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Sopwith Camel

This article is about the ghter plane. For the 1960s control and incorrect settings often caused the engine to
psychedelic rock band, see Sopwith Camel (band).
choke and cut out during take-o. Many crashed due to
mishandling on take-o when a full fuel tank aected
The Sopwith Camel was a British First World War the centre of gravity. In level ight, the Camel was
markedly tail-heavy. Unlike the Sopwith Triplane, the
single-seat biplane ghter introduced on the Western
Front in 1917. Manufactured by Sopwith Aviation Camel lacked a variable incidence tailplane, so that the
pilot had to apply constant forward pressure on the conCompany, it had a short-coupled fuselage, heavy, powerful rotary engine, and concentrated re from twin trol stick to maintain a level attitude at low altitude. The
synchronized machine guns. Though dicult to handle, aircraft could also be rigged so that at higher altitudes it
to an experienced pilot it provided unmatched manoeu- was able to be own hands o. A stall immediately revrability. A superlative ghter, the Camel was credited sulted in a particularly dangerous spin.
with shooting down 1,294 enemy aircraft, more than any
other Allied ghter of the war. It also served as a groundattack aircraft, especially near the end of the conict,
when it was outclassed in the air-to-air role by newer German ghters.

2 Operational history
2.1 Western front

Design and development

Intended as a replacement for the Sopwith Pup,[2] the

Camel prototype was rst own by Harry Hawker at
Brooklands on 22 December 1916, powered by a 110
hp Clerget 9Z. Known as the Big Pup early on in its
development, the biplane design was structurally conventional for its time, featuring a box-like fuselage structure,
an aluminium engine cowling, plywood-covered panels
around the cockpit, and fabric-covered fuselage, wings
and tail. For the rst time on an operational Britishdesigned ghter, two .303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers machine
guns were mounted directly in front of the cockpit, ring
Replica of Camel F.I own by Lt. George A. Vaughn Jr., 17th
forward through the propeller disc with synchronisation
Aero Squadron
gear. A metal fairing over the gun breeches, intended
to protect the guns from freezing at altitude, created a
hump that led to the name Camel.[2] The bottom wing
was rigged with 3 dihedral but the top wing had no dihedral, so that the gap between the wings was less at the tips
than at the roots. This was done at the suggestion of Fred
Sigrist, the Sopwith works manager, in order to simplify
construction. Approximately 5,490 Camels were built.[3]
Unlike the preceding Pup and Triplane, the Camel was
generally considered dicult to y. The type owed its
extreme manoeuvrability and its dicult handling to the
close placement of the engine, pilot, guns and fuel tank
(some 90% of the weight of the aircraft) within the
front seven feet of the aircraft, coupled with the strong
gyroscopic eect of the rotary engine. The Camel soon
gained an unfortunate reputation with student pilots. The Replica of Camel F.I currently displayed at the National Museum
Clerget engine was particularly sensitive to fuel mixture of the United States Air Force


The type entered squadron service in June 1917 with No.

4 Squadron of the Royal Naval Air Service, near Dunkirk.
The following month, it became operational with No. 70
Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps. By February 1918,
a total of 13 squadrons had been fully equipped with the
The Camel proved to have a good margin of superiority over the Albatros D.III and D.V and oered heavier armament and better performance than the Pup and
Triplane. In the hands of an experienced pilot, its manoeuvrability was unmatched by any contemporary type.
Its controls were light and sensitive. The Camel turned
rather slowly to the left, which resulted in a nose-up attitude due to the torque of the rotary engine. But the engine torque also resulted in the ability to turn to the right
in half the time of other ghters,[4] although that resulted
in more of a tendency towards a nose-down attitude from
the turn. Because of the faster turning capability to the
right, to change heading 90 to the left, many pilots preferred to do it by turning 270 to the right.

allowed the use of new and more eective incendiary ammunition that was considered unsafe to re from synchronised Vickers guns.[8][9][Note 1] By March 1918, the home
defence squadrons were equipped with the Camel, with
seven home defence squadrons ying Camels by August
1918.[11] Camels were also used as night ghters over the
Western Front, with 151 Squadron intercepting German
night raids over the front, and carrying out night intruder
missions against German airstrips, claiming 26 German
aircraft shot down in ve months of operations.[12]

2.3 Ground attack

By mid-1918, the Camel was becoming limited, especially as a day ghter, by its slow speed and comparatively poor performance at altitudes over 12,000 ft (3,650
m). However, it remained useful as a ground-attack
and infantry support aircraft. During the German offensive of March 1918, ights of Camels harassed the
advancing German Army, inicting high losses (and suffering high losses in turn) through the dropping of 25 lb
(11 kg) Cooper bombs and ultra-low-level strang. The
protracted development of the Camels replacement, the
Sopwith Snipe, meant that the Camel remained in service
until the Armistice.

