H.Cowin - Aviation Pioneers /Osprey/
Авиатик (Берг) серии 238, пилот Линке Кроуфорд, 1918г / Design of the Austrian Aviatik, or Berg D I commenced very early in 1917, slightly ahead of Austria's other indigenous fighter, the Phonix D I. During the early stage of its flying career, the Berg D I suffered catastrophic structural wing failure, but once generally 'beefed-up', the machine proved to be both fast, agile and have a good climb, cited as reaching 13,000 feet in 11 minutes 15 seconds. Initially powered by a 185hp Austro-Daimler, these Bergs had top level speed of 113mph at sea level. The speed of later 200hp or 225hp powered aircraft rose to 115mph. Similarly, initial production Bergs carried a single 8mm Schwarzlose, while a second was added to later fighters. Delivered primarily to serve on the Italian Front from the late spring of 1917 onwards, the Berg D I was built in some quantities, involving 4 sub-contractors probably producing more than 300 machines. The fighter shown here was the mount of Austrian air ace, Oblt Frank Linke-Crawford, leader of Flik 60.
Front aspect of the intriguing sole Austrian Aviatik G II completed in July 1917. The brainchild of Prof von Mises, the 3-man bomber had its twin 300hp Austro-Daimlers buried in the fuselage to drive tandem-arranged tractor and pusher propellers mounted inboard between the wings.
The Etrich Taube two seater of Austrian origin first flew in November 1909 and was adopted by the German military in 1911 as their standard reconaissance and training type. Most were built under licence in Germany by Rumpler. They were withdrawn from front line service by mid-1915. This is a 1912 Taube fitted with a 100hp Daimler D. I, giving a top level speed of 7l mph.
A Lloyd C II of the Austro-Hungarian forces operating at the southern end of the Eastern Front in 1916. Seen here being re-assembled after being rail freighted to the front, little more information concerning the aircraft's, crew's or unit identity survives. However, photographs reveal that shortly after this image was taken, the machine nosed-over during the subsequent attempted take-off.
Lohner of Austria, besides producing their admirable line of small, agile flying boats, also built a series of land-based, reconnaissance two-seaters for the Austro-Hungarian Air Service. In stark contrast to their flying boats, these B and C class designs, spanning the years 1913 to 1917, proved mediocre performers and, in consequence, each variant was only built in small numbers. The 1915 Lohner B.VII, 17.00, seen here, despite its 160hp Austro-Daimler, could only achieve a top level speed of 85 mph at sea level. As in this case, despite their B class designations, many two seaters were retrospectively fitted with a gun in the rear seat, thus converting them, effectively, into C types.
The Lohner Type L two seater reconnaissance/bomber flying boat was used to real effect by the Austro-Hungarian Navy during the 1915-1916 period. Based on Jakob Lohner's 1913 Type E, the Type L was powered by various engines rated between 140hp and 180hp, giving the machine a top level speed of around 65mph. Thanks to its wing design, the Type L showed an impressive high altitude capability, having a ceiling of about 16,400 feet. Around 160 Type Ls were built, but such was their operational success that the machine was copied by Macchi in Italy, leading to the Macchi M.3 through M.9 series.
Derived from the Hansa-Brandenburg D I, the Phonix D I adopted a more conventional interplane strut arrangement and a prominent fin. First flown in mid-1917, the Phonix D I entered service in February 1918, with 150 going to the Austro-Hungarian Army air arm and 40 to the Austro-Hungarian Navy. Not particularly agile, the D I, with its 200hp Hiero, had a top level speed of 112mph at sea level and was said to have a good rate of climb. Armed with twin 8mm Schwarzlose, the proneness of these guns to jamming, along with their inaccessibility in the D I was a point of major criticism. The machine seen here was the 45th of the second 50 production batch.
Phönix D.I, 228.45, Abnahme im Dezember 1917. Flik 37, im Juli 1918 abgestürzt
Phönix D.I, 228.45, принят в декабре 1917 года, Flik 37, разбился в июле 1918 года.
Phönix D.I, 228.45, Abnahme im Dezember 1917. Flik 37, im Juli 1918 abgestürzt
Phönix D.I, 228.45, принят в декабре 1917 года, Flik 37, разбился в июле 1918 года.
A revealing side view of the Phonix D IV single seater of which only two prototypes had been completed at the time of the Armistice. While superficially similar to the earlier Phonix D I to D III series, the D IV was virtually a totally new design. Gone were the slab-sided fuselages of the earlier machines, to be replaced by a generally smoother, oval-sectioned body, terminating in a fin and rudder of significantly increased areas. Little information survived the war concerning the D IV's performance. From this image, it would seem that the Austro-Hungarians did not follow their German allies in switching to using the straight-sided Balkankreuse national marking from mid-April 1918.
The writer makes no apology for including this less than perfect view of the one-off Alcock A I, whose genesis encapsulated the truly remarkable spirit and initiative of some RNAS fliers. Designed and built on the Aegean island of Mudros by RNAS pilot John Alcock, presumably as a spare time venture, the single-seat fighter made use of some existing Sopwith components, as both Pups and Triplanes had operated from the island. However, it was what Alcock did with these that was so impressive, building them into an intelligently conceived airframe that was just about as robust as it could be, while providing the pilot with optimum visibility. Powered by a 110hp Clerget 9Z, the double bay, sesquiplane machine was armed with a single, synchronised 303-inch Vickers gun. Described by witnesses as being fast and agile, it is a great pity that no actual performance figures survive. Flown by one or two RNAS pilots on Mudros and Stavros, the A I reportedly made its maiden flight on 15 October 1917. A very real tragedy was that Alcock himself had been forced down and taken prisoner on 30 September 1917, only a fortnight prior to the aircraft's first flight. As to the fate of the A I, sadly, it was ultimately to be 'written-off' as being beyond economic repair following a local crash. John Alcock was of course the same pilot who, when accompanied by navigator Arthur Whitten-Brown in a Vickers Vimy, was to win a lasting place in aviation's annals by making the first ever non-stop transatlantic crossing by aeroplane in mid-1919.
The Armstrong Whitworth FK 8 was a contemporary of the Royal Aircraft Factory's RE 8, being generally considered as the better of the pair. First flown in May 1916, the two-seat FK 8 reconnaissance bomber was initially powered by a 120hp Beardmore, soon replaced by its larger 160hp brother. Top level speed of the FK 8 was 98.4mph at sea level, decreasing to 88mph at 10,000 feet. Besides the standard .303-inch Vickers and Lewis gun combination, the FK 8 could haul a bomb load of up to 160lb. The type made its operational debut with No 35 Squadron, RFC, on 24 January 1917, with deliveries flowing to another four French-based RFC squadrons, two in the Balkans, one in Palestine and to home defence units. Two pilots were to win the Victoria Cross flying the FK 8, while an FK 8 of Kent-based No 50 Squadron, RFC, is credited with downing a Gotha off the North Foreland on 7 July 1917. Some 1.000 or so FK 8s had been built when production ended in July 1918.
Edwin Alliot Verdon Roe, seen here standing beside his Roe III two-seat triplane of 1910, was born near Manchester on 26 April 1877. 'AV' Showed an early aptitude for the more technical subjects, cemented by serving a five year apprenticeship at a railway works between 1893 and 1898. Next, 'A.V.' turned to things maritime, hoping to join the Royal Navy, but ending up by spending four years in the merchant marine. It was while at sea that 'A.V.' started to study bird flight, which by 1902 had led him into aeromodelling. 'A.V.'s success in this field got him the post of Secretary to the Aero Club in the spring of 1906, but the lure of joining an American project to build a steam-powered vertical take-off and landing aircraft proved too much and in a matter of weeks 'A.V.' had set off for Denver, Colorado. 'A.V.' Returned to Britain in the autumn of 1906, following the collapse of the project and by January 1907 had embarked on the design of his own first full-size, man-carrying aircraft, the 6hp JAP-powered Roe I canard biplane. Once re-engined with the more manful 25hp Antoinette, this machine, piloted by 'A.V.', made what was arguably the first flight by a British Aircraft on 8 June 1908. Just over a year later 'A.V.' Gained Aero Club Aviator's Certificate No 18, flying his Roe III triplane. During the whole of this period, from 1906 to 1910, 'A.V.' was living in near poverty. In 1910, with help from his family, 'A.V.' Founded 'A.V.' Roe and Company and in July 1911 gave up flying to concentrate on the design work that was to establish him as one of the country's leading aircraft designers, with such machines as his Avro 504. 'A.V.' sold his interest in Avro in 1928 and received his knighthood the following year, during which he bought a controlling interest in what was, thereafter, to be Saunders Roe, of which he remained President until his death on 4 January 1958.
Despite the Admiralty's early initiative to employ their Avro 504s in the bombing role, albeit only carrying four 20lb Hale bombs apiece, the general adoption of the Royal Aircraft Factory BE 2c reconnaissance bomber by both the British services nearly ended the Avro 504 story in its infancy. Happily, someone in high places decided to give the old warhorse a further lease of life as the standard British military trainer. Fitted with a 110hp Le Rhone, the Avro 504K could reach a top level speed of 95mph at sea level and climb to 8.000 feet in 6.5 minutes. Including early 504 production, many of which were converted to 504Ks, around 5,440 examples were built under World War I contracts. After a pause in the immediate post-war years, more were to follow. Avro 504K, serial no E3404, seen here, was the first of a batch of 500 built by the parent company. Many more of the 504Ks built were produced by numerous sub-contractors.
Although not pursued beyond the prototype phase, the 1918 BAT FK 24 Baboon two seat trainer, built to an Air Board requirement, is of interest in terms of its choice of engine, along with aspects of its structure. Its power came from the specified 170hp ABC Wasp I radial, an indication, albeit later shown to be ill-judged, of the faith officialdom placed in the ABC radials. The Baboon's structure was not just robust, it was deliberately designed to use as many interchangeable components as possible, including the ability to switch upper with lower wings, plus being able to swap port and starboard elevators with the rudder. The machine's extra wide wheel track is also notable. Top level speed of the Baboon was 90mph at sea level, while climb to 10.000 feet could be achieved in 12 minutes. Seen here is serial no D 9731, the first of six ordered and the only one believed to have been completed.
During the last weeks of 1913, Frank Barnwell of Bristol's X' Department, drew up his first aircraft design. This machine, initially known as the Baby Biplane, became the Scout when demonstrated to the British Army in February 1914. With relatively minor modifications, this prototype was developed into the Scout B, of which the War Office bought two, followed by the Scout C, the first of the series to entered full scale production in late 1914 for both the RFC and the RNAS. The 110hp Clerget or Le Rhone powered Bristol Scout D, seen here, made its debut in November 1915. Armed with an overwing mounted single .303-inch Lewis gun, the Scout D had a top level speed of 110mph at sea level and entered operational service in February 1916. The RFC and the RNAS each took delivery of 80 Scout Ds.
The image of the F 2B chosen here is of serial no A 7231, captured by FI Abt 210 near Cambrai, during the summer of 1917.
Developed from the company's sole M IA and the four M IBs, the first of which made its maiden flight on 14 July 1916, the Bristol M IC was the only British front-line combat type to use a monoplane configuration during World War I and clearly represented an opportunity lost. Considered by officialdom as having too high a landing speed, at 49mph, for use on the Western Front, the M IC's deployment was confined to partially equipping five Middle East-based RFC squadrons, thus only 125 M ICs were built between September 1917 and February 1918. Armed with a single .303-inch Vickers gun, the M IC, powered by a 110hp Le Rhone, was capable of a top level speed of 130mph at sea level and of operating at up to 20,000 feet. Reputed to have good overall handling characteristics, this appears to be borne out from the fact that M ICs were highly sought after as senior flight officers' hacks.
The two seat Bristol S 2A fighter, a derivative of the Bristol Scout D was unusual in that it had the pilot and gunner placed side-by-side. Built originally to an Admiralty requirement, the first of the two built, serial no 7836 seen here, first flew in May 1916. Using a 110 Clerget, or 100 Gnome Monosoupape, the S 2A had a top level speed of 95mph at sea level. While not pursued as a fighter, both S 2As went on to serve as advanced trainers with the Central Flying School.
The prototype Airco DH I two seater, serial no 4220, seen here at Hendon and still without any form of markings was first flown in late January 1915. While this machine used a 70hp Renault, the subsequent 49 DH Is, used as trainers, were fitted with an 80hp Renault. When later hard pressed to counter the Fokker Eindekker threat, the RFC asked Airco to look at converting their DH I into a reconnaissance fighter by using a 120hp Beardmore and adding a flexibly mounted .303-inch Lewis gun for the observer in the nose. Known as the Airco DH Ia, the uprated type was flight tested by Martlesham Heath against the Royal Aircraft Factory FE 2b, which it simply outflew. Regrettably, for the DH Ia, the FE 2b was already in large-scale production and, thus, only 50 machines were to be built, most of which went to training units.
The gun-equipped DH Ia shown here carried the serial no 4607 and was the second of six to see service from June 1916 with No 14 Squadron, RFC, based in Palestine.
The two seater Airco DH 4, first flown in mid-August 1916, was to prove one of the finest fast light bombers of World War I. Using a variety of engines, whose outputs ranged from 190hp to 375hp, the typical late production DH 4, of which A 7995 seen here is an example, used a 250hp Rolls-Royce Eagle III, giving it a top level speed of 119mph at 6,500 feet, along with a ceiling of 16.000 feet. The first unit to deploy the DH 4 operationally was No 55 Squadron, RFC, on 6 March 1917. Typically, the DH 4's warload was four 112lb bombs, but two 230lb weapons could be carried. Used by both the RFC and the RNAS, armaments varied, with RFC machines carrying the standard two-seater fit of a single Vickers and a single Lewis gun, while in the RNAS DH 4s the armament was doubled at some cost in performance. One major shortfall with the DH 4 was the lack of communications between pilot and observer, solved in the near identical DH 9 airframe by bringing them closer. In all, Airco and five sub-contractors were to build 1.538 DH 4s, a figure dwarfed by US production.
The men and machines of the 11th Aero Squadron, operational from 5 September 1918. The DH 4s carry the unit emblem on their noses. This consisted of a comic strip character called 'Jigs', who is toting a bomb under his right arm.
One of the beneficiaries of the American decision to build existing types, while 'home grown' products were being developed was the Airco DH 4, of which 4.846 were built in the US, primarily by Dayton-Wright. In October 1918 one of these machines became the DH 4B after its conversion to mimic the closer crew positions of the Airco DH 9. Using a 416hp Liberty 12A, the DH 4B had a top level speed of 124mph at sea level. By the time the conversion programme came to an end in 1923, another 1.537 DH 4s had become DH 4Bs.
The de Havilland designed single-seater Airco DH 5, characterised by its novel back-staggered wing arrangement chosen to improve pilot visibility, was to prove a disappointment. Completed during the autumn of 1916, the DH 5 was found to lack performance above 10.000 feet, as well as being tricky to land. These problems, coupled to severe delivery delays with the DH 5's 110hp Le Rhone 9J, saw the type's role being relegated from fighter to ground attack and production being limited to 550 aircraft. Initially delivered to No 24 Squadron, RFC, in May 1917, the DH 5's top level speed was 102mph at 10.000 feet, decreasing to 89mph at 15.000 feet. Armament was a single .303-inch Vickers - somewhat puny for trench strafing - while the machine's overall performance compared poorly to that of the Sopwith Pup already in service. The DH 5 seen here belonged to No 68 Squadron, RFC, based at Baizieux.
Designed from the outset as a primary trainer, the Airco DH 6 emerged early in 1917. Designed to be both easy to fly and repair, the early DH 6s were powered by a 90hp RAF IA, but shortages of this engine led to the adoption of either the 80hp Renault or 90hp Curtiss OX-5. Top level speed of the DH 6 fitted with an RAF IA, as seen here fitted to Serial no B2612, was 70mph, while the initial climb was a meagre 225 feet per minute. By late 1917, the DH 6 had been dropped in favour of the Avro 504K as the RFC's standard trainer, enabling more than 300 of the total 2.303 DH 6 and DH 6a production to be switched to the RNAS for anti-submarine coastal patrol work, carrying a 100lb bombload.
Resplendent in his RFC Captain's uniform Geoffrey de Havilland is seen here beside the Airco DH 9 that he had designed. Born the son of a clergyman in 1882, Sir Geoffrey, as he was to become, entered the automotive industry for a few short years before contracting the 'aviation bug' in 1908. Armed with ?1,000 advanced by his father and with the help of his friend, Frank Herle, de Havilland built a canard biplane with a 45hp Iris engine built to his design. With this machine, de Havilland managed to make one short hop before it was 'written-off' in December 1908. In 1910, de Havilland produced his second design, which while offering little novelty, had the great attribute of actually flying, its first flight taking place on 10 September 1910. It was with this machine that the young designer/pilot taught himself to fly. Already married, Geoffrey de Havilland was no doubt pleased when his work came to the attention of the War Office, who bought his second biplane for ?400 and took him on as an aeroplane designer and test pilot at Farnborough's Royal Balloon Factory. Here, working in harness with the Factory's design engineer, Frederick Green, De Havilland transformed a number of dubious flying machines into useful aircraft, starting with the FE 2 and culminating in the spectacularly advanced BS I, later rebuilt as the SE 2A. Growing unhappy at the now renamed Royal Aircraft Factory, de Havilland resigned in June 1914 to join Thomas Holt's Airco as their Chief Designer, where, with the exception of a short break to join the RFC later that year, he was to stay until 1920 and the dissolution of the company. During this time, he not only designed the DH 1 through DH 18, he also took them up for their first flights. On 25 September 1920, he and colleagues were to found the de Havilland Aircraft Company. Producers of many famous aircraft, including the ubiquitous Mosquito of World War II and the post-war Comet jetliner, this company was to emblazon the skies with the de Havilland name. Sir Geoffrey, who had lost two of his three sons in flying accidents, died in 1965.
Officialdom's interference has often been cited as one of the main obstacles to aircraft development and certainly this was the case with Britain's Airco DH 9. This successor to the very successful day bomber DH 4, first deployed in March 1917, should have been a simple re-design of the fuselage centre section to place the pilot further back and far closer to the observer. Instead of this straightforward improvement, the War Office, in its wisdom, also chose to fit a totally new and untried engine to the DH 9. The ongoing troubles with this engine ensured that the later machine was generally inferior to its predecessor in virtually all operational aspects except crew communications.
