Monday, September 18, 2017

French Ace, Jean Marie Luc Gilbert Sardier

Sardier was born 5/5 1897 in Riom, France. At the age of 17 he joined the French army in 1914. In 1915 he requested, and was granted, a transfer to the French Air Service and by mid 1916 he became breveted as a pilot and observer with Spa77 (Escadrille 77).

As a member of the "Les Sportifs" of Escadrille 77, his victory list began on November 7th, 1916. By August of 1918 he had accumulated 13 victories, 5 of which were balloons.
Shortly after his 13th victory he was given command of Spa48. Here he would finish the war, flying a Spad S.VII.
During this long run, he teamed with several other aces in scoring, including fellow aces Maurice Boyau, Laurent B. Ruamps, Francis Guerrier, and Marcel Haegelen.

At war’s end Sardier had 15 victories and 8 shared. His honors and awards included; the Legion of Honor, the Médaille Militaire, the Croix de Guerre, the Distinguished Service Cross and the Military Medal.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Sage Type 2

The Frederick Sage & Company, an established woodworking firm located in London, began an aircraft department in early 1915. They hired test pilot and designer, E.C. Gordon England to lead the department and Clifford Tinson, formerly deputy to Frank Barnwell at the Bristol Aeroplane Company, to lead the design department.

Tinson's first design for Sage was a two-seat biplane, the Sage Type 2. It was a small two seater of the fighter/scout type. It used the conventional wire-braced wood-and-fabric construction but was of original concept designed with considerable care, to reduce aerodynamic drag.

The pilot and gunner sat in an enclosed, glazed cabin that filled the gap between the fuselage and upper wing. Because of the lack of effective gun synchronising gear to allow a fixed gun to fire through the propeller disc, an aperture was cut in the upper wing above the observer's seat so the gunner could stand with head and shoulders above the wing, giving him a good allround field of fire for his Lewis gun, including forward over the propeller.

The 100hp Gnome Monosoupape nine-cylinder rotary engine was fully cowled, fitted with a four bladed propeller and a large prop spinner.

Remarkably small, the Type 2 had rod-actuated ailerons in the upper wing only.

First flown August 10, 1916, it proved to possess a very good performance, but gun synchronization had meanwhile become available, and after the sole prototype had been wrecked in a forced landing on September 20, 1916, no attempt was made to rebuild the aircraft or develop it.


Monday, September 11, 2017

German Ace, Oberleutnant Fritz Otto Bernert

Born March 6th, 1893 in Ratibor, Prussia.
He was serving in the 173rd Infantry Regiment World War I began. He was wounded four times in late 1914 and his fourth wound, inflicted by a bayonet, severed the major nerve in his left arm. Upon recovery, it became apparent his left arm was essentially useless, and he was invalided out of the infantry.

He then applied to the Luftstreitkräfte and trained to be an aerial observer. Upon graduation, he flew reconnaissance missions for FFA 27 and 71 through 1915.
Hiding his disability, he then applied for pilot's training and was accepted. The fact that he wore glasses also did not bar him from service.

He transferred to a temporary grouping of pilots mostly from FFA 71, for his initial assignment to a fighter unit. By March, 1916, he had his pilot's license and was assigned to KEK Vaux. In April 1916, he scored his first victory.
Because KEK Vaux was an ad hoc fighter unit, it was equipped with Halberstadt D.II planes and reorganized into a full-fledged Prussian fighter squadron, Jasta 4 in August 1916.

Bernert scored the new squadron's first victory in September and became an ace on November 9th, 1916, scoring his fifth, sixth, and seventh triumphs.

On 1 March 1917, he was transferred to Jasta 2. Bernert scored his first victory in this unit in March and in April, he achieved the status of double ace with his tenth win.
He scored 14 more times in April, including a record five victories on April 24th, all in a twenty-minute span, to run his total to 24. He was awarded the Pour le Merite in April.

On May 1st, Bernert was appointed to command Jagdstaffel 6. His final three victories came in May, he completed the war with 27 victories, with an unconfirmed 28th on May 19th. 

Bernert was severely wounded again in August 1917. This wound removed him from command and kept him in the hospital for three months. It took him off flight status. Upon release from the hospital, he was promoted to Oberleutnant and was transferred to Berlin as Inspector of Air.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Germany’s Junkers D.I (factory designation J 9) monoplane was the first all-metal fighter to enter service late in World War I.

