WingnutWings 1/32 Fokker D.VII (OAW) In Finnish Service – REVIEW

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Catalogue Number: Wingnut Wings Kit No. 32030 – Fokker D.VII (OAW)

Scale: 1/32

Contents and Media: 213 parts in grey injection moulded plastic, including 22 exclusive parts to build aircraft made by the Ostdeutsche Albatros Werke in Schneidemühl. Two frets in clear plastic; eight photo-etched parts; markings for five camouflaged aircraft.

After-Market Accessories: Decals; Fokker D.VII in the Finnish Service, AML decals 1/32 scale AMLC 2 017.

Price: (At the time of publication) £79.99 available from Hannants UK.

Reviewer: Richard Reynolds

Advantages: Well Engineered. The surface detail is excellent. The representation of fabric, tape, exterior and interior precision is outstanding. The mouldings are of the highest standard. Included is a photo etched fret containing seat-belts, cooling jackets and gun-sights for the Spandau machine guns. The comprehensive decal sheets are in perfect register with minimal carrier film. The full-colour 32 page instruction booklet is the only reference material the modeler will require to complete a fine example of this aircraft.

Disadvantages: None.

Kit: An in-box review can be seen on this site by clicking on the link below:

WingnutWings 1/32 Fokker D.VII (OAW) In-Box Review

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History: The Finnish Air Arm 1917 – 1920 and the Fokker D.VII

The first steps in the history of Finnish aviation were taken with Russian aircraft. The Russian military had a number of early designs stationed in the country, which until the Russian Revolution of 1917 had been part of the Russian Empire. Soon after the declaration of independence in Russia, the Finnish Civil War erupted, in which the Soviets/Russians sided with the Reds – the communist rebels.

Finland’s pro-independence movement, the White Guard, abbreviated to “the Whites”, managed to seize a few aircraft from the Russians, but were forced to rely on foreign pilots and aircraft. Sweden refused to send men and material, but individual Swedish citizens came to the aid of the Whites. The editor of the Swedish daily magazine Aftonbladet, Waldemar Langlet, bought a N.A.B. Albatros aircraft from the Nordiska Aviatik A.B. factory with funds gathered by the Finlands vänner (“Friends of Finland”) organization.

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This aircraft, the first to arrive from Sweden, was flown via Haparanda on 25 February 1918 by Swedish pilots John-Allan Hygerth (who on March 10 became the first commander of the Finnish Air Force) and Per Svanbäck. The aircraft made a stop at Kokkola and had to make a forced landing in Jakobstad when its engine broke down. It was later given the Finnish Air Force designation F.2 (“F” coming from the Swedish word “Flygmaskin”, meaning “aircraft”).

Swedish count Eric von Rosen gave the Finnish White government its second aircraft, a Thulin Typ D. Its pilot, Lieutenant Nils Kindberg, flew the aircraft to Vaasa on 6 March 1918, carrying von Rosen as a passenger. As this gift ran counter to the will of the Swedish government, and no flight permit had been given, it resulted in Kindberg receiving a 100 kronor fine for leaving the country without permission.

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This aircraft is considered by some to be the first aircraft of the Finnish Air Force, since the Finnish Air Force did not officially exist during the Civil War, The von Rosen aircraft was given the designation F.1.

The Finnish Air Force is one of the oldest air forces of the world; it existed officially on the 6th of March 1918 as the Army Corps of Aviation, officially becoming the Suomen Ilmavoimat (the Finnish Air Force) on the 4th of May 1928.

Von Rosen had painted his personal good luck charm on the Thulin Type D aircraft. This charm – a blue swastika, the ancient symbol of the sun and good luck – was adopted as the insignia of the Finnish Air Force. The swastika was officially taken into use after an order by Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim on 18 March 1918. The FAF had to change the insignia after 1945, due to an Allied Control Commission decree, where the swastika had to be abandoned due to its association with Nazism.

The F.1 aircraft was destroyed in an accident, killing its crew, not long after it had been handed over to the Finns. On 7 September 1920, two newly purchased Savoia flying boats crashed in the Swiss Alps en route to Finland, killing all on-board (three Finns and one Italian). This day has since been the Memorial Day for the fallen pilots.

