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Airplane Casualties

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Year
1918

Running Time
06 min 53 s

Producer
Canadian War Records Office, Ministry of Information

The first section of this clip shows pilots boarding a RE8 aircraft (RE for Reconnaissance Experimental). It is followed by shots of other biplanes taking off and flying directly over the camera. A close-up shows a RE8 taxiing away from the viewer and taking off. The following segment features images of Curtis Jennies in flight, filmed from the ground and the air. We then see a close-up of a pilot at the controls of a Sopwith Camel, followed by a brief image of the aircraft’s airspeed indicator. Following this is footage of a Short 225 floatplane coming in for a landing in a British harbour, and a sequence showing biplanes in flight.

The grainy footage depicts a German ground crew loading bombs onto an aircraft, followed by images of bombs being dropped from a flying aircraft and exploding in open country. Shots of soldiers examining ruins are followed by a shot of a German aircraft being pursued by flak puffs.

The next section shows various plane crashes. A shot of a crashed airplane, with men collecting debris, is followed by a shot of a downed German fighter plane. A ground-to-air shot of an aircraft spiralling downward is followed by images of the downed plane in flames.

The final segment starts with shots of pilots, followed by an image of a crashed Sopwith Camel, a line-up of Camels on the ground, and a sequence showing US army personnel, identifiable from their hats, fitting bombs onto an aircraft.

The RE8 was a two-seater multi-purpose biplane with forward and rear-firing machine guns. It was introduced in 1916 and used in artillery observation and night bombing. More than 4,000 Harry Tates — as they were commonly known — were built during the war.

The Sopwith Camel was one of many wartime aircraft with rotary engines, where the entire engine revolves, not just the crankshaft. The key advantage was that they were lightweight — rotary engines did not require carburettors, throttles or bulky radiators necessary in liquid-cooled engines. Thus they were agile but somewhat unstable. Although used extensively throughout the war, rotary engine-powered aircraft had no commercial application and very few were made after the First World War.

In general, aeronautic technology developed more rapidly during the war than ever before. Between 1914 and 1918, the average horsepower of plane engines increased from 80 to 350 horsepower, and aircraft speed almost doubled, from 110 to 200 km per hour. Engineering advances had greatly diminished the risks of flying, and as the war ended, experts and laypeople alike looked to aircraft and air travel with a new confidence and enthusiasm.


Pieces of History

The First Air War


Images

Sopwith Camel Short 225 Seaplane Bombing Up an Armstrong-Whitworth FE8 War in the Air The Last Loop (Air Technical Services Poster) Low Flying-Strafing Machine Gun Battery (Air Technical Services Poster) The Young Man’s Element, the Air. Captured German Airplane on the British Western Front A Canadian Soldier Using What Remains of a German Plane as Clothes Horse, [ca. 1918]

Teaching Materials

Aviation