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12 Dec 1913. Friday.


Today marks the centenary of the first time the Bristol Scout was committed to paper. Frank Barnwell was a young man of 33 who was coming to the end of his involvement in the top secret project X, but was still housed in no. 4, Fairlawn Avenue, Bristol – away from the rest of the Bristol drawing office, with only draughtsman Clifford Tinson for company. Harry Busteed, the test pilot who may well have sown the seed of the idea of the Scout originally, was in Dale, on Milford Haven all autumn, testing a Coandă biplane seaplane, the TB8. Whoever had the idea, he’d had authorisation from Leslie White, the Managing Director of Bristols, to go ahead and design it from scratch. He’d no doubt been influenced by Geoffrey de Havilland’s SE2 design produced for the Royal Aircraft Factory, which was first flown in the March and had recently flown again after modification with a lighter engine. The Sopwith Tabloid had also flown for the first time in the last few weeks.

And 100 years ago, Frank sat down with beautifully bound sketchpad, specially printed for the B&CA Co. And individually numbered 500 – 600, opened it at the first page and started committing his ideas to paper.

#B&CA Sketchbook 501-600 Front cover

The drawing he produced today, 501, was of the front engine plate – the steel plate at the front of the fuselage to which the engine would be attached.

501 Front Engine Plate 12 XII 13

It is one of the biggest pieces of steel in the entire aircraft, and would have been made in a great big press that formed the flanges at the sides as well as the edges round the holes. Making the tooling for this would have taken a good deal of time and hence it was necessary to get the drawing for this detailed as soon as possible.

Frank’s clear, bold, firm handwriting is evident, and the drawings are absolutely clear with no alterations. You can see how carefully he has calculated and annotated the weight of every piece; 9lb 1oz in this case. Comparing it with later production drawings of the Scout D, there’s hardly any change – partly because it would have been expensive to remake the tooling, and partly because Frank got it right first time. The reinforcing washers marked ‘A’ were increased in size, and the 50mm radius near them increased in size, but that was all until they went to the 110hp Clerget engine which needed a bigger hole.

  1. David Bruzas permalink

    Hello, I am pleased to now be included with you website. I have been interested in early Bristol aircraft for some time. I am at present building a 50% Bristol M1c.I am working from original factory drawings. I have a selection of photos. If you would like to see them I can forward some to you. I am very impressed with your work on your Scout, and look forward to watching the progress. Kind regards, David

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