Kaiser Bill’s Air Force: Albatros to Roland

This article is based on a display of 1/72 scale German aircraft of World War One on show at the Cheltenham GWR Modeller’s Exhibition in October 2007 although some of these models are now on display at the Jet Age Museum, Staverton.


Political unrest in Europe after 1910 caused a number of nations to consider the military use of aviation. Following the outbreak of the Great War in 1914, aeroplanes first acted as spotters for ground forces by noting positions of enemy troops and gun emplacements. Later, the technique of aerial bombing was developed. Specially designed fighters then brought the new dimension of air combat to the art of war. Probably the most famous fighters of the War were Britain’s SE5a and Sopwith Camel and Germany’s Fokker D.VII and Triplane and Albatros D.III. Dogfights over the Western Front brought fame to such pilots as Major Edward Mannock VC , Royal Flying Corps ( 73 victories ) , Baron Manfred von Richthofen of Der Luftstreitkrafte (Imperial German Air Service)( 80 kills ) and the French “ace” Capitaine Rene Fonck ( 75 shot down )


Aircraft received a prefix letter denoting the type followed by a Roman numeral as a designation eg Fokker E I, E II, E III etc. Some of these prefixes were as follows:
Prefix Type Example
A Artilleriebeobachtungsflugzeug. Artillery observation aircraft, single seat monoplane trainer or reconnaissance aircraft
B Beobachtungsflugzeug.Reconnaissance aircraft, two-seat, unarmed, after 1915 used as trainers only
C Armed reconnaissance two seat biplane.armed, occasionally used as bomber. Roland C.II Walfisch
CL Light, two-seat biplane, used as fighter, trainer or ground attack aircraft Hannover CL.III
D Doppeldecker.Single seat, single engined biplane fighter / scout. Designation later used for all fighter aircraft

Fokker D.VII

Dr Dreidecker. Single seat triplane fighter / scout Fokker Dr I
E Single seat monoplane fighter / scout ( Use abandoned after Fokker E.V Fokker E.V
G Großflugzeug. Twin engined multi-seat biplane bomber Gotha G.IV
J InfanterieflugzeugTwo seat ground attack / support type Junkers J.I
N Nachtflugzeug. Aircraft for operation at night
R Riesenflugzeug Multi engined multi seat long range bomber Staaken R.VI
W Wasserflugzeug. Seaplane, single seat fighter
LW leichtes Wasserflugzeug. Light seaplane, single seat fighter


 Kaiser_AR_Albatros D1
The D.I and D.II represented Germany’s second successful bid within a year to gain total air superiority over the Allies – the first being with the Fokker E monoplanes in 1915-16. They were vast improvements over the Fokker and Halberstadt biplane fighters that had filled the gap. Each was an unequal-span biplane with a wooden semi-monocoque fuselage, having the famous Albatros rounded tailplane coupled with the new rounded fin and rudder of C.V/16 type.The major difference between the versions was that the upper wing of the D.II was lowered to reduce the gap between it and the fuselage so as to improve forward and upper vision. Power was provided by either a 112kW Benz Bz.II or 119kW Mercedes D.III engine on the D.I and by the latter only on the D.II. These beautiful fighters each had the shattering firepower of two Spandau machine-guns – the first successful installation of twin guns on a German fighter. D.I and D.II were first flown on an operational mission in September 1916, led by the legendary ace Oswald Boelcke. He had recently given up flying Albatros C and Fokker monoplanes and returned to the Western Front from a tour of other battle areas to take command of the new Jagdstaffel Nr 2 (Jasta 2). Although Boelcke’s career on the aircraft was short – he was killed on 28 October 1916 when the undercarriage of a colleague’s aircraft struck his upper wing – the fighters ravaged Allied D.H.2, B.E.2 and Nieuports throughout the winter, making up for slightly inferior agility with a much higher maximum speed and rate of climb. Twenty D.II, powered by 138kW Austro-Daimler engines, were also licence-built by the Oeffag company for the Austro-Hungarian Air Force. At the peak of their operational careers with the German Air Force, about 260 D.I and D.II fighters were in service.Take-off weight 900 kg. Empty weight 674 kg. Wingspan 8.5 m. Length 7.4 m. Height 3.0m. Wing area 22.9 m2. Max. speed 175 km/h Ceiling 6000 m. Range with maximum fuel 300 km