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The Finnish Civil War (Finnish: Suomen sisällissota, kansalaissota; Swedish: Finska inbördeskriget) was a part of the national, political and social turmoil caused by World War I (1914–1918) in Europe. The Civil War was brought about by the collapse of Romanov Russian control and leadership of the Grand Duchy of Finland after it had become a sovereign territory in 1917.

The war was fought from 27 January to 15 May 1918 between the forces of the Social Democrats led by the People’s Deputation of Finland, commonly called the “Reds” (Finnish: punaiset, Swedish: röda), and the forces of the non-socialist, conservative-led Senate, commonly called the “Whites” (Finnish: valkoiset, Swedish: vita). The Reds—dominated by industrial and agrarian workers—were supported by the Russian Soviet Republic. The Whites—dominated by peasants and middle- and upper-class factions, in particular upper-class Swedish speakers—received marked military assistance from the German Empire.

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The Reds were based in the towns and industrial centers of southern Finland, while the Whites controlled more rural central and northern Finland. The Whites won the war, in which about 37,000 people died out of a population of 3 million.

Following the Diet of Porvoo in 1809, Finland had been ruled as a nominally autonomous part of the Russian Empire, known as the Grand Duchy of Finland. It was gradually developing into what would become the Finnish state, including a marked rise of the Fennoman movement standing for the Finnic majority of the population, with minority Swedish speakers representing the marked Swedish cultural background. By 1917 Finland had experienced rapid population growth, industrialization, improvements in the economy and standard of living, and the rise of a comprehensive labor movement; economic, social, and political divisions were deepening while the Finnish political system was in an unstable phase of democratization and modernization.

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The collapse of the Russian Empire following the February and October Revolutions of 1917 spurred the collapse of the Grand Duchy of Finland, and the resultant power vacuum led to bitter conflict between the left-leaning labor movement, led by the Social Democrats, and more conservative non-socialists.

A breakdown of power and authority penetrated all levels of society as both sides, aiming to gain supremacy for their own faction, refused to make political compromises. Finland’s declaration of independence on 6 December 1917 – though supported by most Finns and soon recognized by the Russian Bolshevist Council of People’s Commissars – occurred in the context of the worsening power struggle, and therefore failed to either unite or pacify the nation.

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The Finnish Civil War

The White Air Force in January 1918 did not have any aircraft of its own or trained pilots. The White Guard (Finnish: Suojeluskunta, plural: Suojeluskunnat, a: Skyddskår, literary translated as Protection/Defense Corps) was a voluntary militia that emerged victorious over the socialist Red Guard as part of the Whites in the Finnish Civil War of 1918.

Flight operations began with captured Russian and Swedish machines, the Finnish government requested assistance from Sweden, however the request was refused and the Finns interred both the Swedish pilots and their aircraft.

Despite this, the first Finnish Air Force aircraft was purchased during the civil war with Swedish donations, this was an NAB type 9 Albatros purchased on the 20th February 1918. A further 6 Morane Saulnier parasol scouts were donated to the Finnish Air Force by Eric von Rosen on the 6th March 1918. These aircraft did not take part in the civil war as they were found to be unsuited to combat conditions.

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During the civil war the Finnish Air Force had at its disposal; 29 Swedish personnel (16 pilots, 2 observers and 11 mechanics), 28 Finnish personnel (4 pilots trained by Väinö Mikkola and Bertel Martensson, 6 observers trained by Arvi Pajunen, 2 mechanics and 2 technicians), 7 Russian (White) personnel (6 pilots and 1 observer) and 2 Danish personnel (one pilot and 1 observer).

Independent Finland’s first Military base was a seaplane base situated on the shore of Kolho. A seaplane shed was erected capable of storing three aircraft. Three Friedrichshaffen FF33E’s (formerly operated by the Germans in the region during WWI) were brought by rail to Kolho on the 7th March 1918.

