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My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieutenant Rex Warneford, R.F.C.

Link - Posted by David on June 14, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

Amidst all the great pulp thrills and features in Sky Fighters, they ran a true story feature collected by Ace Williams wherein famous War Aces would tell actual true accounts of thrilling moments in their fighting lives! This time we have Sub-Flight Lieutenant Rex Warneford’s most thrilling sky fight!

Sub-Flight Lieutenant Rex Warneford of the British Royal Flying Corps was the first airman to shoot down an enemy Zeppelin, likewise he was the first war pilot to win the coveted Victoria Cross. Previous to his epic fight with the raiding Zeppelin young Warneford was a comparatively obscure pilot. After this amazing and brilliant victory he leaped to the highest pinnacle of fame, he escaped from the German lines with his plane after being forced down fully five miles from his own territory. A troop of German cavalrymen rode up to take him prisoner, but using his machine-gun to the greatest advantage he managed to hold them off until he had completed temporary repairs on his plane. Then, amidst a continual hail of fire, he took off in flight, running the gauntlet of fire successfully, eventually to land within his own lines. Unhappily, two days after the V.C. had been conferred on him, he was killed in an air accident near Paris. In the account below he tells the story of this fight in his own words:

 

DOWNING A GERMAN ZEPPELIN

by Lieutenant Rex Warneford, R.F.C. • Sky Fighters, February 1935

I WAS cruising high over Belgium beyond Poelcapelle on a solo bombing mission when I chanced to glance above me and saw a huge moving shape parting the cloud reaches above me. At first I did not recognize it for what it was, but after swinging up on one wing to get a better view, saw immediately that it was a giant Zeppelin raider. It was far above me and flying in the opposite direction.

I decided immediately to go after it, so swung up in a steep climbing circle with the bright noonday sun at my back. The clouds served me in good stead, for they kept my movements somewhat masked. I managed to get within 500 yards of the big bag. Then a veritable hail of machine-gun fire began spouting at my plane. I was not nervous nor scared at the moment, but I recall that my hand shook uncontrollably on the control stick and my feet quivered against the rudder bar. The consequent erratic motion of my plane probably helped me to dodge the German bullets.

I was so thrilled that I shook all over. But after I had fired my first burst of retaliatory fire, self-command returned. I went about my task grimly, sliding in through the Zeppelin’s fire until I was immediately over the bag. I let loose then with my first bomb. It missed by several yards.

I whined back in a swift bank, climbing, came in again, nosed down swiftly, got over the bag again and let go with another bomb. The Zeppelin fire was terrific now. I heard the bullets crackling through my wings. One landing wire snapped. That second bomb missed, too.

I got mad, dived straight down with my gun blazing. The bullets poured through the big bag—but nothing happened. I dived underneath, climbed up on the other side to the rear and came in again haltingly. My motor had begun to falter. I pushed the nose down and dived head-on until within a few yards of the airship, then pulled up quickly in a stall and dropped my last bomb. It hit squarely.

The resultant concussion when the big bag exploded buffeted my plane severely. My motor was faltering badly and while I was struggling to right my ship it conked out completely. I had to go down in enemy territory, but I was not unhappy, for as I looked down below me I saw the giant Zeppelin break in two in the middle and go flaming earthwards in separate parts. I thought, as I went gliding down, of the old story of David and Goliath. The fact that I was soon to be taken prisoner did not sadden me.

The story of my escape from the Germans is a long one and will have to be told another time. That was certainly my lucky day and most thrilling fight!

“Sky Fighters, February 1935″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on February 6, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

Eugene M. Frandzen painted the covers of Sky Fighters from its first issue in 1932 until he moved on from the pulps in 1939. At this point in the run, the covers were about the planes featured on the cover more than the story depicted. On the February 1935 cover, It’s a battle of the Bristol Fighter F2B and the Siemens Halske D4!

The Ships on the Cover

THE Bristol Fighter F2B th_SF_3502was a plane which any Englishman can remember with justifiable pride. It was a two-seater fighter brought out during 1917 and some of them were still flying a few years back. As a war bus this square fuselage job was in a class by itself. One man could take it into a mixup and outfly most of the enemy scouts.

With the rear gunner in the Bristol Fighter it was about the most dangerous thing slicing through the skies. It mowed down its enemies in such great numbers that the German flyers gave it the right of way whenever possible.