Kaiser_AR_Albatros DVa


The Albatros D.V flown by the Luftstreitkrafte (Imperial German Air Service) was developed from the earlier Albatros D.III. Though obsolescent when introduced, the D.V was produced in greater numbers than any other German fighter of the war. In April 1917, Albatros received an order from the Idflieg (Inspektion der Fliegertruppen, or ministry of aircraft production) for an improved version of the D.III. The resulting D.V featured a new fuselage of elliptical cross-section, which was 70 lbs (32 kg) lighter than that of the D.III. The prototype D.V retained the standard tail surfaces of the D.III, but production examples used the enlarged rudder of the Ostdeutsche Albatros Werke (OAW) D.III, as well as a revised ventral fin. The upper wing was repositioned 4.75 inches closer to the fuselage, while the lower wings attached to the fuselage without a fairing. The wings themselves were similar to those of the standard D.III, except for a revised linkage of the aileron cables. Early examples of the D.V featured a large headrest, which was typically removed by pilots because it obstructed the field of view. Aircraft deployed in Palestine – part of the Ottoman Empire, Germany’s ally, and later mandated to Britain by the post-Great War League of Nations – used two wing radiators to cope with the warmer climate.The D.V entered service in May 1917 and, like the preceding D.III, immediately began experiencing structural failures of the lower wing. Indeed, anecdotal evidence suggests that the D.V was even more prone to wing failures than the D.III. Furthermore, the D.V offered very little improvement in performance. This caused considerable dismay among frontline pilots. Manfred von Richthofen was particularly critical of the new aircraft. In a July 1917 letter, he described the D.V as “so obsolete and so ridiculously inferior to the English that one can’t do anything with this aircraft.” Nevertheless, 400 D.Vs were ordered in May and 300 more in July.