Further aircraft were acquired in 1918 when withdrawing Russian forces left 8 Stetinin M-9’s, one further example of the M-9 defected from Petrograd to Finland, which increased the number of aircraft used by the White forces to 19.

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The first dedicated air base was constructed at Orivesi, Tampere toward the end of 1918, a second at Kaukajärvi, Tampere followed soon after. By the end of the civil war the Finnish Air Force had some 40 types, 20 of which were captured aircraft from Red forces.

The Red Air Force, that is Finnish forces opposed to the government during the civil war, used former Russian military installations in the Vyborg and Tampere. Their headquarters was Helsinki Hermann airport where 12 Stetinin M-9 aircraft were based.

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On the 24th February 1918, the Red forces took delivery of 5 Nieuport scouts in the Eastern Vyborg sector at Riihimäki, two of these machines were ferried on to Tampere (one was a Nieuport 10, the other a 17) and three to Kouvola. Four Russian pilots and 6 flight mechanics were assigned to Tampere on 1st March 1918 and were tasked with operations against the white forces in the Tampere sector.

Of the Red aircraft based on the Eastern front in 1918, one was destroyed by an artillery barrage and the rest were captured by white forces. Poor management and inadequate leadership on the part of the Red Forces rendered the air arm ineffective.

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The First Year of Independence

The Finnish Air Force occupied bases formerly used by the Russian Navy during the civil war and the German Air Force during World War One. These facilities were mostly seaplane bases situated in Helsinki, Loviisa, Koivisto and Suursaari. Karl Sheber, a German air ace and advisor to the Finnish Air Force, acquired Friedrichshaffen seaplanes and one Rumpler for the fledgling Ilmavoimat.

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The Fokker D.VII in Finland

German interests in Finland ended in 1918 with their defeat in WWI; the Finnish Air Force had to look to France and illegal acquisitions of war-booty from post-war Germany. Captain Jaeger Bertel Martensson was able to obtain three illegally bought OAW Fokker D.VIIs and two Albatros C.III’s for test and evaluation. The legendary Fokker D.VII is widely considered the best German fighter aircraft to emerge from the Great War, it was certainly the most numerous and as such was the only aircraft specifically requested to be surrendered in the Allies armistice terms at the treaty of Versailles.

Fokker’s prototype D.VII (the V.11) impressed the German front line pilots present at the first fighter trials in January-February 1918 so much that word soon started to leak out about a new Fokker that would once again return air superiority to the Germans.

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So great was the need for this promising new fighter that, in addition to production at Fokker, Albatros were ordered to manufacture it under licence at their Johannisthal (Alb) and Schneidemühl (OAW Ostdeutsche Albatros Werke) factories, incidentally building almost twice the number of D.VII as Fokker.

In keeping with previous Fokker design practices the D.VII featured a welded steel fuselage and tailplane along with thick ‘high lift’ wings of conventional wood and wire construction. A few early production machines were powered by the 180hp Daimler-Mercedes D.IIIa but most production aircraft were fitted with the 200hp D.IIIaü, although a small number received the third example of the Daimler-Mercedes D.III, the 200 hp (200-217 hp) D.IIIav (or avü) which was introduced in mid-October 1918. This version used longer aluminium pistons, which further increased compression. Interestingly, although only shown in a handful of known photos, some late production Fokker D.VII were powered by the long outclassed 160hp Daimler-Mercedes D.III engine.

Photographs of Finnish Air Force Fokker D.VII, 1.D.357 of Ilmailuosasto 1 based at Utti airfield in November 1923, indicate that this aircraft was probably an early 180hp Daimler-Mercedes D.IIIa powered aircraft.

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Initially supplied in small numbers to the most experienced pilots of the elite Jagdgeschwader 1 from late April 1918, the Fokker D.VII quickly started to make a name for itself and allied pilots suddenly found that they could no longer count on their superior performance at higher altitudes.

In the middle of 1918 the Fokker D.VII was plagued with a series of often fatal mid-air fires variously attributed to overheating, fuel tank stress damage and the volatile incendiary ammunition used for ‘balloon busting’’. An immediate response to this was removing the top cowlings for improved cooling followed by modified side cowlings with louvers to ventilate the engine bay more efficiently.