Agility in combat made the Camel one of the bestremembered Allied aircraft of the First World War. RFC
crew used to joke that it oered the choice between a
wooden cross, the Red Cross, or a Victoria Cross"[5] Together with the S.E.5a and the SPAD S.XIII, the Camel
helped to establish the Allied aerial superiority that lasted
In summer 1918, a 2F.1 Camel (N6814) was used in trials
well into 1918.
as a parasite ghter under Airship R23.
Major William Barker's Sopwith Camel (serial no.
B6313, the aircraft in which he scored the majority of
his victories)[6] became the most successful ghter air3 Variants
craft in the history of the RAF, shooting down 46 aircraft and balloons from September 1917 to September
1918 in 404 operational hours ying. It was dismantled Camels were powered by several rotary engines.
in October 1918. Barker kept the dashboard watch as a
memento, but was asked to return it the following day.
130 hp Clerget 9B Rotary (standard powerplant)
140 hp Clerget 9Bf Rotary


Home defence and night ghting

An important role for the Camel was home defence. The

RNAS ew a number of Camels from Eastchurch and
Manston airelds against daylight raids by German Gotha
bombers from July 1917. The public outcry against these
raids and the poor response of Londons defences resulted
in the RFC diverting Camel deliveries from France to
home defence, with 44 Squadron RFC reforming on the
Camel in the home defence role in July 1917.[7] When the
Germans switched to night attacks, the Camel proved capable of being safely own at night, and the home defence
aircraft were modied with navigation lights to serve as
night ghters. A number of Camels were more extensively modied as night ghters, with the Vickers machine guns being replaced by overwing Lewis guns, with
the cockpit being moved rearwards so the pilot could easily reload the guns. This modication, which became
known as the Sopwith Comic allowed the guns to be
red without aecting the night vision of the pilots, and

110 hp Le Rhne 9J Rotary

150 hp Bentley BR1 rotary (gave best performance
standard for R.N.A.S. machines)
100 hp Gnome Monosoupape 9B-2 Rotary
150 hp Gnome Monosoupape 9N Rotary

3.1 Engine variants

With rotary engines, the crankshaft remains static and the
cylinders, crankcase and attached propeller rotate around
it. The torque of this rotating mass-produces a signicant pull to the right. In the hands of an experienced
pilot, this characteristic could be exploited to give exceptional manoeuvrability in a dogght. A 3/4 turn to the
right could be done in the same time as a 1/4 turn to the



The Gnome mono engines did not have throttles and 3.5 F.1/1
were at full throttle while the ignition was on they
Version with tapered wings.
could be throttled with a selector switch which cut the
ignition to some of the cylinders to reduce power for landing. The Clerget, Le Rhone and BR1 had throttles, although reducing power involved simultaneously adjust- 3.6 (Trench Fighter) T.F.1
ing the mixture and was not straightforward, so it became
Experimental-only trench ghter.
common during landing to blip the engine (turn the ignition o and on) using a control column-mounted igni Downward angled machine guns for ecient strang
tion switch, the blip switch, to reduce power.
Armour plating for protection


Sopwith Camel F.1

(See also Sopwith Salamander)

Single-seat ghter aircraft.

The main production version. Armed with twin synchronised Vickers guns.

A Sopwith 2F1 Camel naval variant, own by Flight Sublieutenant Stuart Culley when he shot down Zeppelin L 53, at the
Imperial War Museum, London. Note non-standard armament
of two Lewis guns in xed, inaccessible mount over top wing


Sopwith Camel 2F.1

4 Operators

Belgian Camel preserved at the Royal Museum of the Armed

Forces and of Military History in Brussels


Australian Flying Corps

Shipboard ghter aircraft.

