DH 2 vs Albatros D.I/D.II
Western Front 1916
Author: James F. Miller
Artists: Jim Laurier, Mike Postlethwaite
Formats: Soft cover, PDF eBook, ePub eBook, Kindle eBook
Monoplane pioneers Roland Garros and Max Immelmann roughed the prologue for Great War air combat; the epilogue was penned in the ultimate 1918 fighters by pilots such as Ernst Udet and William George Barker. In between the story was refined by men like Oswald Boelcke and Lanoe Hawker VC, who did not start in the de Havilland 2 or Albatros, yet refined air fighting in those second generation biplanes.
Geoffrey de Havilland designed the DH 2 for the Royal Flying Corps to wrestle control of the sky away from Eindekers of The Fokker Scourge
. The less efficient pusher design allowed a forward firing machine gun without the complexity of blasting around a propeller – the downfall of Immelmann and Garros. It was a nimble and sturdy airplane that outperformed the German opponents. In 1915 and into 1916 it could bring its single machine gun to bear and shot the German air service into crisis. However, it suffered from engine troubles.
The Albatros was designed by Robert Thelen and addressed the performance shortcomings of the first German biplane fighters. Not as maneuverable as the de Havillands and French Nieuports, it outpaced them in overall performance. It also had more than twice the firepower, and a reliable engine in an efficient tractor mount.
Content DH 2 vs Albatros D.I/D.II, Western Front 1916
is presented through 80 pages in 11 sections:
Design and Development
The Strategic Situation
Statistics and Analysis
The book is written in an easily read manner that includes enough technical and historical data to satisfy me, without going into minutia. I now know the organization of Albatros Flugzeugwerke GmbH and why it was so named by founder Dr. Walther Huth, a German biologist who studied the seabird. Equally touched upon is how Geoffery de Havilland came to AMC (Aircraft Manufacturing Company, forerunner of Airco) to build Farmans and subsequently his own designs. Preceding that detail is a brief overview of aeronautical promotion in Europe between Kitty Hawk and August, 1914, including established military marginalization. Mr. Miller also clarifies and corrects some misconceptions and bad information previously claimed about particular pilots, machines, and battles.
Mr. Miller further provides a detailed technical description of the aircraft structures with some basic aerodynamic data. Enough that I leaned some new facts. While the strengths and weaknesses of the airframes are compared, the powerplants are discussed in detail. An airframe is only as good as, and never better than, the engine that powers it
, is a time proven aeronautical adage. Included are quotes from pilots about the handling and operational qualities of their canvas falcons, such as the great RAF ace McCudden reminiscing that cockpits were notoriously cold:
I have never experienced such cold as that which we went through on those de Havillands [DH 2s] at 12,000-13,000ft during December 1916. I remember that on one patrol I was so intensely cold and miserable that I did not trouble to look round at all to see whether any Huns were behind me or not. I was so utterly frozen. I cannot explain the intensity of the cold when high up in a 'pusher' aeroplane, but it can be readily remembered by those who have experienced it.
This was mitigated somewhat for Albatros pilots due to the toasty engine just feet in front of them.
Next, the book delves into the Fokker Scourge and efforts of the British and French to vanquish the Eindekers. Max Immelmann’s death is considered the end of German air superiority, just as a later RFC death is used as the beginning of the era of the Albatros. Developments of the British and German fighter squadrons are examined, as well as the crucial involvement of two leaders: Lanoe Hawker VC and Oswald Boelcke. Their role in their respective service cannot be underplayed, as both inspired true loyalty and confidence in their men. Manfred von Richthofen, in the height of his success, remarked that he was but a pilot while Boelcke was a genius.
Other pilots of influence and renown are discussed including John Oliver Andrews and, of course, Manfred von Richthofen. Both have central roles in this Duel
title. Quotes, reports, and diary entries pepper the text – a favorite part for me. DH 2 ace Capt. Andrews, victor in many dogfights including the killing of Boelcke’s replacement, described a different outcome a few days later:
I was shot to pieces from behind straightaway -tanks, engine and the rest - and all I could do was turn in the direction of the lines in the hope that I could run a straight glide. I'd got no engine to manoeuvre and no height to spare, and 1 hoped that I could just scrape over the trenches, which is what I did. The whole machine was riddled like a colander when I got it on the ground. I managed to land, though, and the right way up.
The comparison details several clashes between these two aircraft. The fact that No. 24 Sqn and Jasta
2 were two of a handful of pure fighter units stationed in each other’s area ensured many personal meetings. Sometimes the participants of a previous clash went at it again in subsequent fights: the pilot who, while escaping Von Richthofen became a contributing factor in Boelcke’s death, was encountered again by the Rittmeister
, with different results. Rittmeister
von Richthofen also fought several other RFC future greats (subject of the Engaging the Enemy
illustration), even claiming that one shot down (he only escaped when British flak chased the Rittmeister
Ultimately, the key story of this duel is the epic clash between Richthofen and Maj. Hawker, pitting the maneuverable DH.2 and the powerful Albatros II against each other by two great fighter pilot. In five pages of quotes and report excerpts, and a centerfold, the author settles the record on some controversies about the fight, such as the length of the battle and Hawker’s engine trouble.
Finally, the fallout from the autumn of the Albatros and resulting tactical refinements of the survivors is discussed. Why more DH 2s were not downed by the first Albatrosen, and visa-versa, is fielded.
Photographs, Illustrations, Maps, and Other Graphics
Plenty! DH 2 vs Albatros D I/D II
is well supported by dozens of black-and-white photographs, tables, diagrams, and cutaways. The back of the title page features a table translating the ranks of Germany, France, England, and the US.
A peculiarity of Osprey books is that, depending upon which country they are published in, the content list and cover art can be different. The cover art for this book is a combination of its centerpiece illustration and, presumably, an alternate centerpiece illustration. Both are explained inside the cover.
Each aeroplane is demonstrated in 3-view color profiles. Discussions of the factory and field applied camouflage is included, and remarked upon in several photographs. Cockpit art plus a table of vital specifications of both aircraft are also included. Cutout includes the weapon installation of each. Further graphics include:
• A map of the conflict shows the frontlines and relation of British and German airfields.
• Two pilots are profiled, Air Vice-marshal John Andrews and Hauptmann Oswald Boelcke.
• British and German fighter formations are compared.
• Original artwork includes Engaging the Enemy, as seen from Richthofen’s cockpit as he engages McCudden head-on.
• Two-page centerpiece scene of the beginning of the ultimate clash between Richthofen’s flight and Hawker’s.
• Capping off the title are the tables Leading DH 2 Albatros D.I/D.II killers (credited victories) and Leading Albatros D.I/D.II DH 2 killers (credited victories).
The photographs run the gamut between studio quality, posed amateur exposures, and quick ‘grab shots’. All show sufficient detail to support the text. Several should be inspirational to modelers!
Most Osprey Duel titles have positively impressed me and this is no exception. Clearly written with enough detail to explain complex aeronautical concepts and history without bogging in minutia, pilot reports and excerpts from documents, and excellent graphic support, it was a joy to read.
I did not find any typos and really have no lows to report, other than the quality of a couple of photos, yet the photos are relevant, useful to the topic, and they are almost 100 years old, after all.
I certainly recommend this book for modelers and historians of Airco, Albatros Flugzeugwerke GmbH, the DH 2 and Albatros D.I/D.II fighters, von Richthofen, Boelcke, Hawker VC, and general Great War air enthusiasts.
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