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For the later monoplane, see Bristol M.1 Monoplane Scout{|class="infobox " style="float: right; clear: right; width: 315px; border-spacing: 2px; text-align: left; font-size: 90%;"

! colspan="2" style="text-align: center; font-size: large; padding-bottom: 0.3em;" | Bristol Scout |-

| colspan="2" style="text-align: center; font-size: 90%; line-height: 1.5em;" |

|- |colspan="2" style="border-bottom: 1px solid #aaa;text-align:center;" |RNAS Bristol Scout D of third production block |-

! Role | single-seat scout/fighter |-

! Manufacturer | British and Colonial Aeroplane Company |-

! Designer | Frank Barnwell[1] |-

! First flight | 23 February 1914[1] |-

! Status | Retired |- ! Primary users | Royal Flying Corps[1]
Royal Naval Air Service
Australian Flying Corps[1] |- ! Produced | 1914–1916[1] |- ! Number built | 374[1] |-

|} The Bristol Scout was a simple, single seat, rotary-engined biplane originally intended as a civilian racing aircraft. Like other similar fast, light aircraft of the period - it was acquired by the RNAS and the RFC as a "scout", or fast reconnaissance type. In the event it was one of the first single-seaters to be used as a fighter aircraft, although it was not possible to fit it with an effective forward-firing armament until the first British synchronisation gears became available, by which time the Scout's design was outmoded by later types. Single seat fighters continued to be called "scouts" in British usage into the early 1920s.[1]


Bristol Scout prototype at the London Olympia March 1914 show

The prototype for the Bristol Scout was designed in the second half of 1913 by Frank Barnwell and Harry Busteed. The first flight was first on 23 February 1914 by Busteed, and it was first shown to the public at the March 1914 London Olympia exhibition centre's Aero Show event. It had the "racing" lines fashionable in light single seaters of the 1913–1914 period, with characteristics such as a main landing gear wheel track measured at only 39 inches (99 cm) that was barely wider than the fuselage, only about a one half degree dihedral angle on the wing panels, making them look almost totally "flat" across from a nose-on view, and an engine cowl that had no open frontal area, even though the extreme bottom was sliced away horizontally to allow cooling air to get to its seven-cylinder 80 hp Gnome Lambda rotary engine.[2] It was fitted with a squared-planform "all-flying" rudder with no fixed vertical fin, similar to that used on contemporary Nieuport, Morane, and Fokker types.[1][3]

Operational history

File:Lanoe Hawker's No 1611 Bristol Scout C.jpg

The actual Scout C, RFC serial no. 1611, flown by Lanoe Hawker on 25 July 1915 in his Victoria Cross-earning engagement. This aircraft also has the rear-location engine oil tank of the earliest Scout Cs.

The period of service of the Bristol Scout (1914 to 1916) marked the genesis of the fighter aircraft as a distinct type, and many of the earliest attempts to arm British "tractor" aircraft with weaponry were tested in action using Bristol Scouts. These began with the arming of the second Scout B, RFC number 648, with two rifles, one per side, aimed outwards and forwards to clear the propeller arc.[1][4]

Two of the Royal Flying Corps' early Bristol Scout C aircraft, numbers 1609 and 1611, flown by Captain Lanoe Hawker with the RFC's No. 6 Squadron, were each in their turn, armed with a single Lewis machine gun on the left side of the fuselage, within a mount that Capt. Hawker had designed himself, almost identically to the manner of the rifles tried on the second Scout B. When Hawker's No.1611 aircraft was used by him to down two German aircraft and force off a third on 25 July 1915 over Passchendaele and Zillebeke he was awarded the first Victoria Cross ever given for a British military pilot's actions in aerial combat.[5]

RNAS Bristol Scout D with twin unsynchronized Lewis guns. These are fitted to mounts enabling them to be fired obliquely, outside the arc of the propeller

A number of the 24 initial production RNAS' Scout C aircraft were armed with one (or occasionally, two) Lewis machine guns, sometimes with the Lewis gun mounted atop the upper wing centre section in the manner of the Nieuport 11, and even more common was a very dubious choice of placement by some RNAS pilots, in mounting the Lewis gun on the forward fuselage of their Scout Cs, just as if it were a synchronized weapon (which it was not) firing directly forward and through the propeller arc; an action likely to result in serious propeller damage. The type of bullet-deflecting wedges as Roland Garros had tried on his Morane-Saulnier Type N monoplane were also tried on one of the RFC's last Scout Cs, No. 5303, but since this seemed, in this instance, to have also required the use of the Morane Type N's immense "casserole" spinner, which almost totally blocked cooling air from reaching this particular Scout C's 80-hp Le Rhône rotary engine, the deflecting-wedge concept for propeller protection from bullets was not pursued further with Bristol Scouts.[1][6][7]