No. 4 Squadron AFC in France.

Slightly shorter wingspan

No. 5 (Training) Squadron AFC in the United


One Vickers gun replaced by an overwing Lewis gun

Bentley BR1 as standard engine


Sopwith Camel Comic Night ghter

The twin Vickers guns were replaced with two Lewis guns
on Foster mountings ring forward over the upper wing,
since the muzzle ash of the Vickers guns tended to blind
the pilot. To allow the pilot to reload the guns, the pilot
seat was moved about 12 inches (30 cm) to the rear; to
compensate for this, the fuel tank was moved forward.[13]
Served with Home Defence Squadrons against German
air raids. The Comic nickname was of course unocial, and was shared with the night ghter version of the
Sopwith 1 Strutter.

No. 6 (Training) Squadron AFC in the United

No. 8 (Training) Squadron AFC in the United

Aviation Militaire Belge

1re Escadrille de Chasse
Groupe de Chasse[7]
9me Escadrille de Chasse
11me Escadrille de Chasse



No. 4 Squadron RNAS

No. 6 Squadron RNAS

Royal Canadian Air Force

Estonian Air Force

Georgian Air Force - 3-4 aircraft, 1920

No. 8 Squadron RNAS

No. 9 Squadron RNAS
No. 10 Squadron RNAS
No. 13 Squadron RNAS
United States
American Expeditionary Force
United States Army Air Service
9th Aero Squadron[15]


17th Aero Squadron[16]

27th Aero Squadron[17]

Hellenic Navy[14]

Latvian Air Force


37th Aero Squadron[18]

148th Aero Squadron
United States Navy

5 Survivors
Media related to Sopwith Camel museum aircraft at
Wikimedia Commons

Royal Netherlands Air Force

Polish Air Force operated 1 Camel post-war (1921)
Imperial Russian Air Force
Soviet Union
Sopwith Camel at the Royal Air Force Museum

Soviet Air Force - Postwar.

United Kingdom

Royal Flying Corps / Royal Air Force

Royal Naval Air Service
No. 1 Squadron RNAS
No. 3 Squadron RNAS

There are only eight known original Sopwith Camels

N6254 was displayed in the Aerospace Education
Center in Little Rock, Arkansas, unti it closed in
December 2010, and the aircraft was sold to help
pay debts. The Camel was sold privately and moved
to a museum in New Zealand.[20]
F.1 Camel B5747 is on display at the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History in



F.1 Camel B7280 can be found at the Polish Aviation Museum in Krakw. The aircraft was built in
Lincoln by Clayton & Shuttleworth. On 5 September 1918, when being own by Captain Herbert A.
Patey of No. 210 Squadron RAF over Belgium, it
was shot down by Ludwig Beckmann of Jasta 56.
Patey survived and was taken prisoner. The Germans repaired the aircraft and ew it until the end
of the war. It was then taken to Berlin and exhibited in an air museum. During World War II it was
moved to Poland for safekeeping, and put into storage. Restoration began in 2007 and was completed
by 2010.[22]
N6812, a William Beardmore built 2F.1 Camel, was
own by Flight Sub-Lieutenant Stuart Culley on 11
August 1918 when he shot down Zeppelin LZ100;
it is on display at the Imperial War Museum in
A Camel 2F.1 N8156 (RAF) is currently on display
at the Canadian Aviation Museum. Manufactured in
1918 by Hooper & Company Ltd., Great Britain, it
was purchased by the RCAF in 1924 and last ew
in 1967. It is on static display.[24]
F.1 Camel B6291 restored to ying condition, is
part of the Javier Arango Collection, in Paso Robles,
California. It was previously owned by Al Letcher.
A Boulton & Paul built F.1 F6314 is on display at
the Milestone of Flight exhibition at the Royal Air
Force Museum, London,<ref name=Ellis145">Ellis
2008, p. 145.</ref> painted to represent an aircraft
coded B of No. 65 Squadron RAF.[25]
F.1 Camel C8228, built by Sopwith in 1917, is on
display at the National Naval Aviation Museum in
Pensacola, Florida.[26]



