The RAF Be2E At War!
To coincide with the display in the UK of two airworthy BE2E reproductions from New Zealand's TVAL earlier this year, Albatros Productions fortunately decided that Centenary Datafile 165 would continue telling the story of the first WWI British two-seater to see action in the Great War. This Datafile picks up where the story left off in Centenary Datafile 163, giving a chronological account of the sequential development of the BE2/BE2A/BE2B versions into the up-powered E version. Paul Hare (who also authored Datafile 163, devoted to covering the BE2/BE2A/BE2B versions) authored this well-researched and heavily illustrated monograph. Hare has made a special study of Royal Aircraft Factory designs in WWI and is recognized for his knowledge of the BE2 type. In this Datafile, his comprehensive narrative is complimented by a variety of previously unpublished archival photos, technical drawings, color profiles and a virtual windfall of color photographs of the contemporary flying reproductions of this iconic kite-like airplane.
The BE2E was far from the best aircraft in the RFC’s arsenal, but it was an improved version of earlier types. It could muster a bit more than 70 mph and became available in adequate numbers before better types could be made ready to take its place. It served successfully along side its preceding types as Britian’s primary front line reconnaissance aircraft for more than a year. Too long in some respects because by 1917 advanced German designs had assumed aerial supremacy over the battlefields and all versions of the BE2 became easy prey (accounting for nearly a quarter of the RFC aircraft lost during ‘Bloody April’). When finally withdrawn from front line service, it served well in a training role and in other non-combat duties.
Datafile 165 traces the development and service of the type and also includes much about the derivatives; the BE2f and BE2g. The author’s well-written monograph includes 63 archive B&W photographs, detailed 5-view plans in both 1:48 and 1:72 scale (by the late Ian Stair), three new color profiles by Ronny Bar and an amazing collection of 58 color photographs of the reproduction aircraft, with many close-ups that provide unique reference for modeler builders. Also included are detailed color notes with descriptions of training and service markings, a number of paragraphs devoted to a wartime pilot’s experiences flying the BE2, detailed appendices, and a complete listing of construction batches. Very little has been left out.
Datafile 165, combined with companion Datafile 163 provide a complete reference for the Royal Aircraft Factory’s BE2 series. It’s design and production history, wartime assignments, service records, and pilots’ notes are presented with a thorough roster of both period and contemporary photographs, technical drawings and a listing of useful references. Model builders and aviation history buffs should find all there is to know about the first RFC reconnaissance biplane to serve in France during the Great War.
This publication is highly recommended to WWI aircraft model builders and those with an interest in WWI aviation history. Thanks to Albatros Productions for providing the review copy of this excellent publication and IPMS/USA for the opportunity to review it.