A Standard Type De H.9 (240 h.p. B.H.P. engine) / In what appears to have been a classic example of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory the prototype Airco DH 9 had been converted from a production DH4. This aircraft, first flown in August 1917, embodied a revised nose to take the new and still largely untested Siddeley Puma, along with the pilot's cockpit moved aft, far closer to the observer so as to improve crew communications, albeit at the expense of the pilot's forward visibility. Even with these changes, quite a lot of commonality existed between the DH 9 and its precursor, which should have led to a minimum of production problems in switching between the two machines. This was not to be the case, with deliveries of the DH 9 only getting underway in January 1918, thanks in large part to the Puma engine that required de-rating from an originally envisaged 300hp to 230hp. To make matters worse, the loss of engine power affected performance to a serious degree, ensuring that the DH 9's capability was actually inferior to that of the DH 4. Despite this state of affairs, no less than 3.890 DH 9s were produced out of the 5.584 originally ordered, before production switched to the re-engined DH 9a. To some degree, the decision to press ahead with production of such a disappointing machine could be explained by the pressure to expand the number of British bomber squadrons. The DH 9's full bomb load was 460lb and its top level speed was 109.5mph at 10.000 feet. The machines ceiling was 15.500 feet, while its armament was the single Vickers gun for the pilot, plus the one or two flexibly-mounted Lewis guns for the observer.
Another example of an opportunity frittered away, the Airco DH 10 Amiens could well have played a useful role on the Allies' behalf, had not nearly eighteen months been lost to policy vacillation. A simple development of the Airco DH 3 of early 1916, the first of four prototype Airco DH 10 Amiens made its maiden flight on 4 March 1918 and proved underpowered on the output of its two 230hp Siddeley Pumas mounted as pushers. The second prototype, serial no C 8659 seen here, used twin, tractor-mounted 375hp Rolls-Royce Eagle VIIIs, while the third prototype had two 400hp Liberty 12s, again tractor-mounted. It was this machine that served as the standard for subsequent production Amiens. Essentially too late to play any real part in the air war, this three man bomber, with its top level speed of 117.5mph at 6,500 feet and maximum 1,380lb bomb load was just entering large-scale production at the time of the Armistice. Of the 1,295 DH 10 and DH 10a Amiens ordered, only eight were in the RAF's hands, of which two examples had been delivered to No 104 Squadron, RAF, at Azelot at war end. However, some of the 268 DH 10s built did enter post-war service with Nos 60. 97, 120 and 216 Squadrons, RAF.
While the designers and engineers at Handley Page must be given credit for building the finished product, the true creator of Britain's first long range, heavy bomber, the Handley Page 0/100 was Murray F. Sueter, who, as Director of the Admiralty's Air Department in late 1914, went to their Lordships with a request to develop a 'bloody paralyser' of an aeroplane initially envisaged as being capable of long range, over-water patrolling. This demand formally emerged from the Admiralty Air Department on 28 December 1914 and was taken up by Handley Page, who first flew their prototype 0/100 just under a year later, on 17 December 1915. Incidentally, this flight was made by Lt Cmdr J.T. Babington, RNAS, the Navy's on-site man responsible for nursing the 0/100 from its birth to its initial operational deployment in October 1916, with Babington then commanding the 'Handley Page' Squadron, attached to the RNAS's 3rd Wing, based near Nancy in eastern France. Unfortunately for the RNAS, initial deliveries were slow, coupled to which early 0/100 operations, commencing in November 1916, were off-shore patrols, usually carried out by single aircraft in daylight. However, all 0/100 missions were switched to night flights after one had been lost to enemy action over the North Sea, on the 25 April 1917. Indeed, the continuing use of 0/100s in ones and twos to raid German submarine and Gotha bases along the Belgium coast characterised operations during the first half of 1916 and its was not until mid-August 1917 that 0/100s began to be dispatched in two-digit strength. Capable of lifting a bomb load of up to 1.792lb, 40 of the 46 four man 0/100s built were powered by twin 250hp Rolls-Royce Eagle IIs, giving a top level speed of 76mph at sea level, while the last six machines used the 320hp Sunbeam Cossack that pushed the top level speed up to 84.5mph at sea level. The image shows 0/100, serial no 3116, of the RNAS's 5th Wing based at Coudekerque, taken on 4 March 1917 and accompanied here by a Sopwith Triplane and a Nieuport 24bis.
Any American career the Handley Page 0/400 may have made for itself was to be overtaken by the Armistice, with only a handful of the 1,500 US machines ordered having been completed. Modified to take twin 400hp Liberty 12 Ns, these American 0/400s were built by the Standard Aircraft Corporation of Elizabeth, New Jersey. The Standard-built, Liberty-powered 0/400 seen here at Kelly Field, Texas, is flanked by a Thomas-Morse S-4 on the left and a Curtiss JN on the right.
The Handley Page 0/400 was a direct development of the 0/100 employing twin 360hp Rolls Royce Eagle VIIIs or 400hp Liberty 12s for the planned US aircraft, the former engines giving the four-man bomber a top level speed of 97mph. The converted 0/100 that served as the prototype for the 0/400 was first flown in September 1917, but initial deliveries of the planned 400 aircraft did not start until March 1918, the first going to No 16 Squadron, RNAS, just prior to their becoming No 216 Squadron, RAF, on 1 April 1918. The image of a 'folded' 0/400 seen here has been chosen specifically to emphasise some of the problems imposed on aircraft designers by the occasional need to hangar such large machines in something not much better than a king-sized tent.
The giant Handley Page V/1500, successor to the the company's 0/100 and 0/400 bomber series, was another of those machines that arrived too late to effect the course of the air war. Initially, the V/1500 had been designed around two 600hp Rolls-Royce Condors, but development delays with this engine saw its substitution by four 375hp Eagle VIIIs. First flown on 22 May 1918, by Capt V.E.G. Busby from RAF Martlesham Heath, the original tail unit seen here in the ground view of prototype, serial no B 9463, proved unsatisfactory, being replaced by one with a much higher gap that raised the upper tailplane considerably. Capable of carrying a maximum bomb load of 7.500lb over short ranges, or 1,200lb to Berlin from its Norfolk base, the four man V/1500 had a top level speed of 97mph at 8.750 feet, along with an economic cruising speed of 90.5mph at 6,000 feet. At the time of the Armistice only three of the 255 V/1500s on order had been delivered to No 166 Squadron, RAF, at their Bircham Newton airfield, the rest being cancelled.
First flown in May 1918, the giant Handley Page V/1500, along with the Bristol Braemar and Tarrant Tabor, had all been designed to carry a 1,000lb or more bomb load to Berlin from their No 27 Group, RAF, bomber bases in eastern England. Over a much shorter range, the V/1500 could carry a maximum bomb load of 7,500lb. The two machines seen here belong to No 166 Squadron, RAF, based at Bircham Newton, Norfolk. Deliveries of these aircraft had commenced in September 1918, only three having arrived at the time of the Armistice.
Clearly influenced by the success of the Sopwith Tabloid and Bristol Scout, the Martinsyde S I prototype unarmed single-seat scout emerged during the late summer of 1914. Initially, the S I had a clumsy-looking four wheel landing gear, happily replaced by the time this machine, serial no 4241, was photographed. With an 80hp Gnome rotary, the S I's top level speed was 87mph at sea level and its performance was generally considered inferior to both of its illustrious forebears. Only 61 S Is were built, with deliveries to the RFC lasting for about a year between late 1914 and October 1915. Never to equip a complete squadron, S Is were used by five French-based RFC squadrons, plus another RFC squadron in Mesopotamia.
First flown in September 1915, the prototype Martinsyde G 100, serial no 4735, was a single-seat, long range fighter using a 120hp Beardmore with fuselage flanking radiators. This machine was followed by 100 production G 100s, whose engines had a much cleaner nose-mounted radiator. The G 100's effective armament was a single, overwing .303-inch Lewis gun, although a second, rearward-firing Lewis gun was fitted, presumably more in hope than expectation. Deliveries of these G 100s started early in 1916, with many going in twos and threes to serve as the escort sections of four RFC bomber squadrons in France and six in the Middle East. Indeed, only one unit, No 27 Squadron, RFC, was to be exclusively equipped with the type. With a top level speed of 97mph at sea level and lacking agility and pilot visibility, the G 100 was soon switched to bombing duties, thanks to its 5.5 hour endurance and ability to carry a 230lb bomb load. Around another 200 of the 160hp Beardmore powered single seat G 102 reconnaissance bombers were subsequently produced.
Another story of an extremely useful fighter denied the Allies was that of the Martinsyde F 4 Buzzard, itself the last and by far most successful of a line of fighter designs that started with the two seat F I of early 1917. Counted among the fastest aircraft extant, the F 4 was powered by a 300hp Hispano-Suiza 8 Fb that endowed it with a top level speed of 140mph at sea level, decreasing to 132mph at 15.000 feet. Furthermore, the F 4's ability to reach 10,000 feet in 7 minutes 55 seconds represented a marked improvement over that of the Sopwith Snipe. The F 4's armament fit consisted of two synchronised .303-inch Vickers guns. First flown in early 1918, the F 4 was ordered into quantity production, but hold-ups with engine deliveries meant that only 48 F 4s had been handed over out of the 1,450 British orders at the time of the Armistice. Interestingly, in a reversal of the historic practice, this British fighter had been chosen for use by the French, as it was by the Americans, but orders from these nations were cancelled at war end. Seen here is F 4, serial no D4263.
The armament installation on the Martinsyde F.4 Buzzard was perhaps the most advanced of any 1914-18 fighter. This view shows brackets for an Aldis sight and should be studied jointly with others under the heading 'Aircraft Disposal Company'. A panel covers the ejection chute.
The armament installation on the Martinsyde F.4 Buzzard was perhaps the most advanced of any 1914-18 fighter. This view shows brackets for an Aldis sight and should be studied jointly with others under the heading 'Aircraft Disposal Company'. A panel covers the ejection chute.
Designed as a side-by-side, two seat flying boat trainer, 179 examples of the Norman Thompson NT 2B are known to have been built of the 284 ordered. Derived from the sole NT 2A tandem seat flying boat fighter, the NT 2Bs used either the 150hp or 200hp Hispano-Suiza, or the derivative Sunbeam Arab. Deliveries of the NT 2B commenced in December 1917, the type being flown in large numbers from Calshot and Lee-on-Sea on the south coast, while more were based at Felixstow on the east coast. Top level speed of the NT 2B was typically 85mph at 2.000 feet, while its ceiling was 11.400 feet. Serial no N2560 seen here was from the last production batch of 25 aircraft to be completed. Note the enclosed cockpit.
Lt Harvey-Kelley, seen puffing his cigarette as he studies the map beside his Royal Aircraft Factory BE 2a, serial no 347. Harvey-Kelley and his machine were the first of Britain's aviation expeditionary forces to land in France during the second week of the war. The BE 2a's 70hp Renault gave the two-seater reconnaissance type a top level speed of 70mph at sea level. The ceiling of the early BE 2s was around 10,000 feet, along with an endurance of about 3 hours.
This Royal Aircraft Factory BE 2c, serial no 9951, is one of a known 111-aircraft batch built by Blackburn. This variant made its operational debut in April 1915 and was a marked improvement over the earlier BE 2s, using ailerons, rather than wing warping. Fitted with a 90hp Royal Aircraft Factory-developed RAF Ia engine, the two-seat BE 2c had a top level speed of 72mph at 6,500 feet, dropping to 69mph at 10.000 feet. Besides its primary reconnaissance role, the BE 2 served as a bomber, an anti-submarine patroller and a trainer. Deliveries of the BE 2c to the RFC accounted for 1,117 machines, plus a further 307 operated by the RNAS, of which the aircraft seen here was one.
Added protection for this Royal Aircraft Factory FE 2d came in the form of a second, pedestal-mounted .303-inch Lewis gun just ahead of the pilot. Operated by the front-seated observer, this flexibly trained weapon provided him with an upwards and rearwards arc of fire. Also noteworthy in this image is the long focal depth reconnaissance camera that the observer is pretending to sight.
First flown on 8 November 1915, the Royal Aircraft Factory FE 8 was a pusher-engined, single seat fighter that was already obsolescent when the first deliveries were made to No 29 Squadron, RFC, in mid-June 1916. Powered by a 110hp Le Rhone or Clerget rotary, giving the machine a top level speed of 97mph at sea level, its armament comprised a single .303-inch Lewis gun. 297 FE 8s are known to have been built. The FE 8, serial no 7624, seen here being inspected by its German captors, was photographed near Provin on 9 November 1916.
The Royal Aircraft Factory RE 8 was selected for mass production before the prototype's first flight in the spring of 1916. Powered by a 150hp RAF 4a, this two-seat reconnaissance bomber was not a very impressive performer with a top level speed of 103mph at 5.000 feet, falling off to 96.5mph at 10,000 feet. Its bomb load was 260lb. To compound the problems, the early RE 8s were prone to 'spin-in' if mishandled and even when this problem was remedied by adding ventral fin area, the 'Harry Tate', as it was nicknamed, proved sadly lacking in agility, making it relatively easy prey for its German opponents. Its first operational deployment was with No 52 Squadron, RFC, in November 1916. The RE 8's armament consisted of a fixed 303-inch Vickers for the pilot, plus one or two flexibly mounted .303-inch Lewis guns for the observer. Some later machines used the 150 hp Hispano-Suiza, being referred to as the RE 8a. A total of 4,077 RE 8s were to be built, all but 22 Belgian-operated aircraft going to the RFC. This is a standard production RE 8.
The Royal Aircraft Factory SE 5, powered by a 150hp direct drive Hispano-Suiza, initially took to the skies on 22 November 1916. Carrying a two-gun armament of one fixed, nose mounted, synchronised .303-inch Vickers, plus a .303-inch Lewis mounted above the wing that could be locked to fire ahead of the aircraft, or freed to swing through a limited arc of elevation, enabling the pilot to rake an enemy's underside. Virtually viceless in terms of pilot handling problems and capable of 122mph at 3.000 feet, decreasing to 116mph at 10,000 feet. The operational ceiling of the SE 5 was 17.000 feet, while the single seater could reach 10,000 feet in 13 minutes 40 seconds. Most of the 59 SE 5s built went to No 56 Squadron, RFC, commencing in March 1917, prior to their appearance on the Western Front the following month. These interim SE 5s were soon to be replaced by the more powerful SE 5a, arguably the finest of Britain's World War I fighters. This rearward aspect on SE 5, A8913 helps emphasise the use of broad chord ailerons on both upper and lower wings - a feature that improved the aircraft's 'rollability'
Without question the SE 5a was the finest design to come from the Royal Aircraft Factory during its entire existence. The creation of Henry Folland's fertile mind, the SE 5 series of single seat fighters were both heavier and faster than the Sopwith Camel, which they also preceded into operational service. Despite the long standing claim that the Camel downed more enemy aircraft than its rival, which machine was the best will remain a matter of controversy similar to the Hurricane, versus Spitfire question of the next World War. Certainly, while advocates of the SE 5 have to bow to the Camel's quantative 'kill' superiority, they can point to the generally more pilot friendly handling of the SE 5 and speculate about the Camel's 'kill rate' and on which side of the balance sheet to include all of its own pilots that the unforgiving Camel killed.
James Thomas Byford McCudden is seen here seated in the cockpit of his Royal Aircraft Factory SE 5a, McCudden, born on 25 March 1895 in Gillingham, Kent, came up through the enlisted ranks to became Britain's most highly decorated airman of World War I. Entering the British Army's Royal Engineers as a boy bugler in 1910, McCudden was to die a major six years later. As with a number of other fighter aces from both sides of the line, McCudden's flying career started as an observer and graduated into piloting two seat Royal Aircraft Factory FE 2d reconnaissance machines with No 20 Squadron, RFC in July 1916 for a few days, prior to joining the single seat Airco DH 2-equipped No 29 Squadron, RFC, on 1 August 1916. Before the month was through, McCudden, a cool, analytical pilot, had opened his tally of downed enemy aircraft by dispatching a two-seat Hannover CL III. Indeed, McCudden, like Manfred von Richthofen and many other aces, tended to specialise in stalking two seaters, 'killing' no less than 45 of these machines out of his confirmed overall score of 57. Commissioned on 1 January 1917, McCudden was invited to join the hand-picked Royal Aircraft Factory SE 5a-equipped No 56 Squadron, RFC, joining the unit as a Captain and Flight Commander on 15 August 1917. By the end of 1917, McCudden had taken his victory score to 37, adding a further 20 between 1 January 1918 and 16 February 1918, when he was posted home. On 6 April 1918, McCudden, already the proud holder of the Distinguished Service Order and bar, the Military Cross and bar, along with the Military Medal, was awarded Britain's highest military recognition for valour, the Victoria Cross. On 9 July 1918, the newly promoted Major James McCudden, Commanding Officer designate of No 60 Squadron, RFC, suffered an engine failure on take off for France, spinning in to his death while attempting to return to the airfield.
A future fighter ace in the making. This image of the nineteen-year-old Second Lieutenant Albert Ball shows him standing in front of a Caudron G III of the Ruffy-Baumann School of Flying at Hendon during the summer of 1915. As was the British Army practice of the day, any officer wishing to transfer to the RFC had to pay for his own initial flying training, only being reimbursed once he had gained his Aero Club Aviator's Certificate. Born in August 1896, Albert Ball was barely eighteen when commissioned into the Sherwood Forresters during October 1914. Determined to fly, Ball gained his Aviator's Certificate on 15 October 1915. Further flying training with the RFC brought Ball his military wings in January 1916. Ball joined his first operational unit, No 13 Squadron, RFC, at Vert Galand, France, flying the BE 2c, in February 1916. Three months later, in May 1916, Ball joined No 11 Squadron, RFC, a single-seater unit at Savy, flying Nieuport 16s and Bristol Scouts. Between then and October 1916, when Ball was sent home to instruct he had been promoted to Lieutenant and credited with a confirmed 31 'kills' in April 1917, Ball, now a Captain and 'A' Flight Commander of the newly formed, crack No 56 Squadron, RFC, flying SE 5s, returned to the Western Front. In the less than two week period between 23 April 1917 and 6 May 1917, Ball was to down a further 13 of the enemy, to bring his total confirmed score to 44. On the following evening of 7 May 1917, Ball's SE 5a was seen to break out of cloud base in an inverted spin and crash. Although Ball had been in combat with machines of Jasta II, his death has been attributed to vertigo, or being knocked unconscious by a loose Lewis gun ammunition drum - the former being less likely than the latter which was a known hazard to Nieuport and SE 5 pilots. Ball, already the holder of a Military Cross, Distinguished Service Order and Bar, was posthumously awarded Britain's highest military award for gallantry, the Victoria Cross.