Kaiser_AR_Fokker Dr1

Anton Herman Gerard “Anthony” Fokker (1890 – 1939) built the first aircraft in his native Netherlands in 1910 and had close links with the German aviation industry during World War 1.  After a golden age of military and civil aviation in the 1920s and 30s, a new Fokker Factory was built near Schipol airport in 1951 which built Gloster Meteor aircraft under licence.The Fokker Dr. I Dreidecker (triplane) was a designed by Reinhold Platz and built by Fokker-Flugzeugwerke. The Dr.I was used only in small numbers and it suffered from structural defects but nevertheless became renowned as the plane flown by the Red Baron, Manfred von Richthofen.In November 1916 the British Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) introduced the first of 152 Sopwith Triplanes. Also serving with the French Navy and nicknamed “Tripe” or “Tripehound”, most Sopwith Triplanes were armed with a single fixed Vickers machine gun that fired through the propeller disc, using an interruptor mechanism.The Sopwith swiftly proved itself superior to the Albatros and Halberstadt scouts then in use by the German Air Service. In response, the Idflieg immediately solicited designs for new triplane scouts. No fewer than 11 German aircraft manufacturers, including Albatros, Pfalz, AEG, DFW, Schütte-Lanz, and Euler, responded with triplane prototypes. Most showed little promise, though limited production of the Pfalz Dr. I was undertaken.The Fokker works responded with the V.3, a small rotary-powered triplane with a tubular-steel frame fuselage and thick cantilever wings. Initial tests revealed deficiencies in the V.3, particularly regarding control forces. Instead of submitting the V.3 for a type test, Fokker produced a revised prototype designated V.4. The most notable changes were horn-balanced ailerons and elevators, as well as longer-span wings. The V.4 also featured interplane struts, which were not necessary from a structural standpoint, but which minimized wing flexing.The V.4 proved superior to the triplane prototypes submitted by other manufacturers. After a type test, Idflieg issued an immediate production order.Two pre-production triplanes, designated F.I, were delivered to Jastas 10 and 11 for combat evaluation. These aircraft, serials 102/17 and 103/17, were the only machines to receive the F.I designation. They arrived at Markebeeke, Belgium on 28 August 1917. Richthofen first flew 102/17 on 1 September 1917 and shot down two enemy aircraft in the next two days. He reported to the Kogenluft (Kommandierenden General der Luftstreitkräfte) that the F.I was highly satisfactory. The combat debut of the triplane was short-lived, however. Kurt Wolff, Staffelführer of Jasta 11, was shot down in 102/17 on 15 September 1917, and Werner Voss, Staffelführer of Jasta 10, was killed in 103/17 on 23 September 1917.Delivery of production machines, designated Dr.I, commenced in October. These aircraft were identical to the F.I except for the addition of wingtip skids. All aircraft were delivered to squadrons within Richthofen’s Jagdgeschwader 1. Compared to the Albatros and Pfalz fighters it replaced, the Dr.I offered remarkable maneuverability and initial rate of climb rate. The ailerons were light but not very effective. The rudder and elevator controls were light and powerful. Rapid turns, especially to the right, were facilitated by the triplane’s marked directional instability.The Dr.I also demonstrated significant drawbacks. The triplane’s instability made it a poor gun platform. More importantly, it was considerably slower than contemporary Allied fighters in level flight and in a dive. Due to the low-compression Oberursel UR.II, a clone of the Le Rhone 9J rotary engine, performance fell off dramatically at high altitudes. As the war continued, the lack of castor oil made rotary operation more difficult. The poor quality of German ersatz lubricant, known as “Voltol,” resulted in many engine failures, particularly during the summer of 1918.Furthermore, the Dr.I proved tricky to land and prone to ground looping, as evidenced by the wooden skids mounted on the lower wingtips. The cockpit was cramped, and the proximity of the gun butts to the cockpit, combined with poor crash padding, left the pilot vulnerable to serious head injury in the event of a crash landing.On 30 October 1917, Leutnant Heinrich Gontermann, commander of Jasta 15 and a 39 victory ace, was killed when his triplane broke up in flight. Leutnant Günther Pastor was killed on the following day under similar circumstances.The remaining triplanes were immediately grounded pending an inquiry. Idflieg convened a Sturzkommission (crash commission) which concluded that poor construction and lack of waterproofing caused the wing ribs to disintegrate and the ailerons to break away.In response to the crash investigation, Fokker improved quality control on the production line, particularly varnishing of the wing spars and ribs, to keep moisture from destroying the wing. Fokker also strengthened the rib structures and the attachment of the auxiliary spars to the ribs. Existing triplanes were modified at Fokker’s expense. Idflieg authorized the triplane’s return to service in late November 1917, and production resumed in early December. Despite corrective measures, the triplane continued to suffer from wing failures.On 18 March 1918, Lothar von Richthofen was seriously injured in a crash landing after the upper wing of his Dr.I collapsed in flight. Postwar research revealed that poor workmanship was not the only cause of the triplane’s structural failures. In 1929, the American National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics(NACA) investigations found that the upper wing carried a higher lift gradient than the lower wing-at high speeds it could be 2.55 times as much.However, it was Allied gunfire that claimed the life of Baron Manfred von Richthofen when his distinctive bright red Fokker triplane crashed on 21 April 1918The triplane’s problems destroyed any prospect of large-scale orders. Production eventually ended in May 1918, by which time only 320 had been manufactured. As the Fokker D.VII entered widespread service in June and July, surviving triplanes were withdrawn from frontline use and distributed to training and home defense units. Many training aircraft were reengined with the 100 hp Goebel Goe.II..Very few triplanes survived the Armistice. Serial 528/17 was retained as a testbed by the Deutschen Versuchsanstalt für Luftfahrt (German Aviation Research Institute) at Adlershof. After being used in the filming of two movies, 528/17 is believed to have crashed sometime in the late 1930s. Serial 152/17, in which Manfred von Richthofen scored three kills, became the centerpiece of Germany’s new aviation museum in Berlin. During World War II, it was evacuated to Poland for safekeeping. Its subsequent fate is unknown, but 152/17 is presumed to have been destroyed near the end of the war. Today, no original example of the Dr.I survives although a number of flying replicas have been built.

