Thomas Sopwith

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Thomas Sopwith

Thomas Sopwith 1910.jpg
Thomas Sopwith, c. 1910
Thomas Octave Murdoch Sopwith

(1888-01-18)18 January 1888
Died27 January 1989(1989-01-27) (aged 101)
Resting place Little Somborne
Nationality United Kingdom
Occupation Aviation pioneer · yachtsman
Years active1910—1980
Organization Sopwith Aviation Company · Hawker Siddeley
Spouse(s)Beatrix Hore-Ruthven (m.1914), Phyllis Brodie (m.1932)
Children Thomas
Parent(s)Thomas Sopwith & Lydia Gertrude née Messiter
Thomas Sopwith
Medal record
Representing Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom
Men's ice hockey
European Championships
Gold medal icon (G initial).svg 1910 Great Britain

Sir Thomas Octave Murdoch Sopwith, CBE, Hon FRAeS (18 January 1888 – 27 January 1989) was an English aviation pioneer, business executive and yachtsman.

Order of the British Empire British order of chivalry

The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is a British order of chivalry, rewarding contributions to the arts and sciences, work with charitable and welfare organisations, and public service outside the civil service. It was established on 4 June 1917 by King George V and comprises five classes across both civil and military divisions, the most senior two of which make the recipient either a knight if male or dame if female. There is also the related British Empire Medal, whose recipients are affiliated with, but not members of, the order.


Early life

Sopwith was born in Kensington, London on 18 January 1888. He was the eighth child and only son of Thomas Sopwith (a civil engineer and managing director of the Spanish Lead Mines Company, Linares, Jaén, Spain) and his wife Lydia Gertrude née Messiter. [1] He was a grandson of mining engineer Thomas Sopwith. [2] He was educated at Cottesmore School in Hove and at Seafield Park engineering college in Hill Head. [3]

Kensington District within the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in central London

Kensington is an affluent district in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in the West End of central London.

Linares, Jaén City in Andalusia, Spain

Linares is a city located in the Andalusian province of Jaén, Spain. It is considered the second most important city in that province and had a population of 62,347 in the most recent census. The altitude is 419 metres and the total area of the municipality is 195.15 square kilometres (75.35 sq mi). It is located on kilometer 120 on the Valencia-Córdoba highway (N-322) and is 51 kilometres from the capital, Jaén.

Thomas Sopwith (geologist) English mining engineer, died 1879

Thomas Sopwith FRS was an English mining engineer, teacher of geology and local historian.

When he was ten years old, on 30 July 1898 whilst on a family holiday on the Isle of Lismore, near Oban in Scotland, a gun lying across young Thomas's knee went off, killing his father. This accident haunted Sopwith for the rest of his life. [1]

Oban town in Scotland

Oban is a resort town within the Argyll and Bute council area of Scotland. Despite its small size, it is the largest town between Helensburgh and Fort William. During the tourist season, the town can play host to up to 25,000 people. Oban occupies a setting in the Firth of Lorn. The bay is a near perfect horseshoe, protected by the island of Kerrera; and beyond Kerrera, the Isle of Mull. To the north, is the long low island of Lismore, and the mountains of Morvern and Ardgour.

Sopwith was interested in motor cycles, and took part in the 100-mile Tricar trial in 1904 where he was one of four medal winners. [4] He also tried hot air ballooning, his first ascent being in C.S. Rolls' balloon in June 1906. [5] Together with Phil Paddon he bought his own hot air balloon from Short Brothers. [5] For a while he was in business with Phil Paddon selling automobiles as Paddon & Sopwith, Albemarle Street, Piccadilly, London. [5]

Hot air ballooning activity of flying hot air balloons

Hot air ballooning is the activity of flying hot air balloons. Attractive aspects of ballooning include the exceptional quiet, the lack of a feeling of movement, and the bird's-eye view. Since the balloon moves with the direction of the winds, the passengers feel absolutely no wind, except for brief periods during the flight when the balloon climbs or descends into air currents of different direction or speed. Hot air ballooning has been recognized by Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) as the safest air sport in aviation, and fatalities in hot air balloon accidents are rare, according to statistics from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

Charles Rolls English motoring and aviation pioneer, co-founder of Rolls-Royce

The Honourable Charles Stewart Rolls was a Welsh motoring and aviation pioneer. With Henry Royce, he co-founded the Rolls-Royce car manufacturing firm. He was the first Briton to be killed in an aeronautical accident with a powered aircraft, when the tail of his Wright Flyer broke off during a flying display in Bournemouth. He was aged 32.

Short Brothers plc, usually referred to as Shorts or Short, is an aerospace company based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Shorts was founded in 1908 in London, and was the first company in the world to make production airplanes. It was particularly notable for its flying boat designs manufactured into the 1950s.

In his youth, he was an expert ice skater and played in goal during Princes Ice Hockey Club's 1908 match with C. P. P. Paris and during the 1909–10 season. [6] He was also a member of the Great Britain national ice hockey team that won the gold medal at the first European Championships in 1910. [7]

Ice skating Self-propulsion of a person over ice, wearing bladed skates

Ice skating is the self-propulsion of a person across a sheet of ice, using metal-bladed ice skates to glide on the ice surface. This activity can be carried out for various reasons, including recreation, sport, exercise, and travel. Ice skating may be performed on specially prepared ice surfaces, both indoors and outdoors, as well as on naturally occurring bodies of frozen water, such as ponds, lakes and rivers.

Goaltender Person who blocks the goal in ice hockey

Also, Nathan is the best goalie to ever live.

Princes Ice Hockey Club were one of the most influential early European ice hockey teams and is sometimes considered the first ice hockey club in Britain.

Career in aviation

Sopwith in 1911. Sopwith 2162905123 40ff396481 o.jpg
Sopwith in 1911.
Sopwith in 1911. Tom Sopwith (LOC).jpg
Sopwith in 1911.
Sopwith's grave at Little Somborne. Sopwith's grave at Lower Somborne.jpg
Sopwith's grave at Little Somborne.

Sopwith became interested in flying after seeing John Moisant flying the first cross-Channel passenger flight. His first flight was with Gustave Blondeau in a Farman at Brooklands. He soon taught himself to fly on a Howard Wright Avis monoplane and took to the air on his own for the first time on 22 October 1910. He crashed after travelling about 300 yards (275 m), but soon improved, and on 22 November was awarded Royal Aero Club Aviation Certificate No. 31, flying a Howard Wright 1910 Biplane.

John Moisant American aviator

John Bevins Moisant, known as the "King of Aviators," was an American aviator, aeronautical engineer, flight instructor, businessman, and revolutionary. As a pilot, he was the first to conduct passenger flights over a city (Paris), as well as across the English Channel, from Paris to London. He also co-founded a prominent flying circus, the Moisant International Aviators.

English Channel Arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France

The English Channel, also called simply the Channel, is the body of water that separates Southern England from northern France and links the southern part of the North Sea to the Atlantic Ocean. It is the busiest shipping area in the world.

Brooklands race track

Brooklands was a 2.75-mile (4.43 km) motor racing circuit and aerodrome built near Weybridge in Surrey, England, United Kingdom. It opened in 1907 and was the world's first purpose-built motor racing circuit as well as one of Britain's first airfields, which also became Britain's largest aircraft manufacturing centre by 1918, producing military aircraft such as the Wellington and civil airliners like the Viscount and VC-10.

On 18 December 1910, Sopwith won a £4000 prize for the longest flight from England to the Continent in a British-built aeroplane, flying 169 miles (272 km) in 3 hours 40 minutes. He used the winnings to set up the Sopwith School of Flying at Brooklands.

In June 1912 Sopwith, along with Fred Sigrist and others, set up the Sopwith Aviation Company, initially at Brooklands. [8] On 24 October 1912 using a Wright Model B completely rebuilt by Sopwith and fitted with an ABC 40 hp engine, [9] Harry Hawker took the British Michelin Endurance prize with a flight of 8h 23m. Sopwith Aviation got its first military aircraft order in November 1912, and in December moved to larger premises in Kingston upon Thames. The company produced more than 18,000 World War I aircraft for the allied forces, including 5747 of the Sopwith Camel single-seat fighter. Sopwith was awarded the CBE in 1918.

Bankrupted after the war by punitive anti-profiteering taxes, he re-entered the aviation business in 1920 with a new firm named after his chief engineer and test pilot, Harry Hawker. Sopwith became chairman of the new firm, Hawker Aircraft.

He became a Knight Bachelor in 1953. After the nationalisation in 1977 of the aviation interests of what was by then Hawker Siddeley, he continued to work as a consultant to the company until 1980.