The British and Colonial Aeroplane Co., manufacturers of the Bristol was formed in 1910 by the late Sir George White, Bart, who incidentally was the pioneer of electric tramways in Great Britain.

The Bristol Fighter was the first ship of any country which could match single-seater scouts in speed, maneuverability and ease of handling.

Four-Bladed Propeller

The sleek little red plane zooming underneath the Bristol on the cover is a Siemens-Halske D-4 pursuit ship. It was made by one of the many branches of the great Siemens Electrical Company of Germany, comparable to our own General Electric Co. The motor was a 200 h.p. Halske rotary. To get greater efficiency with the geared down motor a four-bladed propeller was used. The ailerons were actuated by torque tubes. The Siemens firm also produced those multi-engined giant bombers, the Siemens-Schuckert and Siemens-Steffen.

The Bristol Fighter was made by the firm that had been founded by a pioneer of the electric street car; the Siemens-Halske by the electric moguls of Germany. Therefore it was fitting and interesting that these two ships should be pitted and allowed to scratch and tear at each other as war planes are in the habit of doing.

The Battle Opens!

With the Siemens having a slight edge in speed the battle opened. The Bristol back gunner was a menace to the German who used his slight extra speed finally to maneuver so that he placed his streamlined little job under the tail of the larger Bristol. Two spitting streams of bullets poured from his Spandaus. One of those tiny pellets tore through the British observer’s body.

He slumped in his pit, out. Down dove the Siemens, came back from under and in front of the Bristol. Slugs spattered through the two-seater’s floorboards. The Bristol pilot quickly lashed his controls, turned, and holding his buddy from slipping overboard brought the twin Lewis guns over the side. The Siemens, a streak of red, flashed by so close that the left elevator of the Bristol and the left wing tip of the Siemens nearly brushed together.

A Short-Lived Grin

The German looked up, grinned. The grin didn’t last a shaved part of a split second. A single Lewis gun churned slugs at point-blank range into the German ship. One smashed the pilot’s left shoulder.

Rapidly the ships flew in opposite directions. They had fought a draw. Each carried a wounded man to be patched up and flung again into the arena where knockouts are daily events and draws are few and far between.

The Ships on The Cover
Sky Fighters,February 1935 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Ships on The Cover Page)

Next time, Mr. Frandzen features the French Deperdussin vs. the German D.F.W.!

“The Solo Skipper” by Harold F. Cruickshank

Link - Posted by David on November 20, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

This week we have a story by another of our favorite authors—Harold F. Cruickshank! Cruickshank is popular in these parts for the thrilling exploits of The Sky Devil from the pages of Dare-Devil Aces, as well as those of The Sky Wolf in Battle Aces and The Red Eagle in Battle Birds. He wrote innumerable stories of war both on the ground and in the air. Here we have a tale of “Mud” Collier, a flyer who likes to go it alone and is as comfortable in the trenches where he started out as he is in the air. From the February 1935 Flying Aces we bring you “The Solo Skipper”—

His own squadron called him “Mud” because he spent his leave up front with the infantry and his air hours patrolling their death-infested forward zone to protect them. But to those doughboys who every day defied the fury of the enemy barrage—his name was not mud.

“The Fokker D-VII” by Robert H. Rankin

Link - Posted by David on July 27, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

Frederick Blakeslee painted all the covers for the entire run of Dare-Devil Aces. And each of those covers had a story behind it. This time, we have more of the approach he used for the covers he painted for Battle Aces—telling us about the ship on cover. But, instead of Mr Blakeslee telling us about the ship on the cover, we have Mr. Robert H. Rankin, formerly a draughtsman for the Fokker Aircraft Corp telling the story of the Fokker D-VII on the cover of the February 1935 cover of Dare-Devil Aces. . . .

th_DDA_3502The contraption shown on the cover was supposed to have been invented just after our entry into the war. The idea was for a bomber to drop the net and then the combat ships were to lure the enemy into it, or else the combat ship was to carry the net itself. The story goes that the inventor offered it to the U.S. government, then to France and England and finally into German hands. (A similar device was employed in the Sky Devil story “The Haunted Fokker” (Dare-Devil Ace, April 1933))

Now let’s review the history of the Fokker D-VII, written by an authority on the subject.

THE FOKKER D-VII
by ROBERT H. RANKIN
Formerly Draughtsman, Fokker Aircraft Corp.

