After an epic year long expedition into remote African deserts searching for the legendary Sopwith Camel, a thirty strong team of ex-servicemen and women has returned to England empty handed having to face up to the reality that the fabled creature may be extinct.
At a meeting of the National Geographic Society in London last night, expedition leader John Blashford-Snell said “Although we spent twelve months searching up and down the western front of the Sahara for traces of the legendary creature, we were unable to find even a hump. It is therefore with regret that we must conclude that it is no more.”
The Sopwith Camel was first recorded in the memoires of several First World War veterans. The fact that their diaries mention the camel as being a winged beast which soared above the battlefields with a strange buzzing call has added to the mystery and intrigue.
In his wartime journal “The Great War - A Private View”’, Pte Tommy Jones mentions the creatures flocking in great numbers. An entry from his journal dated 17th June 1917 says “Saw a lot of Sopwiths fly over at first light. We waved to them, but they didn’t wave back. Oh well! Must keep my pecker up and look on the bright side. My turn to gnaw the rat tomorrow.”
Whilst many naturalists have dismissed the Sopwith as little more than a myth like the unicorn or the centaur, others are not so sure, pointing to the many written eye witness accounts. What is certainly puzzling is why a creature, apparently so plentiful only a hundred years ago should die out so quickly.
Former army officer Blashford-Snell has a theory. “We know this creature had the misfortune to share its habitat with opposing armies. Perhaps, the cruel and fiendish forces of the Kaiser shot the poor things down.” adding “this is supported by accounts that suggest the creatures were sometimes seen breathing fire. We had just assumed that the Sopwith Camel was a distant relative of the dragon, but I can see now that we may have to reassess this. It looks like the Dodo all over again.”