The prototype, a private venture by Junkers designated the J 7, first flew on 17 September 1917, powered by a 160 hp Mercedes D III engine. It went through nearly a half-dozen detail changes in its design during its tests. When it was demonstrated to the Idflieg in April 1918 it proved impressive enough to result in an order for three additional aircraft for trials. 
However, the changes made by Junkers were significant enough for the firm to redesignate the next example the J 9, which was supplied to the Idflieg instead of the three J 7s ordered.

During tests, combat pilots felt it lacked the needed maneuverability for fighter tactics then current.
It was suggested that, in view of the comparative invulnerability of its metal structure, it should be produced as a specialized "balloon attack" aircraft. Accordingly, contracts were issued for the D.I for this role between May and November 1918. It is thought that 60 aircraft were ordered.

Information on engines used is a bit sketchy. It seems one D.I was test flown with an 185 hp Benz Bz IIIb eight-cylinder V-engine, and another, powered by an 185 hp BMW IIIa engine. The craft reportedly had a loaded weight of 1,839 lb, maximum speed of 140 mph and a service ceiling of 9,842 feet.

I find no firm record of the number delivered or the number being used in combat during WW I, but it seems a few were active with the Geschwader Sachsenberg in Kurland against Bolshevik insurgents.

Monday, September 4, 2017

German Ace, Friedrich Manschott

Born February 21st, 1893 in Reichartshausen, Germany. 
Like so many aviators of The Great War, Manschott’s promising career lasted only a few months and little has been written about him.
Vizefeldwebel (staff sergeant) Manschott earned his flyer's badge on August 10th, 1916. His first assignment was to a reconnaissance unit, FA 203. There he downed his first foe, a Farman, on 15 December 1916.
Shortly afterwards he was then transferred to a fighter unit, Jasta 7. Between January 5th and March 15th, he scored ten victories.

On March 16th, 1917, immediately after he had shot down his third ballon, he was engaged by four Caudrons and was killed in the combat near Fort Vaux, Meuse, France.
He was credited with 12 aerial victories.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Blackburn Kangaroo

In 1916, the Blackburn Aircraft Company designed and built two prototypes of an anti-submarine floatplane designated the Blackburn G.P. or Blackburn General Purpose. 
The Royal Flying Corps showed no interest so Blackburn developed a landplane version as the Blackburn R.T.1 Kangaroo (Reconnaissance Torpedo Type 1).  

The first aircraft was delivered to Martlesham Heath in January 1918. Test results were disappointing, with the rear fuselage being prone to twisting and the aircraft suffering control problems, which led to the order for fifty aircraft being cut to twenty, most of which were already partly built. Corrections were made and engines were updated from the 250 hp Rolls-Royce Falcon II to the more powerful 275 hp Rolls-Royce Falcon III. 

Twenty-four Kangaroos were built and 10 of these were issued to No 246 Squadron (the only unit to operate the type) at Seaton Carew, on the Durham coast. 
Operations began on 1 May, the Kangaroos flying more than 600 hours on anti-submarine patrols over the North Sea between then and 11 November. During that time they were credited with 12 U-boat sightings and 11 attacks, one of which, on 28 August, resulted in the shared destruction of UC 70 with the destroyer HMS Ouse. They were withdrawn from service in May 1919.

Wingspan of 74 feet, height of 17 feet and maximum takeoff weight of 8,017 pounds. Capable of a maximum speed of 98 mph at 6,500 feet.

The Kangaroo had a crew of 3, armed with two Lewis machine guns and was capable of carrying up to 920 pounds of bombs.

Monday, August 28, 2017

German Ace, Ernst Freiherr von Althaus

Althaus was born in Coburg, Germany and was the son of the Adjutant to the Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. At age 16, he joined the 1st Saxon Husaren-Regiment Nr. 18 as an ensign in Grossenhain in 1909 and was serving in that unit at the outbreak of war.

In the spring of 1915 he transferred to the Fliegertruppen and trained at FEA 6 at Grossenhain. Here he acquired the nickname Hussar Althaus.

Oblt. Ernst Freiherr von Althaus strikes a casual pose with Ltn. Rudolf Trentepohl, one of his former observers at FFA 23”

He was promoted to Oberleutnant August 1915 and posted to FA 23 on 20 September where he led long distance reconnaissance flights. Two months later he joined Kampf Kommandos Vaux and by April he became an ace. In July 1916, he notched his eighth win, thus earning the Pour le Mérite. He was one of the original Fokker Eindekker pilots who became known collectively as the Fokker Scourge.

