Lee Spring Helps Restore World War I Aircraft

Lee Spring Helps Restore World War I Aircraft

The Sopwith Dolphin features a new set of extension springs manufactured by Lee Spring for use on the replica Lewis guns.

January 15, 2013
Manufacturing Group
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LeeThe Sopwith Dolphin, a restored First World War aircraft on display at the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force (RAF) Museum in Hendon, England, features a new set of extension springs manufactured by Lee Spring for use on the replica Lewis guns. Facilitating the assistance and support for this restoration Lee Spring, Europe, headquartered in Wokingham, Berkshire, United Kingdom.

The single seat fighting aircraft served operationally from January 1918 to July 1919. At its peak, the Sopwith Dolphin equipped five RAF Squadrons during World War I, primarily in France along with a handful on home defense duties in the UK. A total of 1,778 Sopwith Dolphins were built in Britain but the model was declared obsolete in 1921.

“We believe that our Dolphin is now the only one in existence,” says John Stoyles, part of a team who restored the Dolphin now on display in the Claude Graham-White building at the RAF Museum Hendon.  

Restoration started in 1968 and culminated in early 2012 after 11 years at the RAF Museum in Cosford, England. The restoration includes some original parts from different Dolphin aircraft but any unavailable parts were primarily manufactured using original Sopwith Aviation (the manufacturer) drawings. 

“The Sopwith Dolphin was the first four gun fighter, having two Vickers machine guns (pointing forwards) and two Lewis guns inclined on the top of the aircraft,” Stoyles says, revealing that Lee Spring provided two new music wire extension springs for use in the Lewis gun mechanism. “The original specified spring was 5/16 o/d, 2-1/4" long 20g steel wire, but the Lee Spring replacements were very similar and did the job admirably.”

Helical extension springs are loaded in tension and feature hooks or loops to allow application of a pull force. Usually, extension springs attach at both ends to other components, which, when they move apart, the spring tries to bring them together again. 

“This is a truly unique application,” says Chris Petts, managing director, Lee Spring, Europe. It is another example of how varied the applications of Lee Spring are, and we are delighted to be part of such an historic restoration project."

Founded in 1918, Lee Springs shares a similar heritage, opening in Brooklyn, New York the same year that the Sopwith Dolphin first went into operation. Today, Lee Spring still maintains their global headquarters in Brooklyn, NY, along with their multiple facilities in Europe, Mexico, India, and China.