Kaiser_AR_Fokker DVII




























The D.VII was the work of Chief Designer Reinhold Platz at the Fokker company and when introduced into combat in 1918, quickly proved to be superior to existing Allied fighters, leading to a second Fokker Scourge.So infamous was the aeroplane that it was the only weapon specifically mentioned by name by the Allies in the Armistice agreements at the end of the Great War (Surrender in good condition by the German Armies of … all aircraft of the D7 type).  Platz had been working on a series of experimental planes, the V-series, since 1916. These planes were characterized by the use of thick-sectioned, cantilever wings (based on his German government-required collaboration with Hugo Junkers, who originated the idea in 1915 with his own firm and with the earliest all-metal aircraft) instead of thin wings with external wire bracing. This resulted in a stronger wing with greater lift and more docile stalling behaviour.  Late in 1917, Fokker built the V.11 experimental biplane, fitted with the standard Mercedes D.IIIa engine. In January 1918, a competition to select a new fighter was held at Adlershof. For the first time, frontline pilots would directly participate in the evaluation and selection of new fighters. Fokker sent in the V.11 along with several other prototypes. Manfred von Richthofen flew the V.11 and found it tricky, unpleasant, and directionally unstable in a dive. In response to these complaints, Fokker modified the V.11 by lengthening the fuselage and adding a fixed fin in front of the rudder. Upon flying the modified V.11, Richthofen praised it as the best aircraft of the Adlershof competition. It offered excellent performance from the outdated Mercedes engine, yet it was safe and easy to fly. Richthofen’s recommendation virtually decided the competition, but he was not alone in recommending it. Fokker immediately received a provisional order for 400 V.11 aircraft.Fokker’s factory was not up to the task of supplying the entire air force, so their rivals at Albatros and AEG were directed to build the D.VII under license, though AEG did not ultimately produce any aircraft. Fokker did not use production plans for their designs, instead building directly from jigs, and so they simply sent a completed D.VII to Albatros to copy. Albatros paid Fokker a 5 percent royalty for every D.VII built under license. Albatros Flugzeugwerke and its subsidiary, Ostdeutsche Albatros Werke (OAW), built the D.VII at factories in Johannisthal and Schneidemuhl, respectively. The former carried the designation Fokker D.VII (Alb), while those constructed at Schneidemühl were designated Fokker D.VII (OAW). Some parts were not interchangeable between aircraft produced at different factories, even between Albatros and OAW. Albatros soon surpassed Fokker in the quantity and quality of aircraft produced. The state of German industry had already started to deteriorate at this point, and under 2,000 of the planes were delivered from all three plants, with the most commonly quoted figure being 1,700.The D.VII entered squadron service with Jasta 10 in early May 1918. The plane quickly proved to be vastly superior to both the existing Albatros and Pfalz scouts and all existing Allied aircraft. Unlike the Albatros scouts, the D.VII could dive without any fear of structural failure. The D.VII was also noted for its ability to climb at high angles of attack, its remarkably docile stalling behaviour, and its reluctance to spin. These handling characteristics contrasted with contemporary scouts such as the British Sopwith Camel and French SPAD, which stalled sharply and spun vigorously.However, the D.VII also had problems. Heat from the engine often ignited phosphorus ammunition until cooling vents were installed in the ammunition cans. Fuel tanks sometimes broke at the seams. The D.VII also shed fabric and experienced rib failures on the upper wing. Planes built by the Fokker plant at Schwerin were particularly noted for their lower standard of workmanship and materials. Nevertheless, the D.VII proved to be a remarkably successful design, leading to the familiar aphorism that it could turn a mediocre pilot into a good one, and a good pilot into an ace.Production D.VII aircraft initially used the 170 hp Mercedes D.IIIa, followed by the high-compression 180 hp Mercedes D.IIIaü. Modern sources, however, commonly refer to these engines under the generic designation of “160 hp Mercedes D.III.” The D.VII was significantly improved by mounting the “overcompressed” 185 hp BMW IIIa, a development of the old Mercedes engine that combined increased displacement, higher compression, and an altitude-adjusting carburettor to markedly increase speed and climb at high altitude. Because the BMW IIIa was “overcompressed,” using full throttle at altitudes below 2,000 metres risked detonation and damage to the engine. In an emergency, however, using full throttle at low altitudes could produce up to 240 hp.Planes with the new BMW engine were designated D.VIIf. The first entered service with Jasta 11 in late June 1918. While pilots clamoured for the D.VIIf, production of the BMW engine was very limited and the D.VII continued to be produced with the 180 hp Mercedes D.IIIaü until the end of the war.Manfred von Richthofen died only days before the plane was introduced and never flew it in combat, although his former command, Geschwader 1, was one of the first units to receive the Fokker D.VII. Other pilots, including Hermann Goring, quickly racked up victories and generally lauded the design. Supplies were limited at first, but by July there were 407 on charge. Larger numbers were available by August, when they achieved 565 victories. The D.VII eventually equipped 46 Jagdstaffeln. When the war ended in November, 775 D.VII aircraft were in service. Postwar, the D.VII saw extensive use in the United States, where 142 captured examples were evaulated. The D.VII also served in the Polish (around 50), Dutch, Swiss, and Belgian air forces. It was the most numerous Polish fighter of the Polish-Soviet War. The D.VII proved to be so popular that Fokker completed and sold a large number of D.VII airframes that he had smuggled into the Netherlands after the Armistice. As late as 1929, the Alfred Comte company manufactured eight new D.VII fighters under licence for the Swiss Fliegertruppe.Today, preserved aircraft can be found in the Militaire Luchtvaart Museum (The Netherlands), the Brome County Historical Society (Canada), whose aircraft is believed to be the most original surviving example, the National Aviation Museum (Canada), the Deutsches Museum (Germany), the Royal Air Force Museum (United Kingdom), the Musée de l’Air (France), and the National Air and Space Museum (USA)