He was wounded, for the second time, in March 1917 and after recovering was posted to Jasta 14 shortly before Manfred von Richthofen selected him to command Jasta 10. With this unit he flew an Albatros D.V with his personal marking, the letters H and A (for Hussar Althaus), spelled out along the fuselage in morse code. 

He scored one more victory with this aircraft in July 1917 but the following month, due to failing eyesight, he was forced to relinquish command of Jasta 10 to Werner Voss. He then assumed command of Jasta 11 but his eyesight worsened and he returned to the army, commanding a company of infantry near Verdun. After a battle in which his company was reduced to fifteen men, he was captured by Americans in October 1918, and not repatriated until September 1919.

Althaus was credited with nine confirmed aerial victories, as well as eight unconfirmed ones. 

He was awarded; the Military Order of St. Henry, the Iron Cross, second class, the Royal House Order of Hohenzollern and the Pour le Mérite.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Wight Quadruplane prototypes

The aircraft was built by J Samuel White & Company Limited, a boat manufacturer who specialised in seaplanes during WW1. They were located at Cowes on the Isle of Wight, hence the name Wight Aircraft. The Quadruplane prototypes, built in 1916, was the only aircraft in the fighter category they built.

Design chief Howard T. Wright was inspired by the multi-wing aircraft of the time and like others before him may have felt that a fourth wing would be an improvement.

Designated N546, the plane had an unusual arrangement in which the fuselage was placed between the middle two wings with upper and lower wings attached by struts. Another remarkable feature was that its wingspan was less than the overall length. The wings were cambered on the leading and trailing edges with a flat middle section. This wing design proved to be very inefficient. Power was provided by a 110 hp (82 kW) Clerget 9Z nine-cylinder air cooled rotary engine and it was to be armed with two 0.303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers machine guns.

The original version had two cabane struts of long chord length supporting the upper wing. Four similar type interplane struts were used between the upper three wings, all of which had ailerons. The bottom wing had a shorter span with pairs of struts and cut outs for the landing gear wheels. Because the axle was the same height as the lower wing, the tail skid was very tall to prevent that wing trailing edge from contacting the ground. When tested in mid 1916 the aircraft had difficulty taking off due to shallow wing incidence and displayed dangerous tendencies because of a lack of yaw control and a major redesign was required.

In February 1917 the second version was ready for testing. The single thick struts were replaced with more conventional parallel wire braced struts and the landing gear was lengthened. The new wings were of varying chord and the overall diameter of the fuselage was increased. Most importantly, a larger dorsal fin and rudder were installed. After several disappointing flights at Martlesham Heath the machine was, once again, returned to the aircraft production facilities in Cowes for another rework.

The final version had new wings of decreasing span from top to bottom and ailerons only on the upper two wings. At Martlesham Heath in July 1917, flight testing again revealed an unsatisfactory lack of control. In February 1918 the Quadruplane crashed into a cemetery and was written off.

References for this blog may come from Wikipedia, WW1, Warplanes of the First World War, The Complete Book of Fighters, The British Fighter since 1912, and others.

Monday, August 21, 2017

French/American Ace, Gervais Raoul Lufbery


There are various accounts of his childhood and young adulthood most differ in some particulars but all agree that he was born in France on March 14, 1885. His mother, a French woman, his father, Edward Lufbery, an American.

1908 found him in San Francisco, where he enlisted in the US Army. He spent his service in the Philippines. After his enlistment expired he traveled the far east and in 1912 while visiting India he met pioneer French aviator, Marc Pourpe. Their resulting friendship determined the course of Lufbery’s life. He became Pourpe’s chief mechanic and the duo spent the next two years demonstrating the mystery of manned flight to crowds in India, China, and Egypt, before returning to France in the summer of 1914.

At the outbreak of WW1 Pourpe enlisted in the French air service, while Lufbery, a US citizen, joined the Foreign Legion and later transferred into the Aéronautique Militaire as a mechanic. Pourpe's death in a crash ignited Lufbery's desire for revenge and he sought and was granted permission to enlist in aviation school. He initially trained on two-seaters and flew missions with a bomber squadron before transferring to combat fighter school in April 1916, where he learned to fly the standard French combat aircraft, the Nieuport.

