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  1. The Junkers D.I was the fruit of pioneering research by Prof. Hugo Junkers. Small-scale production of the type began too late for it to see front-line service in the Great War. During 1919, however, some were employed in Latvia by a freikorps body which came to be known as the 'Iron Division', which fought in turn against Bolsheviks and Latvian and Estonian nationalists. That the wing of the Junkers D.I employed a thick airfoil, and was set below the machine's thrust line, is of greater significance to aviation's development than the type's all-metal cantilever construction, for these improvements in generating lift discovered by Prof. Junkers directly influenced a good many subsequent designs. An aeroplane did not have to be a monoplane to benefit from employing a thick airfoil, a monoplane's wing did not have to be cantilever for it to benefit from being positioned below the thrust line, and a cantilever low-wing monoplane did not have to be of all-metal construction. When all-metal cantilever monoplanes with low-set wings did become general during the 1930s, they employed structural methods owing nothing to the Junkers design. Prof. Junkers' first attempt to build a low-wing cantilever monoplane completely of metal took to the air at the start of 1916. A complex tube structure clad in thin sheet steel, it was far too heavy to climb or manouver well, though it had a decent turn of speed in level flight. After much research into working duraluminum, Junkers managed to produce by late 1917 a prototype whose performance and weight matched that of contemporary biplane fighters built of wood and linen. Two pilots of the naval Marinefliegerkommando flew this first prototype and spoke well of it. During trials of the final prototype D.I early in 1918, however, army pilots of the Luftstreitkraft found the machine deficient in manouverability at altitude, and thought it really suitable only for such specialized low-level work as destruction of tethered observation balloons. Both views owed something to the machine's all-metal construction, with the army pilots recognizing the strength and durability built into the type, and the naval pilots appreciating its imperviousness to damp, which brought quick deterioration to machines of wood and linen on the Flanders coast. Still, this prototype made a good enough impression on air service procurement authorities that Junkers received a small but open-ended production contract for the D.I. The first completed example rolled out from the Junkers factory at Dessau in August, and in October several were shipped off to a naval unit in Flanders. There is no evidence that before the Armistice was signed these were flown for anything but evaluation and training well behind the lines, though one was found to be peppered with rifle-caliber bullets when taken in hand by Allied forces in 1919. Junkers continued building to his contract until February of that year, though the machines seem to have remained in the factory yard (there being no air service to deliver them to), and it is unclear whether Junkers received any payment, and if he did, from whom it came. For roughly a dozen Junkers D.Is became part of the aerial strength of a private force of armed German soldiers who came to the Courland in Latvia late in February 1919 to fight Bolsheviks. This was formed on a nucleus of officers and men from the demobilized 1st Guards Reserve Division, who dubbed themselves 'The Iron Brigade'. Initially, at least, this early freikorps body was not a mere armed gang of political freebooters but a proxy army executing both Allied and German policy. England, France, the United States, and Japan all had forces operating in Russia against the Bolsheviks, and welcomed the assistance on the Baltic coast of a German force which was recruited with encouragement from Gen. Groener, the German Army's current chief of staff. The aviation unit of this 'Iron Brigade' was recruited by Lt. Sachsenberg, a distinguished Marinefliegerkommando pilot. He was one of the naval pilots who had test-flown the first prototype of the Junkers D.I late in 1917, and was during January 1919 at Dessau himself, superintending the demobilization of his naval fighter detachment. One way or another, Lt. Sachsenberg received some thirty-odd Junkers all-metal monoplanes, both D.I and Cl.I types (the latter being a modestly larger, two-seat version of the D.I single-seater). With these in hand to serve respectively as a fighter detachment and a close-support detachment, a sufficient number of Rumpler C.IV two-seaters were then obtained, giving 'Kampfgeschwader Sachsenberg' a reconnaissance detachment as well. The situation the soldiers and aircrew of this 'Iron Brigade' were pitched into in the Courland districts of Latvia late in February, 1919, was both extremely complex and quite precarious. The Armistice of November 11, 1918, had required German soldiers stationed on the Baltic coast to remain there. A week after the Armistice, Latvian Nationalists declared an independent Latvia. This was promptly invaded by a force comprising both Latvian and Russian Bolsheviks, which quickly bested Latvian Nationalist militia. While the Bolsheviks were advancing westwards, the Latvian government recruited German soldiers, demobilized from the former occupation force, to form a fresh body of militia. These fared no better against the Bolsheviks than had the Nationalist militia. By the time the 'Iron Brigade' arrived in Latvia, most of the country was in Bolshevik hands, including the great port of Riga. The Latvian government, and its Nationalist and German militias, held on only around the smaller but ice-free port of Liepaja, at the extreme southwest of the country. Ethnic Germans predominated here, and had since the days of the Livonian Crusades and the Hanseatic League. There was little love lost between these and Latvian Nationalists, for the Czars had favored the Germans of Latvia to the end, and leaders among the Latvian Germans had before the Armistice proposed the Courland be joined to Prussia. In March the 'Iron Brigade', accompanied by both Nationalist and German militias, struck to the east and north against Bolshevik forces. Lt. Sachsenberg's fliers encountered no aerial opposition, not even on reconnaissance flights over Riga, but their aeroplanes took plenty of enthusiastic fire from the ground while scouting ahead and to the flanks of the advancing columns, and strafing Bolshevik forces caught out on the move or gathered to give