Tonight we start a five part series looking at a set of cigarette cards published in 1938 by Players covering the aircraft of the Royal Air Force:This set is particularly interesting as it includes many aircraft that would have been withdrawn by the outbreak of war; biplanes and high wing bombers all saw very limited service in World War Two. It also has the most up to date fighters such as the Spitfire and hurricane so it is an interesting snap shot into a transitional period in the Royal Air Force. The captions below come from the backs of the cards and are period to the illustrations.
No 1. The Airspeed Envoy of The King’s Flight
Chosen as the equipment of the King’s Flight, this aircraft is a low-wing twin-engined monoplane. The engines are Armstrong Siddeley “Cheetah IX” 7-cylindar air-cooled radials of 350 h.p. giving a maximum speed of 203 m.p.h. and a normal cruising speed of about 170 m.p.h. The colours in which this aircraft is finished are those of the Brigade of Guards. The ‘plane was used recently to convey His Majesty on a tour of four R.A.F. stations and in addition has been frequently employed by other members of the Royal Family. It has a wing span of 52 feet 4 inches and a length of 34 feet 6 inches.No 2. Avro “Rota” Army Co-Operation Autogiro Aircraft.
A two-seater autogiro fitted with dual control. Certain of these aircraft have been supplied to Army co-operation squadrons of the Royal Air Force and are also used at the School of Army Co-operation. The aircraft has a short take-off run and lands almost vertically. An Armstrong Siddeley “Civet” radial air-cooled engine is fitted and gives the aircraft a maximum speed of about 100 m.p.h. The “Rota” has a length of 19 feet 8 ½ inches and is 11 feet 1 inch in height: The rotor diameter is 37 feet.No 3. Hawker “Audax” Army Co-Operation Aircraft
Built by Hawker Aircraft Ltd., this biplane of all metal construction is an Army co-operation machine. It is fitted with a Roll-Royce “Kestrel” engine of 480 h.p. and carries a crew of 2. The maximum speed is 169 m.p.h. It is specially designed and equipped for Army co-operation work and is fitted with wireless and electrical apparatus and a message pick-up hook. The dimensions are: wing span 37 feet 3 inches, length 29 feet 7 inches and height 10 feet 7 inches.No 4. Hawker “Hector” Army Co-Operation Aircraft
Like the “Audax” and the more recent “Lysander”, the “Hector” is an Army co-operation aircraft. It is a biplane of all metal construction with a wing span of 37 feet and carries a crew of 2. The top speed is 191 m.p.h. The “Hector” is built by Hawker Aircraft Ltd, and the engine is a Napier “Dagger III” . The “Dagger” is an unusual engine design, having 24 cylinders cast in rows of 6, an arrangement which is known as the H type. It has two crankshafts geared together to drive the airscrew shaft.No 5. Westland “Lysander” Army Co-Operation Aircraft
The “ Lysander” built by Westland Aircraft Ltd., and fitted with a Bristol “Mercury XII” engine, is designed for Army co-operation work. It is a high-wing monoplane of all-metal construction, mounts 2 machine guns, and carries a crew of 2, including the pilot. The wing span is 50 feet, and this aircraft is the first type designed exclusively for Army co-operation duties, other aircraft having been developments of existent service types.No 6. Armstrong Whitworth “Whitley” Bomber
This is a low-wing cabin monoplane bomber of all metal construction with a wing span of 84 feet. The “Whitley” is provided with enclosed gun-turrets at nose and tail, in addition to a downward-firing turret within the body, and has retractable undercarriage. It is built by the Sir W.G. Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft Co., and fitted with two Armstrong Siddeley “Tiger VIII” of “IX” engines of 880 h.p. each. The “Whitley IV” is fitted with Rolls-Royce “Merlin” engines. There is accommodation for either 1 or 2 pilots and 3 or 4 other crew. The “Whitley” attains a speed of 192 m.p.h. and has a range of 1,500 miles.No 7. Blackburn “Skua” Dive Bomber Fighter
This dive-bomber fighter is a Blackburn product with a Bristol “Mercury IX” or “Perseus” engine. It is an all metal low wing monoplane with monocoque fuselage and retractable undercarriage, a notable feature being the tapered wing with rounded tip. The “Skua” is part of the equipment of the Fleet Air Arm and is a recent introduction. It is of interest that the “Perseus” is a sleeve valve engine and is the first engine of this type to go into general service use. The “Skua” will be allocated to aircraft carriers.No 8. Boulton Paul “Overstrand” Bomber
This aircraft is a development from the obsolete “Sidestrand”. It is a twin engine biplane bomber and is fitted with Bristol “Pegasus” engines of 590 h.p. each. A maximum speed of 150 m.p.h. is attained and the range is about 500 miles. The “Overstrand” mounts 3 machine guns, one of which is for defence against attack from below. A crew of 3 is carried. The dimensions are: wing span 72 feet, length 46 feet and height 15 feet 6 inches.No 9. Bristol “Blenheim” Bomber
A mid-wing monoplane bomber, mainly of metal construction, fitted with two Bristol “Mercury” engines with 3-bladed controllable-pitch airscrews. It normally carries a crew of 3. The armament consists of 2 machine-guns. The “Blenheim” has a retractable undercarriage and its dimensions are: wing span 56 feet 4 inches, length 39 feet 9 inches and height 9 feet 10 inches. The aircraft, which is a product of the Bristol Aeroplane Co., Ltd, attains a maximum speed of 279 m.p.h and has a range of 1000 miles with full load.No 10 Bristol “Bombay” Bomber Transport Aircraft
The performance figures of this new high-wing bomber transport are still secret. It is designed by Bristol Aeroplane Co., Ltd., and is equipped with two Bristol “Pegasus XX” engines. As a bomber the “Bombay” carries a crew of 4 but when used as a transport it carries a crew of 3 and has accommodation for 24 troops. It is of all-metal stressed skin construction, the engines being mounted in the wing which has a span of 96 feet. The enclosed gun turrets are placed in the nose and the tail, and there is intercommunication from end to end of the interior of the fuselage.