The following month, in May 1916, Sergeant Lufbery joined a newly formed squadron of American volunteer combat pilots, the Escadrille Lafayette (No.124), or Lafayette Escadrille.
The squadron consisted of 38 American pilots and four French officers.
At first his encounters with his unit members did not go smoothly. Lufbery spoke English with a thick French accent and had little in common with his comrades, most of whom were from wealthy families and were Ivy League educated. Once in combat, though, his dogged determination and success earned him the respect and admiration of his peers and in October 1916 “Luf” became the first recognized American air ace after downing his fifth enemy aircraft.

R to L, Edmond Charles Clinton,  Lufbery, Gervais Raoul, McConnell, James Rogers  Soubiran, Robert,  France, Lafayette Escadrille.

Luf’s fame continued to rise as the number of his “kills” grew following America’s entry into the war in April 1917. Ultimately, Lufbery was credited with 17 confirmed enemy aircraft shot down, though aviation scholars generally believe that the actual number was considerably higher.

In November 1917, Lufbery was commissioned into the US Army Air Service. Promoted to major in January 1918, and was chosen to become the commanding officer of the yet-unformed 94th Aero Squadron. His duties were to instruct the new US pilots for combat. One of those pilots, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker who would later consistently laud his former mentor, “Everything I learned, I learned from Lufbery.”

On 19 May 1918, Lufbery took off in his Nieuport 28 in an attempt to intercept a German reconnaissance plane near to the 94th's home airfield. As Lufbery closed in to attack, the German gunner's fire hit the Nieuport which suddenly flipped over and Lufbery was seen falling from the aircraft, with no parachute. He fell to his death. 

In his lifetime he was awarded; The Legion of Honor, The Médaille Militaire, the Croix de Guerre, Military Medal (GB) and Montenegro Silver Medal for Bravery.

In 2004, eighty six years after he was killed in action, Raoul Lufbery was posthumously awarded the American Purple Heart.

References for this blog may come from Wikipedia, WW1, Warplanes of the First World War, The Complete Book of Fighters, The British Fighter since 1912, and others.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Siemens-Schuckert D series fighters

When the French Nieuport 17 fighter, reached the front lines in March 1916, it proved superior over existing German fighters. Soon captured examples were whisked away to German aircraft manufactures with the request to produce an improved craft.

The D.I

The Siemens-Schuckert Werke produced their version of the Nieuport 17 designated the D.I. The most important difference was the powerplant - instead of the Le Rhone 9J of the Nieuport , Siemens-Schuckert chose to use their own 110 hp Siemens-Halske Sh.I rotary engine. Visually, instead of the Nieuport 17's circular, fully "closed" cowling the D.I had a small, close fitting, semi-circular cowling with an open bottom, to allow adequate cooling for the slow revving rotary engine. This gave the D.II the appearance of the earlier Nieuport 11. The wing area was a little less than the Nieuport, the gap between the wings was reduced slightly and the interplane struts were of different design. Late production models were fitted with modified tail skids, and had large pointed spinners on their propellers. An An order for 150 aircraft was placed on 25 November 1916, deliveries were slow and the D.I was obsolete before it was available in numbers, being outclassed by the Albatros D.III. Only 95 were produced with most being sent to the fighter training schools.

The D.II
D.II undergoing stress testing

Development work on the D series aircraft continued with the introduction of the new Siemens-Halske Sh.III engine, which developed 160 hp. The new engine was fitted to a series of original prototype designs from Siemens, the D.II, D.IIa and D.IIb. These featured a much rounder and wider front fuselage to hold the larger engine, leading to a rather stubby-looking aircraft which pilots later referred to as the flying beer barrel. Flight tests started in June 1917, and while the aircraft did not have a very high top speed, they showed outstanding rates of climb. The only serious concern was the extremely long landing gear needed to keep the huge 2-bladed prop clear of the ground.
Three more prototypes were ordered, two D.IIc with longer span wings and one D.IIe, with the original sized wings. After completion in October 1917, the design proved promising and in December an order for twenty D.IIc was placed with a smaller 4-bladed propeller, that allowed for shorter landing gear legs. A second order of 30 aircraft in February 1918.


First production D.III

The D.IIc were designated the D.III. Approximately 41 D.IIIs were delivered to frontline units between April and May 1918. Most aircraft were supplied to Jasta II, whose pilots were enthusiastic about the new aircraft's climbing ability and was well-received by its pilots, evaluating it as the ideal fighter for dogfight. In tests against the Fokker D.VII and Albatros D.V, the D.III was the faster of the three.
However, after only seven to 10 hours of service, however, the Sh.III engines started showing serious problems with overheating and piston seizure.
In late May 1918, the D.III was withdrawn from service for upgrading and Jasta II replaced its D.IIIs with the older Fokker Dr.I.

