Monday, October 23, 2017

British Ace, George “McIrish” McElroy

McElroy was born at Donnybrook, County Dublin, Ireland.. to Samuel and Ellen McElroy. He enlisted promptly at the start of World War I in August 1914, and served as a corporal in the Motor Cyclist Section of the Royal Engineers when he was first commissioned as a second lieutenant in May 1915.

He was severely affected by mustard gas and was sent home to recuperate. After recuperation he relinquished his commission in the Royal Irish Regiment when awarded a cadetship at the Royal Military Academy, where he graduated in February 1917. Shortly afterward he was seconded to the Royal Flying Corps and trained as a pilot at the Central Flying School, and appointed a flying officer on June 28th. On August 15th he joined No. 40 Squadron RFC, where he benefited from mentoring by Edward Mannock. He originally flew a Nieuport 17, but with no success in battle. By the year's end McElroy was flying S.E.5s and claimed his first victory on December 28th.

McElroy proved to be an extremely aggressive dog-fighter who ignored often overwhelming odds, and his score soon grew rapidly. By February 18th he had run his string up to 11. At that point, he was appointed a flight commander with the temporary rank of captain, and transferred to No. 24 Squadron RFC.
He continued to steadily accrue victories by ones and twos. By the end of June he had ran his tally to 30.
In July, he added to his score almost daily, a third balloon busting on the 1st, followed by one of the most triumphant months in the history of fighter aviation, adding 17 victims during the month.

McElroy's continued apparent disregard for his own safety when flying and fighting could have only one end. On July 31st, after his 47th victory, he took to the sky for the last time. He failed to return from this flight and was posted as missing. Later it was learned that McElroy had been killed by ground fire. He was 25 years old.

McElroy's awards were; 
Military Cross with two bars, he was one of only ten airmen to receive the second Bar. 
Distinguished Flying Cross with one bar.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Somewhat unusual, the SPAD S.A carried its observer in a nacelle ahead of both wing and engine.

The S.A, first flown in 1915, was the first aircraft produced by SPAD following its reorganization from the pre-war Deperdussin company. The chief designer, Louis Béchereau, had been involved in designing that firm's successful monocoque racing monoplanes, and many design details were carried over from the Deperdussin aircraft.

The aircraft was designed to carry its pilot in the normal position but the observer was in a streamlined nacelle ahead of the propeller. This configuration was an attempt to combine the advantages of the tractor and the pusher types, giving the observer a clear field of view to the front and sides without the drag penalty of the typical pusher. While not originally designed explicitly as a gunner's position, early combat experience had shown a need for forward-firing machine guns. But mechanisms to allow a gun to fire through the propeller were not yet available, and the observer's nacelle on the S.A represented a temporary solution.
Communication between the pilot and the observer was nearly impossible.

The observer nacelle vibrated badly and, in multiple cases, parted company from the rest of the aircraft while in flight. Like many pushers, it also put the observer at risk of being crushed in even a relatively mild crash or "nose-over". 
A British evaluation of the type suggested "it would be expensive in observers if flown by indifferent pilots".
The S.A had a short and inauspicious career in the French Aviation Militaire, and it was quickly replaced in service by less dangerous aircraft. Contemporary sources indicate that it was seldom used. In total around 100 of the S.A were built, including prototypes, and the Imperial Russian Air Service operated the some 57 of those for a period of time, due to a shortage of available aircraft.

In spite of its lack of success, the design brought valuable experience to Béchereau and his team. The successful S.VII fighter was a direct development of the A series.

Monday, October 16, 2017

German Ace, Heinrich Gontermann

Gontermann was born February 25th, 1896 in Siegen, Southern Westphalia. His father, a cavalry officer, pushed him towards a career in the military. After leaving school, Heinrich enlisted into the cavalry in August 1914 and in the spring of 1915, he was given a field commission as Leutnant and later that year he applied for a transfer to the newly formed German Army Air Service. After some delay he was finally accepted for pilot/observer training, and in late spring of 1916 he was posted to Field-Abteilung 25 where he flew both as a pilot and as an observer on AGO C.Is.
Gontermann proved to be a natural pilot and was sent to Jastaschule (Fighter School), graduating on November 11th, 1916. 3 days later after being posted while on patrol over Morval, France.

There was a lull in his scoring until March 1917, when he scored regularly, becoming an ace on the 24th. By the end of Bloody April, 1917, Gontermann had scored 17 victories including 5 balloons. On 26 April 1917, he brought his victory total to 17 victories.

Gontermann was also promoted to Staffelführer (commander) of Prussian Jasta 15 four days later, and here he went on to score 22 more victories. His total victory count would be 39 which included 18 balloons.