Kaiser_AR_Fokker EIII

 FOKKER E III and  E.V  
The yellow E (“Eindecker”, or monoplane) III was a contemporary of the Moraine Saulnier Type N and was introduced in December 1915, following the success of earlier Eindeckers which were not only Germany’s first purpose designer fighters but the first aircraft to be fitted with synchronisation gear, allowing a machine gun to fire through the propeller arc without hitting the blades.  This led to the “Fokker Scourge” of July 1915 to early 1916, ended by the arrival of Allied “pusher” fighters such as the de Havilland DH2.

Kaiser_AR_Fokker EV


The parasol winged Fokker E.V ( also later known as the D.VIII ) was designed by Fokker’s Reinhold Platz as a natural successor to the E III . Dubbed the “Flying Razor” by Allied pilots, it had the distinction of scoring the last aerial victory of the war, but was otherwise better known for three lethal accidents due to wing failures. In early 1918, Fokker produced several new rotary-powered monoplane designs. Of these, Fokker submitted the V.26 and V.28, small parasol-winged monoplanes with his usual steel-tube fuselages, for the second fighter trials at Adlershof. The V.28 mounted either the 145 hp Oberursel UR.III or 160 hp Goebel Goe.III prime mover, but both of these engines were in extremely short supply. The V.26 was powered by the relatively weak 110 hp Oberursel UR.II engine, but the design’s low drag meant it could nevertheless keep up with some of the fastest of the Allied designs.


