Corgi AA38907 German Fokker D VII Fighter - Rudolf Berthold, Jasta 15/JG II, Chery-les-Pouilly Aerodrome, France, 1918 (1:48 Scale)
"When you march into France, let the last man on the right brush the Channel with his sleeve."
- General Alfred von Schlieffen, referring to the Schlieffen Plan just prior to his death in 1913
The Fokker D.VII was a German World War I fighter aircraft designed by Reinhold Platz of the Fokker-Flugzeugwerke. Germany produced around 1,700 D.VII aircraft in the summer and autumn of 1918. In service, the D.VII quickly proved itself superior to existing Allied fighters, leading to a second "Fokker Scourge." The Armistice ending the war specifically required Germany to surrender all D.VIIs to the Allies at the conclusion of hostilities; nevertheless, the aircraft saw continued widespread service with many other countries in the years after World War I.
Fokker's chief designer, Reinhold Platz, had been working on a series of experimental planes, the V-series, since 1916. These planes were characterized by the use of cantilever wings, first developed during Fokker's government-mandated collaboration with Hugo Junkers. Junkers had originated the idea in 1915 with the first all-metal aircraft, the Junkers J 1, nicknamed Blechesel ("Sheet Metal Donkey" or "Tin Donkey"). The resulting thick-sectioned cantilever wing gave greater lift and more docile stalling behavior than conventional thin wings.
Late in 1917, Fokker built the experimental V.11 biplane, fitted with the standard Mercedes D.IIIa engine. In January 1918, Idflieg held a fighter competition at Adlershof. For the first time, front line pilots would directly participate in the evaluation and selection of new fighters. Fokker submitted 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's chief designer and engineer, Reinhold Platz, lengthened the rear fuselage by one structural bay, and added a triangular fixed vertical fin in front of the rudder. Upon flying the modified V.11, Richthofen praised it as the best aircraft of the 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 It offered excellent performance from the outdated Mercedes engine, yet it was safe and easy to fly.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 production aircraft, which were designated D.VII by Idflieg.
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. Because Fokker did not use production plans for their designs, they simply sent a completed D.VII airframe for Albatros to copy. Albatros paid Fokker a five 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 (designated Fokker D.VII (Alb)) and Schneidemahl (Fokker D.VII (OAW)), respectively. 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. Despite the massive production program, under 2,000 D.VII aircraft were delivered from all three plants, with the most commonly quoted figure being 1,700.
The Austro-Hungarian company MAG (Ungarische Allgemeine Maschinenfabrik AG - Hungarian General Machine Company) commenced license production of the D.VII powered by Austro-Daimler engines late in 1918, production continuing after the end of the war, with as many as 50 aircraft completed.
Pictured here is a 1:48 scale replica of a German Fokker D VII fighter that was piloted by Wilhelm Scheutzel, who was attached to Jasta 65 then deployed to Marville, France, during September 1918.
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Historical Account: "Iron Man" - One of the early aviators who helped to establish the importance of military aviation on the battlefield, Rudolf Berthold learnt to fly by paying for his own flying lessons whilst serving in the pre-war Imperial German Army. At the start of the Great War, he was initially sent back to his Army unit for training, but quickly transferred to the Luftstreitkrafte and an initial posting as an aerial observer. By the beginning of 1916, Berthold was at the controls of a Fokker Eindecker and his first aerial victory soon followed - by the end of the year, he would be one of Germany's first air aces, with eight victories to his name. Serving throughout the Great War, Berthold earned the nickname 'Iron Man' due to the many serious injuries he received during combat, several of which saw him discharging himself from hospital so he could return to his unit. Incredibly, his final sixteen aerial victories were all gained flying the magnificent Fokker D.VII fighter and all whilst flying using just one hand. Injured during combat with SE5a fighters of No.56 Squadron RFC in October 1917, Berthold's right arm was shattered so severely by a bullet which ricocheted into his cockpit, that amputation was seriously considered. Although avoiding such drastic surgery, the injury would trouble Berthold for the rest of his flying career, even though he would end the war with 44 aerial victories.
Serving throughout the Great War, the combat flying career of Germany's seventh most successful air ace Rudolf Berthold was interrupted by several lengthy periods of hospitalization, having suffered some quite serious injuries in the course of executing his duties. As his victory tally continued to rise, his reputation was further enhanced by tales of his bravery and determination to return to the front line, often discharging himself from hospital before he had fully recuperated and only able to continue flying by using strong pain relief. Celebrated as Germany's flying 'Iron Man', Berthold ended 1917 with a wound so severe that his flying days seemed to be over, but this did not stop him returning to the front line and helping to inspire his fellow pilots, who were by now battling against ever increasing numbers of Allied aircraft. The arrival of the new Fokker D.VII at the airfield saw Berthold taking a quick flight in the capable fighter, returning to remark, 'It is so responsive, I could fly it one handed!' He would go on to do just that over the coming months, using the Fokker D.VII to score a further 16 victories during 1918, bringing his total to 44. Less than two years after the war, Berthold was killed by an angry mob in Hamburg, during a period of civil unrest - his headstone inscription reads 'Honoured by his enemies, slain by his German brethren'. As sad end for one of Germany's leading Great War aces.