Media related to Sopwith Camel replicas at Wikimedia

In 1969 Slingsby built a yable Type T.57 Sopwith
Camel reproduction powered by a 145 hp Warner
Scarab engine for use in a Biggles lm. This aircraft
is on display at the Fleet Air Arm Museum, Yeovilton painted as B6401.[27][28]
A reproduction Sopwith F.1 Camel is on display
at the National Museum of the United States Air
Force in Dayton, Ohio. This aircraft was built by
museum personnel from original First World War
factory drawings and was completed in 1974. It
is painted and marked as the Camel own by Lt.
George A. Vaughn Jr. while ying with the 17th
Aero Squadron.[29]

The Sopwith Camel on display at the Cavanaugh
Flight Museum in Addison, Texas is a full scale ying replica built by Dick Day from original World
War I factory drawings. The aircraft is tted with
original instruments, machine guns and an original
Gnome rotary engine (something very rare in replicas). It is painted in the scheme of the World War
I ying ace Captain Arthur Roy Brown, a Canadian
ying with the Royal Air Force.
In 1977, a yable reproduction was built for Leisure
Sport Ltd by the late Viv Bellamy at Lands End.
Painted to represent B7270 of 209 Squadron, RAF,
the machine which Captain Roy Brown ew when
ocially credited with downing Baron Manfred von
Richthofen, it has a Clerget rotary engine of 1916
and was registered as G-BFCZ until 2003. First
seen at Brooklands Museum in January 1988 for
Sir Thomas Sopwiths 100th birthday celebrations, it
was purchased by the Museum later that year, can be
taken by road for exhibition elsewhere and is ground
run regularly.
Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome ies a reproduction
Camel completed in 1992 with a 160 hp Gnome
Monosoupape model 9N rotary, built by Nathaniel
deFlavia and Cole Palen. It replaced one of the
Dick Day-built and -own Camel reproductions formerly own at Old Rhinebeck by Mr. Day in their
weekend vintage airshows, which had left the Aerodromes collection some years earlier.
N8343 constructed by Dick Day, is part of the
Javier Arango Collection, in Paso Robles, California. Powered by a 160 hp Gnome Monosoupape rotary. It is regularly own.
B3889 is part of The Vintage Aviator Collection,
L.T.D., in Masterton, New Zealand. It was originally built by Carl Swanson for Gerry Thornhill.
It is often own. Powerplant is a 160 hp Gnome
Monosoupape rotary engine.
A reproduction is on display at the Canadian Museum of The Air in Langley, BC, Canada. Lacking an engine, a full reproduction wooden Rhone R9
130 hp engine has been installed.
A reproduction is on display at the Royal Australian
Airforce Museum, Perth.[30] The engine is original
and the propeller is suspected to also be genuine.[31]
New reproductions are currently under construction
by 1) the Northern Aeroplane Workshops for the
Shuttleworth Collection, in England.[32] and 2)
A replica Camel is being built in the United States by
Koz Aero LLC, based on original factory drawings
and using many original parts, including an original
engine and instruments.[33]


Two reproductions are being built in France by John General characteristics

Shaw, one with an original Le Clerget 130 9B engine
and the second with a new build Gnome Monosoupe
Crew: 1
100 hp engine. The rst one has now been cleared
by the French aviation authorities to be completed
Length: 18 ft 9 in (5.71 m)
ready to y. . They are being built to original plans
Wingspan: 28 ft 0 in (8.53 m)
and as authentically as materials allow.
A replica Sopwith F.1 Camel B5577 is on display at
Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre, Angus, Scotland.

Height: 8 ft 6 in (2.59 m)
Wing area: 231 ft2 (21.46 m2 )
Empty weight: 930 lb (420 kg)

Specications (F.1 Camel)

Loaded weight: 1,455 lb (660 kg)

Powerplant: 1 Clerget 9B 9-cylinder Rotary engine, 130 hp (97 kW)
Zero-lift drag coecient: 0.0378
Drag area: 8.73 square feet (0.811 m2 )
Aspect ratio: 4.11
Maximum speed: 115 mph (185 km/h)
Stall speed: 48 mph (77 km/h)
Range: 300 mi ferry (485 km)
Service ceiling: 21,000 ft (6,400 m)
Rate of climb: 1,085 ft/min (5.5 m/s)
Wing loading: 6.3 lb/ft2 (30.8 kg/m2 )
Power/mass: 0.09 hp/lb (150 W/kg)
Lift-to-drag ratio: 7.7