battle. As the success of the 'Iron Brigade's' offensive became apparent, newly recruited freikorps bands arrived from Germany, some with their own smaller aerial component, and these additions swelled the 'Iron Brigade' into the 'Iron Division'. Emboldened by these developments, in April a body of ethnic German notables at Liepaja declared themselves to be Latvia's government. The Latvian Nationalist leadership was driven to take refuge aboard ship under the protection of England's Royal Navy, which maintained a squadron off the coast. The emergence of this new 'government' of wealthy ethnic Germans at Liepaja made clear by its very existence that the objective of the 'Iron Division' now was not just to defeat Bolshevik forces, but to establish German control over Latvia. Towards the end of May the 'Iron Division' and German militia took Riga from the Bolsheviks. Their advance deeper into Latvia was opposed now by Estonian Nationalist militia, along with fresh Latvian Nationalist militia raised and trained in Estonia. Late in June, these defeated the 'Iron Division' decisively at the town of Cesis. The beaten Germans retreated to Riga, and in early July, with Latvian and Estonian militia advancing on their heels to do battle for the place, England and France together forced an armistice on all parties. Under its terms the Latvian Nationalist government was to be restored, and the 'Iron Division' with all its freikorps bands was to leave Riga and return to Germany. While these did depart Riga as ordered, most remained in Latvia, thinly disguised as a nominally Russian unit, the 'West Russian Volunteer Army', which styled itself as part of the forces commanded by the Czarist leader Admiral Kolchak. In October this now nominally Russian force of German troops again occupied Riga, but could not hold it long. Latvian Nationalist soldiery drove them out in November, with aid from a Royal Navy destroyer, HMS Vanoc, and from Estonian forces which included armored trains. The routed German freikorps men were driven south into Lithuania, where they suffered a further defeat from Lithuanian soldiers at the railway hub of Radviliskis. After some negotiation conducted under the auspices of England and France, what remained of the various freikorps formations which had fought in Latvia were finally returned to Germany during December. Kampgeschwader Sachsenberg did not participate in the concluding debacle of the Baltic coast freikorps forces. The original 'Iron Division' formation had attached itself to the 'West Russian Volunteer Force' in August, and Lt. Sachsenberg led his airmen back to Germany in September. Gotthard Sachsenberg resigned his commission in the German Navy soon thereafter. He went into business with Prof. Junkers, and headed an organization that helped demobilized soldiers return to civilian life in eastern Germany. Herr Sachsenberg then took up politics, being elected to the Reichstag in 1928 as a member of the German Middle Class Party, a minor party of the petit-bourgeoise. Sachsenberg wrote against German rearmament, and avoided a spell in concentration camp after Hitler came to power only because of the influence his brother wielded, as owner of a major shipyard. This model represents a Junkers D.I of Kampfgeschwader Sachsenberg in early summer, when the 'Iron Division' advanced beyond Riga. It is the Roden 1/72 scale kit of the type, in a boxing which purports to be the proper 'short fuselage' version, but I confess I did not check dimensions. Two small alterations were necessary to make this kit a model of a Junkers D.I as flown in Latvia. The cockpit opening must be trimmed away at the front, so it curves up to meet the breeches of the machine guns, and a panel behind the flap at the nose on the port side of the cowling must be cut away, as this was removed in service to improve airflow through the radiator. A 'bulkhead' (actually a cloth panel) should be added to the rear of the cockpit. The kit includes a set of instruments which follows photographs in the early Windsock number on the type, which I discarded in favor of scratching something close to the illustrations in the Wingnutz kit instructions. The finish given the Junkers D.I at the factory was a spotty pattern of mauve and pale bruswick green on uppersurfaces, with the undersurfaces done in pale blue. On those operated by Kampfgeschwader Sachsenberg this was thinly sprayed over with a grey-green paint, supplemented with an off-white on the undersides, which altered their appearance considerably, and obscured somewhat the German national markings applied to them during production. I used a wash and some daubings of RAF 'Slate Grey' for the grey-green, and a wash and daubings of a pale buff tone on the undersides. The kit decals depict D.I 5185/18, which was one of the machines shipped to Flanders before the Armistice: I altered this to read D.I 5195/18, to get the serial into a range likely to have fetched up in Latvia. The kit went together pretty well, but it is a Roden offering, so there were some odd moments. The cockpit furniture is quite nice, with the seat and stick and rudder bar arrangement first-rate. The engine actually fit to its bearers in the nose, which in my experience is unusual for a Roden kit. The fuselage comes in four pieces (sides and top and bottom) which does preserve the fine corrugate pattern where a dressed seam would be most visible, but the fit of top and bottom pieces to the assembled sides is not too good. A great deal of fettling and test-fitting improved this, but I could not get a seamless fit and in cleaning things up did have to do some damage (hopefully not too apparent) to the corrugation. As the top and bottom pieces seemed a bit too wide, a spreader between the joined side-pieces might well have helped, but I did not think of this in time. The flash protector troughs for the machine guns needed a great deal of thinning to be able to fit into place alongside the motor's rocker arms, and I had to scratch a small panel to set between the machine gun breeches. The kit has many small fittings which require great care to remove intact from the sprues. The decals, as is often the case with Roden, were execrable, managing to be both too thick and terribly fragile. A couple had to be pieced back together on the model. My usual Future setting technique could not pull them down into the corrugation, and a brief experiment with a razor blade did not have good results at all. A final application of Tamiya spray matte got them blended better to the casual eye, at least.