Though sometimes called a 'Sopwith Gordon Bennett' this particular Tabloid variant was acquired by the Admiralty and was distinguished not only by a 'racing' landing gear and liberally ventilated cowling, but by a Lewis gun fixed on the starboard side and firing ahead by virtue of a deflector propeller / A revealing aspect on an experimental Lewis gun mounting on this late production Sopwith Tabloid scout. Note the armoured propeller cuffs approximately half way out along each blade, used to deflect any impacting round of ammunition.
The Sopwith Three Seater of 1913 was an impressive performer, with the power of its 80hp Gnome setting a number of British altitude records in June and July 1913, in the hands of the by then Sopwith Chief Test Pilot, 'Harry' Hawker. Of these the highest reached was 12,900 feet with one passenger. The Three Seater could carry a 450lb payload at 70mph. At least seven of these machines were known to have been operated by the naval wing of the RFC.
An early Sopwith Baby, or Schneider, fitted with a 100hp Gnome Monosoupape. The RNAS bought their first Babys shortly after the start of hostilities, using them as unarmed scouts. However, from early 1915 onwards these little seaplanes were fitted with a swivellable-in-elevation-only, over-wing-mounted .303-inch Lewis gun and employed as armed shipboard scouts or for the local defence of seaplane bases. A little too fragile to operate in much of the weather experienced around Britain and the North Sea during winter, the Baby came into its own when operated in the Balkans and Middle East. Production of the type commenced in November 1914, with 296 being built.
The French, who until now had been a prime supplier of aircraft to both the RFC and RNAS, saw the RFC using the Sopwith 1 1/2 Strutter as two-seat fighters to good effect during the July 1916 Battle of the Somme and were impressed enough to promptly negotiate a licence to build the aircraft and put it into large scale production. Indeed, of the total 5.720 examples built. 4,200 were French-produced. As it was, the French chose to produce the 1 1/2 Strutter in both single-seat bomber and two-seat reconnaissance form, but ran into delivery problems, as a result of which the mass of French aircraft were not delivered until the summer of 1918, by which time they were obsolescent, if not obsolete. As a two seater, the machine was usually powered by a 110hp Clerget that gave a top level speed of 106mph at sea level, along with a ceiling of 15,000 feet. In comparision, the single-seat bombers, with their various 110hp or 130hp rotaries could carry a bomb load of up to 224lb and had a top level speed of 102mph at 6.560 feet. Of the French machines, 514 were purchased by the American Expeditionary Force, while the type also served in small numbers with the air arms of Belgium, Latvia, Romania and Russia. Note the distinctive camouflage scheme applied to this French-built and operated example.
The image seen here is of serial no N5504, one of the single-seat bomber version of the 1 1/2 Strutter, with bomb doors closed and showing clear-view top-wing panels. The Vickers gun is present, and was indeed standard.
This is 4th of a 50 aircraft Sopwith-built batch for the RNAS. This aeroplane survived the War and was converted for private sporting use as G-EAVB.
This is 4th of a 50 aircraft Sopwith-built batch for the RNAS. This aeroplane survived the War and was converted for private sporting use as G-EAVB.
Essentially an Admiralty sponsored design, carrying their Type 9700 designation, the Sopwith 1 1/2 Strutter. Suffice to say here that the type was also operated by by the RFC. Serial no A 6901, seen here, was the first of a 100 aircraft batch produced by Hooper & Co Ltd of Chelsea for the RFC and is particularly interesting in being one of the only four single-seat home defence fighter variants built.
This image of a Sopwith 1 1/2 Strutter being flown from a makeshift turret-top platform epitomises the initiative and invention so often displayed by the Royal Navy and its Air Service during World War I. The Royal Naval Air Service's innate sense of 'daring do' is exemplified in many ways, ranging from tackling Zeppelins in their lairs to developing Britain's first heavy bombers, and provides quite a contrast with the much more restricted thinking of those charged with shaping the development of the Royal Flying Corps.
Today there are few that remember that the Sopwith 1 1/2 Strutter started its life as the Sopwith Type 9700 designed to meet an RNAS need for a two-seat reconnaissance fighter. With an Admiralty order for 150 aircraft in hand, Sopwiths completed the first example in mid-December 1915 and wasted little time in delivering initial production machines to operational RNAS units early in the new year of 1916. Powered by various 110hp to 130hp rotaries, the 1 1/2 Strutter had a top level speed of 106mph at sea level, decreasing to 102mph at 6,500 feet. For armament, the machine used a fixed, forward-firing Vickers, plus a flexibly-mounted Lewis for the observer. Of the S50 aircraft delivered to the RNAS, around 130 were of the single-seat bomber variety, which could carry up to 300lb of weapons in the shape of twelve 25lb bombs, while the two seaters lifted 224lb, or four 56lb bombs. The type's performance was such as to lead to orders not just from the RFC, but from several other nations and the machine's broader programme history is dealt with earlier in the chapter on French aircraft. The image is of an RNAS 1 1/2 Strutter departing from atop one of a capital warship's main turrets. This kind of operation was to become relatively routine from April 1918 onwards.
First flown in March 1917, the Sopwith IF Camel, like that of its precursor, the Pup, was the joint brainchild of Sopwith's pilot Harry Hawker and engineer Fred Sigrist. Unlike the Pup, however, the Camel never basked in its pilot's unmitigated delight at its handling, indeed, the Camel's capricious in-flight behaviour left not just much to be desired, but many young, inexperienced Camel pilots dead. The Camel's problems, which could also be used to effect by experienced fliers, stemmed from the fact that much of its mass, comprising engine, twin .303-inch Vickers guns, pilot and fuel, all lay within the first 7 feet of its overall 18.75 feet fuselage length, This, combined with the high torque reaction involved with its 130hp Clerget 9B rotary and, in particular, the short rudder moment arm, ensured that the machine turned to starboard, or the right, with breathtaking rapidity, while causing the nose to drop. If this tight turn was not rapidly corrected with rudder, the aircraft would readily enter a spin from which it was difficult to escape at low altitude. In the case of a turn to port, or to the left, the rate of turn was far less ferocious, while this time the nose rose. So long as he survived the initial familiarisation phase of Camel flying, the pilot could then use these characteristics to effect, by using its 'instant' starboard turning capability to out-turn his enemy and, thus, rapidly position himself behind his foe. Operational deployment of the Camel came in July 1917, with deliveries of the machine going to both RFC and RNAS squadrons. The IF Camel's top level speed of 115mph at 6,500 feet fell off to 106.5mph at 15,000 feet, while the single seater reached 10.000 feet in 10 minutes, 35 seconds while on its way to its 17.300 feet ceiling. Besides the standard Clerget, other rotaries were fitted to various IF batches, ranging from 110hp Le Rhones to the 150hp Bentley BR I. The image is the Sopwith IF Camel of No 139 Squadron, RFC's leader, the then Capt W.G. Barker, whose mount carried seven, rather than the unit's normal four fuselage white stripes aft of the roundel.
Elliott White Springs, son of a reasonably wealthy mill owner, was born in South Carolina on 31 July 1896. It was while White Springs was at Princeton University that America entered the war in April 1917. Filled with the patriotic zeal of youth, along with an initial introduction to aviation provided by Princeton, White Springs gained a commission in the US Army and set sail for Britain and six months of flying training in September 1917. During his training, White Springs was fortunate enough to benefit from the tutelage of Canadian fighter ace 'Billy' Bishop. Clearly, White Springs, himself must have been an excellent pupil, for, later, when Bishop, as leader of the RAF's crack No 85 Squadron, was busy readying the unit for operations with their Royal Aircraft Factory SE 5a, he invited White Springs to join him. On 22 May 1918, No 85 Squadron crossed the English Channel and ten days later White Springs got his first confirmed 'kill' in the shape of a Pfalz D III. By 27 June 1918, the youthful American's score had risen to 4, at which time he was shot down and slightly wounded himself.. In July he was transferred, as a flight commander, to the all-American, Sopwith Camel-equipped 148th Aero Squadron attached to the British 65 Wing. Here, with the 148th Aero, between 3 August 1918 and 5 September 1918, White Springs was to add a further eight victories to his tally, bringing his final wartime total to 12. In October 1918 White Springs was promoted to Captain and given command of the 148th, now re-assigned to the US 4th Pursuit Group. Not happy with life back in the US after the war, White Springs returned to Paris, where he wrote a best seller 'War Birds', based on his experiences. Later and now more settled, White Springs returned to the US, taking the family business to new heights. Elliott White Springs, seen here standing beside his British marked Sopwith Camel, died on 15 October 1959.
A revealing view depicting the intricacies of stowing and unstowing a Sopwith Pup aboard the Royal Navy seaplane carrier, HMS Manxmen. Remembering that the Pup was among the smallest of naval aircraft, it is understandable that larger machines, such as the Short and Fairey floatplanes that followed, necessarily required wing folding. Incidentally, the Pup seen here, N6454, was one of a 30-aircraft batch built by the Scottish-based William Beardmore.
The story of one of Britain's finest fighters is one of nothing less than a glorious opportunity carelessly thrown away. The first of the Admiralty-funded Sopwith Triplane single-seat fighters, serial no N500, was completed on 28 May 1916, with Harry Hawker giving it its first air test that day. Such was the Australian's confidence in the machine that he is reported to have looped the aircraft within three minutes of its first lift-off. By mid-June 1916 the machine was in northern France, being put through its operational evaluation by RNAS pilots, who all were particularly impressed by its phenomenal rate of climb. The tone of the ensuing report was extremely complimentary to the point that, as in the case of the preceding Pup, the Triplane was ordered into large scale production for both the RNAS and RFC. All of these events, it should be noted occurred before the end of summer 1916. Then, on 30 September 1916, in a letter to the War Office, Sir Douglas Haig warned that British air superiority over the Somme was in serious jeopardy thanks to the emergence of the new German fighters. Haig followed this first letter within a matter of weeks by asking for an extra twenty fighter squadrons. This should have given even more impetus to the gathering Triplane programme, but for reasons far more to do with the convoluted political machinations of Whitehall than the rational allocation of resources, the earlier large RFC order for the demonstrably useful Triplane appears to evaporate, while even the RNAS allocation becomes limited to 150 aircraft. Further, all this prevarication held Sopwiths back in terms of delivering production machines, these failing to appear much before year-end 1916. Certainly, it would seem that during this period, the Germans gained considerable help from Whitehall! The vast majority of Triplanes were powered by the 130hp Clerget, giving the machine a top level speed of 117mph at 5,000 feet, decreasing to 105mph at 15,000 feet. The Triplane's ceiling was 20,000 feet, while it took 6 minutes 20 seconds to reach 6,500 feet and 10 minutes 35 seconds to achieve 15,000 feet. The standard Triplane armament consisted of a single, synchronised .303-inch Vickers gun.
A development of the earlier IF Camel, the Sopwith 2F Camel was evolved specifically for naval use, being characterised by its shorter wingspan and detachable rear fuselage to facilitate shipboard storage. Powered by either a 150hp Bentley BR I, the standard engine, or a 130hp Clerget 9B, the first 2F Camel was completed and flying by March 1917, however, it then took around six months before production deliveries began to flow to the service users. Developed specifically as a Zeppelin killer, the 2F Camel had a top level speed of 122mph at 10.000 feet, decreasing to 117mph at 15.000 feet. Its time to climb to 10.000 feet was 11 minutes 30 seconds, increasing to 25 minutes to reach 15.000 feet, while its ceiling was 17.300 feet. The machine's armament consisted of a nose-mounted Vickers, along with an overwing Lewis gun, while two 50lb bombs could be slung below the centre section. The 2F Camel was deployed in depth around the North Sea and on both sides of the English Channel; they were carried about and launched from atop battleship and battle cruiser main turrets, they were put aboard the Royal Navy's first aircraft carriers, while more venturesome minds, such as that of Charles Rumney Samson, conceived the idea of launching them from lighters, towed at high speed by destroyers. That they achieved the task set them is attested to by the fact that they accounted for three Zeppelins, L 54 and L 60 being destroyed at their Trondern base by seven 2F Camel bombers, launched from HMS Furious on 17 July 1918, while less than a month later, L 53 was brought down by Lt S.D. Culley, RN, from a towed lighter launch on 11 August 1918. Perhaps the most surprising thing about the 2F Camel saga was the fact that there were relatively so few of them produced, with Sopwith building 50, backed by Beardmore, who assembled a further 100 machines. The image shows a frontal aspect on the prototype 2F Camel, serial no N5.
The picture is of serial no N6797 on its launching platform atop 'X' turret of the battle cruiser, HMS Tiger.
Built at their Barrow-in-Furness facility, the Vickers R 23 was the first quasi-operational British airship and the lead machine of four, then two improved class of dirigibles. Powered by four 250hp Rolls-Royce Eagles, the 17 man crew R 23 had a top level speed of 52mph and cruised at 40mph. Short on bouyancy, the R 23's ceiling was an alarmingly low 3,000 feet, whilst its maximum bomb load of 400lb was around a ninth that of its near contemporary, the Imperial German Navy's 'u' class, L 48. First flown in September 1917, the R23 was delivered to the RNAS Airship Station at Pulham in Norfolk on the 15th of that month. Subsequently mainly employed on training duties, the R 23 was adopted as a mother ship for two Sopwith Camels during the summer of 1918. The other airships in this class consisted of the Beardmore-built R 24, Armstrong Whitworth's R 25 and the Vickers-built R 26. The two R23X or Improved R 23 Class airships were Beardmore's R 27 and Armstrong Whitworth's R 29. The image shows R 23 being 'walked' at Pulham.
The sole example of the single seat Sopwith Type B I Bomber, serial no B 1496, photographed in January 1918, while still at the manufacturers. Similar to the company's Cuckoo, but with two, rather than three bay interstrutted wings and a lighter looking landing gear, the B I was evaluated by the RNAS early in 1918. Subsequently being put into service with the Airco DH 4-equipped No S Wing, RNAS, based just outside Dunkirk, the B I was powered by a 200hp Hispano-Suiza, giving it a top speed of 118.5mph at 10,000 feet. The time to reach this altitude with a 560lb bomb load was cited as being 15 minutes 30 seconds.
The sole Sopwith Bee of 1917 was a diminutive single seater, largely attributed to Harry Hawker. Powered by a 50hp Gnome, the small overall 16 feet 3 inch wingspan, coupled to its 14 feet 3 inch length could indicate that it was Sopwith's submission for a compact, shipboard fighter, but this cannot be confirmed.
If the above mentioned Fairey Campania was the world's first dedicated carrier-going aircraft design, the Sopwith T1 Cuckoo set the mould for all subsequent carrier-borne machines by adopting wheels in place of floats. First flown in June 1917, the Cuckoo used a 200hp Sunbeam Arab and production deliveries of this single-seat torpedo bomber did not get underway for over a year, thanks in large part to the fact that the Admiralty were still experimenting with the flight deck layout of HMS Furious, while awaiting the September 1918 completion of HMS Argus. Because time concerns were not as pressing as normal, the Admiralty also elected to have the aircraft built by sub-contractors, rather than by Sopwith themselves. As it was, the first production deliveries were made to the Torpedo Aeroplane School at East Fortune in Scotland during early August 1918, with the first carrier-going deliveries being made to No 210 Squadron, RAF, aboard HMS Argus in late October 1918. Of the 260 Cuckoos ordered, just over 90 had been delivered at the time of the Armistice. Top level speed of the Cuckoo was 103.5mph at sea level, its ceiling being 12.100 feet. The image seen here shows serial no N6950, the first of 50 Blackburn-built aircraft dropping an 18 inch Mk IX torpedo.
The picture is of three Cuckoos aboard the aircraft carrier HMS Furious, with serial no N6980, a Blackburn-built aircraft nearest the camera.
First flown at the end of May 1917, the Sopwith 5F Dolphin started life as a high altitude single-seat fighter design, but saw service as a close air support machine, with trench and ground strafing as its primary role. Built around its 200hp geared Hispano-Suiza, that was to prove so troublesome, the Dolphin incorporated a set of backward, or negatively staggered wings. Highly thought of by officialdom, the machine was ordered into quantity production shortly after its operational evaluation in mid-June 1917. By 31 December 1917, 121 Dolphins had been delivered to the RFC, whose No 19 Squadron was the first unit to re-equip with the type in January 1918. In operational service, the type was not best loved by its pilots, their criticisms centring on the lack of head and neck protection in the event of the machine 'nosing-over', coupled to the flexible crossbar' mounting of two upward-firing Lewis guns. This rather cumbersome device had the major drawback of allowing the guns to swing and strike the pilot in the face, not the ideal situation in any circumstances and particularly not when flying at low level. As these guns supplemented twin, synchronised fixed Vickers guns, they were removed from most operational aircraft, with the exception of No 87 Squadron, who repositioned theirs atop the lower wings and outside the propeller arc. Top level speed of the Dolphin was 131mph at sea level. In October 1918, five Dolphins had been ordered for evaluation by the American Expeditionary Forces, but the cessation of hostilities soon afterwards ended this interest. At the time of the Armistice, while the engine-related problems had been overcome, only 600 or so of the 1,500 Dolphins airframes built by then had actually been delivered, the large part of the remainder awaiting the supply of engines. The image seen here is of the fourth prototype Dolphin and the first to incorporate the Dolphin's definitive shape.
