05/31/2011. Second of the Farnborough designs to bear a "Bleriot Experimental" designation as a general-purpose tractor biplane, the B.E.2 appeared in 1912 and provided the basis for a family of variants produced in large quantity for use by the RFC, principally as an unarmed two-seat scout. With modifications to enhance the inherent stability of the basic design, the B.E.2c was developed in 1914 and many of the 1,216 of this variant built were to serve with various ad hoc armament installations.
The B.E.2c was a two-bay biplane with unstaggered equi-span wings, a conventional tail unit with separate fin, rudder, tailplane and elevators, and an undercarriage incorporating skids to help prevent nose-overs. The 70 hp Renault eight-cylinder V-engine powered early production aircraft, but the 90 hp RAF 1a eight-cylinder V-engine soon became standard. Construction of the B.E.2c was of wood throughout, with fabric covering. A variety of mounts was evolved for a single 0.303 in (7.7 mm) Lewis machinegun in the observer's (front) cockpit, primarily for self-defense.
More specifically to serve as a fighter with Home Defence squadrons of the RFC and the RNAS, numerous B.E.2c's were modified as single-seaters, armament comprising a single Lewis gun mounted to fire upwards behind the wing centre section or, in some cases, on the side of the fuselage alongside the cockpit, angled outwards to clear the propeller disc. Flying by night, despite a lack of nocturnal flight aids, B.E.2c's shot down five raiding Zeppelins over the UK during 1916. B.E.2c's were also used for a number of armament experiments.
The pictured aircraft was built by Armstrong Whitworth, and is one of the aircraft flown by British ace Captain Lanoe George Hawker (December 30, 1890 – November 23, 1916). Hawker received the Distinguished Service Order for attacking a German zeppelin shed at Gontrode, East Flanders, Belgium on April 22, 1915. Four days later Hawker and his gunner, Captain Willy, flew the B.E.2c serialed 1780, and forced a German Aviatik to withdraw from the battle area.
Hawker was the third pilot to earn the Victoria Cross after attacking three aircraft in succession on one flight on July 25, 1915, destroying two and damaging one. With three seven credited victories Hawker, flying an Airco D.H.2, was killed in a dog fight (reportedly one of the longest of WW I) with the legendary German ace Manfred von Richthofen ("The Red Baron").