In the end, the V.26 was ordered into production as the Fokker E.V. The Fokker designs were only barely beaten by the Siemens-Schuckert D.III with the complex bi-rotary Siemens-Halske Sh.III engine. The Siemens-Schuckert was put into production as well. The E.V had an exceptional rate of climb, able to reach 6 000 metres in 16 minutes. It was also highly maneuverable, although not to the same degree as the Siemens-Schuckert.

Perhaps most importantly it was also considered to cost “less man-hours to build than any other Great War aircraft” according to Platz. Four hundred were ordered immediately with either the UR.III or Goe.III, but neither engine was available in any quantity and the production examples all featured the UR.II. The first production examples of the E.V were shipped to Jagdstaffel 6 in late July and soon were in operation.  Emil Rolff scored the first kill in an E.V on 17 August 1918, but two days later he was killed himself when the wing delaminated in flight.


Two more planes would be lost over the next two weeks, and on August 24 the design was removed from service. This was the third Fokker design to suffer wing failures, and Fokker soon initiated a study to finally get to the root of the matter. According to Fokker’s autobiography, the wing’s centre of flexure lay too far behind the centre of pressure which allowed a dangerous aeroelastic phenomenon – divergence – to occur.

The solution was to reduce the section (and consequently, the stiffness), of the aft wing spar, thus moving the centre of flexure forward and closer to the centre of pressure. According to most other accounts, the source of the wing failures lay in shoddy and rushed construction. The E.V wing spars made by the “Gebruder Perzina” (Perzina Brothers) woodworking factory for Fokker-and the “spar caps” of the E.V’s wingspars (the sections of the wing spars that formed the top and bottom of each spar “box”) had been placed too far apart during the fabrication of the unfinished wing spars at the Perzina plant – so that when the time came to shape the wingspars to their final form to be assembled into the cantilever wing, the spar cap sections had too much material removed from them, and as a result had too little cross-sectional area for proper stiffness, and not enough strength to withstand combat manoeuvres. 

Production resumed in October after being renamed the D.VIII. Henceforth, the “E.” and “Dr.” designations were abolished, and all fighters received the “D.” designation. The first new examples of the D. VIII started arriving at front line units late that month and started operations on the 24th. By the Armistice, 85 examples had been delivered.

A total of 289 aircraft were produced, and some served in the post-war era. Eight (four according to other sources) E.Vs from the Polish Air Force operated against Soviet forces in the Polish-Soviet War of 1919-20. One of these planes was captured by the Red Army and used by the Soviets until the mid-1920s. Some planes reached Holland, Italy, Japan, the United States, and England as trophies, but most were scrapped in accordance with the terms of the Armistice.

Today, the fuselage of one D.VIII has been preserved at the Caproni Museum in Trento, Italy.

Length: 19 ft 4 in (5.86 m). Wingspan 27 ft 6.75 in (8.40 m) . Height: 9 ft 3 in (2.80 m). Wing area: 115.5 ft² (10.7 m²) . Empty weight: 848 kg (384 kg). Maximum takeoff weight: 1,238 lb (562 kg). Maximum speed 127 mph (204 km/h) . Service ceiling 20,670 ft (6,300 m) Armament 2x 7.92 mm Spandau machine guns.


