Wings of the Great War WW19002 Royal Flying Corps Nieuport 17 Fighter - Lt. William "Billy" Bishop, 60 Squadron, Filescamp, France, March 1917 (1:72 Scale)
"I am writing this from a dugout 300 yards from our front line, after the most exciting adventure of my life."
- Lt. William "Billy" Bishop, 60 Squadron, March 1917
The Nieuport 17 C.1 was a World War I French sesquiplane fighter designed by the Nieuport company. Its outstanding maneuverability and excellent rate of climb gave it a significant advantage when it entered service over all other fighters on both sides and as a result was widely used and enjoyed substantial production runs in France, Italy (Nieuport-Macchi) and Russia (Dux), eventually being used by every Allied power, and even being copied in Germany.
The Nieuport 17 was a slightly larger development of the earlier Nieuport 16, with the same engine but larger wings and improved aerodynamic form. It was at first fitted with a 110 hp (82 kW) Le Rhone 9J engine, though later versions were upgraded to 120 or 130 hp (97 kW) engines.
Production of the new Alkan-Hamy synchronization gear permitted the wing mounted Lewis gun of the "11" to be supplemented with a synchronised Vickers gun mounted on the fuselage to fire through the propeller. The standard Royal Flying Corps synchroniser, the Vickers-Challenger gear, was unreliable, and in British service the Vickers was usually omitted, being armed instead with a Lewis on a Foster mounting, a curved metal rail which allowed the pilot to slide the gun back to change drums or clear jams. Some aircraft, particularly French, were fitted with both guns but a single machine gun was most common.
The Nieuport 21 differed in primarily using the lower powered 80 hp Le Rhine 9C and was intended as a fighter trainer or high altitude bomber escort, however it was used alongside the Nieuport 17 in the normal fighter roles in French and Russian service.
The Nieuport 23 differed from the 17 in only minor details, primarily centered around the use of a different machine gun synchronizer - possibly similar or identical to what was to be used on the later Nieuport 28 - which caused the gun to be offset and the fuel and oil tanks to be rearranged. Rear spar packing pieces were also redesigned. In service use, they were operated by both French and British squadrons alongside Nieuport 17s until replaced by Nieuport 24s.
Two triplanes based on the Nieuport 17 were built, one for testing by the French and the other by the British. The narrow chord wings were staggered in an unusual manner, with the middle wing furthest forward and the top wing furthest aft. No orders resulted, although Nieuport trialed the same layout on a Nieuport 17bis which was tested by the British as well, with no more success. Both types had good climbing characteristics but were tail heavy.
The high aspect ratio lower wing which made the Nieuport 17 a sesquiplane (literally "one-and-a-half wings"), and which helped give it an impressive climb rate, was unable to sustain very high speeds without encountering flutter, which was encountered occasionally during sustained power on dives and some aircraft lost their lower wings as a result. It was misunderstood at the time, and also caused of the loss of several monoplanes - a problem that existed back to the pioneer-era pre-war Bleriot XI and other monoplane designs from before the war - which led to the RFC monoplane ban. British Nieuports were strengthened with modifications at No 2 Aeroplane Supply Depot, while training, and replacing the lower wings with those from Nieuport 24s at French squadrons helped reduce the danger.
Several Berliner Helicopters were built around Nieuport 23 fuselages including the 1922 and 1923 versions.
Pictured here is a 1:72 scale replica of a Royal Flying Corps Nieuport 17 fighter that was piloted by Lt. William "Billy" Bishop, who was attached to 60 Squadron.
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Historical Account: "Ascending Angel" - In November 1916, after receiving his wings, Bishop was attached to No. 37 Squadron RFC at Sutton's Farm, Essex flying the BE.2c. Bishop disliked the flying at night over London, searching for German airships, and he soon requested a transfer to France.
On March 17th, 1917, Bishop arrived at 60 Squadron at Filescamp Farm near Arras, where he flew the Nieuport 17 fighter. At that time, the average life expectancy of a new pilot in that sector was 11 days, and German aces were shooting down British aircraft 5 to 1. Bishop's first patrol on March 22nd, was less than successful. He had trouble controlling his run-down aircraft, was nearly shot down by anti-aircraft fire, and became separated from his group. On March 24th, after crash landing his aircraft during a practice flight in front of General John Higgins, Bishop was ordered to return to flight school at Upavon.
Major Alan Scott, the new commander of 60 Squadron, convinced Higgins to let him stay until a replacement arrived. The next day, Bishop claimed his first victory when his was one of four Nieuports that engaged three Albatros D.III Scouts near St Leger. Bishop shot down and mortally wounded a Leutnant Theiller (Shores (1991) has 12-kill ace Theiller as being killed vs 70 Squadron Sopwiths on March 24th; therefore this claim does not match with known losses), but his engine failed in the process. He landed in no man's land, 300 yards (270 m) from the German front line. After running to the Allied trenches, Bishop spent the night on the ground in a rainstorm. There, Bishop wrote a letter home, starting, "I am writing this from a dugout 300 yards from our front line, after the most exciting adventure of my life."
General Higgins personally congratulated Bishop and rescinded his order to return to flight school. On March 30th, 1917, Bishop was named a flight commander. The next day he scored his second victory. Bishop, in addition to the usual patrols with his squadron comrades, soon flew many unofficial "lone-wolf" missions deep into enemy territory, with the blessing of Major Scott. As a result, his total of enemy aircraft shot down increased rapidly. On April 8th, he scored his fifth victory and became an ace. To celebrate, Bishop's mechanic painted the aircraft's nose blue, the mark of an ace. Former 60 Squadron member Captain Albert Ball, at that time the Empire's highest scoring ace, had had a red spinner fitted.