In the early part of the war, in attempts to down German Zeppelin airships, one unusual weapon tried from a RNAS Scout D was the Ranken Dart, a type of droppable, explosive-laden flechette with 1 lb (0.45 kg) of explosive per projectile. Scout D No. 8953, flown by Flt. Lt. C. T. Freeman, flew from the deck of the flight-deck-converted Isle of Man packet steamer HMS Vindex (formerly with the civilian name Viking), which possessed a takeoff deck on its forward half, and on 2 August 1916, Flt Lt. Freeman tried to down the Zeppelin L.17 with Ranken Darts, released from two vertically oriented internal cylindrical containers located just behind his feet, in the belly of his Scout D. None of the darts did any damage to the Zeppelin, and since Freeman's aircraft could not land back on the Vindex, and was too far from land for a safe return, he had to ditch his Scout D in the ocean after the unsuccessful attack.[8]

Vickers-Challenger synchroniser fitted to Bristol Scout - showing the linkage between the engine and the gun.

In March 1916, the RFC Bristol Scout C No.5313 was fitted with a Vickers machine gun, synchronised to fire through the propeller by the bulky Vickers-Challenger synchronising gear, the only such gear available to the RFC at the time. Six other Scouts, both late Scout Cs and early Scout Ds, were also fitted with the same combination. Types using this particular gear successfully (including the B.E.12, the R.E.8 and the Vickers F.B.19) all mounted the gun on the port side of the fuselage. The attempt to use the gear for synchronising a centrally mounted gun on the Bristol Scout proved unsuccessful, and tests, which continued at least until May 1916, resulted in the abandonment of the idea,[1] and no Vickers-armed Bristol Scout was ever used on operations.

None of the RFC or RNAS squadrons operating the Bristol Scout was ever entirely equipped with this aircraft, and by the end of the summer of 1916, no new Bristol Scout aircraft were being supplied to the British squadrons of either service, the early fighter squadrons in RFC service being equipped instead with the Airco DH.2 single seat "pusher" fighter. A small number of Bristol Scouts were sent to the Middle East (in Egypt, Macedonia, Mesopotamia, and Palestine) in 1916 with the last known Bristol Scout in military service being the former RNAS Scout D No. 8978 in Australia, which was based at Point Cook, near Melbourne, as late as October 1926.

Once the Bristol Scouts were no longer required for front line service they were officially classed as "trainers". In fact most were not sent to training units, however, but retained by senior officers as personal "run-abouts".


Scout A

The revised Bristol Scout A in the late spring of 1914, with larger area wings, the "six-piece" open-front cowl shared with the twin Scout B airframes, and a larger set of tail surfaces.

After its first public appearance, by May 1914 what would later become known as the "Bristol Scout A" had been refitted with a longer span - at 24 ft 7 in (7.49 m) set of wing panels that were rigged with 1 34° of dihedral, replacing the initial 22 ft (6.71 m) span panels, a larger surface area rudder, and a much more conventional open-front, ring-style, "six segment" cowl to house the 80 hp Gnôme Lambda rotary engine. The British military first evaluated the Scout A aircraft on 14 May 1914, at Farnborough, when the aircraft achieved a top airspeed of 97.5 mph (157 km/h).[1]

The Scout A also entered two air races in the summer of 1914 after being purchased by British Lord Carbery for £400 without its engine. Flying with an 80 hp Le Rhône 9C nine-cylinder rotary installed by its purchaser it was ditched in the English Channel during the second air race it participated in; a round trip from Hendon in the UK to the French Buc aerodrome (near Versailles) and back, due to its running out of fuel. While in France, the tanks had been only half-filled by mistake.[1]

Scout B

The second Scout B produced (s/n 648) before guns were fitted.

Two Scout B aircraft, identical to the modified Scout A aircraft with the 80 hp Gnôme Lambda rotary for power, except for having half-hoop-style underwing skids mounted on them, and a widened rudder surface, were built for military evaluation just as the Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was shot in Sarajevo Bosnia. The outbreak of the First World War followed shortly. These two Scout B aircraft, bearing Royal Flying Corps serial numbers 644 and 648, first saw evaluational service from 20 September 1914, with the first one,serial number 644, being damaged beyond repair on 12 November of that year in a crash landing.[1]

Type 1 Scout C

A Bristol Scout C (No.1255) in RNAS service, with added accommodation for the engine oil tank behind the cockpit.