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By the end of the Great War the Fokker D.VII was the main aircraft type equipping the German Jastas and despite the Daimler-Mercedes powered D.VII being very well received, it was the Fokker D.VII fitted with the coveted BMW IIIa ‘altitude’ engine that all Jasta pilots longed to fly. Towards the end of the war a number of D.VII were offered for the Austro-Hungarian Luftfahrtruppe to be built by Fokker (225), Aviatik (255) and MAG (150). Following the armistice the Fokker D.VII found its way into numerous countries Air Forces including; Argentina, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Netherlands, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Soviet Union, Sweden, Switzerland and the American USAS and USMC.

With World War I still continuing, the newly established Finnish Air Force sent officers to Imperial Germany for training. After Germany’s fall, instructors were recruited from France from 1919 onward.

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The first legitimate purchases for the Finnish Air Force came in April 1919 when a deal was struck with France for 20 Breguet XIV and 12 Georges Levy GL 40HB2 3 seat flying boats. The GL 40’s or “Sorslevi” gained the dubious title of “flying coffin”, three aircraft and seven lives were lost in accidents before the aircraft was deemed unsafe and grounded permanently and shortly thereafter withdrawn from service.

This was followed by a period of British influence from the mid-1920s until World War II. Experts from Great Britain worked with the Air Force, and personnel were also sent to Great Britain for training.

In the early 1920s, the service focused its development efforts on maritime patrol missions since the surveillance of Finland’s territorial waters and the thousands of lakes were considered the main task of the air service.

Therefore, the first major acquisition was a floatplane. The Aviation Force Aircraft Factory, predecessor of today’s Patria, started to build I.V.L A.22s, or Hansas, which was a more familiar name for the aircraft, on a German license starting from 1922. A total of 122 examples of the aircraft were built.

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In addition to the Hansas, the Air Force continued to acquire other aircraft. They were purchased in small numbers from abroad sometimes for manufacturing under license, sometimes for drawing in ideas for domestic airplane production. The Sääski trainer set off the production of indigenous airplanes in 1928.

Despite the dominance of seaplanes, operations from land bases were also given attention. 1923 saw the launch of fighter pilot courses for the service’s airmen.

The 1920s organization included, in addition to maritime patrol squadrons, landplane squadrons capable of fighter and bomber missions and organized under the umbrella of numbered Air Stations.

Aerial cartography was another activity started in the 1920s, and is still pursued by the Air Force today.

In 1920 to 1926 Arne Somersalo was promoted to commander of the Suomen Ilmavoimat (Finnish Air Force) by the Finnish Military Command. His influence upon the Finnish Air Force would eventually lead to the 1931 Military Review, a re-structuring of the strategic capabilities of the Suomen Ilmavoimat. The review took 5 years and it came just in time, for just three years after its completion, Finland would once again face the might of the Soviet Union. The east wind was coming…

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Camouflage and Markings:

AML provide 2 options in their 1/32 scale set: “Fokker D.VII in the Finnish Service” AMLC2017; Option 1, D.VII, 1C.357 of Aviation Detachment 2, at Utti Airfield in 1920, features an all-over lozenge camouflage scheme with a white tail and option 2, D.VII, 1.D.357 of Ilmailuosasto 1, Utti airfield, November 1923, features an experimental “disruptive” splinter camouflage scheme. I chose option 2, the colours used were: White Ensign Models WEMCC ALCW03 RLM 65 Hellblau airbrushed all over the airframe, with Humbrol Matt 80 green, Matt 157 blue and Matt 70 brick red airbrushed in stages over the RLM 65.

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Conclusion:

The Fokker D.VII is one of the iconic aircraft of World War I. In fact in 1918 the Jasta’s almost exclusively operated the type due to its outstanding performance. The Aircraft comes with the added benefit of minimal rigging, which will appeal to the inexperienced modeler. Highly Recommended.

Richard Reynolds.

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