Surrey Industrial History Group (SIHG) holds fortnightly lectures on industrial archaeology and similar topics at Church House Guildford, 20 Alan Turing Road, Guildford GU2 7YF.
Yesterday evening was the the first of the 44th evening lecture series, and the topic was ‘Sopwith Aviation Company and its aircraft’. I learned that the company began in 1912 from small beginings and grew to providing 25% of all British military aircraft in WW1. With demand for aircraft for the war ending in 1918 the company struggled on until 1920 and went into voluntary liquidation. What suprised, from the lecture, is the pace of the expansion of aircraft production and the rapid improvements in aircarft design.
Thomas Octave Murdoch Sopwith taught himself to fly in 1910 and by early 1912 had his own school of flying at Brooklands. His innovative engineer Fred Sigrist built them an aircraft which was purchased by the Admiralty. Needing a factory to build further orders, Sopwith Aviation moved into a Roller Skating Rink in Kingston upon Thames with less than 20 employees. Their brilliant Australian pilot, Harry Hawker helped to design and test the aircraft. Mostly in their 20s, the innovative Sopwith team developed better and better aircraft.