In the words of the Jasta.II commander, Hptm Rudolf Berthold, "The Siemens fighter must be made available again for front-line use as quickly as possible for, after elimination of the present faults, it is likely to become one of our most useful fighter aircraft.",
The engine problem was later traced to the Voltol mineral oil that was used to replace the now-scarce castor oil.
Furthermore, the close-fitting engine cowling provided inadequate cooling to the engine.
All remaining D.III aircraft were returned to the Siemens-Schuckert factory, where they were retrofitted with new Sh.IIIa engines and cutaway cowlings that provided improved airflow. A further 30 new production D.IIIs incorporated these modifications. Total production amounted to about 80 aircraft.

The D.III never returned to front-line duty and finished the war as an interceptor with home defense squadrons.

The D.IV

A D.III wing redesign by Heinrich Kann, a new young member of the design team, resulted in three prototypes being built early in 1918.
The new aircraft, which would be designated D.IV, was faster than the D III (although only by 6 mph). Its main advantage was its time of climb to 16,400 feet or above, where it overtook the D III and it could reach 19,680 feet nearly five minutes quicker than the D III.
A production order was placed in March 1918, and eventually 280 machines were ordered (only 123 were completed). The first aircraft went to operation units in August, starting with Jasta 14 and Jasta 22. Only about fifty D IVs reached operational units before the end of the war.
The D IV was popular with the pilots. Staffelfuhrer Lt Lenz, the first pilot at Jasta 22 to receive the new aircraft wrote a glowing report on it in October 1918. He described it as the best single seater at the front, with superior climbing ability and maneuverability was good. It was especially useful above 4,000 meters, where it out-flew the Fokker D VII and he suggested using the Fokker aircraft at lower levels. He did acknowledge that engine overheating was still a problem and recommended that it should be used as an interceptor rather than on patrols. He also thought it was best used by more advanced pilots.

Production of the D.IV continued after the cease-fire, with many being sold to Switzerland where they operated into the late 1920s.

References for this blog may come from Wikipedia, WW1, Warplanes of the First World War, The Complete Book of Fighters, The British Fighter since 1912, and others.

Monday, August 14, 2017

American Ace, Field Eugene Kindley

Kindley was born March, 1896, at Prairie Grove, Arkansas.
After he completed his education, he moved to Coffeyville, Kansas where he became a motion picture operator. In May of 1917 he joined the Kansas National Guard.
He volunteered for a transfer into the aviation branch of the United States Army Signal Corps and here he attended the School of Military Aeronautics at the University of Illinois.

Kindley established himself as an unlucky and somewhat untalented flier, with a series of accidents, mechanical failures, and landing mishaps. He became part of the first group of American pilots to be transferred to England for combat training in 1917. In the spring of 1918, he completed training and commissioned as a first lieutenant in the United States Army Air Service.

On his first flight, he was assigned to ferry a Sopwith Camel from England to the western front, but crashed on the White Cliffs of Dover. Kindley was sent to hospital to recover. After his release, he was assigned to the Royal Air Force's 65 Squadron on the Western Front on 22 May 1918. Here he scored his first victory, flying a Sopwith Camel, on June 26th, 1918 over Albert, France, a Pfalz D.III of Jasta 5.

In July 1918, he was reassigned to the newly former 148th Aero Squadron as a flight commander where in the same month he scored the units first victory, an Albatros D.V near Ypres.

On the 13th of August Kindley's patrol engaged Jasta 11. That day he scored his fourth victory, shooting down a Fokker D.VII possibly flown by Lothar von Richthofen who was wounded in the battle.

September proved to be a busy month as he scored four more victories and on the 24th he led a flight of Camels in a successful attack on seven Fokkers near Bourlon Wood, France. Three days later, found him dropping bombs on and strafing German infantry, destroying a German observation balloon, taking out a German machine gun nest, shooting down an enemy airplane, and scaring two Fokker biplanes away from fellow fliers even after his ammunition had been exhausted.

These missions in late September 1918, earned him the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC), an Oak Leaf Cluster (DSC) and the British Distinguished Flying Cross. 

While with the 148th Aero Squadron, flying a Camel, he scored 11 confirmed kills, ending the war with a total of 12 confirmed.