Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Monday, July 24, 2017

Ace Maker: The SE-5A

SE-5A at the USAF Museum

While flyers of the Sopwith Camel are credited in aggregate with the most victories associated with one aircraft design, the later arriving SE-5a (Scout Experimental 5, model A) of the Royal Aircraft Factory is considered by most experts, including our friend the late Javier Arango, to be a superior—certainly vastly more stable—fighter plane. Some of the greatest British ace of the war flew the aircraft and compile huge victory totals late in the war. Here are three legendary aces who flew the SE-5a.

 Capt. Albert Ball (1896–1917 [KIA])
44 victories
Was reluctant to give up his Nieuport 17 in favor of the new SE 5a
Within the period of three months over the Somme he accomplished his first 30 victories

Major Edward (Mick) Mannock (1887–1918 [KIA])
61 victories
Trained under McCudden
Scored 46 victories in the SE 5a
Won the Victoria Cross eight days before his death

Major James McCudden (1895–1918 [KIFA])
57 victories
By early April 1918 was the most decorated pilot in the RAF
Brother John (2nd Lt., MC; 8 victories; KIA, March 1918) also flew the SE 5a


  1. Was it flown by American Air Service pilots too??

  2. No. The Americans as the USAS flew French planes, Nieuports and SPADs.
    Some individual Americans serving with the British may have flown the odd SE 5a, but not as an American unit under U.S. command.

    1. USAS Squadron 25 was assigned to fly the SE5a. It received its aircraft in time to fly missions on only the last two days of the war.

    2. Good looking ship; what were its markings in the captioned photo?

  3. Over 250 USAS pilots served with the RFC in 1918. A 'Swede' Larsen flew with the 84 Sq under Billy Bishop and was credited with 8 kills all while flying the SE.5a. By late summer, 1918, many of the surviving USAS pilots were used to activate the 17 & 148 Aero Sqs. to support the Brit. Amiens/Somme offensive in eary Sept-they did not fly the SE.5 though.

  4. Bill Lambert, from Ironton, Ohio, flew the S.E.5a for No. 24 Squadron. He finished the war as the second greatest American ace to Rickenbacker. Check out Wilson's Bill Lambert: World War I Flying Ace.

  5. I have read that there were 600,000 Chinese laborers. I have a picture of an aero squadron, formally posed with the commander in the middle of the first row. In the background, like a pet dog, is a Chinese person, complete with conical hat.