Ruston Proctor was a Lincolnshire-based manufacturer of steam engines which rose to prominence through the late 19th Century – just like its near neighbour, Clayton & Shuttleworth. As the production of aircraft grew in importance and volume during World War 1, both of these industrial giants turned from producing traction engines and threshing machines to the new-fangled world of aviation – with a raft of government contracts, principally to build the famous Sopwith Camel scout.
The completion of Ruston’s 1000th Camel was felt to warrant some celebration, with the result that this aircraft, serial number B7380, was delivered on 25 January 1918 wearing an astonishing and unique livery.
B7380 was christened Wings of Horus due to the British passion for Egyptology which had been embraced to the fullest by Colonel J.S. Ruston. Thanks in no small part to Colonel Ruston’s great knowledge of hieroglyphs, the representation of the Horus as Heru-Behutet fitted the character of the Camel perfectly: this being an ancient god who wrought ‘such violence that [his enemies] became dazed, and could neither see where they were going, nor hear, the result of this being that they slew each other, and in a very short time they were all dead.’
During early February of 1918, B7380 toured Britain while being used as a ‘flying advert’ to promote the sale of war bonds. By the end of the month, however, she was delivered to France – remarkably still wearing her exotic colour scheme! Rather than despoil such a work of art by overpainting it in the muddy ‘PC10’ camouflage that adorned front line machines, this very special Camel was sent back to Britain where it is believed she served out the war with a training unit.
Although no colour photographs were taken of the aircraft at the time, detailed records were kept by Ruston Proctor on the design and its colours. As a result these contemporary photographs have been tinted with the correct shades to show this magnificent creation to best effect: