Wow, the stories of Raine and Wulfe have reached new levels of awesomeness! Excellent reading from everybody else too, so keep it up gents!
Here's the latest from Julius, who is now flying the Fokker Eindecker...
9. THE FOKKERS
“Hearsay and a few lucky encounters had made the machine respected, not to say dreaded by the slow, unwieldy machines then used by us for Artillery Observation and Offensive Patrols.”
- Cecil Lewis on the Fokker Scourge (Sagittarius Rising, 1936)
Late March 1916.
March had been a busy month at Bertincourt. To counter the growing power of the Entente air forces, the German high command had wanted to increase the efficiency of the air war effort, which in turn had led to increasing numbers of Fokker monoplanes being deployed to the front. Bertincourt was situated at a central location on the Somme front, which made the field particularly well-suited to function as the base for some of these new machines. Two-seater operations would continue, but new emphasis would be put on the training of fighter pilots. This included Julius, who returned from the hospital to Bertincourt at the height of reorganization activities.
Several Fokkers had been delivered to the field, including two brand-new models equipped with a pair of forward-firing machine guns. The base facilities were also being expanded. In recent weeks, the British had been launching several bombing attacks against Bertincourt. It was probably a worried reaction to the build-up of new German airpower taking place at the field. Fortunately for Julius and his comrades, the attacks had been carried out using only light bombs, which failed to cause any damage worth mentioning. Nevertheless, the 2. Armee headquarters had responded to these bold attacks by increasing the amount of anti-aircraft weapons deployed at the field, while also putting up some mock-up tents and airplanes to deceive the attackers into dropping their bombs over the wrong targets.
Since Julius already had some experience as an aviator, a couple of weeks of additional training were deemed as adequate to qualify him as a Fokker pilot. Flying the famous monoplane was a thrill after getting used to the slow and lumbering Aviatik. Operating the rotating engine of the Fokker took some time to get used to, and a few of his landings were less than stellar. The most impressive thing about the monoplane was its firepower. To be able to shoot through the spinning propeller was a true novelty for Julius, who was more familiar with the unsynchronized observer guns of the Aviatik.
While Julius practiced the basics of Fokker flying, his more experienced comrade Gustav Leffers was putting the dual-gun Fokker E.IV to the test. After initial excitement, Leffers was ultimately unsatisfied with the machine’s performance. While the additional gun greatly increased the plane’s firepower and undoubtedly pointed the way to the future of air fighting, the bigger 160 hp engine also made the scout much heavier and difficult to handle. The representatives of Fokker and the Inspectorate of Flying Troops (Idflieg) were not happy, but they couldn’t argue against such comments coming from the most experienced scout pilots of the Fliegertruppen. Meanwhile, there were worrisome reports about new Entente fighter planes coming into service. Was the dominance of the Fokker Eindecker coming to an end?
Julius was still much too excited about the Fokker to worry about such developments. And soon he would be given an opportunity to put his monoplane flying skills to the test…
"Upon my word I've had as much excitement on a car as in the air, especially since the R.F.C. have had women drivers."
James McCudden, Five Years in the Royal Flying Corps