Созданный на основе "Снайпа", внешне TF2 "Саламандер" отличался плоскими бортами фюзеляжа / The Sopwith TF 2 Salamander was an armour-clad version of the Sopwith Snipe used for close air support, or trench strafing duties. The first of three prototypes, serial no E5429 seen here, initially flew on 27 April 1918. Using the same engine and armament as the Snipe, the major difference between the two aircraft was the Salamander's additional 492lb of armour to protect the pilot. The Salamander's top level speed was 125mph at 3,000 feet, but the extra weight depressed the climb rate to a mediocre 6 minutes 30 seconds to reach 5,000 feet.
The Supermarine N IB Baby may not have been the world's first single seat flying boat fighter, but it can lay claim to being the first of British design. First flown in February 1918, two N IBs were to be built to meet an Admiralty requirement, the first, serial no N59, being powered by a 200hp Hispano-Suiza, while N60 used the 200hp Sunbeam Arab. Top level speed attained by N IB, N59, was 117mph at sea level. The Admiralty decision to operate Sopwith Pup and Camel fighters from aboard ship eliminated the need for such as the N IB, but Supermarine managed to incorporate much of this basic design into their Sea Lion I and II, the latter winning the 1922 Schneider Trophy after the previous year's event had been aborted.
The sole Vickers FB 14, serial no A3505, served as the prototype for a desultory series of two-seat, general-purpose machines, ending in the FB 14F. Designed as successors to the Royal Aircraft Factory BE 2 series in Middle East service, these 1916 FB 14s employed a variety of engines, ranging from the 160hp Beardmore to the 250hp Rolls-Royce Eagle. An FB 14's top level speed was a reasonable 99.5mph at sea level, but its climb performance was truly frightening, taking nearly 41 minutes to reach 10,000 feet, which itself was only 600 feet below the machine's ceiling. Typical armament comprised the standard pilot's fixed Vickers gun, plus a flexible-mounted Lewis gun for the observer. While the performance of subsequent variants could only improve, even that of the 250hp-powered FB 14D appears unremarkable. Figures on just how many of the series were built vary from between 41 to 100, with reports that some actually reached Middle East-based RFC units. About the only real figure available involved seven FB 14Ds delivered to home defence squadrons.
Although essentially too late to take part in wartime combat, the light and small design approach adopted by Rex Pierson in producing the Vickers Vimy makes an interesting comparision with the larger, earlier Handley Page 0/100 and 0/400 series of bombers and also goes to illustrate just how long a gestation time is required between drawing board and production even in times of war. Seen here is the fourth and last of the Vimy prototypes, serial no F 9569 and the first of the machines to use the 360hp Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII, the engine selected to power subsequent production aircraft. Originating in design terms from around July 1917, the first of the Vimys made its maiden flight on 30 November 1917. Once the Eagle VIII had been adopted, the three man Vimy bomber was seen to have a top level speed of 106.5mph at 3.000 feet, an endurance of 11 hours and be capable of lifting a maximum bomb load of 2,476lb. While no less than 1,130 Vimys had been ordered at the time of the Armistice, only 13 had been completed, of which only one had been dispatched to Nancy in France for operational evaluation by the RAF's Independent Force. In the wake of the war's end, Vimy orders were cut back to 112 aircraft.
During 1916, Westlands, who were already a subcontract aircraft builder for the Admiralty, was one of three firms that responded to an Admiralty requirement for a single seat, shipboard, floatplane fighter whose performance should exceed a top level speed of 110mph and have a ceiling in excess of 20.000 feet. The company built two Westland N IBs, serial nos N 16 and N 17, both machines powered by a 150hp Bentley rotary. First flown during August 1917, the folding wing N IB with its top level speed of 108mph at sea level was only marginally below the target figure. As it transpired the Admiralty floatplane fighter need was overtaken by the advent of the Sopwith 2F Camel.
With only a handful built, the AEG D I was one of the rarer types to find its way into front-line service with the single seater units during the latter half of 1917. Armed with twin 7.92 Spandaus and powered by a 160hp Mercedes, this diminutive fighter had a useful top level speed of 124mph, but this could well have been counter-balanced by poor climb, tricky handling and longish take-off requirement, if the machine's wing loading was as high as the photograph would suggest. The AEG D I, 4400/17, shown here belonged to Lt Walter Hohndorf, leader of Jasta 14. It was in this fighter that Hohndorf crashed to his death on 5 September 1917, after a combat in which he had scored his 12th 'kill'.
Oops! The Albatros C I of Lt Maass, Fl Abt 14, after nosing over in the snow at Subat on the Eastern Front during January 1916. The standard practice appears to have been that any new type found its way, initially, to the Western Front, then the Eastern Front, where the opposition was likely to be less fierce. Finally, when considered operationally obsolete, the machine would frequently pass into the training role.
Albatros C III has clearly landed on the wrong side of the lines and provides the focus of interest for a number of French civilians, while the soldier in the foreground and close to the photographer appears more concerned with grooming his moustache.
Lt Hans Adam of Bavarian Jasta 35, seen in the cockpit of his Albatros D III, 2101/16. Adam, with 21 confirmed 'kills', met his own end in the skies over Mortvilde on 15 November 1917, while flying with Bavarian Jasta 6.
The Albatros D III, although having an entirely new wing, elsewhere embodied as much of the D II componentry as it could, revealing that Albatros's Chief Engineer, Robert Thelen's design philosophy lent towards doing things in an evolutionary, rather than a revolutionary manner. The D III can with hindsight be seen as the best of the Albatros single seaters, its successor, the D V incorporating too few real improvements over the D III at a time when the opposition was advancing apace. The D III, great aeroplane as it turned out, had one major inherent design flaw that led to wing flutter at high speed and consequent occasional structural failure and mid-air break up. The root of the problem lay in Thelen's decision to follow the Nieuport practice by adopting a sesquiplane, literally a one and a half wing layout. In doing this.Thelen fell into the same trap that the Nieuports had already experienced and had never really solved. In essence, the trouble lay with the combination of a torsionally weak, small lower wing being made to twist and oscillate through then little understood aerodynamic loads transmitted to it via the 'V' type interplane struts. This led to D III pilots being prohibited from diving the machine above a certain speed; quite a constraint for pilots who at some time or another were going to rely on the aircraft's ability to break away quickly from combat with a superior opponent. Shown here is an initial production model Albatros D III, delivered to Jasta 29 in early 1917. Although very kind in terms of pilot handling, these early D IIIs, besides being dive limited had another hazard in the form of the radiator that can just be seen positioned immediately ahead of the cockpit and filling the space between fuselage and upper wing centre section. If hit during combat, the radiator fluid could readily scald the pilot and frequently did. The solution was to move it to the underside of the upper starboard wing. In all, more than 1,300 D IIIs were built, the first being delivered to the front in January 1917. While the sea level top speed of the D III was the same as that for the D I and D II, its speed at height was improved through the use of a high compression Daimler D III. Armament comprised the by-now standard twin 7.92mm Spandaus. The D III's heyday in the spring of 1917 began to fade by the summer when encountering the new Allied fighters in the shape of Sopwith Camels, Royal Aircraft Factory SE 5s and Spads.
An extremely rare image, taken sometime after 15 April 1918, showing an Albatros D III fitted with additional small, load-spreading ancillary struts at the lower end of the normal 'V' interplane struts, clearly aimed at alleviating the high speed flutter problem. As these added struts have never appeared in any other picture of an Albatros D III seen by the author, he suspects that this fit was a locally devised modification.
This early production Albatros D III of Lt Dornheim, Jasta 29, having its radiator put under scrutiny. This image is also useful in showing the standard starboard side-only position of the Mercedes D III's exhaust manifold.
Werner Voss, born 13 April 1897, was not yet eighteen when he enlisted in a Hussars Regiment just prior to the outbreak of World War I. In August 1915, he transferred into flying, initially as an observer, where he survived the Battle of the Somme, launched on 1 July 1916 and a period when the Allies held superiority in the air. Voss left the front in August 1916 to be trained as a pilot, joining Jasta 2 on 21 November 1916, flying Albatros D IIIs. Six days later Voss scored his first 'kill'. By the end of February 1917, Voss's score was 22 and on 8 April 1917 he was awarded the Pour Le Merite. Voss went on to join Jasta 5, where he added a further 12 "kills' flying against the French, before taking command of Jasta 10 on 31 July 1917. Here, facing the British, Voss added another 14 victories, taking his total tally to 48 before he elected to fly just one more sortie prior to going on leave with his two brothers. Voss had the misfortune to encounter the hand-picked SE 5a pilots of No 56 Squadron, RAF and succumbed to their guns. Voss was the 4th ranking German air ace of the war. He is seen standing beside his Albatros D III of Jasta 2, decorated with his personal emblem.
This image of Offstv Edmund Nathanael, standing with his Albatros D III of Jasta 5, helps point up the fact that non-commissioned ranks formed a significant part of the total flying personnel strength, although perhaps less so in fighter units than elsewhere. Nathanael had scored 14 confirmed before being killed near Bourlon on 17 May 1917.
Germany's leading World War I fighter ace, Baron Manfred von Richthofen, went to war in August 1914 as a young lieutenant in a lancer regiment, aged twenty two. Only at the close of 1914 did he succeed in transferring to the Army Air Service, where, as with many other fighter aces to be, he cut his aviation teeth first training and then operating as an observer. Indeed, it is generally held that although officially unconfirmed, his first 'kill' was made against a Farman from the rear of a two seater. Even after gaining his wings on Christmas Day 1915, the young flier was to remain piloting two seaters for much of 1916. It was during this period that he was to meet the father of German fighter tactics, Oswald Boelcke. Clearly something about Richthofen impressed Boelcke, who subsequently invited him to join his newly formed fighter squadron, or Jagdstaffel 2. Here, Richthofen was one of four to fly the unit's first mission on 17 September 1916, setting him on a course that was to see him credited with 80 victories, before he and his scarlet Fokker Dr I were to meet their end on 21 April 1918. The Baron scored official victory number 16 on January 4 1917 and received the Pour Le Merite twelve days later as the new leader of Jasta 2 (at that time the medal was awarded for 16 kills). The picture captures the young Baron about to climb into his personal transport, which, ironically, was the sole prototype Albatros C IX, presented to him after its failure to gain full operational acceptance.
Early in 1917, while the Albatros D IV saga was still unravelling, as dealt with above, the firm produced its first D.V. As it transpired, while adequate and built in massive numbers, this design served to prove the law of diminishing returns. In essence, the Albatros DV employed exactly the same wings as the D III, along with the tailplane and elevator, all of which were interchangeable between the two fighters. Initially, even the fin and rudder were identical, but later fin area was increased, leading the to the D V's characteristically rounded rudder trailing edge. Married to these components, Albatros took the new, semi-monocoque fuselage developed for their D IV and, for good measure, further lowered the upper wing in relation to the fuselage in order to yet further improve the pilot's forward visibility. The engine in early D Vs remained the 160hp Mercedes D III, replaced in the structurally strengthened D Va with the 185hp D IIIa. Both the German Air Ministry and Albatros appeared happy with the resulting machine, despite the fact that its top level speed of 116mph at 3,280 feet, or for that matter the fighter's agility, were little improved compared with the D III. Further, the high speed lower wing flutter of the D III was still present, restricting high speed flight and, therefore, limiting the combat pilot's primary option of diving away from trouble. The armament comprised the standard twin 7.92mm Spandaus. Initial deliveries of D Vs were made to the front in July 1917 and rapidly built up from that point on, with Albatros output being joined by that of their Austrian subsidiary OAW During the autumn of 1917, DV production was switched to the strengthened and more powerful D Va. No precise production totals have survived for the DV and Va, but the knowledge that at their respective peaks of November 1917 and May 1918, no less than 526 D Vs along with 986 examples of the DVa were in service, would, allowing for attrition and spares, indicate a minimum overall build exceeding 2,200 machines. There is reason to believe that all 80 Jastas operating in the spring of 1918 had, at least, some D V or Va on their strength. The early DV depicted carries the Bavarian Lion motif of Hpt Eduard flitter von Schleich, leader of Jasta 21, who survived the war with a Pour Le Merite ('Blue Max') and a confirmed 35 'kills'. The pilot's headrest, seen in this image, was not particularly favoured by operational pilots and was soon removed from most machines.
An interesting frontal aspect on the Albatros D Va, believed to have belonged to a Bavarian Jasta and which from the presence of wheel chocks and the mechanic holding the tail down is seen undergoing engine running tests.
Oberleutnant Freidrich Ritter von Roth, seen here standing beside his Albatros D Va, was born of aristocratic parents on 29 September 1893. Having volunteered at the outbreak of war, 'Fritz', as he was popularly known, joined a Bavarian artillery regiment and was almost immediately promoted to sergeant. Wounded in action soon after, Roth was commissioned on 29 May 1915 while still recuperating. Transferring to the flying service and pilot training towards the close of 1915, Roth was severely injured in a flying accident that delayed his gaining his wings until early 1917. Roth's first operational experience was gained with Fl Abt 296, a two seater unit, then based at Annelles, as part of the 1st Army, which he joined on 1 April 1917. Roth moved to fighters in the autumn of 1917 and after a busy closing quarter of 1917 and early 1918, during which he had served with Jastas 34 and 23, he was given command of Jasta 16 on 24 April 1918. Meanwhile, Roth's first confirmed 'kill' was made on 25 January 1918 and involved the dangerous business of downing a heavily defended balloon. As balloons were considered a vital tactical reconnaissance tool by both sides and were always heavily defended, it is a measure of the man that Roth appears to have subsequently specialized in attacking balloons, being credited with no less than 20 of them out of his total 28 confirmed vicories. Dispirited by the impact of the Armistice and the dissolution of his beloved Air Service, Freidrich Ritter von Roth took his own life on New Year' Eve, 31 December 1918.
Destined to head the Luftwaffe in World War II, Hermann Goring is pictured here, second from left, with his newly delivered Albatros D V. At this time Goring was serving with Jasta 27 and had just scored his fifth 'kill'. He was to finish the war as a Hauptmannn, commanding JG I, the post he took over following the death of Baron Manfred von Richthofen. Goring was a holder of the Pour Le Merite and had 22 confirmed victories.
Lt Schlomer poses nonchalantly beside his Albatros DVa in the late summer of 1917. Schlomer had became leader of Jasta 5, following the death of Oblt Berr at Noyelles on 8 April 1917. Schlomer, himself was to be killed just over a year and a month later, on 31 May 1918.
Bruno Loerzer, an Oberleutnant at the time this picture was taken, when commanding Jasta 26 of JG 2. Born on 22 January 1891, Loerzer is seen standing besides his Albatros D V. Awarded the Order Pour Le Merite, Germany's highest military honour on 12 February 1918, Loerzer went on to become a Hauptmann, the equivalent to a US Captain or RAF Squadron Leader, when promoted to lead JG 3. Loerzer ended his war with an accredited 44 'kills', placing him 8th in the ranking of German leading air aces.
The other side of the coin. To counterbalance the romantic view of air combat is this image of the debris of what had been Oblt Hans Berr's Albatros D V, in which he was killed south of Noyelles on 6 April 1917. Berr had been the first commanding Officer of Jasta 5 and died with a confirmed score of 10 victories.
Probably one of the best of the C types, DFW's CV embodied all of the neatness and efficiency of the C IV that had made its service debut early in 1916, but benefitted from the greater power of a 200hp Benz Bz IV. This gave the machine a top level speed of 97mph at 3,280 feet, while the C V's operational ceiling was 16,400 feet. Built not just by DFW, but by four other sub-contractors, the C V was probably the best all-rounder of the German two seaters with just under 1,000 being in operation on every front at the end of September 1917. Armament comprised the standard fixed, forward-firing and flexibly-mounted 7.92mm guns, plus light bombs. Shown here is a DFW C V of Fl Abt (A) 224 at Chateau Bellingcamps photogaphed on 22 May 1917.
Lieutenants Leppin and Basedow, of Fl Abt 234, pose beside Aviatik-built DFW C V just prior to the launch of the great German offensive of late march 1918. Aimed at thrusting through to the French coast to sever contact between the British and French armies, the role of the Field Flight Sections in providing tactical information was crucial in the run-up to the 21 March zero hour. To this end, 49 Field Flight Sections, or approximately one third of Germany's total two seater assets were directly deployed in support of the offensive. The DFW C V was the mainstay of the field Flight Sections until into the summer of 1918 and the operational arrival of the DFW C VI.
An excellent air-to-air aspect on a two seat DFW C V of the German Imperial Air Service's 1st Field Service Section. Taken near to the front lines in the autunm of 1917, this view shows the irregular application of dull green and brown with which the majority of German combat types were camouflaged prior to the January 1918 adoption of the multi-colour hexagonal scheme. Both the 1st and 2nd naval Field Service Sections appear to have used a mixture of DFW C Vs and LVG C Vs with which to carry out their reconnaissance work.
Very few records survive concerning the other Nieuport copy, the Euler D.I, other than the knowledge that it was powered by a 100hp rotary and, as this picture shows, that at least one made it to the Western Front. This image was taken in July 1916 or immediately thereafter with KEK Nord, prior to it becoming Jasta I on 23 August 1916. The Euler's pilot, seen here, Lt Leffers, credited with one 'kill', was to meet his own end near Cherisy on 27 December 1916.
Three other triplane fighter essays of 1917 were the rotary-powered Euler Dr 3, (photo) the 185hp Austro-Daimler powered Hansa-Brandenburg L 16 and the Korting engined DFW Dr I.
Anthony Fokker, pilot and aircraft manufacturer, had the entrepreneur's innate gift for getting it right in his business decisions. An early example of this was his setting up of the Fokker Flying School at Doberitz, close to Berlin in late 1912. When the German Army announced their plan to sub-contract flying training to civilian organisations in 1912, Fokker grasped the opportunity of establishing close personal contact with the future leaders of German military aviation. Although Fokker left the day-to-day training chores to his flying instructors, he was the school's Chief Flying Instructor and Examiner. Fokker is seen here sitting on the axle of one of his Fokker Spin two seaters, amid one of his early military intakes.
A factory documentation view near to pilot's-eye view of an experimental triple 7.92mm Spandau gun installation synchronized to fire through the propeller arc of this Fokker E IV. This fit was the culmination of Fokker's efforts to arm his early monoplanes, or eindeckers and although Max Immelmann tested this three-weapon fit, he preferred the Eindecker's standard single gun installation. The bar visible inside the cockpit was the firing control for the three guns.
