered Allied aircraft of the First World War. RFC crew used to joke that it offered the choice between "a wooden cross, the Red Cross, or a Victoria Cross" Together with the S.E.5a and the SPAD S.XIII, the Camel helped to re-establish the Allied aerial superiority that lasted well into 1918.

Major William Barker's Sopwith Camel (serial no. B6313, the aircraft in which he scored the majority of his victories), was used to shoot down 46 aircraft and balloons from September 1917 to September 1918 in 404 operational flying hours, more than any other single RAF fighter.

Home defense and night fighting

An important role for the Camel was home defense. The RNAS flew Camels from Eastchurch and Manston airfields against daylight raids by German bombers, including Gothas, from July 1917. The public outcry against the night raids and the poor response of London's defenses forced the RFC to divert Camels from France to home defense, with 44 Squadron RFC reforming on the Camel in the home defense role in July 1917. When the Germans switched to night attacks, the Camel proved capable of being flown at night, and the home defense aircraft were modified with navigation lights to serve as night fighters. A number of Camels were more extensively modified with the Vickers machine guns being replaced by overwing Lewis guns, with the cockpit being moved rearwards so the pilot could reload the guns. This modification, which became known as the "Sopwith Comic" allowed the guns to be fired without affecting the pilot's night vision, and allowed the use of new, more effective incendiary ammunition that was considered unsafe to fire from synchronized Vickers guns. By March 1918, the home defense squadrons were equipped with the Camel, with seven home defense squadrons flying Camels by August 1918.

Navalised Camels on the aircraft carrier HMS Furious prior to raiding the Tondern airship hangars

151 Squadron Camel night fighters were also intercepting German night bombers over the Western Front, and carrying out night intruder missions against German airstrips, claiming 26 German aircraft downed in five months of operations.

Shipboard use

The RNAS operated 2F.1 Camels from platforms mounted on the turrets of major warships, from some of the earliest aircraft carriers, and from aircraft lighters which were specially modified barges, which were towed fast enough that a Camel could be launched from one against incoming air raids from a more advantageous position than shore bases allowed.

Ground attack

Sopwith 2F.1 Camel suspended from airship R 23 prior to a test flight.

By mid-1918, the Camel had become obsolescent as a day fighter as its climb rate, level speed and performance at altitudes over 12,000 ft (3,650 m) were outclassed by the latest German fighters, such as the Fokker D.VII. However, it remained useful as a ground-attack and infantry support aircraft. During the German offensive of March 1918, squadrons of Camels harassed the advancing German Army, inflicting high losses (although suffering high losses in turn) through the dropping of 25 lb (11 kg) Cooper bombs and low-level strafing. The protracted development of the Camel's replacement, the Sopwith Snipe, meant that the Camel remained in service until after the Armistice.

Parasite fighter

In summer 1918, a 2F.1 Camel (N6814) was used in trials as a parasite fighter under Airship R23.

The Artist

"History will duly set aside the years 1900-1950 as the most momentous. Invention followed close upon the heels of invention...of all the bewildering and glittering array, few if any remotely approach in importance that role occupied by the ability and means to move...on the land, in the air, above and below the surface of the water," expressed Jerome D. Biederman. And few artists have been equally adept at capturing important vintage automobiles and other forms of transportation as this pioneering artist.

 

"My final year in high school, I convinced myself that, above all else, I wanted to become an artist, and started a vigorous inquiry into every school of art within a thousand miles of my hometown Pittsburgh," Biederman wrote in his autobiography, published in the November-December 1970 issue of Horseless Carriage Gazette. He attended the American Academy of Art in Chicago. "The only entrance requirement consisted of artistic proof of one's ability, so I prepared a complete catalog featuring an imaginary automobile. Each page portrayed a separate model, each laboriously rendered in profile, all in full and glorious color. When this massive document was finally lashed together, it possessed all the weight and characteristics of a suitcase loaded with bricks. Thus, for better or worse, my artistic career was launched."

 

Biederman graduated from the Academy in October 1932, and like many of his contemporaries, the rigors of the Depression meant that it took him three years to find a job in his field. "My introduction to the advertising world was a revelation akin to the opening of 1,000 doors," he wrote. "Such mysteries as art direction, layout, production, type, reproduction-all unfolded in rapid succession...I survived this routine for years, but slowly and inevitably had begun the realization that the artist must at some time look to specialization and away from generalization in order that he might achieve recognition, prominence, and even fame. In 1940, I departed the advertising affair for the calmer atmosphere of a studio.

 

"I turned my full attention and energies to transportation vehicles...on/in the water, air and land," he continued. "Movement in its various forms has dominated my time, my thinking, and my life these past thirty years. In the years that followed, I did become known and my particular specialty recognized, but many detours were necessary, including art directorships, freelance artist, etc. As my exhibits became more numerous and my sells more regular, exposure of my efforts began to enter into commercial channels...calendars, prints, premiums, novelties, magazines, as well as other channels."

 

As Biederman's expanding body of work was gaining him prominence, he began a relationship with the McCleery-Cumming Corporation in 1956; this calendar company retained the artist to create six paintings for each of their 1958 automobile calendars. He painted for the calendar company for 36 years, and in the first 31 of those years, 186 automobile paintings were printed without interruption. A total of 444 Biederman transportation paintings were published in McCleery-Cumming calendars by 1993. In addition to the calendars, Mr. Biederman's automotive paintings were featured prominently in Playboy magazine, Automobile Quarterly and Horseless Carriage Gazette. He retired at the age of 75, in 1988, and died in 1996.

 

According to his widow, most of Biederman's paintings were done in tempera on heavyweight 20 x 30-inch illustration board. Calendar art averaged roughly 10 x 15 inches, depending on the subject. A substantial portion of Biederman's body of work remains intact, and most originals are available for purchase at $1,200 apiece.

 

"It seems to me that despite the untold millions of devotees adherent to this, that and the other...the fundamental 'love affair' lies in and with the internal combustion engine, the good, bad or indifferent that surrounds it," Biederman wrote. "The combination of motor, wheels and body, has known, knows, and will experience moments of greatness, be they in performance, styling, concept, even flights of fancy."

Shipping Weight: 3 lbs
Your Price $500.00 USD