Military History Books
by Harold A. Skaarup   www.SilverHawkAuthor.com   
 
Canadian Warplanes 1: The Biplane Era, Nieuport 11 Bébé, Nieuport 12 and Nieuport 17 fighters

Nieuport 11 Bébé, Nieuport 12 and

Nieuport 17 fighters

Data current to 20 Nov 2019.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3390834)

Nieuport 11 Bébé, French First World War single seat sesquiplane fighter aircraft, designed by Gustave Delage.  The Bébé was in service with several of France's allies, and gave rise to the series of "vee-strut" Nieuport fighters that remained in service (latterly as trainers) into the 1920s.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3390835)

Nieuport 11 Bébé (Serial No. N9233).

 (RNAS Photo)

Nieuport 11 Bébé (Serial No. N594), coded 3982, RNAS, ca 1916.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3585188)

Nieuport 12 (Serial No. A154).  French First World War single seat sesquiplane fighter aircraft, designed by Gustave Delage.  

The Nieuport 12 was a larger and re-engined version of the Nieuport 10.  A .303-inch Lewis gun was fitted to the rear cockpit for use by the observer, normally on an Etévé ring (known as the Nieuport ring in British service) although early examples used a pedestal mount or half ring.  A second Lewis was sometimes fitted to fire over the top wing.  Nieuport 12s built by Beardmore and flown by the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) were sometimes fitted with a Scarff ring instead of the Nieuport ring, and a Vickers gun synchronized  to fire through the propeller for the pilot.  Additional modifications were made to those built by Beardmore.  The Nieuport 12 was powered by either a 100 hp (75 kW) Clerget, 130 hp (97 kW) Clerget 9B engine or 110 hp (82 kW) Le Rhône 9J engine mounted in the nose.

 (Author Photo)

Nieuport 12 (Serial No. N-11504), (A4737), on display in the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, Ottawa, Ontario.

Built in 1915, this Nieuport 12 was a gift to Canada from the Government of France.  Transported from France to Halifax by steamship in February 1917, the War Trophies Board exhibited the aircraft across North America as a war relic, to raise public support for the war effort.  This Nieuport was the first aircraft that the Canadian government retained for its historical significance, and is one of only two known to exist worldwide.  It was transferred to the Canadian War Museum in the 1930s and to the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in 1965.  In the 1990s, the Museum's skilled conservation team restored it to appear as it would have during its 1917 exhibition tour.  (CA&SM)

 (Author Photo)

Nieuport 12 (Serial No. N-11504), (A4737), on display in the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, Ottawa, Ontario.

 (Author Photo)

Nieuport 12 (Serial No. N-11504), (A4737), on display in the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, Ottawa, Ontario.

 (RAF Photo)

Capt Billy Bishop VC, with Nieuport 17 C.1 Scout, No 60 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps,  Filescamp, France, ca 1918.

The Nieuport 17 C.1 was a French sesquiplane fighter designed and manufactured during the First World War. It was an improved development of the Nieuport 11, being a little larger than its predecessors, and better adapted to the more powerful engine of the N.16.  It also incorporated innovations such as the newly-developed Alkan-Hanry synchronization gear, which permitted the use of a fuselage-mounted synchronised Vickers machine gun firing directly through the propeller arc.

At the time of its introduction in March 1916, the type's outstanding manoeuvrability and excellent rate of climb gave it a significant advantage over other fighters on both sides.  It was widely used by many nations, entering service with virtually every Allied power, as well as versions used by the Imperial German Flying Corps.  In addition to substantial production by several French manufacturers, the N.17 and its close relatives were built in Italy by Nieuport-Macchi, and in Russia at Dux.  Unlicenced copies, notably the Siemens-Schuckert D.I and the Euler D.I, were produced in Germany.

Various derivatives, improvements, and adaptions were developed.  The Nieuport 21 and 23 represented relatively minor alterations, while aerodynamic refinement led to the Clerget-powered 17bis, and a return to more powerful versions of the Le Rhône rotary engines with detailed improvements resulted in the Nieuport 24, 24bis and 27.

During March 1916, the new Nieuport 17 reached the French front and began to replace the earlier Nieuport 11 and 16 fighters.  On 2 May 1916, Escadrille N.57 became the first unit entirely equipped with the new model. During the latter part of 1916 and into 1917, the Nieuport 17 equipped every fighter squadron of the Aéronautique Militaire.  The Nieuport 17 was also ordered by the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service, as it was markedly superior to any of the British fighters available at this time.  British units that used the type include Nos 1, 29, 32, 40 and 60 squadrons of the Royal Flying Corps and No 6 of the Royal Naval Air Service - for a time, other units had a few on charge to escort other aircraft.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, PA-122515)

Capt Billy Bishop with Lewis Gun, Nieuport Aircraft, 1917.  Many British Empire air aces flew Nieuport fighters, including Canada's Billy Bishop, who received a Victoria Cross while flying it, and Albert Ball, V.C. who often hunted alone in his Nieuport. Mick Mannock, VC flew Nieuports early in his career with No. 40 Squadron.  His VC award reflected his whole combat career – including his time on Nieuports.  The top-scoring Nieuport ace was Captain Phillip Fletcher Fullard of No.1 Squadron RFC, who scored 40 kills between May and October 1917.

By mid-1917, the Nieuport fighters were losing their superiority to German types such as the new Albatros D.III.  In response, the 150 hp (110 kW) SPAD S.VII had begun to replace the Nieuport fighters in French front line squadrons.  The British continued to operate their Nieuports until early 1918 until enough newer types such as the Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5s became available to replace them.  Like the other Nieuport types, during its later life the 17 was operated in large numbers as an advanced trainer.

 (RCAF Photo)

Nieuport 17 replica (Serial No. B1556), CF-DDK, Canada Aviation and Space Museum. 

This Nieuport 17 was built by American amateur airplane-maker Carl R. Swanson in 1961, as a flying replica.  A generous donor purchased the aircraft for the Museum in 1963.  It was refinished to match the airplane in which the famous Canadian ace William Avery "Billy" Bishop earned the Victoria Cross.  Wing Commander Paul A. Hartman took the aircraft on its first flight in May 1967, at Rockcliffe airport.  It was flown in several air shows across Canada, including a flight demonstration during the visit of HRH Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, in April 1975. Unfortunately, it crashed at the Abbotsford International Air Show in 1989.  The Museum's skilled restoration team rebuilt the aircraft to its current state.  (CA&SM)

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3584524)

Nieuport 17 unskinned, Air Force Day, RCAF Station Rockcliffe, Ontario, 9 Jun 1951.

 (CF Photo)

Nieuport 17 replica (Serial No. B1556), CF-DDK, Canada Aviation and Space Museum.  

 (Author Photo)

Nieuport 17 replica (Serial No. B1556), CF-DDK, Canada Aviation and Space Museum.

 (Author Photo)

Nieuport 17 replica (Serial No. B1556), CF-DDK, Canada Aviation and Space Museum. 

  (Author Photo)

Nieuport 17 replica (Serial No. B1556), CF-DDK, currently on display in the Canadian War Museum.