On October 30th Gontermann was making a test flight in the new Fokker Dr.I. He was anxious to try this new airplane, despite misgivings about it. After a few minutes, he tried aerobatics at 700 meters altitude. He pulled out of the second loop and dived into a left turn. The upper wing collapsed and broke completely off. His airplane plunged into the ground and he received life ending injuries.

Gontermann had been awarded; the Pour le Mérite, the Royal House Order of Hohenzollern, the Military Order of Max Joseph and the Iron Cross, 1st and 2nd class.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Airco DH 10 Twin Engined Light Bomber

Airco DH 10

In 1916 Geoffrey de Havilland, chief designer at the Aircraft Manufacturing Company, designed a large two bay biplane capable of bombing German industrial centers. The Airco DH 3.

It was a large biplane with wide-span three-bay wings, slender fuselage, and a curved rudder. It was powered by two Beardmore engines, mounted as pushers between the wings. In addition to tailskid landing gear, two wheels were placed beneath the nose to prevent bumping.

Airco DH 3

After construction of two prototypes the War Office placed a production order for 50. However, this order was cancelled before any could be completed, because strategic bombing was not thought to be worthwhile, and twin-engined bombers were claimed to be impracticable. The two prototypes were scrapped in 1917.

It is noteworthy however that the D.H.3 was also the first aeroplane to feature the graceful curving rudder which was to become characteristic of almost every future de Havilland design.

In 1918 de Havilland designed the DH.10 to meet the requirements of Air Board Specification A.2.b for a single- or twin-engined day bomber.

Airco DH 10

The first prototype flew on 4 March 1918, powered by two 230 hp Siddeley Puma engines mounted as pushers. Performance was well below expectation, and the DH.10 was redesigned using 360 hp Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII engines in a tractor installation.
The second prototype, known as the Amiens Mark II first flew in April 1918, showing greatly superior performance and proving to be faster than the DH.9A while carrying twice the bomb load.
Shortages of the Rolls-Royce Eagle meant that the Amiens Mark II could not be put into production, however it proved the design of the aircraft. From this the Amiens Mark III emerged, which was powered by the more readily available 395 hp Liberty 12 from America. Following successful evaluation, large orders were placed, with a total of 1,291 ordered.

Airco DH 10

First deliveries of DH.10s went to No. 104 Squadron RAF in November 1918, flying a single bombing mission on 10 November 1918 before the Armistice ended the First World War.

Postwar, they were used for air mail service to the British Army of Occupation on the Rhine, and some were deployed to India being used for bombing operations in the Third Anglo-Afghan war.

Monday, October 9, 2017

French Ace, Michel Joseph Coiffard

Coiffard was born in Nantes, Loire-Atlantique on July 16th, 1892. At the age of 18 he joined the army on November 16, 1910. Prior to World War 1 he served against the Rifs in Morocco and Tunisia and was wounded three times during his service in Africa, and awarded three citations while there. 
He was serving in an artillery unit when World War 1 began and transferred to the infantry, as a sergeant, and remained in the infantry until he joined the air service on January 4, 1917.
He completed flight training April 19, 1917 and joined Escadrille N.154 on June 28, 1917. Here he achieved his first victory on September 5 but victory 2 and 3 did not come until early in 1918.

In June 1918  the squadron transitioned from Nieuports to the sturdy SPAD series and Coiffard began his victory streak. 

N.154 was re-designated Spa154 to mark the change in aircraft.

With the SPAD he undertook the often overlooked but notably dangerous practice of enemy observation balloon hunting, a dangerous occupation, protected as they were by artillery and patrolling aircraft.
As a "balloon specialist" Coiffard made his mark as a warrior, destroying nine Drachen balloons in July, along with three German aircraft. At the end of July he had run his score to 17, adding eight in August and six more in September. On three occasions, he shot down three balloons in the same day. On the last of these triple victory days, September 15, he and his wingman downed three observation balloons in six minutes.
Spa154 would become the premier balloon busting squadron of the war, with over 70 claimed.
Coiffard excelled in his chosen field. Of his final total of 34 confirmed air victories fully 28 were achieved against German balloons.

On October 28th, 1918, Spa 154 was on patrol. Coiffard spotted German Fokker D.VIIs, and gave the signal to attack, which was seen only by his wingman. He and Second Lieutenant Condemine fought it out with the German patrol. While downing his 34th victim he was critically wounded, yet he managed to fly 12 kilometers back to a perfect landing in friendly hands, but died shortly thereafter. He was 26 years old.

The following day, he was posthumously made an Officer de la Légion d'honneur.

His decorations were many and most striking was the citation when he received the Officier de la Légion d'honneur; "An officer of fierce energy and incomparable bravery. In Morocco he had already gained attention by his audacity. In the actual war he served successively in the artillery, infantry and air service attracting throughout amazement and admiration because of his scorn of death and his admirable spirit of sacrifice. In pursuit aviation his will to conquer allowed him to accomplish a series of exploits with regularity and speed which have never been equaled. He reported 32 official victories, of which 27 were gained in three months. Three wounds, Médaille militaire and Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur for feats of war. Fifteen citations."