Orthographically projected diagram of the Sopwith camel


Guns: 2 0.303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers machine guns

7 Notable appearances in media

The Camel appears in literature and popular media as:
One of the aircraft own by Canadian pilot Arthur
Roy Brown in the 2008 movie The Red Baron.
Replica Sopwith Camel under construction, showing structure, at
Shuttleworth Uncovered September 2013

Data from Quest for Performance[34]

The single-seater scout own by the Royal Flying

Corps Squadron in the semi-autobiographical, First
World War air combat book Winged Victory written
by Victor Maslin Yeates.

8 See also
Clayton & Shuttleworth
Aircraft of comparable role, conguration and era
Albatros D.V
Fokker D.VII
Fokker Dr.I
Related lists
List of aircraft of the Royal Air Force

9 References

piloting his
Sopwith Camel

The ghter own by Biggles in the novels by W.E.

Johns during Biggless spell in 266 Squadron during
the First World War. The rst collection of Biggles
stories, titled The Camels are Coming, was published
in 1932.

[1] The ammunition in question was the RTS (Richard

Thelfall and Sons) round, a combined incendiary and explosive round with a nitroglycerin and phosphorus lling.
While more eective than earlier incendiary bullets like
the phosphorus lled Buckingham bullet, they required
careful handling, and were initially banned from synchronised weapons, both because of fears about the consequences of bullets striking the propeller of the ghter, and
to prevent cooking o of the sensitive ammunition in the
chambers of the Vickers guns, which red from a closed
bolt - a required feature for guns used in synchronized
mounts - where heat could build up much quicker than
in the open bolted Lewis gun.[8][10]
[2] Quote: Under re from a pupil of Richthofen (the Red
Baron), Johns Camel caught re over occupied France.
Bayards last sight of his twin brother was of John jumping out of his ghter feet rst. Faulkner also wrote about
the Camel (and Sartoris) in his famous story All the Dead

The plane of Snoopy in the Peanuts comic strip,

when he imagines himself as a World War I ying Citations
ace and the nemesis of the Red Baron.
The type of aircraft own in the First World War
by John and Bayard Sartoris in William Faulkner's
Flags in the Dust.[Note 2]
In the Percy Jackson book The Titans Curse, Annabeths father, a historian, uses a restored and modied Sopwith Camel to aid the heroes at one point
during the novel.
Robert Redford's character ies a Sopwith Camel
during the climactic aerial battle scene in the 1975
lm The Great Waldo Pepper.

[1] Mason 1992, p. 89.

[2] Bruce Flight 22 April 1955, p. 527.
[3] Bruce Flight 29 April 1955, p. 563.
[4] Clark 1973, p. 134.
[5] Leinburger 2008, p. 30.
[6] Ralph 1999, p. 80.
[7] Davis 1999, p. 96.
[8] Davis 1999, p. 97.

[9] Bruce 1968, p. 151, 153.

[10] Williams and Gustin 2003, pp. 11, 14.
[11] Davis 1999, p. 98.


[34] Loftin, LK, Jr. Quest for Performance: The Evolution of

Modern Aircraft. NASA SP-468. NASA. Retrieved: 22
April 2006.


[12] Davis 1999, pp. 9899.