The period between the end of 1915 and the summer of 1917 can be seen as one of the low points in the fortunes of Fokker, the man and his company. This largely fallow time saw Fokker and his designers turn to biplane fighter designs, carrying the military designations D I to D V. As sometimes happens, the second of these, the rotary-powered Fokker D II was to emerge ahead of the in-line engined D I, of which only 25 were produced. Initially appearing at the front in the early spring of 1916, the D II was powered by a 100hp Oberursal U I. Armed with a single 7.92mm Spandau, the D II was woefully lacking in verve and agility, production being switched to the more powerful D III after only 61 examples of the D II had been built.
The youthful Lt Ulrich Nechel standing near his Fokker D VII. Nechel, born on 23 January 1898, was still aged only twenty at the time of the Armistice. Despite this, Nechel's confirmed score of 30 'kills', coupled to his leadership qualities had seen him selected to command Jasta 6 during the last months of the war. Prior to this, Nechel had served with Jastas 12 and 19. He was awarded the Pour Le Merite on 8 November 1918.
Theodore Osterkamp and Gotthard Sachsenberg were to share the honour of being the Imperial Naval Air Service's highest scoring fighter ace and Osterkamp is pictured here sitting on the portside wheel of his Fokker EV, 156/18. It was in this machine that Osterkamp was to score his 25th to 31st 'kills' during the last few months before the Armistice. This, however, was far from the end of Osterkamp's remarkable fighting achievements for he was to continue to fly and fight, alongside his friend Gotthard Sachsenberg in the Baltic campaign until October 1919. This 'unofficial' war in the east was a mobile, messy, disorganised affair and the number of Osterkamp's victories remains unknown. In 1940 and aged 48, Osterkamp, now commanding the Luftwaffe's 51st Fighter Wing, once again flew into combat, adding a further six 'kills' and taking his total confirmed score to 37 victories. Unfortunately, for 'Uncle Theo' as his men called him, this was all too much for his superiors who insisted that his future activities be of the 'chairborne' variety. Interestingly, as in the case of a surprisingly large number of other future fighter aces, Theodore Osterkamp's career almost never got started. Born on 15 April 1892, he was rejected by the Prussian Army as unfit for military service at the outbreak of World War I, but, happily, found the Imperial Navy more medically tolerant and was accepted for their volunteer naval flying service. After training and flying as an observer for half of the war, Osterkamp gained his pilot's wings at the end of March 1917. In mid-April he joined the 2nd Naval Field Service Section at the front. Here, he promptly crashed his Albatros C I, but retrieved his reputation by defying orders and going back aloft in a single seat scout to score his first confirmed victory by downing an SE 5a. The start of 1918 saw Osterkamp commanding the 2nd Jasta of the newly formed Naval Field Wing. Incidentally, it speaks volumes of that earlier medical decision to classify Osterkamp as unfit to know that during September and October of 1918 he survived a bout of the particularly virulent form of influenza that was to become pandemic and kill millions. Theodore Osterkamp ended his military career as a Generalleutnant, the equivalant of a two-star General, or Air Vice Marshal, commanding the Luftwaffe's fighter forces in Italy.
Even when the German navy found an aeroplane it liked, as in the case of the Friedrichshafen FF 33 two seater, it seemed that it could not resist vacillating over equipment fit. Take the case of the FF 33 which was bought in larger quantities than any other naval aeroplane, here any economy-of-scale effect was largely dissipated, particularly early on, by buying small batches of differing versions. Thus, for those of a real 'rivet counting' persuasion, the contract history of the FF 33 makes superb reading, with the purchase of the first 247 aircraft involving 8 variants and no less than 42 contracts, none being larger than for 10 aeroplanes. For the record, total FF 33 deliveries amounted to 409 machines between December 1914 and October 1917. Shown here is a 33B being beached at Xanthi on the Black Sea in 1916. The 33B was an unarmed reconnaissance version powered by a 160hp Maybach, giving it a top level speed of 68mph at sea level. Only five of this variant were ever ordered.
Perhaps the best known Friedrichshafen FF 33 of all was 'Wolfchen', or baby wolf, an FF 33E, serial 841, that served as the over-the-horizon eyes of the notorious German merchant raider, SMS Wolf. At sea for fifteen months, from 30 November 1916, Wolf sank, or captured, 28 allied merchant ships, aided by the scouting efforts of 'Wolfchen's' crew, pilot Lt Strein and observer Oberflugmeister Fabeck, who made 50 sorties during the three ocean cruise. This photograph, taken on 6 March 1918, shows the aircraft redecorated after its triumphant return; during the voyage 'Wolfchen' was operated without the display of any national insignia other than the German War Ensign, which was flown from the innermost starboard rear interplane strut as occasion demanded. With 162 examples of the FF 33E built, this was the most common version of all. Basic figures for the FF 33E indicate a top level speed of 78mph at sea level, along with a range of 340 miles.
Although always overshadowed in the public eye by the Gotha name, the Friedrichshafen G III equipped three of the eight German bomber wings at the time of the Armistice. Larger and heavier than the contemporary Gotha G IV, the G III carried a far heavier bomb load and seemed far less susceptible to the landing gear failures that constantly beset the Gothas. With a 3-man crew, the G III was powered by two 260hp Mercedes D IVs and could carry up to 3,300 lb of bombs. Armed with two or three 7.92mm Parabellums, the G III had a top level speed of 87mph at 3,280 feet, along with a duration of 5 hours, implying a tactical radius of action, with full bomb load, of around 140 to 145 miles. Deployed initially in mid-1917, the G III and G IIIa went on to equip KG 1, KG 2 and KG 4 during 1917 and 1918.
Friedrichshafen FF 41A, serial 676, the first of three of these three-seat torpedo bombers to be built for the navy in late 1916-early 1917. Seen here at Zeebrugge on the Belgian coast, the FF 41A used two 150hp Benz Bz IIIs, giving it a top speed of 77.7mph, with a range of 357 miles.
Typical of the two seat reconnaissance biplanes in service with the German Imperial Air Service at the outbreak of war was this Gotha B. First flown at the start of 1914, the LD-1a became the B on entering military service, signifying it to be the first biplane type purchased from the firm. Had it been a monoplane, it would have carried the military designation Gotha A, with subsequent types becoming Gotha A 2s or B 2s, etc. Powered by a 100hp Daimler D I, the prototype was followed by ten further examples, 458/14 to 467/14, these machines differing from the first in being fitted with a 100hp Oberursal copy of the original Gnome Monosoupape, as seen here. The Gotha B's top level speed was 71.5mph, while its maximum range was 323 miles.
This Gotha WD-2 was one of a small number of floatplanes the German navy handed over to its Turkish allies in 1916. Powered by a 150hp Benz Bz III, this machine carries an early, overwing gun mounting for its front seat observer, requiring him to stand when firing.
Completed and first flown at the beginning of 1915, the prototype Gotha G I bomber/long range reconnaissance type, 9/15, was followed by a further 17 of these three seater machines. While the prototype used two 160hp Mercedes D IIIs, the production aircraft employed two 150hp Benz Bz IIIs. Top level speed of the production G Is was 80.6mph at sea level, while optimum range was given as 335 miles.
Including the sole prototype, first flown in March 1916, Gotha built 14 examples of their G II three-man bomber. Powered by two 220hp Mercedes D IVs, the G II had a top level speed of 91.8mph, a cruising speed of 83.7mph, along with an optimum range of 310 miles.
Discernibly in the in-flight image of a G IV, shown here, are two bombs being carried under the nose of the machine, positioned to compensate for the extreme tail-heaviness of the G IV. This inherent design flaw led to many G IVs surviving combat only to crash during the attempt to land back at base. In all, production was reported to have totalled 142 machines, 52 built by the parent company, plus 50 by LVG and 40 from Siemens Schuckert.
The Naval Air Service's sole Gotha WD-4, 120. This three seat bomber owed much to the earlier Gotha G I built for the Army. First flown on 26 January 1916, the WD-4 typifies the seemingly haphazard procurement policy of the navy towards the purchase of aeroplanes for most of the war. Instead of buying a few types of aircraft and engines to meet their mission requirements, the navy bought a large variety of aeroplanes and engines in often very small quantities, making the maintenance crews' and supply people's lives a nightmare. Few performance details survive for the WD-4 other than that it had two 160hp Mercedes D III, giving it atop level speed of 85.5mph. Used spasmodically during 1916, the Zeebrugge-based WD-4, accompanied by five other seaplanes, was reported to have raided several ports in the south east of England, on 19 March 1916, ranging from Dover to Margate.
Seven of these three seat Gotha WD-7s, 670 to 676, were built as torpedo-dropping trainers during 1916. Powered by two 120hp Mercedes DIIs, the machines had a top level speed of 85mph, while their normal operating range was 295 miles. The aircraft seen here was operated from the Norderney naval seaplane base.
Halberstadt D IIs of Kampfgeschwader I operating from their base at Hudova in the Rumanian-Macedonia theatre of operations in 1916.
A slightly more powerful version of Halberstadt's D I of late 1915, the D II entered service during the summer of 1916 as a replacement for the now obsolete Fokker Eindeckers. Powered by a 120hp Mercedes D II, its frail appearance belied what proved to be a robust structure. Top level speed of the D II was 90.1 mph at sea level, while its operational ceiling was around 13,000 feet. Carrying a single 7.92mm Spandau, probably just over 100 D IIs were built by the parent company, plus Aviatik and Hannover. Halberstadt D II, 818/16, seen here, served on the Eastern Front.
This close-up of the crew accommodation of a Hansa-Brandenburg C I can be dated to late 1916 or after, thanks to the presence of the pilot operated 8mm Schwarzlose machine gun over the upper wing. The ring mounting of the observer's flexibly-mounted Schwarzlose is just visible to the left of his forearm. This type was built exclusively in Austria by Hansa-Brandenburg's local subsidiary and the aircraft's Austro-Hungarian Air Service serial, 64.07, further identifies it as being the seventh of a sub-contracted production batch built by UFAG. Most C Is employed a 160hp Austro-Daimler. Operationally deployed initially in early 1916, the C I's modest 87mph top level speed at sea level may not have impressed, but its high altitude capability did. With an operational ceiling of 19,030 feet, the C I, once at height was largely impervious to interception. This helps explain why the type was never quite usurped by the later and faster Aviatik C I and remained operational until war's end.
The Hansa-Brandenburg KD, with its novel interplane strut layout earned the instant sobriquet of 'Star Strutter'. Completed at the start of 1916, the KD was Ernst Heinkel's first single seat fighter design. Small and rugged, the KD was soon selected by the Austrians to serve as their standard fighter. The D I, to give its Austrian designation, was built locally by Phonix and Ufag. Powered initially by a 160hp Austro-Daimler, later Ufag machines had a 185hp Austro-Daimler, giving the compact fighter an enviable top level speed of 116mph, along with an excellent initial rate of climb in excess of 1,100 feet per minute. One of the D I weaknesses centred on it single 8mm Schwarzlose machine gun's lack of reliability, the gun being mounted above the upper wing centre-section to fire clear of the propeller arc and, thus not reduce its rate of fire. Besides siring the D I, the KD went on to be bought by the German navy as the KDW floatplane fighter. In this guise, the machine carried additional outboard 'V wing struts. Deliveries of the approximately 200 D Is built began in the autumn of 1916 through early 1917, while deliveries of the 58 naval KDWs stretched from September 1916 to February 19l8. The prototype, shown here in its initial form, has a fin that differs from those of production aircraft.
The single seat Hansa-Brandenburg W 16 floatplane fighter was Ernst Heinkel's second fighter design of 1916, the earlier one being the company's KDW/W 11. Neat and compact, the W 16 incorporated a number of superior design features to its immediate predecessor, but despite this, orders for only three examples, serials 1077 to 1079, were to be received from the navy. Powered by a 160hp Oberursal rotary, the W 16's top level speed was 106mph at sea level. Seen here is the first of the three W 16s, 1077.
In all, 80 of these Hansa-Brandenburg W 29s were to be delivered to the navy between December 1917 and July 1918, when production switched to the far higher powered W 33. Initially powered by a 150hp Benz Bz III, later built W 29s had the up-rated 185hp Benz Bz IIIa, giving this two seat reconnaissance fighter a top level speed of 109mph. Climb to 3,280 feet took 5.9 minutes and the W 29's patrol duration was a respectable 4 hours. The twin white diagonal bands on the rear fuselage of this W 29 identify it as belonging to the Starboard Watch of the Norderney naval flying station.
The clear winner of the early f917 close air support type competition was the extremely well armoured Junkers J.4, confusingly given the military designation, not of CL I, but J I. For a 200hp Benz Bz IV powered aircraft, the J I was both big and heavy, built to withstand the withering close-range defensive fire likely to be encountered, ranging from rifle to heavy machine gun. First flown on 27 January 1917, the J I employed the Junkers pioneered thick aerofoil wing that provided more lift than a thin sectioned wing of comparable area. With a top level speed of 96mph at sea level, the J I was neither fast nor agile. However, it was very effective in its role and much beloved of its crews, whose sense of well-being owed much to the demonstrable protection provided by the machine's armour cladding. From the offensive viewpoint, the J I was fairly well equipped for its mission, carrying two, pilot-aimed, fixed forward firing 7.92mm Spandau, plus the observer's 7.92mm Parabellum, along with underwing racks for light bombs. The J I's biggest problem lay not so much with the machine, but its makers, who were better researchers than production engineers: thus, initial deployment did not occur until September 1917 and despite the clamour for more, only 227 had been built by the time of the Armistice in November 1918.
While Reuter and his team followed Hugo Junker's concept to the letter, their notions of construction engineering owed more to bridge building than aviation practice. They showed a marked reluctance to switch from steel to light alloy, despite the fact that Zeppelin had been using it since 1908, or thereabouts. Perhaps the finest example of this is the Junkers J.7 experimental single seat fighter first flown in early September 1917. In its initial form, as photographed in flight, the machine was an aerodynamic and fighter pilot's nightmare, with a radiator towering above the engine, not only creating a huge drag, but totally obscuring forward pilot visibility. At this time, the J.7 also had swivelling wingtips in place of the standard ailerons.
The first of a small number of pre-production Junkers D I single seat fighters was completed at the end of April 1918. The short fuselage seen on this aircraft was replaced by a longer one on the 41 production D Is. Powered by a 185hp BMW IIIa, the production examples had a top level speed of 145mph, along with an operational ceiling of 19,700 feet. The interesting thing about the image of a D I after it had suffered a nose-over accident at speed, following a landing gear collapse, is the comparatively light damage sustained. This and other D Is used for service evaluation in the last weeks of the war flew with a non-standard natural metal finish.
Developed as a synthesis of both the Junkers J.7 single seater and J.8 two seater, the short-fuselaged prototype J.9 rolled out of the Junkers plant at the end of April 1918. Powered by a 185hp BMW IIIa, this unarmed, light alloy machine achieved a remarkable top level speed of 149mph at sea level. Surprisingly, the top level speed of the definitive, long-fuselaged, armed production J.9, was only 4mph slower, at 145mph. In a classic case of bi-focal thinking the military gave the J.9 the designation Junkers D I, where D stood for Doppledecker, or biplane, as they had with Fokker's D VIII. Depicted here is a recently ex-factory D I awaiting delivery on 8 July 1918. As already mentioned with reference to the Junkers J.4/J I, production engineering was the company's real weakness and only a handful of the 41 completed twin 7.92mm Spandau-armed single seaters were to reach the Western Front prior to the Armistice. Junkers D Is, however, did manage to find their way into Poland and the Baltic States, where they continued to fly and fight, along with their two seat Junkers CL I bretheren with the Geschwader Sachenberg. / "Юнкерс" D.I c мотором BMW-IIIa, принимавший участие в конкурсе перспективных моделей истребителей в Адлерсхофе.
Photographed in a Belgium field on 21 January 1919, this all-metal Junkers D I was still deemed to be basically airworthy after being abandoned in the open for more than three months. Four Fokker D VIIs on the same site had deteriorated beyond repair.
No resume of what Germany had up its sleeve in the way of bomber development would be complete without reference to the Adolf Rohrbach-designed Zeppelin-Staaken E 4250. The other obvious candidate for analysis is the long range Junkers R I, seen here. By October 1916, the German Army Air Service was very aware that it had no heavy bombers capable of carrying out daylight raids and sought industry proposals to remedy matters. Junkers put work underway on their R I in January 1917, the design being finalised in March of that year. What Junkers were proposing was a fully cantilevered monoplane with a 5-man crew and powered by four unspecified engines housed transversely within the thick wing's inboard sections. These paired engines supplied power through a combining gearbox to drive the bomber's two propellers. Performance estimates for the R I included a top level speed of 112mph, an operational ceiling of 17,060 feet and a maximum bomb load of 3,305lbs. Where the R I really came into its own was over its ability to carry a 2,200lb load of bombs over a radius of action of 380 miles. With wind tunnel testing complete and work underway on R 57/17, the first of the two machines ordered, the R I would have given the Allies pause for thought had it gone into service, particularly as even the first generation of lumbering biplane R-planes had proved exceptionally difficult to combat in operational service.
This LVG C V two seater has been flown to England for test and evaluation after its capture. First flown in early 1917, the LVG C V was deployed operationally during the summer of 1917. A sturdy design, the machine was well liked by its crews despite the somewhat restricted visibility it offered to both pilot and observer. Powered by a 200hp Benz Bz IV, the CV had a top level speed of 105mph at sea level, along with an impressive ceiling of 21,060 feet. Pilot and observer both had a 7.92mm machine gun. While no precise figures survive, several hundred LVG C Vs are known to have been built.
Pfalz D IIIa, serial 6014/17, photographed sometime after 15 April 1918, as indicated by the machine's Balkankreuse markings. Although the Pfalz fighter equipped a large number of Jastas, it seems it never equipped any one exclusively.
This initial production batch Pfalz D III of Lt Lenz, Jasta 22 was delivered in August 1917, when the unit was based at Vivaise.