Kaiser_AR_Hannover CLIII

The Hannover series aircraft featured an unusual biplane tail, allowing for a greater firing arc for the tail gunner. Until their introduction, such tails had only been used on larger aircraft. The Hannover CL II (aka Hannoveraner) was a successful relatively small, two-seat aircraft that was used in the escort fighter and attack roles. The CL designation was for fast two-seater, multi-role aircraft and it was first used as an escort fighter for C class photo-reconnaissance manchines. Allied fighters often attacked it thinking it was a single-seat scout and got a surprise when the rear-gunner fired at them.The CL II was a biplane of conventional layout apart from its biplane tail. The body was deep and fairly narrow, which afforded excellent visibility downwards. It was highly agile and versatile. It first flew in late 1917 and participated with newly formed Schlachtstaffeln (Battle Flights) in the heavy ground-attacks during the German spring offensive of 1918. 639 were built by Hannover Waggonfabrik Aktien Gesellschaft.The Hannover CL III was a smaller, lighter development of the CL II of which 537 were built and was produced in response to criticism from crews in the field about a lack of lateral control at low levels. The wingtips were modified and the ailerons now incorporated overhung balances. This modification was important because the improved lateral control was more immediately necessary when manoeuvring  close to the ground as the changed ground attack role of the aircraft now dictated. The response to questions of performance were answered by installing the 160 hp. Mercedes engine, which was lighter and although rated lower in horsepower, actually performed better, particularly at altitude. Unfortunately, the Mercedes engine was required more urgently for single seaters, so the type reverted to the Argus engine and in this guise was designated the CL.IIIa. The CL III had an Mercedes D.III engine, the CL IIIa an Argus As III engine. All other aspects of their abilities seem to be the same as the CL II. The Hannover CL.IIIa  began appearing in the skies above the front in early 1918. Primarily designed for reconnaissance, the CL.IIIa was also employed as an escort and close support plane.Wing Span: 38 ft 5 in (11.70 m). Length: 24 ft 10 in (7.58 m). Height: 9 ft 2 in (2.80 m). Gross Weight: 2,378 lbs (1,081 kg). Max Speed: 103 mph (165 km/h). Ceiling: 24,600 ft (7,500 m) Endurance: 3 hours. Armament: 3 machine guns

Kaiser_AR_Roland CII Walfisch

ROLAND C.II Walfisch
The L.F.G. Roland C.II “Walfisch” was arguably the best-looking two seater to be flown by any air force during the Great War. The aeroplane represented a revolutionary moment in the history of aircraft design; by filling the wing gap with the fuselage, eliminating the cabane struts thereby, the designers produced a low-drag, highly streamlined biplane with a significant speed advantage over its contemporaries. The crew were presented with a magnificent in-flight view, though downward vision on landing was so poor that nearly every Roland pilot suffered at least one landing accident. The look of the airplane was such that it fully deserved its name, “Walfisch,” which is German for “Whale.” At the outbreak of the war, LFG Roland was given several small production contracts by Idflieg, the headquarters of the German flying service, to build the Albatros B.II and C.II biplanes under license. The Roland engineers were quickly convinced they could do better, and set out to reduce drag and increase performance without resorting to higher-horsepower engines. The robust fuselage they developed was created from two layers of veneer strips, wrapped diagonally around a mould,glued and reinforced with fabric. The two built-up fuselage halves – which were far lighter in weight than any other two-seat design – were then attached to a lightweight inner support frame. The resulting semi-monocoque fuselage was exceptionally strong and resilient.The Roland C.II prototype first flew 24/25 October 1915. In speed trials, it demonstrated a speed advantage of 30 kph over contemporary 2-seaters, a performance close to that of Allied single-seater scouts. The airplane went into production December 23, 1915. The first Roland C.II production machines arrived on the Western Front in March 1916, and the type remained in first-line operational service until June, 1917. The aircraft was also built under license by Linke-Hofman Werke AG, where it was known as the Roland C.II(Li).The C.II was a formidable opponent to the French Nieuport 11 and British Sopwith Pup by which it was first opposed, and often acted as an escort fighter for slower German 2-seaters, as well as artillery spotting, bombing raids and long range reconnaissance missions where its high speed gave it an advantage. Unfortunately, the high sides of the fuselage restricted view below, which created a blind spot that could be taken advantage of. Captain Albert Ball often used the upward firing ability of the wing-mounted Lewis Gun on his Nieuport 17 to attack Rolands, coming out of a dive to initiate his attack from below. Even so, the Roland was a formidable opponent, and several times Ball found himself fleeing back to Allied lines, pursued by Rolands. During its service in 1916, the Roland C.II gained a measure of fame out of all proportion to the relatively limited numbers that served with German units on the Western Front.

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