First World War Sopwith Pup aircraft on display at IWM Duxford

Rare First World War Sopwith Pup aircraft on display at IWM Duxford this summer

Visitors to IWM Duxford this summer will have the chance to see a rare First World War Sopwith Pup aircraft, which is currently on display in the Air and Sea exhibition.

The aircraft is being operated by the Historic Aircraft Collection and has been painstakingly reconstructed over the past four years. It has been rebuilt using many original First World War component parts, including an original engine. The attention to detail is remarkable; the aircraft is once again perfect in every detail.

Sopwith Pup N6161 was built at Kingston-on-Thames, fitted with an 80 horse power Le Rhone engine and delivered to St Pol in France on 25 January 1917. Pilot Titch Rochford, test flying the aircraft on 29 January 1917, recorded it as “very easy to loop. Comes over much easier than a Bristol Scout.”

The Pup was allocated to No.9 Squadron on 1 February 1917, the day that the squadron was formed. That morning, the aircraft was flown by George Elliot, who had just arrived in France and was on his first mission. His was one of two Pups escorting two Sopwith 1 ½ Strutters on a photo-reconnaissance flight over Bruges.

At 12,500 feet they were intercepted by two Rumpler float planes flown by German pilots Carl Meyer and Bernd Niemeyer. Carl Meyer, who was a very experienced pilot with four combat successes, managed to force George Elliot down to land on the beach in Bredene. Sopwith Pup N6161 was captured intact and Elliot survived as a Prisoner of War. It is said that Meyer wrote to Elliot in the Prisoner of War camps.

Some of the original parts of the aircraft were retained by Meyer and were on display in the family museum until acquired by the present owner and passed down to his family following his death while testing a prototype Aviatik on 31 December 1917.

These remaining original N6161 parts have been incorporated, alongside other original Sopwith factory and period Sopwith Pup components, in the reconstruction of N6161, which was undertaken by Retrotec, the restoration arm of the Historic Aircraft Collection Ltd. The aircraft will remain in the Air and Sea exhibition until the autumn. It will return to the skies very shortly with its first public display penciled in for The Duxford Air Show: Meet the Fighters (Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 September). It will be flown in its original British markings initially, but later on it is planned to paint it in the German markings.

© MOD Crown Copyright 2016

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