An admirable air-to-air image of a Rumpler 5A, military designation C I, an armed and more powerful derivative of the company's B I. First flown towards the end of 1914, the Rumpler C I was powered by a 160hp Mercedes D III, giving it a top level speed of 94mph at sea level. The C I's handling docility was matched by what was, for its time, an impressive high altitude ability, the operational ceiling being quoted as 16,600 feet. This translates into the machine being able to overfly enemy territory largely immune from interception unless caught by an enemy standing patrol already at or above its own altitude. For defence at lower altitudes, the C I's rear seated observer was equipped with a flexibly-mounted 7.92mm Parabellum gun, later added to by providing the pilot with a fixed, forward firing 7.92mm Spandau, useful for trench strafing, on the C la. Although the actual production figures have not survived, the C I was known to have been built in sustantial numbers by Rumpler and four sub-contractors, with around 250 serving in operational units in October 1916. Allowing for attrition and other factors, it would be safe to assume total C I build to be well in excess of 500 machines. The C I pictured here belonged to the Schleissheim-based advanced flight training unit tasked with bringing trainee crews up to full operational standard.
If the Rumpler C III had proven to be a disaster waiting to happen, its successor from the same stables was just the reverse. Powered by a 260hp Mercedes D IVa, the Rumpler C IV followed closely upon the C III, ensuring that the firm was in a position to continue producing two seaters almost without interruption during the spring of 1917. The C IV, with its top level speed of 109mph at sea level, combined with a superb high altitude capability of 21,000 feet saw the C IV providing stalwart service through to the cessation of hostilities.
The sole prototype Zeppelin-Lindau V-1 single seat fighter, completed during the summer of 1916, was not just Claudius Dornier's first attempts at a fighter, but one of his first on any type of aeroplane. Of workmanlike, rather than elegant appearance, the finished product showed the influences of Nieuport's sesquiplane wing layout, in a British-style pusher engined airframe. Using a 160hp Mercedes D III, the V-1, as to be expected of Dornier, employed an all-alloy structure. Sadly, someone had miscalculated the machine's dynamic, or in-flight balance. This was something the company's test pilot, Bruno Schroter, clearly suspected to be the case following his high speed taxying tests and he wanted nothing more to do with the V-1. The man found to make the the aircraft's maiden flight was Oblt Hallen von Hallerstein, a notable military flier, who had only recently completing the test flying of the giant Zeppelin-Staarken VGO III. Tragically, Schroter's prediction concerning the aircraft's tail-heaviness proved correct and on 13 November 1916, following lift-off, the V-1's nose continued to rise until the fighter stalled and fell to earth, von Hallerstein being killed in the crash.
Another of the losing designs for the the armour clad, ground attack requirement was this one-off Zeppelin-Lindau CL I. First flown on 3 March 1917, this 160hp Mercedes D III two seater was the brainchild of a design team headed by Claudius Dornier and used the light alloy construction he was pioneering with his series of giant flying boats. The Dornier CL I's top level speed was 102mph at sea level.
An extremely revealing air-to-air photograph of the Caproni Ca 33 four man bomber developed from the original twin-boom fuselaged Caproni Ca 30 of 1913. Initially completed towards the end of 1915, the Ca 33 made its operational debut during the latter half of 1916. One of the first large bombers to be fielded, the Ca 33 was powered by three 150hp Isotta-Fraschini V-4Bs that gave it a top level speed of 84mph at sea level. Capable of lifting a maximum bomb load of 1,000lb, the machine's range with this load was 280 miles. Although obscured by the upper wing in this view, the two tractor-propellered engines were mounted at the front of each fuselage boom, while the pusher-propellered engine formed the rear of the central nacelle. Besides the two, side-by-side pilots, the Ca 33 carried a front gunner and a rear gunner, just visible below, who stood in a curious, open pulpit-like framework directly above the rear engine.
The ground view of the Ca 33 is of interest in that it lacks the standard pulpit-mounted rear gunner's position completely. At least 250 Ca 33s were built, the type being operated by both the Italians and the French.
While the four man, biplane Caproni Ca 46 may have been the last of the company's illustrious line of World War I bombers, it was also the machine to be built in the greatest numbers by far, with 255 built in Italy by the parent company and sub-contractors, and more had been built in France by REP, plus five of the 1,000 ordered from Standard of the 400hp Liberty-engined version for use by American forces. Developed from the Ca 44 of early 1917, the Ca 46 was powered by three 300hp Fiat A 12s, giving it a top level speed of 95mph at 6.560 feet. Capable of carrying a bomb load of 1,300lb over a range of 760 miles, the machine had an operational ceiling of 15.000 feet.
The M 8 was the last in a wartime series of small, pusher-engined naval flying boats produced by Macchi starting with the Macchi L I, seen here. This too had been a two seater, but was little more than a copy of an Austro-Hungarian Navy Lohner Type L that had fallen into Italian hands within a matter of days after Italy had entered the war. Before a month was out, Nieuport-Macchi, as it was then, had selected the 150hp Isotta-Fraschini to power their copy and by late 1915 were delivering the first of the total of 139 L Is produced.
The two seat Macchi M 8 maritime patrol aircraft was a scaled-up development of the single seat Macchi M 7 flying boat fighter. Powered by a 160hp Isotta-Fraschini V-4B, the M8 first flew in late 1917, the type entering operational service by mid-1918. At the time of the Armistice, 57 of these handsome looking machines had been delivered. The M 8 was the last in a wartime series of small, pusher-engined naval flying boats produced by Macchi starting with the Macchi L I.
Deliveries of the 300 Savoia-Pomilio SP 3 two-seat reconnaissance machines might have been more understandable had they been made two or even three years earlier, as it was they started in mid-1917. Clearly, by this time, not even the powerful 300hp Fiat A 12Bis fitted could give this tired old pusher-engined design sufficient impetus to extricate it from hostile fighter attack. The resultant operational loss rate was high and SP 3 crew morale low.
The brainchild of Igor Sikorsky, who in later years and on another continent was to help pioneer the first of the practical helicopters, the four engined Sikorsky Ilya Mourometz was, without question, the world's first long range heavy bomber. Around 80 of these impressive craft had been completed by the time Russia withdrew from the war. Progressively re-engined from the original 100hp Argus to the 220hp Renault versions, the first ten bomber versions of the Ilya Mourometz were ordered in the spring of 1914, their initial deployment following in February 1915, this after the whole programme had nearly been abandoned. These machines, along with the men that crewed and maintained them, had been preserved as a group by M.V. Shidlovski, who, virtually single-handedly, created the world's first coherent bomber force, appointing himself its commander with the rank of Major General in the process. In reality, the Ilya Mourometz's were an evolving family of aircraft, of which only the basic layout remained unchanged. Even the later 220hp engined version of the Sikorsky bomber could only manage a top level speed of 85mph at 6.500 feet, while its operational ceiling was 10.500 feet. Capable of lifting a bomb load of 1,120lb, these machines were initially crewed by six men, with the later variants carrying seven. Similarly, defensive armament climbed from two to seven machine guns and they were clearly effective, as only one of the 73 known operational machines was to be brought down, this on 12 September 1916, after it had accounted for three enemy machines, plus a fourth damaged of the original seven attacking fighters. Apparently, this family of aircraft were extremely nose-heavy in the landing phase, so both pilots needed to be very muscular in applying back pressure to the elevator, while the rest of the crew were required to beat a hasty retreat into the machine's nether regions astern!
During 1914, the Curtiss Company had produced a couple of two seater biplanes, known as their Model J and Model N. However, even before the year had ended, the company had merged the best features of the two machines to produce the Curtiss JN. Sales of what was to become the legendary JN started slowly, with an initial eight being bought by the US Army in December 1914, primarily for reconnaissance duties. The first large order for the machine came from Britain's RNAS, whose first order for 79 JN-3 trainers was placed in March 1915. This, of course, was only the start, with more than 7.500 examples of the JN in all its variants going on to be built. Seen here is RNAS JN-3, serial no 3376. The RNAS JN-3s used a 100hp Curtiss OXX-2, giving them a top level speed of 82mph at sea level.
Designed as a tactical reconnaissance two seater, the Curtiss R-2 first flew towards the close of 1915. Powered by a 160hp Curtiss V-X, the R-2 had a top level speed of 86mph at sea level, along with a useful endurance of up to 6 hours 40 minutes. Twelve of these machines were sold to the US Army, followed by an order for 100 from Britain's RFC, who replaced the Curtiss engines with 200hp Sunbeams. The US Army machine seen here was one of those deployed as part of the US punitive expedition sent to Mexico in 1916.
The sole Curtiss S-2 Wireless single seat scout, seen here without its twin, broad-bladed propeller, along with the associated inner and outer spinners, the purpose of which was to funnel cooling air to the annular engine radiator revealed in this view. First flown in the summer of 1916 and demonstrated to the press by Curtiss pilot Victor Carlstrom on 9 August 1916, the S-2 was powered by a 100hp Curtiss and achieved a top level speed of 119mph at sea level. Despite its neat appearance, the S-2 was generally conceded to be around two years behind its European contemporaries, thanks to America's isolation from the design impetus provided by wartime developments.
Essentially an improved version of the Curtiss H-16, via the John Cyril Porte developed Felixstowe F 5, the first Navy Aircraft Factory F-5-L made its maiden flight in late July 1918. Powered by two 420hp Liberty 12As, the four man F-5-L carried six .303-inch Lewis guns for its defence, along with up to four 230lb bombs for more aggressive purposes. Top level speed of the F-5-L was 90mph at sea level, with a range of 830 miles being attainable at its economic cruise speed. Besides being responsible for the design's 'Americanisation' in terms of its production engineering, the Navy Aircraft Factory went on to produce 138 of these flying boats, of which 33 had been completed at the time of the Armistice, or just over three months after the F-5-L's first flight. Clearly considered a priority naval programme, 60 more F-5-Ls were built by Curtiss, while a further 30 were completed in Canada before post-war contract cancellations took effect.
First flown on 5 July 1918, the Curtiss 18T Wasp, powered by the new 400hp Curtiss-Kirkham K-12, had been developed against a US Navy need for a two seat reconnaissance fighter. Despite proving to be tail-heavy during its maiden flight, necessitating the introduction of a five degree sweepback to its triplane wings, the 18T's speed and climb performance were little short of phenomenal. Capable of a top level speed of 163mph at sea level, coupled to an ability to reach 10,400 feet in 10 minutes, the 18T went on to set a new World Altitude record of 34,910 feet on 18 September 1919. While these figures would have been somewhat reduced in the case of the production aircraft, with its five 30-inch guns and other service equipment, there is still no doubt that this machine would have provided a headache for the German fighter defences had the war continued. As it was, only five examples of the 18T Wasp were built consisting of two for the US Navy, two for the US Army, along with a fifth civilian model, sold to Bolivia in 1919. The 18T seen here was Bu Aer A3325, the first of the two US Navy machines.
Designed by the US Navy's Jerome Hunsaker specifically as a submarine killer, the ungainly-looking Navy Aircraft Factory N-1 was built to carry a nose-mounted Davis gun, a recoilless weapon firing 6lb shells. Work on this, the first of the Navy Aircraft Factory's designs, with its 360hp Liberty pusher-engine, started in February 1918, with the first of four making its maiden flight on 22 May 1918. The top level speed of this two seater was 94mph at sea level. The flight development phase of the N-1 was far from being the smoothest, with the first having both floats collapse on touch down from its first flight, with two others suffering severe damage shortly afterwards, leading to the N-1's abandonment.
The first of the many Lewis and Vought VE-7s to be built. First flown in February 1918, this 150hp Hispano-Suiza A engined two seater had a top level speed of 106mph at sea level. Although too late to be useful for wartime pilot training with the US Army, who had taken eight of the envisaged 1,014 examples ordered at the end of the war, the VE-7 went on the become a major element of immediate post-war US naval aviation, with a total of 129 being used variously as trainers, armed two seat scouts and even single seat fighters, most versions having the option of fitting wheels or floats.
Chance Milton Vought, the son of a prominent boatbuilder, was born in New York City on 26 February 1890. At the age of 20 and with a strong technical bias to his education, the impatient young Vought, who had already restyled himself Chance, from Chauncey, left college in 1910 to join an engineering firm in Chicago. It was during these early days in Chicago that Chance Vought was to be bitten by the 'aviation bug'. Vought learnt to fly on a Wright Model B of the Lillie Aviation Company, in which he is seen here, gaining FAI Licence No 156 on 14 August 1912. Despite having risen to head the Experimental Development Department of the company he had joined in 1910, Vought's love of things aeronautical lead him to join the Lillie Aviation School in 1913 as their maintenance engineer, ground school lecturer and instructor pilot. While here, Vought masterminded the conversion of a Wright Model B into the 1913 two seat Lillie-Vought Tractor. Once again, this work clearly did not stretch him sufficiently, with Vought moving on, in 1914, to become Editor of the weekly Aero and Hydro magazine. In parallel with his editorial duties, Vought got his first real design opportunity, when he drew up and supervised assembly of the two seat PLV biplane, first flown in August 1914. By now tiring of journalism, Vought joined the Curtiss Aeroplane Company in the summer of 1915, having spent some of his early 1915 months drawing up the plans and supervising the building of the Mayo-Vought-Simplex two seat trainer, first flown in May 1915. In the autumn of 1915, the footloose Vought moved from Curtiss to join the Wright Company as Chief Engineer. Vought retained this job title after Orville Wright and Glenn Martin came together to form the relatively short-lived, but prestigious-sounding Wright-Martin Company in August 1916. Wright-Martin then acquired the Simplex Motor Car Company and the Mayo Radiator Works, producers of the earlier Mayo-Vought-Simplex machine. This provided Vought with the opportunity to develop his earlier 90hp Mayo design into the sole 150hp Wright-Martin Model V two seater, first flown in September 1916. An admirable enough aircraft in itself, the Model V was to flounder in a morass of Franco-American politics and corporate skulduggery, that involved the non-delivery of 700 licence-built Hispano engines to France and brought about the breakup of the Wright-Martin enterprise. However, happily for Chance Vought, before the Wright-Martin breakup occurred, the company had sent him to Europe for five months, where he had an opportunity to inspect the latest European design practices at first hand. Thus, when America entered the war in April 1917, the 27 year old Vought, intent on forming his own company, went looking for a partner with money and the contacts to complement his technical expertise. Thus, on 18 June 1917, was formed the Lewis and Vought Corporation, with Chance M. Vought as Chairman and President. Incidentally, the Lewis in the company's title, referred to Birdseye B. Lewis, an independently wealthy sportsman, pilot and playboy, who shortly after the corporation's foundation, left for France as part of General Pershing's staff, only to be killed in a flying accident. Back in Long Island, Vought was busy creating his two seat VE-7 advanced trainer, the aircraft that established the Chance Vought name in the annals of 20th Century aviation. In 1922, the company became the Chance Vought Corporation, going on to produce the US Navy Corsair biplanes of the 1920s and '30s, the F4U Corsair fighter of World War II and the Mig-killing F8U Crusader carrier jet of 1957. Tragically, Chance Vought died of scepticaemia, still only 40 years of age, on 25 July 1930.
Powered by a pusher-mounted 220hp Renault, the two seat Breguet-Michelin BM IV bomber entered service in early 1916, but compared with the standard Voisins was more prone to spin as well as offering the pilot poorer lateral visibility. Capable of carrying up to forty 16lb bombs on its two underwing racks, visible here just outboard of the main wheels, the BM IV had a top level speed of 84mph at sea level. 100 of these machines were presented to France by the Michelin Brothers, with another 25 built for the RNAS under licence by Graham White as their Type 19. This French-operated aircraft, seen here behind the German lines, had been forced down during the autumn of 1916.
Although more workmanlike than beautiful in their appearance, the Breguet Bre 14 series of two seaters was deservedly destined to become the standard French long-range reconnaissance and day bomber during the closing year of the war. Almost directly contemporary and certainly comparable to Britain's Airco DH 4/DH 9 series, the prototype Bre 14 first flew in November 1916 and following the completion of testing was ordered into quantity production for the French in March 1917. Initial operational deployment followed in September 1917. Powered mainly by the 300hp Renault, the shortage of these units sometimes led to the use of the 300hp Fiat A.12bis engine, the Bre 14A, seen here on the ground, was the reconnaissance version, with the Bre 14B being the bomber variant. While both versions had a top level speed of around 121mph at sea level, the operational ceiling of the lighter loaded reconnaissance machine was 19.000 feet, while that of the bomber, with its up to 580lb bomb load and heavier defensive fire power of four, instead of three .303-inch guns, was reduced to 14,000 feet. The bomber, with its full load range of 280 miles, cruised at around 95mph. For short-range night missions, the Bre 14B could carry up to a 1,080lb bomb load. Belated as it was, the arrival of the Bre 14B was to be welcomed by French bomber crews, as it finally ended the all-too lengthy period during which successive French bomber designs had almost invariably proven inadequate to their task. The Bre 14, successor to the French-built Sopwith 1 1/2 Strutters, proved quite capable of being flown aggressively. Ernst Udet, Germany's second ranking fighter ace, nearly lost his life to one in March 1918. By the time of the Armistice, all French day bomber squadrons were operating Bre 14Bs, with no less than 55 French squadrons using the series. In addition to the French, the Bre 14 series was used by the Americans, who bought 290, along with the Belgians. Over 8.000 of the series were to be built in all, including considerable sub-contracted production by Darracq, Farman and Paul Schmitt.
The impressive low-level fly-past image seen here is of a Bre 14B.2 belonging to Escadrille BR III. Incidentally, the large transparent panel positioned under the observer's cockpit, on both sides of the fuselage, was the primary external means of identifying the bomber version from the 'recce' machines that lacked this feature.
Some aircraft types were bought directly from the French for use by the American Expeditionary Forces. One such aircraft being the fast, two seat Breguet Bre 14B day bomber. The one seen here belonged to the 96th Aero Squadron, with its emblem comprising a red devil clutching a white bomb, all framed by a white triangle. Formed early in 1918, the 96th Aero was declared operational on 29 May 1918.
Despite the massive popularity of the Bre 14 with land-based crews, the type was only built in small numbers in its Breguet Bre 14H floatplane form for the French Navy, who primarily employed it in the reconnaissance role. The enormous width of the central pontoon is clearly visible in this view.