The Type 1 Scout C aircraft, very similar to the previous Scout B, was first ordered by the British government on 5 November 1914, in a 12 aircraft production batch for the Royal Flying Corps, and on 7 December 1914, by the competing Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) in a 24-aircraft batch. Both these first two production batches of the Scout C aircraft were powered by the 80 hp Gnôme Lambda rotary, just as the Scout A had been, and when compared to the Scout B before it, these first 36 Scout C aircraft were fitted out with unusual "dome-front" cowls with much smaller frontal openings than the Scout B's six segment cowl had possessed. These early Scout C aircraft also had their main oil tank moved to a position directly behind the pilot's shoulders, requiring a raised rear dorsal fairing immediately behind the pilot's seat, to accommodate the oil tank and its filler cap.[1]

Later Scout C production batches, comprising 50 aircraft built for the RNAS and 75 for the RFC, changed the cowl to a flat-fronted, and longer-depth version more able to house the alternate choice of a nine cylinder, 80 hp Le Rhône 9C rotary engine when the Gnôme Lambda was not used, and moved the oil tank forward to a position in front of the pilot, for better weight distribution and more reliable engine operation. The later cowl for the remaining Scout C aircraft still had the small opening of the domed unit, but often had a small cutaway made to the lower rear edge of the cowl to increase the cooling effect, and to allow any unburned fuel/oil mix to drain away.[1]

Types 2, 3, 4 and 5 Scout D

The last, and most numerous production version, the Scout D, gradually came about as a series of further improvements to the Scout C design. One of the earliest changes that marked the change to the Scout D version showed up on seventeen of the 75 naval Scout Cs with an increase in the wing dihedral angle from 1 34° to 3°,[9] and other aircraft in the 75-plane naval Scouts production run introduced a larger span horizontal set of tail surfaces and a broadened-chord rudder, shorter-span ailerons, and a large front opening for the cowl, much like the Scout B had used, but made as a "one-piece" ring cowl, sometimes with a blister on the starboard lower side for more efficient exhaust-gas scavenging, as it was meant to house the eventual choice of the more powerful, nine-cylinder 100 hp Gnôme Monosoupape rotary engine in later production batches, to improve its performance. Some 210 examples of the Scout D version were produced, with 80 of these being ordered by the RNAS, and the other 130 being ordered by the Royal Flying Corps.[1][10]

Other variants

  • S.2A : Two-seat fighter version of the Scout D. Two were built as advanced training aircraft.[1]


 United Kingdom


Specifications (Bristol Scout D)

Data from Bristol Aircraft since 1910[1]

General characteristics

  • Crew: One, pilot
  • Length: 20 ft 8 in (6.30 m)
  • Wingspan: 24 ft 7 in (7.49 m)
  • Height: 8 ft 6 in (2.59 m)
  • Wing area: 198 ft² (18.40 m²)
  • Empty weight: 789 lb (358 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 1,195 lb (542 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Le Rhône 9C rotary piston engine, 80 hp (60 kW)


  • Maximum speed: 94 mph (151 km/h)
  • Service ceiling: 16,000 ft (4,900 m)
  • Rate of climb: 18 min 30 sec to 10,000 ft (18 min 30 sec to 3,048 m)
  • Power/mass: 0.067 hp/lb (0.11 kW/kg)
  • Combat endurance: 2½ hours


  • 1 × Lewis or Vickers machine gun
  • See also



    1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 Barnes 1964
    2. Bruce, J.M. (1994). Windsock Datafile No.44, The Bristol Scouts. Berkhamsted, Herts, UK: Albatros Publications. pp. 2–3. ISBN 0-948414-59-6. 
    3. Sport Aviation, November 1960.
    4. Bruce, J.M. (1994). Windsock Datafile No.44, The Bristol Scouts. Berkhamsted, Herts, UK: Albatros Publications. pp. 3–4. ISBN 0-948414-59-6. 
    5. Bruce, J.M. (1994). Windsock Datafile No.44, The Bristol Scouts. Berkhamsted, Herts, UK: Albatros Publications. pp. 5, 6. ISBN 0-948414-59-6. 
    6. Bruce, J.M. (1994). Windsock Datafile No.44, The Bristol Scouts. Berkhamsted, Herts, UK: Albatros Publications. pp. 10, 11. ISBN 0-948414-59-6. 
    7. Shores and Rolfe 2001, pp. 10–11.
    8. Bruce, J.M. (1994). Windsock Datafile No.44, The Bristol Scouts. Berkhamsted, Herts, UK: Albatros Publications. p. 5. ISBN 0-948414-59-6. 
    9. Bruce, J.M. (1994). Windsock Datafile No.44, The Bristol Scouts. Berkhamsted, Herts, UK: Albatros Publications. p. 8. ISBN 0-948414-59-6. 
    10. "Bristol Scout D." Fleet Air Arm Museum. Retrieved: 18 October 2011.


    • Barnes, C.H.Bristol Aircraft since 1910. London: Putnam & Company Ltd., 1964.
    • Bruce, J.M. The Bristol Scouts (Windsock Datafile No.44). Berkhamsted, Herts, UK: Albatros Publications, 1994. ISBN 0-948414-59-6.
    • Shores, Christopher and Mark Rolfe. British and Empire Aces of World War 1. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing, 2001. ISBN 978-1-84176-377-4.

    External links

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