Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Vickers F.B.19 Mk. l and Mk. ll

The Vickers F.B.19 first flew in August 1916. It was a single-engine, single-bay, equal-span biplane, slightly smaller than either the Sopwith Camel or Nieuport 17, with a proportionally large engine fairing and a tall fuselage, which gave it a relatively stubby appearance. It was armed with one synchronised 7.7mm Vickers machine gun, mounted on the left-hand side of the fuselage, to facilitate the installation of the Vickers-Challenger synchroniser gear.

The 100-hp Gnome Monosoupape engine gave a relatively slow speed (102 mph), and the relatively low cockpit position, placed behind a wide rotary engine and between unstaggered wings, severely limited visibility for the pilot. 
Estimates of fifty to sixty-five F.B.19s were built. Six early production examples were sent to France in late 1916 for operational evaluation, where the RAF found them unsuitable for the fighting conditions then evolving.

At about this same time, some of the F.B.19s were demonstrated to the Russian military in Petrograd, Moscow, Kiev and Tiflis, resulting in a single example being sent for evaluation in 1916. The F.B.19 found more favour in Russia as leading pilots, including the ace Yevgraph Kruten, regarded it favourably.

Russian sources indicate (?) that it was fitted with a more powerful 130-hp Clerget engine that provided a maximum speed of around 125 mph, making the aircraft faster than both the SPAD S.VII and the Sikorsky S-20. It is thought that the Russians procured around twenty or thirty planes, and deployed at least four to front-line units, including one in which the ace Grigoriy Suk claimed two of his nine victories. A number of unarmed planes served as trainers.

After the Russian October Revolution, a number of F.B.19 found their way into Bolshevik hands. A force of six F.B.19s are said to have been employed in 1918 against the anti-Bolshevik People's Army, and the type remained in service until 1924.
All examples of the F.B.19s active in Russian service appear to have been Mk. I planes with unstaggered wings.
A number of additional examples are said to have remained in crates on the dockside at Archangelsk until the British Royal Navy destroyed them during the evacuation of the allied expeditionary force in 1919.

 Mk II

 Mk II

Modifications were introduced, including a more powerful 110-hp (82-kW) Le Rhône or Clerget engine and staggered wings culminating in the Mk II design. Only 12 Mk IIs were built and these were sent to the Middle Eastern theatres of war. These were flown in Palestine and Macedonia starting June 1917, but no squadron used the type exclusively and it was not well liked. They were retired before the end of 1917.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Australian Ace, Robert Alexander Little

Little was born in 1895, in Hawthorn, Victoria, Australia. He was working in his father's business, as a salesman, when the war broke out. 
He applied for pilot training at the Australian Army's Central Flying School in Point Cook, but with only four vacancies, he was rejected along with hundreds of others. He then decided to sail for England in July 1915 and become a qualified pilot at his own expense. Gaining his flying certificate with the Royal Aero Club at Hendon in October, he joined the Royal Naval Air Service just prior to his 20th birthday.
He was transferred to France where he served for several months as the bomber in two seated machines.

Sopwith Pup

In October 1916, Little was transferred to 8N Squadron, and by January he gained his first four victories in a Sopwith Pup. In the spring of 1917, 8N replaced the Pups with Sopwith Triplanes and Little displayed his talent by scoring 24 victories in the Triplane bringing his total up to twenty-eight by July 10th.

8N then began flying Sopwith Camels, in which he scored a further ten victories during the rest of July to make fourteen for the month and a total of thirty-eight victories, including fifteen destroyed or captured.

Sopwith Camel

March 1918, Little joined Raymond Collishaw's 3 Naval Squadron (later 203 Squadron) as a flight commander. Here he would add another 9 victories.
May 27th 1918, Little received reports of German Gotha bombers in the vicinity, and took off on a moonlit evening to intercept the raiders in the engagement he was shot down and killed.
Squadron commander Collishaw summed up Little as "an outstanding character, bold, aggressive and courageous, yet he was gentle and kindly. A resolute and brave man."

Little was awarded the Distinguished Service Order, the Distinguished Service Cross and the Croix de Guerre.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Siemens-Schuckert R.VIII Bomber

Late in 1914 the Siemens-Schuckert Company of Berlin, Germany, began producing a three engined Steffen R series of bombers for the Imperial German Flying Corps.

Wanting to increase range and capacity, in 1916 they began designing a six engined Riesenflugzeug (“giant aircraft”) for the Military Air Service, the Siemens-Schuckert R.VIII.
The R.VIII would be powered by six Basse und Selve BuS.IVa 6-cyl. Water cooled inline engines at 300 hp each. The basic design was like the other contemporary R projects in that the engines were housed inside the fuselage, where they were tended by mechanics. The engines drove two tractor and two pusher propellers via leather cone clutches and a somewhat complex combination of gearboxes, shafts and bevel gearboxes.

Two aircraft were built but only the first, R23/16, was completed. Ground trials began in 1919, after the armistice, but were interrupted by a gearbox failure which resulted in a propeller breaking up and causing extensive damage.
The second airframe, R24/16, was never completed and the first was not repaired after the ground running accident due to the Versaille Treaty restrictions.

At the time of its completion the Siemens-Schuckert R.VIII was the largest complete aeroplane in the world; 157 foot wingspan, 70 foot length, 24 foot height and an empty weight of 23,100 pounds.
Projected speed was an estimated 75 to 80 mph and a range of 475 to 490 miles.

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.