Initially deployed as a reconnaissance type in late 1914, the two-seat Caudron G III's lack of speed and effective defence soon saw its withdrawal from front-line use in other than the Balkan and Russian theatres of operation. However, as with the Avro 504, the G III was to make its mark as a trainer, where it served with the French, both the RFC and RNAS, plus the US Army Air Service. Fitted with various engines in the 80hp to 100hp range, the twin 80hp Le Rhone powered French machine, seen here, had a top speed of 82mph at 6.560 feet, a ceiling of 14,000 feet and could stay aloft for up to 4 hours.
First flown in the spring of 1915, the two-man, twin 80hp Le Rhone-powered Caudron G IV was an attempt to remedy the operational shortfalls of the company's G III, without, it must be said, much success. Carrying a fairly meagre 250lb bomb load and with a top level speed of 82mph at 6,560 feet, the G IV proved almost as vulnerable in combat as its single-engined predessor. The G IV went became operational in late 1915, serving with French, RNAS and Italian squadrons, the machine being withdrawn from front-line use during the autumn of 1916.
Deployed as a successor day bomber to the Voisins in early 1917, the twin 120hp Le Rhone-powered Caudron G VI soon proved not up to penetrating deep into hostile airspace and was rapidly relegated to artillery observation, being replaced at the front by French-built Sopwith 1 1/2 Strutters. Top level speed of the G VI was 94mph at 6,560 feet, while its maximum bomb load was 506lb. The G VI's defensive armament comprised one or two .303-inch flexibly mounted Lewis guns.
Although somewhat uglier in appearance, the two-seat Dorand AR I reconnaissance type of mid-1916 bore an uncanny configurational resemblance to its near contemporary Bristol F2A. Top level speed of the Dorand was 93.2mph at 4.920 feet, considerably less than that of the F2A, despite the Dorand's 200hp Renault producing 10hp more than the F2A's Rolls-Royce Falcon. The AR I entered limited operational use as an artillery spotter in April 1917. Its 303-inch armament consisted of a fixed, forward-firing Vickers for the pilot, coupled with either one or two flexibly mounted Lewis guns in the rear cockpit.
The young Alexander Prokofieff de Seversky, seen here immediately after completing his first solo flight, on a Farman, at the School of Military Aviation, Sevastopol, in the spring of 1915. Born in 1894, de Seversky had graduated from the Imperial Russian Naval Academy in 1914 before learning to fly. Having gained his 'wings', de Seversky joined a naval bomber squadron operating in the eastern Baltic area. It was while operating with this unit, on 2 July 1915, that de Seversky was to lose a leg when his aircraft was shot down and a bomb it was carrying exploded. Undeterred, de Seversky, now with an artificial limb, went back to flying in the summer of 1916, this time in FBA Type C fighter flying boats. In these machines, de Seversky scored a confirmed 13 victories, making him Russia's third highest ranking air ace. Fortunately, Major de Seversky was in America, as part of the Imperial Russian Naval Air Mission at the time of Russia's internal collapse in the summer of 1917. It was here that de Seversky chose to remain in the wake of the October 1917 Revolution. As a friend and advisor to Brigadier General 'Billy' Mitchell, de Seversky developed one of the earlier automatic bomb sights during the 1920s, prior to founding the Seversky Aircraft Corporation in 1931. Here, he specialised in producing, test flying and selling a line of fast mainly military monoplanes, leading to the US Army's 1937 P-35 fighter. Still cutting a dashing figure, de Seversky parted ways with the company he had set up at the start of the 1940s, becoming a consultant and author of the prophetic 1942 book 'Victory Through Air Power', while his former business venture became Republic Aviation, going on to produce the P-47 Thunderbolt and a series of jet fighters leading to the F-105 Thunderchief of 1959. As for this larger-than-life man, he passed away at the age of 80, in 1974.
The two seat Farman HF 22 derived from the pre-war Farman F 16 and when fielded in 1914 as a reconnaissance bomber proved somewhat underpowered under the urging of its 80hp Gnome. Hampered by its limited top speed of 65mph at sea level, the HF 22 took a severe mauling from the enemy and by mid-1915 had been withdrawn from front-line duties to the training role. The type served with the French, both British service arms and Belgium.
Typically powered by a 160hp Renault, the two-seat Farman F 40 series of pusher-engined reconnaissance bombers were built in considerable numbers during 1915, eventually going into service with almost fifty French squadrons, as well as serving with the RNAS, who had 50, the Belgians and Russians. Top level speed depended upon the engine installed, but the Renault-powered F 56 version, seen here having fallen into German hands, could reach 82mph at 6.560 feet.
An admirable ground view of an Italian operated Hanriot HD-1, serial no Hd 13244, seen in a mid to late 1918 setting. Although slow by contemporary standards and with only a single .303-inch Vickers gun, distinctly underarmed, the Hanriot was both very agile and robust, features that clearly endeared it to the Italians to such an extent that they foresook the much faster SPAD S XIII in favour of this more nimble mount. Indeed, at the time of the Armistice in November 1918, Italy had bought no fewer than 831 of these machines, ensuring that no fewer than sixteen of the total eighteen existing Italian fighter squadrons were equipped with the Hanriot.
Knights of the air: this evocative image of a pair of two seat Borel Monoplanes, plus cavalry, was taken a month or so before the outbreak of World War I. As befitted what was then the world's leading aeronautical nation, the French military air service of the time had mostly monoplanes. The particular machines seen here belonged to the escadrille, or squadron, led by Roger Sommer of pre-war aviation fame, who had learned to fly with Henry Farman in 1909 and who, in the spring of 1910 shared with his erstwhile instructor the honour of making the first night flights by aeroplane. Interestingly, the original note with this picture stated that the aircraft were bomb, as opposed to gun carriers.
The single seat Morane-Saulnier Type M made its first appearance during the late summer of 1912 in civilian guise aimed at the sports and racing enthusiast. Powered by a 80 hp Gnome, the Type M had a top level speed of 78mph and was soon offered in modified armoured form to the military as a fast, unarmed scout. While the French appear not to have acquired the Type M, the British War Ministry are reported to have bought three, while the machine seen here, serial no. 5707, was one of 25 ordered by the British Admiralty. The purchase was subsequently cancelled.
Thanks to its 71 mph top level speed at sea level and 13.100 feet operating ceiling, both of which were superior to most contemporary two-seaters, the 80hp Gnome-powered Morane-Saulnier Type L had already been acquired in small numbers by the French military prior to the war. First flown during the earlier half of 1913, the Type L made an admirable reconnaissance machine at the outset of hostilities and was subsequently adopted as an armed fighting scout. In fact there were two versions of the Type L, the earlier one, seen here, using wing warping, while the later Type LA employed ailerons. Both versions served with the French, but the LA, which was built in far greater numbers, was also flown by the British and Russians. In all, around 635 examples were to be produced.
Jean Marie Dominique Navarre, seen here as a sergeant pilot serving with Escadrille MS 12 towards the close of 1915. The machine he is standing before is a Morane-Saulnier Type L of the kind in which he and his observer scored his first victory, when they downed a two-seat Aviatik on 1 April 1915. This was within a few hours of Roland Garros having bagged his first 'kill' and at a time when downing an enemy aircraft was still a very rare event. Born in 1895, Jean Navarre had started learning to fly prior to the war. He joined the military aviation service in September 1914, his first operational unit being MF 8, flying Maurice Farmans. Unhappy with his lot, Navarre kept pestering his superiors for a transfer to fighters, succeeding in his aim early in 1915, when he went to MS 12. On the strength of the above mentioned 'kill', Navarre was promoted from corporal to sergeant and given a single-seat Morane-Saulnier Type N. By early 1916 Navarre had been promoted to Sub Lieutenant, joining Escadrille N 67 that was flying the Nieuport 11 Bebe. Navarre, both impulsive and impetuous by nature, had the fuselage of his machine, serial no N872, painted an attention-grabbing scarlet. Fond of flying up close to his prey to ensure his fire would have maximum effect, this tactic was to prove his undoing when, on 17 June 1916, he was downed with a severe head wound from an observer's bullet. Hospitalised for around two years, Navarre was reluctantly allowed to return to flying, only to kill himself on 10 July 1919, while practicing to fly through the Arc de Triomphe. As one of the early French fighter pilots, Navarre had left the scene too early to have amassed more than 12 confirmed victories.
Seen here is the actual Morane-Saulnier Type L, serial no 3253, used by Warneford to destroy LZ 37 by overflying it and dropping 20lb Hale bombs upon the dirigible. Powered by an 80hp Gnome or Le Rhone, the two seat Type L had a top level speed of 71mph at sea level. The Type L was operated by the French and the Russians, as well as the RNAS, who had bought 25, the delivery of which took place in early 1915. Many of the RNAS machines were operated as single seaters. Total Type L build was put at just under 600 machines.
The Morane-Saulnier Type P two seat reconnaissance machine was a derivative of the their Type LA. Initially deployed operationally in mid-1916, the Type P was produced with a choice of 80hp Le Rhone, with the French military designation Type XXI, or with a 110hp Le Rhone, when it became the Type XXVI. Seen here is a French operated Type XXVI that had a top level speed of 97mph at 6,560 feet, along with a ceiling of 12.000 feet. Armament comprised a fixed, forward firing gun for the pilot, together with a flexibly mounted gun for the observer. Operated in some numbers by the French military, a much smaller quantity were operated by RFC squadrons well into 1917, with at least 565 Type Ps known to have been produced.
The Morane-Saulnier BB two seat reconnaissance and escort fighter biplane, if nothing else, typifies the paucity of Britain's own aircraft manufacturing capability during the earlier part of the war. Never operated by the French, the type was bought in early 1915 for use by both the RNAS and RFC. Powered by either an 80hp or 110hp Le Rhone rotary, the BB's top level speed with the higher powered engine was 91 mph at sea level. As can be seen here, the BB carried two .303-inch Lewis guns, both being observer-operated. The joint service buy is reported to have been for not less than 28 aircraft, with two or three serving with No 4 Squadron, RNAS, while the RFC contingent served with their Nos 1, 3, 4 and 60 Squadrons. However, it should be noted that it was not until well into 1916 that Britain started to employ the one type of machine in a squadron, rather than a mix as previously.
The cockade on the rudder of this Nieuport 10A.2 reconnaissance two seater, along with the uniforms of the attendant personnel positively identify it as belonging to an RFC unit, but the aircraft was also operated by the RNAS and it was this service that took a more muscular attitude in its deployment of the type, sometimes replacing the second seat with a .303-inch Lewis gun to give the machine a more agressive role. Powered by an 80hp Gnome or Le Rhone rotary, the top level speed was 90mph at sea level. The machine was used by France, both British services, the Italians, who also deployed it as a single-seat fighter, and Belgium
Charles Rumney Samson, born in 1883, came to epitomise the pugnacious spirit of early British naval aviation. Samson entered the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, as a cadet in 1898 and left as a sub-lieutenant in 1904. On 4 April 1910, Samson received the Aero Club Aviator's Certificate No 71 and from this time on, for the next eight years, Samson's destiny was bound up with naval aviation and its development. Samson, a born leader of men, remained an active pilot throughout this period, some of the highlights of which included his making the world's second only take-off from a warship, on 10 January 1912, and then in May 1918, when nearly losing his life attempting to fly the unforgiving Sopwith Camel from off a destroyer-towed lighter. Although destined never to down an enemy in combat, Samson's disciplined aggression was to have a profound impact on his foes, wherever he and his men where to go. Samson was in command of the RNAS's Eastchurch Wing at the start of the war, from where he moved the unit to its new base at Ostend within a matter of weeks. It was from here that Samson and his unit fought a valiant series of harrying actions against the might of the German army, using both his aeroplanes and the world's first fleet of improvised armoured cars, assembled and converted with the help of his brother Felix. From here on through the ill-fated Gallipoli Campaign of 1915 and his continuing 1916 Middle East forays with the seaplane tender, HMS Ben-My-Chree, Samson's resolve never flagged. From May 1917 and back in Britain, the indefatigable Samson turned his mind to countering the dual threat of Zeppelins and U-boats. Absorbed into the newly formed RAF from April 1918, with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, Samson was given command of No 4 Group, precursor of RAF Coastal Command. Samson retired from the RAF in 1929 as an Air Commodore. Samson is seen here in the cockpit of a Nieuport 10, while operating from the island of Tenedos in the Aegean Sea during 1915.
The spritely little Nieuport 11 Bebe single seater had been designed during the summer of 1914 to compete in that year's James Gordon Bennett air race, an event that was, sadly, overtaken by the war. Happily, however, the military were impressed by the Bebe's speed and agility, with, in chronological order of purchase, the Governments of Britain, France, Belgium, Italy and Russia buying it for use as a fast, unarmed scout. Initially ordered in relatively small numbers, the Bebe's sales prospects went sky high when in the summer of 1915, this brainchild of Gustav Delage was to make its debut fitted with an overwing .303 inch Lewis gun that fired forward and above the propeller arc. This may have meant the pilot was temporarily distracted by having to swing the gun backwards and down through an arc each time he needed to reload, but this was far outweighed by the benefit of a higher 'burst' rate of fire, unimpeded as the weapon was by interrupter or synchronising gear. Powered by an 80hp Le Rhone, the Bebes had a top level speed of 97mph at sea level, along with an impressive rate of climb and a 15,000 feet ceiling. When the Bebe became operational towards the close of 1915, it, along with the Airco DH 2, were soon to turn the air superiority tide in favour of the Allies, with the Bebe, in particular, proving more than a match for the previously dreaded Fokker Eindekker. This said, the machine did have a pitfall and a potentially fatal one at that in the guise of its 'V interplane strut and its lower mainplane pick-up. If over-stressed, this weak element could cause shedding of the lower wing, which in parting with the rest of the airframe frequently and unsurprisingly caused a progressive failure of the machine's overall structure and the inevitable loss of the pilot's life. Bebe pilots therefore needed to learn not to wrestle the controls too hard at high speed, or pay the ultimate penalty.
The sleek, diminutive Nieuport 11 Bebe provided the backbone of the Italian Military Air Services' fighter squadrons for around eighteen months prior to its being superseded by the SPAD S VII from mid-1917. Built under licence in Italy, by Nieuport-Macchi, the Italian machines carried their serial numbers on the fuselage, just aft and below the cockpit. The machine seen here carries the serial no Ni 3227.
Three French operated two seat Nieuport 12s joining the airfield's left-handed traffic pattern above another group of Ni 12s in the foreground. The solitary Nieuport 17 on the ground near the centre of the picture points to the photograph being taken some time after February 1916.
Ground view of late production Nieuport 17, serial no N1559. With these later machines the overwing Lewis gun was replaced by a synchronised .303 inch Vickers firing through the propeller arc. N1559 is in standard French markings. The fact that the machine is fined with a totally non-standard pitot/static tube, fined to the portside 'V' interplane strut, would indicate that N1559 was involved in development flying.
Alongside the 450 locally-built Nieuport 11s, Nieuport-Macchi also produced a follow-on batch of 150 Nieuport 17s. Seen here with its proud, young pilot is serial no Ni 3632. Note the command pennant that partially obscures the first letter of the aircraft's serial no.
The Nieuport 17 went into operational service in the late spring of 1916 being a bigger, better, more powerful development of the Nieuport 11 Bebe, minus the handling problems of the Ni 16. Powered by a 110hp Le Rhone, the Ni 17 had a top level speed of 107mph at 6.560 feet giving it a level speed advantage of around 13mph over the Halberstadt D II and 16mph compared with the Fokker E III. This, combined with its superior climb and agility saw the new French fighter outclassing its German opposition to the point where the German reaction was to have Euler and Siemens-Schuckert mimic the design by 'back-engineering' a captured Nieuport 17. The early production French-operated example seen here sported a 'cone de penetration', which, unlike a normal airscrew boss, remained stationary. However, like many adornments dreamt up by the aircraft builders, these cones failed to survive long in operational useDespite the high speed manoeuvre limitations of the earlier Bebe also applying to the Ni 17, the fighter was built in quantities that approached the 1.000 aircraft mark, the type entering widespread service in France, with both the RFC and RNAS in Britain, Belgium, Italy - where 150 were licence-built by Macchi - The Netherlands and Romania.
The then Captain William Avery Bishop, photographed in the cockpit of his No 60 Squadron, RFC, Nieuport 17, serial no B 1556. Destined to survive World War I with a confirmed score of 72 victories, 'Billy' Bishop was born in Ontario, Canada, on 8 February 1894, Bishop was already a Lieutenant with a Canadian cavalry unit at the outbreak of war. As with other aces-to-be, Bishop started his flying career as an observer in Royal Aircraft Factory RE 7s of No 21 Squadron, RFC, during the autumn of 1915. Hospitalised with a knee injury sustained in a crash landing early in 1916, Bishop then underwent pilot training, following which he spent the rest of the year and early 1917 flying the Royal Aircraft Factory BE 2c with a UK-based anti-airship unit. In mid-March 1917, the young Canadian was posted to No 60 Squadron, RFC, operating Nieuports over the Western Front. Just over a week later, 'Billy' Bishop was to score his first 'kill'. During the next five months, Bishop's tally rose to 36, with his lone 2 June 1917 attack on a German airfield earning him the coveted Victoria Cross for exceptional bravery. After an enforced extended leave back in Canada, Major Bishop, as he now was, returned to France in mid-March to command the Royal Aircraft Factory SE 5a-equipped No 85 Squadron, RFC. Between then and 19 June 1918, 'Billy' Bishop doubled his score of confirmed victories before being effectively forced to quit operational flying for public relations reasons. Bishop returned to Canada after the war, where he helped create the Royal Canadian Air Force, becoming an Air Vice Marshal in the process. 'Billy' Bishop died on 11 September 1956.
Both manpower and material were major initial contributions America brought to the war as pictured by these US Army Signal Corps mechanics re-assembling Nieuport 17s at Issoudun in France during May 1917. After August 1917, Issoudun was to become the biggest and best known of the sixteen American advanced flying training schools established in France. At the time of the Armistice, these flying training schools were producing around 2.000 pilots per month, including those undergoing refresher training.