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Airco D.H.4 was the Royal Flying Corps' first purpose-built day bomber, filling a role that until then had been carried out by aircraft that had been designed for other duties.

The D.H.4’s maiden flight took place in August 1916, with Geoffrey de Havilland at the controls.
Engine supply problems plagued the aircraft until Finally, in the summer of 1917, a suitable engine was found in the shape of the 375 hp Rolls Royce Eagle VIII and by 1918 most D.H.4s in British service used this engine. A total of 1,700 D.H.4s were ordered from Airco and six main sub-contractors, of which 1,449 were eventually delivered.

On 6 March 1917, R.F.C. Squadron No. 55 was the first to receive the D.H.4 and the first operation came a month later, on 6 April 1917.
The DH.4 proved a huge success and was often considered the best single-engined bomber of World War I. Even when fully loaded with bombs, with its reliability, impressive performance, and its high rate of climb made it highly popular with its crews. It’s major flaw was the two cockpits were too far apart, making it hard for the pilot and observer/ gunner to communicate.

No.55 Squadron was one of the few R.F.C. squadrons not to suffer heavy losses during 'Bloody April', while most British aircraft were outclassed by the latest generation of German fighters the D.H.4 was able to use its superior speed and climb rate to escape from attack.

Beginning in 1918 the D.H.4 was also produced in very large numbers by Dayton-Wright and Fisher Body in the United States, where it was powered by the 400hp Liberty 12 engine.

The first American built DH-4 were delivered to France in May 1918, with combat operations commencing in August 1918.

In addition to its primary bombing role, the aircraft was used for photo-reconnaissance, long-range fighter sweeps and antisubmarine patrols. The DH.4 was widely used by the Royal Naval Air Service.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Austro-Hungarian Ace, Godwin von Brumowski

On 26 July 1889, Godwin von Brumowski was born into a military family in Wadowice, Galicia, in Poland. He attended the Technical Military Academy in Vienna and graduated as a lieutenant commissioned into the 29th Field Artillery Regiment on 18 August 1910. When war was declared, he was serving as an officer in an artillery regiment. After distinguishing himself in combat on the Russian front, he transferred to the Imperial and Royal Aviation Troops, learned to fly and was posted to Fliegerkompagnie 1 or Flik 1. The squadron was posted at Czernowitz. Brumowski was assigned as an aerial observer on the Russian Front. Here he frequently flew missions as Otto Jindra's observer before becoming a pilot on 3 July 1916. In November 1916, he joined Flik 12 on the Italian front.

Brumowski proved to be a gifted pilot scoring five victories in less than two months while flying a Hansa-Brandenburg C.I. These victories were done by flying a two-seater, that normally was not associated with being a fighter, but Brumowski flew it like a fighter plane.
In March 1917, after studying German fighter tactics with Jasta 24 on the Western Front, he assumed command of Flik 41J, the first true Austro-Hungarian fighter squadron.
In August 1917 von Brumowski scored a remarkable streak of victories, being credited with 12 confirmed and 6 unconfirmed kills between the 10 and 28 August. In this period he flew both his favored Hansa-Brandenburg C.I. and the German Albatros D.III. The twin synchronized guns of the Albatros convinced him to make the transition and he would fly the Albatros the rest of the war.

By October 1917, his Albatros had been painted red, and when airborne, his squadron was easily identified by the macabre insignia Brumowski designed: a white skull on a black background. 

His 35 victories didn’t come without incident. The first of February 1918, he found himself abandoned by his wingmen and left to fight off eight Sopwith Camels single handed. On this occasion, it was he that came off the worst, managing to nurse his badly damaged D.III back to base, the aircraft becoming engulfed in flames at some point, probably due to a hit in the fuel tank which was situated between the pilot and engine.

The charred remains of Albatros D.III 

The shortly after the aircraft was rebuilt, he once again found himself hugely outnumbered by the enemy. Once again he managed to return to base despite near-catastrophic failure of both its wings.This time his aircraft was written off when it flipped onto its back upon landing, he escaped with minor injury.

Brumowski described how he found the aircraft actually easier to fly when the second wing failed as it balanced the controls enough for him to make it safely home.

Such was his character, his report of the events of that day ending with the words, "Apart from that, nothing happened."
Having been recognized as an extraordinary leader, he was given command of all Austro-Hungarian fighter squadrons of the Isonzo on 11 October 1918.
At war’s end Brumowski was the most successful fighter ace of the Austro-Hungarian Air Force and had been awarded; the Coronne de Fer, the Order of Leopold, Medal of Bravery, Military Merit Medal and the Iron Cross.