T.O.M. Sopwith was important pioneer pilot, also famous for ballooning, car-racing and, especially, ocean yacht-racing. In 1912 formed Sopwith Aviation Co. at Kingston-on-Thames, assisted by engineer Fred Sigrist and pilot Harry Hawker (both Australian) and hiring draughtsman R. J. Ashfield. Design office and factory in former roller-skating rink, aircraft towed on own wheels to Brooklands for assembly and test or to Thames in case of seaplanes. Following series of undistinguished aircraft, built Bat Boat, very successful flying-boat, followed by 13 other types prior to war. Then 1½-strutter 2-seat biplane, described as first aircraft ever to have synchronized front gun, gun for observer and well-arranged bombload, built in enormous numbers in UK and France. There followed Pup, Triplane, Camel, Dolphin and Snipe, all built in vast numbers by giant factory at Richmond Road, Ham, and several contractors. Post-war built Dove and Gnu, but large war-profit tax bill prompted liquidation September 1920. Business resumed under name of H.G. Hawker Engineering.

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