The M.1C prototype was designed by Frank Barnwell in 1916 and built as a private venture by the BristolAeroplane Corporation. The War Office ordered four aircraft for evaluation - designated M.1B - which had a single Vickers machine gun mounted on the port wing and a clear-view cut-out in the starboard wing to give the pilot more downward visibility.
Despite excellent performance (it had a maximum speed 30-50 mph faster than any of the contemporary German Fokker Eindecker monoplanes for example) it was rejected by the Air Ministry for service on the Western Front, ostensibly because its landing speed was considered too high for small French airfields, but more likely because of a widespread belief that monoplane aircraft were inherently unsafe in combat.
Nevertheless, a production order for 125 aircraft was placed on 3 August 1917. Designated M.1C, this version was fitted with a Le Rhï¿½ne rotary engine and had a Vickers machine gun centrally-mounted in front of the pilot.
A single M.1, registered G-EAVP was rebuilt as a high-speed testbed for the Bristol Lucifer three cylinder radial engine. This aircraft was designated the M.1D.
Thirty-three M.1Cs served in the Middle East and the Balkans in 1917-18, while the rest were used by UK-based training units, where they were popular as personal mounts for senior officers.
Six were sent to Chile in part payment for two warships being built for Chile in Britain but commandeered for the Royal Navy before completion. One of these, flown by Lt. Godoy, was used to fly from Santiago to Mendoza, Argentina and back on 12 December 1918, the first flight across the Andes mountain chain.