TO ANY one familiar with the fighting planes developed during the World War the Fokker D-VII is outstanding. It was superior to any other plane used by Germany and it was certainly the equal of any machine used by the Allies. Using the D-VII the German pilots were able to hold their own against a much larger force of Allied aircraft, and so great did the fear of these planes become that it was definitely stated in terms of the Armistice that all Fokker planes should be destroyed.

The D-VII was the result of the gradual development of the earlier Fokker Fighters. When it was found that the 110 H.P. Le Rhone powered Nieuport easily outmoded the 80 H.P. Gnome powered Fokker the design of the Fokker tri-plane was completed.

The triplane enabled the German pilots to gain a series of impressive victories and it was used by the great von Richthofen in many of his aerial duels. Although the speed of this plane was comparatively slow, its decided ease of maneuverability more than made up for the disadvantage.

But its flight range was limited by a small gasoline capacity and Allied pilots found that the best way to escape it was to out-distance it.

As it became apparent that the fighting planes of the Allies, and in particular the Sopwith Camels and Spads, were giving them the advantages of speed and flight range the design of the D Series Fokkers was started. The first of these was the D-I, a bi-plane powered with a 120 H.P. Mercedes, and like the rest of the series it was fast and efficient.

About this time the Albatros works (Albatros Werke) began production of the D Series Albatros machines. The Albatros D-II proved itself superior to the Fokker D-I and by 1917 the later developed D-III had surplanted the Fokkers at the Front. This Albatros was powered with a 175 H.P. Mercedes, weighed 1,470 lbs. and carried a useful load of 297 lbs.

These D Series Albatros planes were a bi-plane design, having a small lower wing (made of a single spar) connected to a larger upper wing with a V strut. Any combat advantages which the Albatros offered were offset by the fact that the plane was structurally weak and the wings could not stand torsions. Consequently, when fighting the Albatros, Allied pilots had but to put their planes into a steep dive to be safe.

Many German airmen were killed when their planes went to pieces in mid-air; the celebrated Captain Boelke met death when the wings of his Albatros pulled off while he was flying over his own lines. Several pilots deliberately wrecked their machines rather than take them into the air.

The father of the D-VII was a bi-plane of somewhat radical appearance. Its fabric-covered fuselage was made of wood covered welded tubing, making a clean and decidedly streamlined job. The wings were built up of wood in much the same manner as were the wings of the later Fokker commercial types.

Although this plane offered every advantage and was years ahead of its time in many ways it was refused by the German High Command. Realizing that little satisfaction could be had from the German government (politics meaning more to them than efficient fighting equipment) Mr. Fokker managed to contact the important pilots. He found that they were not satisfied with the planes and materials furnished them and they desired to select their own equipment.

After some difficulty and much red tape an open competition of the leading makes of military planes was held. For this competition Fokker redesigned his bi-plane and the D-VII was born.

The D-VII was characterized by its cantilever wings (made up of box spars). No wires or external braces were used and the wings were joined together at the tips with a single strut. The fuselage was of a rectangular cross section which feature made for simplified manufacturing and quantity production. By streamlining the landing gear axle with a tiny wing, speed was added to the plane.

The D-VII fast became a favorite of the pilots. Although the Rumpler climbed faster, it handled very badly, especially on the turns. So great was the demand for the new Fokker that the factories making other planes were required to stop production of their own types and concentrate on the building of the D-VIIs.

The following figures give an insight into the construction and performance of the plane.

Wing curve Fokker varying
Sweepback None
Dihedral, upper wing
Dihedral, lower wing 1° 20′
Stagger 2′ 1″
Total wing area, including ailerons 236 sq. ft.
 
Upper plane—
  Span 27′ 5½”
  Chord 5′ 3″
  Area, with ailerons 145 sq. ft
 
Lower plane—
  Span 22′ 11¼”
  Chord 3′ 11¼”
  Area 91 sq. ft.
  Incidence 1 to 1.5 degrees
  Gap 4′ 6¼”
 
Fuselage—
  Max. cross section shape Rectangular
  Max. cross section area 9.35 sq. ft.
  Max. cross section dimension 3′ 9½” by 2′ 5½”
 
General Dimensions—
  Overall span 27′ by 5½”
  Length 23′
  Height 9′ 3″
 
The weight of plane (empty, including water) 1,867 pounds
The weight of plane loaded 2,462 pounds

The endurance of the Fokker D-VII is, full throttle at 10,000 feet (including climb) 2 hrs. 13 minutes.

