British Fighter Aircraft in WWI

Design, Construction and Innovation

Mark C Wilkins

Fully illustrated account of how British aircraft manufacturers vied to create the best fighter to counter German technology during World War I.
Date Published :
May 2021
Publisher :
Series :
Casemate Illustrated Special
Illustration :
250 photos, profiles, and diagrams
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781612008813
Pages : 192
Dimensions : 10 X 8 inches
Stock Status : In stock
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"Go buy this book right now. It is rare that ISD gives an instant five-star rating to any new volume, but Mark C. Wilkins' British Fighter Aircraft in World War I is a rare book." — Indy Squadron Dispatch

World War I witnessed unprecedented growth and innovation in aircraft design, construction, and as the war progressed—mass production. Each country generated its own innovations sometimes in surprising ways—Albatros Fokker, Pfalz, and Junkers in Germany and Nieuport, Spad, Sopwith and Bristol in France and Britain.

This book focuses on the British approach to fighter design, construction, and mass production. Initially the French led the way in Allied fighter development with their Bleriot trainers then nimble Nieuport Scouts—culminating with the powerful, fast gun platforms as exemplified by the Spads. The Spads had a major drawback however, in that they were difficult and counter-intuitive to fix in the field. The British developed fighters in a very different way; Tommy Sopwith had a distinctive approach to fighter design that relied on lightly loaded wings and simple functional box-girder fuselages. His Camel was revolutionary as it combined all the weight well forward; enabling the Camel to turn very quickly—but also making it an unforgiving fighter for the inexperienced. The Royal Aircraft Factory’s SE5a represented another leap forward with its comfortable cockpit, modern instrumentation, and inline engine—clearly influenced by both Spads and German aircraft.

Each manufacturer and design team vied for the upper hand and deftly and quickly appropriated good ideas from other companies—be they friend or foe. Developments in tactics and deployment also influenced design—from the early reconnaissance planes, to turn fighters, finally planes that relied upon formation tactics, speed, and firepower. Advances were so great that the postwar industry seemed bland by comparison.

About The Author

Mark C. Wilkins is an historian, writer, lecturer, and museum professional. He has been director & curator of both the Cape Cod Maritime Museum and The Atwood House Museum (Chatham Historical Society), and has worked for the Smithsonian Institution & Mystic Seaport. Mark is a published author of books and articles relating to maritime and aviation history. Mark is a contributor to Smithsonian’s Air & Space Magazine and Aviation History magazine. Mr. Wilkins has an A.L.M. in history from Harvard University, and is the historical consultant and producer of aerial effects for the Lafayette Escadrille Documentary Film.


The British Aircraft Industry
The British and Colonial Aeroplane Company (B&CAC)/Bristol
The Royal Aircraft Factory
Aircraft Manufacturing Company (Airco)
A. V. Roe & Company (Avro)
Sopwith Aviation Company
Engines and Props


"The book oozes quality. The photos, drawings, and other illustrations are all beautifully reproduced on glossy paper. Original drawings are big enough to read the fine print. Wilkins’ narrative and the accompanying captions on photos and the like flow well to tie the diverse elements into a cohesive story. Sidebars add important information at the proper place."

- Air Power History

"Beyond the interesting reading that this book provides, it is a great resource for modelers who are looking for photos to document Scale projects. Many black and white photos, color photos, and illustrations provide much for people to review."

- Model Aviation

"Go buy this book right now. It is rare that ISD gives an instant five-star rating to any new volume, but Mark C. Wilkins' British Fighter Aircraft in World War I is a rare book."

- Indy Squadron Dispatch

"Wilkins’ compact chronicle proved an illuminating, entertaining read."

- Cybermodeler

"For the aviation buff who wants to delve into biplane building, this book is for you."

- Historical Miniatures Gaming Society

"The real fascination of this book is that it goes into the actual building of the aircraft as much as anything else...Highly recommended."

- ModelingMadness.Com

"...a truly awesome piece of reference work, and one that will surely fill the bill for any WWI aviation enthusiast/modeler that has a passion for British fighters from the Great War time-frame."

- Large Scale Planes

"...handy not only as an aircraft model reference, but also as a great reading for all history fans."

- DetailScaleView

"Wilkins writes well, managing to balance technical detail with the stories of the men behind these planes. […] thoroughly enjoyable for those interested in World War I British warplanes."

- Wargames Illustrated

"Wilkins gives his reader many little tidbits not seen in other publications. His chapter on the British aircraft industry, for example, contains an outline for how to lay out the woodworking shop of a typical aircraft factory, which includes a list of the tools and machines necessary, and advice on where to store the lumber, etc."

- Over the Front

"…beautifully presented and recommended for those with special interest in British fighting aircraft."

- Western Front Association

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