Aircraft, awful and awesome:
M.1C monoplane fighter

Dr. Marshall Michel
86th Airlift Wing historian

By mid-1916, the second year of World War I, the Allies’ need for a new, high performance fighter was critical, and the sleek British Bristol M.1C monoplane fighter, with its streamlined fuselage and a large spinner covering the engine, seemed to be the answer. The M.1C had a top speed of 20 mph faster and an operational ceiling of 2000 feet higher than any other fighter of the time.

***image1***A few M.1Cs were sent to France for a six-week evaluation and performed superbly. Yet despite the fact that Allied aircraft were being slaughtered by advanced German fighters, the M.1C was almost ignored and never saw squadron service on the Western Front.

The reason, incredibly, was bureaucratic. The RFC had banned monoplanes in 1912 because of accidents (normal for airplanes in those early days), and even though the ban had been lifted the prejudice against monoplanes remained. To justify its prejudice, the RFC establishment claimed that the M.1C’s landing speed of 49 mph was dangerously high, though it was actually about average for Allied aircraft at the time and the M.1C had a shorter landing run than most.

But facts were of no avail. Only 125 M.1Cs were built and many were sent to combat in the Middle East, where a later Royal Flying Corps history noted “they ran rings round the opposition.” Some were sent to flying schools, where as late as 1918 instructors said the M.1C was superior to any British fighter of the time.

 A later history noted that “the M.1C could have wrought a great change in the Allies favor in the fighting in the skies” and that “the denial of the M.1Cs to the pilots on the Western Front stands out as one of the worst examples of official incompetence and ineptitude extent.”