[13] Mason 1992, p. 91.
[14] Davis 1999, p. 102.
[15] 9 Bomb Squadron (ACC). Air Force Historical Research
Agency. Retrieved: 19 December 2010.
[16] 17 Weapons Squadron (ACC). Air Force Historical Research Agency. Retrieved: 19 December 2010.
[17] 27 Fighters Squadron (ACC). Air Force Historical Research Agency. Retrieved: 19 December 2010.
[18] 37 Bomb Squadron (ACC).Air Force Historical Research Agency. Retrieved: 19 December 2010.
[19] Sopwith Camel. Demobbed - Out of Service British Military Aircraft. 2015. Retrieved 28 July 2015.
[20] Oman, Noel (16 March 2011). History Takes Flight:
Vintage aircraft sold to pay centers bills. Northwest
Arkansas Democrat Gazette. Retrieved 28 July 2015.
[21] B5747/11 Sopwith Camel F.1. Koninklijk Leger Museum. 2012. Retrieved 28 July 2015.
[22] Lincoln-built Sopwith Camel from the First World War
is restored to its former glory. Lincolnshire Echo. 22 July
2010. Retrieved 28 July 2015.
[23] Ellis 2008, p. 148.
[24] Sopwith 2F.1 Camel. Canada Aviation and Space Museum. Retrieved 19 December 2010.
[25] Individual History: Sopwith F.1 Camel F6314/9206M
(PDF). Royal Air Force Museum. 2007. Retrieved 19 December 2010.
[26] Aircraft Data A5658, 1917 Sopwith F.1 Camel C/N
C8228. airport-data.com. 2015. Retrieved 28 July
[27] Jackson 1988, p. 349.
[28] "Sopwith Camel (replica) ('B6401'). Fleet Air Arm Museum. Retrieved: 14 November 2008.
[29] United States Air Force Museum 1975, p. 12.
[30] Royal Australian Airforce Museum, Perth, retrieved 21
June 2015
[31] Sopwith F.1 Camel, retrieved 21 June 2015
[32] Sopwith Camel. Shuttleworth Collection. Retrieved: 19
December 2010.
[33] Kozura, Tom. Sopwith F.1 Camel. kozaero.com. Retrieved: 24 December 2011.

Bowyer, Chaz. Sopwith Camel: King of Combat. Falmouth, Cornwall, UK: Glasney Press, 1978.
ISBN 0-9502825-7-X.
Bruce, J.M. Sopwith Camel: Historic Military Aircraft No 10: Part I. Flight, 22 April 1955, pp. 527
Bruce, J.M. Sopwith Camel: Historic Military Aircraft No 10: Part II. Flight, 29 April 1955. pp.
Bruce, J.M. War Planes of the First World War:
Volume Two Fighters. London:Macdonald, 1968.
ISBN 0-356-01473-8.
Clark, Alan. Aces High: The War In The Air Over
The Western Front 1914 - 1918. New York: G. P.
Putnams Sons, 1973. ISBN 0-297-99464-6.
Davis, Mick. Sopwith Aircraft. Ramsbury, Malborough, UK: The Crowood Press, 1999. ISBN 186126-217-5.
Ellis, Ken. Wrecks & Relics, 21st edition. Manchester, UK: Crecy Publishing, 2008. ISBN 978-085979-134-2.
Guttman, Jon: Sopwith Camel (Air Vanguard ; 3)".
Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2012. ISBN 978-178096-176-7.
Jackson, A.J. British Civil Aircraft 1919-1972: Volume III. London: Putnam, 1988. ISBN 0-85177818-6.
Leinburger, Ralf. Fighter: Technology, Facts, History. London: Parragon Inc., 2008. ISBN 978-140549-575-2.
Mason, Francis K. The British Fighter. London:
Putnam, 1992. ISBN 0 85177 852 6
Ralph, Wayne. Barker VC: The Classic Story of a
Legendary First World War Hero. London: Grub
Street, 1999. ISBN 1-902304-31-4.
Robertson, Bruce. Sopwith: The Man and His Aircraft. London: Harleyford, 1970. ISBN 0-90043515-1.
Sturtivant, Ray and Gordon Page. The Camel File.
Tunbridge Wells, Kent, UK: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd., 1993. ISBN 0-85130-212-2.
United States Air Force Museum Guidebook. WrightPatterson AFB, Ohio: Air Force Museum Foundation, 1975.

Williams, Anthony G. and Emmanuel Gustin. Flying Guns: World War I and its Aftermath 1914
32. Ramsbury, Wiltshire: Airlife, 2003. ISBN 184037-396-2.
Winchester, Jim, ed. Sopwith Camel. Biplanes,
Triplanes and Seaplanes (Aviation Factle). London: Grange Books plc, 2004. ISBN 1-84013-6413.


External links

Cole Palen/Nat deFlavia reproduction Camel at Old

Rhinebeck Aerodrome
Camel photos and links to museums with Camels
Canadian Aviation Museum Camel
Sopwith ghters in Russia





Text and image sources, contributors, and licenses


Sopwith Camel Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sopwith_Camel?oldid=673615742 Contributors: Ghakko, Heron, Hephaestos,

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