A foursome of Nieuport 17s belonging to the Escadrille Lafayette, or N 124, formed of French commanded American volunteer pilots. The brainchild of Norman Price, an American lawyer, the squadron came into being on 16 April 1916, as the Escadrille Americaine, its name being quickly changed to Lafayette following German diplomatic pressure. After serving honourably under the French flag for just under two years, the unit was transferred to US control on 18 February 1918 to become the 103rd Aero Squadron, with most of its pilots being put in command of other squadrons being formed at the time, thus helping to spread this pool of hard-won combat experience. Sadly, the squadron's creator, Norman Price, along with other unit members including Raoul Lufbery, James McConnell and Kiffen Rockwell were all to die in combat. Note the squadron's Indian Head emblem.
Despite having been born in France of French parentage, Raoul Gervais Victor Lufbery has deservedly gone into the annals of aviation as one of the brave young men who helped in the forging of US military aviation during World War I. Lufbery was born on 14 March 1885, emigrating with his parents to the US at the stare of the 1890s. At seventeen and footloose, Lufbery ran away from home, travelling to Europe and the Middle East before returning to the US to join the Army as a rifleman. It was the US Army that furthered his knowledge of the world by sending him to the Philippines, from where, on Army discharge, he proceeded to explore South East Asia in 1910. Two years on and Lufbery's path crosses that of French pilot, Marc Pourpe, who hired Lufbery as the mechanic for his Bleriot. At the outbreak of war both men were still together and, by now, back in France, Pourpe volunteered and with his previous flying experience soon found himself with Escadrille N 23. Initially rejected as a foreigner by the French authorities, Lufbery was contemplating joining the French Foreign Legion when Pourpe, in need of a tried and trusted mechanic, intervened on his behalf. Sadly, shortly after rejoining Pourpe, his benefactor was killed. During the late spring of 1915, Lufbery was selected for pilot training, gaining his 'wings' on 29 July 1915. His introduction to combat came in October 1915 piloting two seater Voisins with Escadrille VB 106. Happily for Lufbery, he was selected for single seaters early in 1916 and following type conversion training joined the Nieuport 11-equipped Escadrille Lafayette on 24 May 1916. French-led, this unit was manned by American volunteer pilots. Here, within the space of less than five months, Lufbery made his mark by becoming an ace, that is having amassed the necessary five 'kills', on 12 October 1916. Commissioned in early 1917, Lufbery continued flying for the French with the Escadrille Lafayette until January 1918, when the unit and its personnel were transferred to the American Expeditionary Forces's control. By now holding the US rank of major, Lufbery was given command of the 94th Aero, equipped with Nieuport 28s. This unit became operational on 19 March 1918 and two months later Raoul Lufbery was killed after falling from his blazing Nieuport on 19 May 1918. Seen here standing besides his Nieuport 17, with its Escadrille Lafayette's Indian Head emblem. Lufbery's ultimate confirmed score stood at 17 'kills'.
Externally almost identical to the later Nieuport 17s, the Nieuport 23 was fitted with a 120hp Le Rhone and carried its Vickers gun on the port, or left-hand side of the upper nose, rather than the top centre as on late model 17s. Top level speed of the Ni 23 was 115mph at sea level. The machine shown here, N1895, was the personal mount of French ace, Charles Nungesser.
Charles Eugene Jules Marie Nungesser ended his war with 45 confirmed victories, placing him in third place among France's leading air aces. Seen here leaning against his Nieuport 23, serial no N1895, resplendent with his macabre personal emblem. Nungesser was born in Paris on 15 March 1892. Clearly both impetuous and self-confident, the young Nungesser had run off to Argentina at the age of 16, where he made his first flight, 'soloing' the machine immediately afterwards. Commissioned as a cavalry officer into the 2nd Hussars prior to the war, Nungesser found himself overtaken by the advancing German in August 1914, coolly extricating himself by ambushing an enemy staff car, shooting its two occupants, and using it to make his escape. For this feat, along with an earlier act of bravery, Nungesser received the Medaille Militaire, along with a transfer to the flying service. On 8 April 1915 and by now a qualified pilot, he joined Escadrille VB 106, flying two-seat Voisins. It was while flying one of these sedate pushers in the autumn of 1915 that he was to make his first 'kill' by downing an Albatros two seater. Clearly, this victory marked him as being fighter pilot material, his transfer to Escadrille N 65, with its single seat Nieuport 11s following in November 1915. Once with N 65, Nungesser displayed an impressive aggression, as reflected in his ever-mounting tally of 'kills'. Reckless to the point of foolhardiness, helped, no doubt, by the military publicists, Charles Nungesser was feted wherever he went despite the fact that he spent much time in hospital recovering not only from enemy-inflicted wounds, but car crashes of his own making. Nungesser was to survive the war, his legend following him to the end, when, on 8 May 1927, accompanied by Francois Coli in the Levasseur 'Oiseau Blanc', he took off in an attempt to make the first east-west Atlantic crossing by aeroplane. Neither the aircraft or its crew were ever seen again.
William Wendell Rogers in the cockpit of his No 1 Squadron, RFC, Nieuport 24, shortly after joining the unit in the spring of 1917. Rogers was to stay with No 1 Squadron throughout the remainder of the war. Born on Canada's eastern seaboard in 1897, Rogers joined the RFC in 1916 and survived the war as a Captain, with a confirmed victory tally of 9, including the downing of the Gotha flown by Rudolf Klein, commanding officer of KG 3, on 12 December 1917. Happily, Rogers died of old age on 11 January 1967. This image highlights an interesting difference between British and French operated Nieuport 24s, with the British retaining the overwing-mounted Lewis gun, while the French opted for a nose-mounted Vickers gun, synchronised to fire through the propeller arc.
First flown on 14 June 1917, the Nieuport Ni 28 fighter abandoned the characteristic Nieuport 'V' interplane strut in favour of the conventional twin strut arrangement. It was during the somewhat protracted development of the Ni 28, that the French authorities elected to standardise on the SPAD S XIII. Meanwhile, Nieuport were clearly less than happy with the design, having to produce four versions of the machine prior to its initial deliveries with the American Expeditionary Forces 27th, 94th, 95th and 147th Aero Squadrons in March 1918. Powered by a 160hp Gnome Monosoupape, the single seater had a top level speed of 123mph at 6,560 feet, along with the ability to reach 10.000 feet in 10 minutes 18 seconds. Armed with two .303-inch Vickers guns, the Ni 28 was fast and agile, but soon gained a dubious reputation for shedding upper wing leading edge fabric and, occasionally the whole upper wing, when dived too steeply. Although this problem had been remedied by July 1918, the Americans, like the French, had by then re-equipped with SPAD S XIIIs. In all the Americans ordered 297 Ni 28s. Seen here is one of the development machines with dihedral on the upper wings only and smaller than the definitive gap between top wing and fuselage.
Edward Vernon Rickenbacker was born in Columbus, Ohio, of poor Swiss immigrant parents, on 8 October 1890. 'Eddy', as he was almost universally known, had his education cut short at the age of twelve, when the death of his father forced him to become the family breadwinner. 'Eddy' worked at a number of mundane jobs, until, at eighteen, he joined a car sales and service company. Here he rose rapidly from drip tray cleaner to racing driver. At the age of twenty, 'Eddy' Rickenbacker, driving a Blitzen-Benz, set a new land speed record of 134mph. A year on and he was driving in the first of the famed Indianappolis-500 races. When America entered the war in April 1917, 'Eddy' joined the US Army, becoming personal driver to General Pershing, the US Army commander in France. It was here that 'Eddy' met Brigadier General 'Billy' Mitchell. As a reward for repairing his Mercedes, Mitchell arranged for 'Eddy' to enter flying training at one of the US-operated French military flying schools in August 1917. Now a pilot and with a commission, he joined the newly formed 94th Aero Squadron on 4 March 1918. Flying Nieuport 28s at the time he joined it, as seen here, the unit was soon to exchange its Nieuports for SPAD S XIIIs. Rickenbacker's first confirmed 'kill' was when he downed a Pfalz D III on 29 April 1918. By the time of the Armistice, a little over six months later, Captain 'Eddy' was America's leading air ace with a confirmed 26 victories. After a series of business triumphs and tragedies during the l920s, 'Eddy' Rickenbacker's fortunes steadied, with him becoming first General Manager, later Chairman of Eastern Air Lines. During a World War II tour of the Pacific area, 'Captain Eddy' had the misfortune to have to spend some days in a dinghy, prior to rescue, after the aircraft he was flying in was forced to crash land at sea. 'Eddy' Rickenbacker finally died of old age on 27 July 1973.
Despite the fact that it emerged far too late to see combat during the war, the Nieuport Ni 29 is of more than passing interest in that it serves to show the French trend towards heavier, more powerful fighters that was fully established by the beginning of 1918. Flown initially in June 1918, the Ni 29 was a big, heavy, two-bay winged biplane that relied on the installed power of its 300hp Hispano-Suiza 8Fb for its performance, rather than its aerodynamics. Despite such criticism, this somewhat inelegant machine had a top level speed of 143mph at sea level, exactly comparable to Germany's best in the shape of the Junkers D I, while the Ni 29's ability to reach 16,405 feet in 14 minutes beat Germany's best climbing fighters, the Siemens-Schuckert D III and D IV.
The Salmson 2A.2 made its prototype debut in April 1917, entering operations towards the close of 1917. As it transpired this Salmson two-seater turned out to be one of France's finest reconnaissance types, quite capable of deep penetration beyond the front and fighting its way out when called upon to do so. Powered by a Salmson-built Canton-Unne radial, the 2A.2 had a top level speed of 115mph at 6,560 feet, along with an endurance of up to 3 hours. Armed initially with a single, fixed forward firing .303-inch Vickers in the nose and a flexibly mounted .303-inch Lewis in the rear, this armament was doubled on entering service. One of the features that endeared the 2A.2 to its crews was its 'get homeability', its extremely robust structure capable of withstanding severe combat damage and still staying together. In all, around 3,200 examples of the 2A.2s were built, mainly for the French, but with deliveries of 705 to the Americans commencing in April 1918.
Observer Lt John H. Snyder of the 91st Aero Squadron hands down the photographic evidence gleaned during his latest mission for dispatch to the photographic laboratory. Based at Gondreville-sur-Moselle, the 91st Aero Squadron, equipped with Salmson 2A 2s, had a short, but lively five month operational existence, extending from 7 June 1918 to 11 November 1918. During this time the 91st Aero lost 13 fliers, along with another 13 wounded. Set against this, the 91 st Aero was credited with downing no less than 21 enemy fighters.
The Salmson-Moineau three seater of early 1916 was an extremely novel, well armed if clearly underpowered reconnaissance type. Initially powered by a 120hp Canton-Unne mounted behind the nose gunner's position, this engine drove twin tractor-mounted propellers set midway up the inboard interplane struts via transmission shafting. Even when later re-engined to take the 240hp Salmson engine, as seen here, the machine's top level speed was only 80.9mph. Just visible in this image are the paired guns, flexibly mounted in both nose and rear cockpits.
An SVII of Escadrille SPA 31 that had been forced down behind enemy lines and carries the legend 'Acquired by Jasta 38. 6 April 1917' in German just aft and below the cockpit coaming.
Big, brutal and heavy, the SPAD S VII was the aircraft destined to usurp the Nieuport 17 as France's leading fighter. First flown in May 1916, the S VII initially employed a water-cooled 140hp Hispano-Suiza, whose output was progressively coaxed to give 150hp, then 160hp and, ultimately, 175hp, giving the later S VIIs a top level speed of 119mph at 6.560 feet. Although lacking the Nieuport 17's agility, the S VII more than made up this shortfall by virtue of its higher speed and really robust structure, the latter advantage gaining more importance in people's minds coming as it did at a time when the structural weakness of the Nieuport's wings was beginning to create genuine anxiety. The S VIIs armament consisted of a .303-inch Vickers gun synchronised to fire through the propeller arc. Deliveries of the S VII with 150hp engine started in early September 1916, the type going to both the French and RFC squadrons. Of these early S VIIs, some 495 were French-built, while a further 200 were produced under licence in Britain. These were followed by around 6.000 of the improved SVIIbis with the 175hp engine, the S VII eventually serving with many air arms, including those of Belgium, Brazil, Greece, Italy, Peru, Portugal, Romania, Russia and the US expeditionary force. The stork emblem on the SVII seen here identifies it as belonging the the famed Group de Chasse 12 commanded by Felix Brocard.
The Italian Military Air Service relied totally on French developed fighters for its front-line equipment throughout the war. Interestingly, this photograph of an Italian operated SPAD S VII also includes a Nieuport 11, another of the French fighters the Italians favoured. However, unlike the Nieuport 11s and 17s that the Italian built under licence, all 197 Italian SPAD S VIIs were purchased directly from France.
Georges Marie Ludovick Jules Guynemer is seen here briefing General Franchet d'Espery on the finer point of the SPAD VII's Hispano-Suiza engine in June 1917. Like the German fighter ace, Theo Osterkamp, Guynemer was initially rejected for military service on the grounds of his weak physique. Born in Paris on 24 December 1894, Guynemer befriended the local airfield commandant in order to enlist as an aircraft mechanic on 24 November 1914. Once in the service and with a little help from his well-placed father's contacts, Guynemer had been selected for pilot training by March 1915. As a corporal pilot, Georges joined Escadrille MS 3, flying a mix of single and two seat Morane-Saulniers. Initially given a two seater Type L, Guynemer scored an early victory, when he and his observer downed a two seat Aviatik during July 1915. By the end of 1915 Guynemer's unit was flying Nieuport 11s, becoming N 3 in the process. His score now stood at three. Commissioned in February 1916, Guynemer was wounded and missed most of the intensive air fighting over the Verdun area during the first half of 1916. Recovered, Georges rejoined N 3 just in time to take part in the Battle of the Somme, that opened on 1 July 1916. Guynemer experienced mixed luck on 23 September 1916, when, after downing three enemy aircraft, he, himself, narrowly missed death when his SPAD VII was shot out of the sky by 'friendly fire'. The culprit on this occasion was a 75mm French anti-aircraft shell that hit his machine at 9,000 feet. George was lucky to be able to get his fighter down for a crash landing. Sadly, luck finally deserted Guynemer on 11 September 1917, when the Legion d'Honneur holding ace was surprised by a flight of Albatros fighter and fell to their guns. At this time, Georges Guynemer had scored 45 confirmed victories.
Developed directly from the SPAD VII, the prototype SPAD XIII flew initially on 4 April 1917. Because of the high degree of commonality with its forebear, the S XIII required the minimum of flight testing and therefore could go straight into production, ensuring that initial deliveries were flowing to operational units by the end of May 1917. With its more powerful 235hp Hispano-Suiza 8 Be, the S XIII could carry two synchronised .303 inch Vickers gun and still reach the much higher top level speed of 138mph at 6.560 feet. Standardised as the prime fighter type with both the French and American Expeditionary Forces, no less than 8.472 S XIIIs were to be built by the time of the Armistice. The machine seen here is carrying Le Prieur rocket projectiles attached to its inboard interplane struts for anti-balloon or anti-airship missions.
Francesco Baracca, born on 9 May 1888, had held a commission in the crack Royal Piedmont Cavalry since the age of nineteen, to which he added his military aviator's 'wings' in 1912. Too late to put his flying experience to use in the Italian-Turkish War of 1911-1912, Baracca spent the years between 1912 and 1915 as a touring flying instructor, going from one military airfield to another. Interspersed with these duties, Baracca was asked to fly and evaluate many of the new military aircraft being offered to the Italian Government. Baracca was with a Paris-based Italian military mission at the time Italy declared war on the Austro-Hungarian Empire, on 19 May 1915, shortly afterwards returning to Italy to join a Nieuport 10 squadron serving on the Udine Front. Baracca's first confirmed 'kill' cook a long seven months to materialise and came in the wake of his transfer to the single seat Nieuport 11 -equipped 70th squadriglia at the end of 1915. This first victory, on 7 April 1916, involved a two seat Austrian Aviatik. Following in the footsteps of such great fighter aces as James McCudden and Manfred von Richthofen, Baracca appears to have specialised in downing two seaters. In June 1917, Baracca, whose current score was 13, took command of the SPAD S VII -equipped 91st squadriglia. By November, when the 91st exchanged its SPAD S VIIs for the more potent SPAD S XIII, Baracca had taken his tally of kills' to 30. Some indication of how the German-led Austro-Hungarian thrust to the Piave was to effect the local air war can be gauged from the fact that over the next seven months, Major Baracca only managed to add a further 4 victories to his score, prior to meeting his own end, on 18 June 1918, when, having set off with two companions, he failed to return from a ground strafing mission. Italy's leading air ace, Baracca is seen here standing beside his SPAD XIII that carried his personal emblem of a rampant stallion.
The SPAD S XIII of the 22nd Aero Squadron, seen here, was an early production example of 893 S XIIIs purchased by the American Expeditionary Force and used a 200hp Hispano-Suiza 8B, rather than the 235hp 8 Bec of later aircraft. Contracts for another 6.000 Curtiss-built machines were cancelled in the wake of the Armistice, but 435 existing S XIIIs were shipped back to the US after the war, being used as fighter trainers, following re-engining with the de-rated 180hp Wright-Hispano. Incidentally, the 22nd Aero was declared operational on 22 August 1918 and was one of the few units to survive the immediate post-war run-down to become the 22nd Pursuit Squadron.
An Italian operated Voisin LA, the machine being licence-built by SIT in substantial quantities throughout late 1915 and 1916. This particular aircraft used a 190hp Isotta-Fraschini V 4B. These lumbering, pusher-engined reconnaissance machines proved easy prey for the Austro-Hungarian fighters.
The 150hp Salmson-built Canton-Unne powered Voisin LB, or Type 4, two seater, that made its operational debut in early 1916 was one of the first dedicated ground attack machines. Armed with either a 37mm cannon, as seen here, or an even larger 47mm weapon, the Type 4 proved equally effective against railway trains or shipping and was operated by both the French military and naval air arms, plus the Italians.
By now screamingly anachronistic in its form, the Voisin Type 10 two seat night bomber started to enter operational service in April 1918. Powered by a 300hp Renault, the Type 10 could carry up to 600lb of bombs and ammunition. With a top level speed of 82mph at sea level and a cruising speed of 76mph, the Type 10's endurance at cruising speed was four hours. Note how little the appearance of this, the culmination of a series of Voisins, had changed over the four years of war.