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British Industrial History

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Royal Aircraft Factory: R.E.5

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Note: This is a sub-section of Royal Aircraft Factory.

The Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.5 was a British two-seat reconnaissance and artillery observation biplane designed and built by the Royal Aircraft Factory for the Royal Flying Corps.

The R.E.5 was designed as a reconnaissance biplane using the experience of earlier R.E. series aircraft. In many aspects it was an enlarged version of the R.E.1. It was a two-bay equal-span biplane with a fixed tail-skid landing gear, with the wheels supported on skids and powered by a nose-mounted 120 hp Austro-Daimler engine made by Arrol-Johnston driving a four-bladed propeller. Later planes were fitted with Beardmore built engines.

The aircraft had two open cockpits with the observer / gunner in the forward cockpit under the upper wing and the pilot aft.

It first flew on 26th January 1914.

The larger more capable Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.7 was a further development of the design. One modified single-seat high altitude aircraft was built with extended-span upper wings. Other R.E.5s were used for experimentation with air-brakes and for test flying the Royal Aircraft Factory 4 engine.

Twenty four R.E.5s were built at the Royal Aircraft Factory for the RFC, paid for by money given to the British Army to compensate for the transfer of the army's airships to the Royal Navy.

Six R.E.5s deployed to France in September 1914, partly equipping No. 2 Squadron RFC, with further examples being by other squadrons, with no unit being completely equipped with the R.E.5. In total, eleven R.E.8s were sent to France, with a further nine being used by training units.

The R.E.5s were used for reconnaissance and bombing missions over France, although, at first, they were not fitted with bomb-sights or bomb racks, with bombs being carried in the observer's cockpit and dropped by hand when the aircraft was over the target.

John Aidan Liddell was awarded the Victoria Cross for an action on 31 July 1915, being badly wounded when flying an R.E.5 but successfully recovering the aircraft and saving his observer.

The R.E.5 was gradually phased out from front-line service during that year, only two remaining at the front on 25 September 1915.

Sources of Information

  • The Royal Aircraft Factory by Paul R. Hare. ISBN 0-85177-843-7
  • [1] Wikipedia