The main task of the Felixstowe F.2A flying boats
was to fly long endurance patrols over the North Sea. Each flight
entailed serious danger because big, slow flying boats could be
easy victims for German naval fighters. When the new German Hansa
Brandenburg W.29 entered service in early 1918, catastrophe loomed
for the British flying boats, like the Felixstowe F.2A or the Curtiss
H.16. The famous German naval ace Friedrich Christiansen shot down
six Felixstowe F.2A during the first few months, and two of them
during one combat.
British flying boats like the Felixstowe F.2A and the Curtiss H.16
had powerful defensive armament which gave them a good chance of
beating off an attack from most directions, but on many occasions
German pilots attacked the big flying boats from their blind spots;
the British gunners couldn't return fire without damaging their
own tail unit. This new tactic proved successful, and the British
designers were challenged to come up with an answer.
One standard late-built Felixstowe F.2A was specially equipped with
an additional gun position in the middle of the upper wing, with
a curved cupola provided for the gunner. This position was ideal
for upper hemisphere defense, because with a 360 degree field of
fire there were no blind spots for enemy fighters to exploit.
This modified aircraft (serial number N4543) was delivered to 230
Squadron on July 6, 1918. There is little historical data about
its successes or failures but it is known that it attacked a U-boat
with a bomb on July 9, 1918.
Any plans to fit this extra gun on other Felixstowes were cancelled
as the war approached its end; attacks by German naval fighters
were now rare.
N4543 served until November 9, 1918, when it suffered a forced landing
due to a fuel system problem and sank. And so ended the first attempt
to create a 'fortress boat'; British designers would return to this
idea on the eve of World War Two.