One of the planes at the Freddie March Spirit of Aviation exhibition at Revival this year is the Albatros biplane of the type that took part in the First World War. Germany’s answer to the BE2, the twin-machine gun Albatros provided its British rivals with formidable opposition.
SEP 10th 2016
Albatros – the WW1 biplane that was a formidable force
The aircraft on display is a 1917-type DVA powered by a giant 200bhp inline Mercedes engine. It was fast and more agile than the British fighters but prone to structural failures.
Take note of how it looks because you may well be seeing it again shortly. After Revival, the aircraft is due to fly to the Somme for a special flypast on 15 September, part of the commemorations to mark 100 years of WW1’s bloodiest battle.
The plan – weather permitting – is that the Albatros will meet up with a BE2 so they can fly over the the town of Albert together and release 10,000 poppies. On poppy duty in the BE2’s passenger seat will be Dick Forsythe, chief trustee of the WW1 Aviation Heritage Trust which has provided the Albatros for the Freddie March display.
There will be a very Kiwi theme to this commemoration. 15 September is New Zealand’s Somme remembrance day – during the Somme campaign there were 2700 New Zealand casualties, including 800 dead.
And the Albatros on show was actually made in New Zealand, in 2012, by the Vintage Aviation Company. The WW1 Aviation Heritage Trust trust keeps four NZ-made replicas – two Bleriot Experimental (BE) 2s, the German Albatros and a Sopwith Snipe – at the time-warp Stow Maries aerodrome in Essex. As well as static displays, the WW1 Aviation Heritage Trust aircraft regularly take part in air shows in the UK.
Dick Forsythe is with the Albatros at Goodwood and is happy to talk about the aircraft, and the work of the WW1 Aviation Trust, in which you can become a patron for £30 a year. For more click here.
On flying, and fighting, during WW1, Dick tells us: “The rate of attrition was very high – they’d lose a squadron every three weeks or so – but the pilots also had a glamorous life, in comparison to the men in the trenches at least. The derring-do went hand-in-hand with plenty of partying. During WW1 at battles like the Somme, the basics of aerial warfare were laid down but also the culture of the ‘flyboys’ was born.”
Dick Forsythe knows more about bravery in the air than most. A retired former helicopter pilot and Squadron Commander at RAF Odiham in Hampshire, his grandfather won a Distinguished Service Cross flying a Bristol Fighter in the newly-formed RAF in 1918, and his father too won a DSC in 1945, flying a Lancaster.