Minimum speed of the D-VII at sea level (lowest throttle) is 62 miles per hour.

The Story Behind The Cover
“The Fokker D-VII” by Frederick Blakeslee (February 1935, Dare-Devil Aces)

 

Mr. Blakeslee covered the Fokker D-VII himself with the story of Billy Bishop for the cover of the February 1932 number of Battle Aces.

“Crêpe Hangars” by Joe Archibald

Link - Posted by David on June 26, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

“Haw-w-w-w-w!” That sound can only mean one thing—that Bachelor of Artifice, Knight of Calamity and an alumnus of Doctor Merlin’s Camelot College for Conjurors is back and this time the marvel from Boonetown faces a dilema—face a court martial or transfer to the Pallbearer Squadron—the most morose lot on the Western Front—to boost their morale as only a Pinkham can.

They thought Phineas could make anybody laugh—until they sent him to the Pallbearers’ drome, where even the birds sang death marches. Yes, it looked for once as if Phineas had met his match in that bunch of Crêpe Hangars!

“Raid of the Unseen” by Kenneth Brown Collings

Link - Posted by David on June 12, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

This week we have a tale from the pen of a dare-devil adventurer, aviator, soldier and war correspondent—Kenneth Brown Collings, whose interest in aviation began in childhood when he saw the Wrights brothers and their flying machine perform at Fort Myer, Va., in 1908. From the pages of the February 1935 number of Flying Aces, it’s a smashing yarn of night bombers—”Raid of the Unseen!”

The C.O. of the 7th Marines Squadron was not new at the fighting game. He’d taken lessons from blood-crazed Moros in the Philippines, from slant-eyed Boxers in China. And he’d learned one thing—you’ve got to hit what you shoot at, whether you’re on the ground or in the air. And because he’d learned that lesson so well—he was faced with a court-martial!

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 32: Wendell W. Rogers” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on February 11, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

Back with another of Eugene Frandzen’s “Lives of the Aces in Pictures” from the pages of Flying Aces Magazine. The series ran for almost four years with a different Ace featured each month. This time around we have the February 1935 installment featuring the illustrated biography of that famous Canadian Ace—Captain William Wendell Rogers!

RFC Captain Rogers is credited with nine aerial victories. All these accomplished while flying Nieuports. His most famous victory was singlehandedly shooting down an enormous Gotha G bomber piloted by Blue Max winner Hauptmann Rudolf Kleine—the two crew members, the Pilot Lt von der Nahmar and rear gunner, Lt.Werner Bulowius chose to jump out while Hauptmann Klein remained aboard and went down with the ship.

Canada Veterans Hall of Valour sketches out his later life:

    For his achievement, Rogers was awarded the Military Cross (MC) and a special commendation from General Trenchard, Head of the RFC. Shortly afterwards he took up instructional duties with the RAF in Canada for the rest of the war.
    Coming to Saint John N.B. in 1924, Rogers was soon active in promoting a Flying Club and the city’s first airport, constructed at Millidgeville.
    Rogers first operated a General Motors agency in Saint John N.B. In 1933 he joined the Irving Oil Company in charge of their trucking operations. In 1934 management of the Saint John Motor Line was added to his duties and in 1940 he became President of SMT (Eastern) Ltd.
    In October 1938 he was appointed Commanding Officer of No. 117 RCAF Fighter Squadron (non permanent) with the rank of Squadron Leader and there was a rush of applications to join the unit, which had been established in Saint John.
    He married Sally Head of Charlottown PEI and they had two sons; Frederick and Lloyd. In 1949, with his two sons, he established a plastic manufacturing business under the firm name of Rogers Bros., Ltd. On January 11, 1967 he died in Saint John hospital after a long illness.

“Today We Die” by Frederick C. Painton

Link - Posted by Bill on February 13, 2009 @ 4:37 pm in

The names of the men in that strange, ill-assorted squadron were listed only in the most secret annals of Allied Intelligence. To everyone else they were known merely as the Squadron of the Dead. Americans, British, Russians—even Germans—made up their ranks, and only one bond held them together. They had all been condemned to die! An unusual story of an unusual squadron.