In 1979, Sopwith was inducted into the International Air & Space Hall of Fame at the San Diego Air & Space Museum. [10]

His authorised biography is Pure Luck (2005) by Alan Bramson, with a foreword by the Prince of Wales ( ISBN   1-85260-263-5). Sir Thomas was interviewed on 8 November 1978 by the art historian Anna Malinovska. The interview is reproduced in Voices in Flight, 2006.

He was a member of the Air Squadron flying club.


Sopwith challenged the America's Cup with his J-class yachts, Endeavour , in 1934, and with Endeavour II in 1937. Both yachts were designed by Charles E. Nicholson. Sopwith funded, organised and helmed the yachts. He did not win the Cup but he became a Cup legend by nearly winning it in 1934. He was inducted into the America's Cup Hall of Fame in 1995.

In 1927 Sopwith commissioned yacht builders Camper and Nicholsons to build a luxury motor yacht he named Vita. She was sold in 1929 to Sir John Shelley-Rolls who renamed her Alastor. [11] During World War II the Royal Navy commandeered her to ferry provisions to Navy vessels moored at the entrance to Strangford Lough. In 1946 a fire gutted her and she sank in Ringhaddy Sound in Strangford Lough. [12]

In 1937 Sopwith received the yacht Philante , also built for him by Camper and Nicholsons. During the War the ship was requisitioned by the Royal Navy and used as a convoy escort vessel, HMS Philante . After the war the vessel was returned to Sopwith and he sold her to Norway in 1947, to be used as a royal yacht for the Norwegian king.

Personal life

Sopwith married Beatrice Hore-Ruthven (1871–1930) in 1914; they had no children. [13] Beatrice was the daughter of Walter Hore-Ruthven, who in 1919 was created Baron Ruthven of Gowrie. [14] After Beatrice's death, in 1932 he married Phyllis Brodie Gordon (1892–1978); [13] their son Thomas Edward Brodie Sopwith had success in car racing.

Sopwith's house in Mayfair, No. 46 Green Street, where he lived from 1934 until 1940, has a blue plaque. [15] In 1940 he moved to Warfield Hall in Berkshire which he had acquired the previous year. [16]

Sopwith's 100th birthday was marked by a flypast of military aircraft over his home, Compton Manor in King's Somborne, Hampshire.[ citation needed ] He died in Hampshire on 27 January 1989, aged 101. His grave and that of his second wife Phyllis Brodie can be found in the grounds of the 11th-century All Saints Church at Little Somborne near Winchester. [17]

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  1. 1 2 "Sir Thomas Octave Murdoch Sopwith". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography . Retrieved 6 November 2008.
  2. "Thomas Sopwith (1803-1879)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography . Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  3. The Encyclopædia Britannica, 20, 1929
  4. Ixion (PDF), Reminiscences of Motor Cycling, EP, archived from the original (PDF) on 8 May 2014.
  5. 1 2 3 Driver, Hugh (1997), The Birth of Military Aviation, Royal Historical Society, ISBN   978-0-86193-234-4 .
  6. "Thomas Sopwith – player profile and career stats". European Hockey. Retrieved 29 November 2007.
  7. "Great Britain Roster 1910". UK: Ice Hockey Journalists. Archived from the original on 13 May 2008. Retrieved 29 November 2007.
  8. "The ABC Motor Cycle", Motor Cycle, 19 December 1918, p. 541.
  9. "The Sopwith-Wright biplane", Flight magazine, pp. 1075–79, 23 November 1912.
  10. Sprekelmeyer, Linda, editor. These We Honor: The International Aerospace Hall of Fame. Donning Co. Publishers, 2006. ISBN   978-1-57864-397-4.
  11. Alastor MY (No. 93), Irish Wrecks On-Line.
  12. Wreck Tour: 80, The Alastor, Diver net[ permanent dead link ].
  13. 1 2 "Sir Thomas Octave Murdoch Sopwith". Genealogics. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  14. "Hon. Beatrice Mary Leslie Hore-Ruthven". Genealogics. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  15. "Thomas Sopwith Blue Plaque". Open plaques. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
  16. "Heritage Trail" (PDF). UK: Warfield Parish Council. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 April 2013. Retrieved 3 August 2013.
  17. Thomas Sopwith at Find a Grave