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Bristol Scout

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The Scout was one of the early fighter aircraft of the First World War and became the first wheeled landplane to take off from a moving ship when one took off from HMS Vindex during November 1915. Its service with the Royal Flying Corps often saw the Bristol Scout escort larger aircraft and the first fighter pilot to be awarded a Victoria Cross flew the type.

Quick Facts
Sorry, no image available
First flight
23rd February 1914
Entered service
September 1914
Total built

Front view
Scout front view photo
Side view
Scout side view photo
Rear view
Sorry, no view photo available

The roots of the Scout can be traced back to November 1913 when Bristol designer Frank Barnwell came across the fuselage of a cancelled aircraft known as the S.B.5. This was to be built for the Canadian military by Caproni-Bristol but the fuselage was the only section of the aircraft completed. After making some small changes to the design of the tail surfaces and re-designing the fuselage, single bay wings were added to the Bristol Scout A, as it would be known, with a 80-hp Gnome engine giving the aircraft a top speed of 95 mph. The Scout A would be sent to Larkhill and made its first flight on the 23rd February 1914 and then began undergoing tests. As a result of these and to help improve slow speed performance increased span wings were added.

Two Scout Bs followed and these had a wider rudder and underwing skids and were powered by the 80-hp Gnome Lambda engine giving a slight increase in top speed to 100 mph. Otherwise the Scout B was similar to the A. Both of the B aircraft would serve in France with the Royal Flying Corps No. 3 and No. 5 Squadrons.

The Scout C was next and this was powered by either a 80-hp Clerget, Gnome or Le Rhone engine which gave the aircraft a top speed of 93 mph, endurance of 2 ½ hours and a service ceiling of 15,500 ft. There was no standard armament but upto three, normally unsynchronised, Lewis guns were fitted and either 48 Ranken darts, which were introduced to combat the every growing Zeppelin airship threat, four 16lb Hales or 20lb Mills bombs. An initial order for twelve examples was placed by the War Office on the 5th November 1914 with further orders forthcoming which would see a total of 161 built. Used by both the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service, and it was in RFC service on the 25th July 1915 that Captain Lanoe Hawker became the first fighter pilot to win the Victoria Cross after forcing down three enemy aircraft. The Scout C would also become the first wheeled landplane to take off from a moving ship when an example serving with the RNAS and flown by Flt Lt H.F. Towler took off from the Royal Navy seaplane carrier HMS Vindex (1915) on the 3rd November 1915.

With 210 Scout D aircraft produced this was the most built variant and featured a re-designed fuel and oil tanks. This would be powered by a number of engines ranging from 80-hp, 100-hp and 110-hp. This would give the aircraft a top speed of 110 mph, endurance of 2 ½ hours and a service ceiling of 16,000 ft. Standard armament was a 0.303-in Lewis machine-gun. These began to enter service during November 1915.

During its operational service the Scout would serve with at least 27 squadrons in the Royal Flying Corps, but there would never be a single squadron equipped only with the type. Its main role was to escort larger aircraft. As newer fighters began to enter service summer 1916 saw the Scout removed from front line service and into a training role. A number of senior officers would use the aircraft as their own personal transport.

Two Scout two-seaters, based on the D, were also built and were designated S.2A, whilst a sole S.S.A designed in Canada featured bullet proof sheet-steel to protect the oil and petrol tanks as well as the pilot.

In total 377 Bristol Scouts were built during its production between 1914 and 1916 and they would also serve with the Australian Flying Corps.

Technical Details

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Top Speed Endurance Service Ceiling Armament
Scout A Only one example built.
Scout B Only two examples built.
Scout C 93 mph 2 ½ hours 15,500 ft upto three Lewis machine-guns
and either forty eight Ranken darts or
four 16lb Hales bombs or
four 20lb Mills bombs
Scout D 110 mph 2 ½ hours 16,000 ft one Lewis machine-gun or
one Vickers machine-gun
S.2A A pair of two seaters based on the Scout D.
S.S.A One Canadian built example with bullet proof sheet-steel.


Click on a photo to view a larger version.
Scout C
Scout D

See This Aircraft

(C) = Cockpit only exhibit. (F) = Fuselage only exhibit. (R) = Remains of an aircraft.

Scout D Fleet Air Arm Museum
Scout C Shuttleworth
Scout D

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