  2. Latvia purchased a dozen Bristol Bulldog fighters, the first being delivered in September, 1929. At this time the Bulldog was very much first-rate aerial equipment, as it had only begun to enter Royal Air Force squadrons the previous May. English support in the aftermath of the Great War had been essential to the establishment of Latvia, and the other Baltic states, as independent polities, and relations remained close in the decades following. The Bulldogs arrived in two batches, one of five late in 1929, and one of seven following in 1930. They were equipped with license-built Gnome-Rhone Jupiters, rather than the standard English product. They equipped the 1st Squadron of the Latvian Air Regiment, replacing A.D.C. 1 fighters (Great War vintage Martinsyde Buzzards fitted with Armstrong Jaguar radials by the Aircraft Disposal Corporation after Martinsyde's bankruptcy). The Bulldogs were to remain in front-line service until 1937, when they were replaced by Gloster Gladiators. Latvian pilots found the Bulldog Mk. II a difficult machine to handle, prone to enter a flat spin during aerobatics, and hard to get out of the spin once it had begun. Three of the twelve Bulldogs were crashed, and their pilots killed, as a result. Three others were written off owing to more normal accidents; a collision while landing, hitting the ground during gunnery practice, and running into a telegraph pole while stunting at ground level. This machine, no. 74, crashed on June 15, 1936, while piloted by kapt-leitn Huge Fremanis, a ten year veteran of the Air Regiment. He took off before a large audience of soldiers at Daugavpils, stunted spectacularly for some while, and then dove the machine straight into the ground on the aerodrome. He was engaged in a bitter divorce at the time, and it is quite likely he made a suicide dive, though the official report suggests he simply 'misjudged his distance from the ground'. The model is the Airfix Bulldog in 1/72, which needs a few alterations for the Latvian variant, and also some basic corrections. The profile of the nose needs correcting at the bottom, and as the cylinder back-fairings in the kit are somewhat anemic, I made my own, slightly larger ones out of 2.5mm x 3.2mm stock. The cabane struts need correction as well; Airfix has the front leg much too short. The Latvian variant has slightly different panels on the port side, and has two exhaust pipes led off into the fuselage on the port side as well. A few other things were done, but I confess I do not remember them all, as this model was completed several years ago, though never got properly photographed or written up. I got it off the shelf today, cleaned it up a bit, and took advantage of a bit of sunlight.... The nose is covered in home-made foil, aged by boiling with egg-shells. Wife made the decals for me; it was, I remember, our second try at doing this. It took a good deal of work to match the font for the numbers; the insignia were printed red on transparent film applied over circles cut out of white film.
  3. Right, now that my Lightning is finally on finals, I am allowing myself to make a start on my entries in this GB. First up will be the Eduard Hannover Cl.IIIa in Latvian colours, followed by the HobbyBoss Super Tucano in Mauretanian markings. Why start the old one first? Because it's old, and frankly, I'm not expecting it to be an easy build - if I can get the bones of this one together, the HB Super Tuc will be a breeze. This kit dates from 1994, when Eduard where still finding their feet with full kits. It's got a complete photoetched interior, surrounded by 1970s Airfix-style plastic. Hmm... check the photos for details. I've had the kit in my stash for many years, always with the intention of it being Latvian, so this GB is a good thing. I've dug it out a few times over the years, had a look at it and gone "Nah, not this time." Well, now is the time. Apparently, it's somewhat of a rarity, and may be worth actual $$ on the market, but meh - I bought it to build it, so build it I shall! (that kind of gets into a fantasy of mine, actually - going to a model show and spending a considerable sum on something rare, then breaking it open and cutting bits off the sprue right there in the hall, with 'collectors' fainting left, right and centre around me. Yes, the whole 'collectors' thing annoys me, especially with plastic kits - durn things were made to be made, so let's make 'em! Right, enough of my rants, back to the topic at hand.) Obligatory box shot. Sprues etc. That PE fret (minus a couple of bits, because I started it before I took the photo). I sat down last night, girded up my loins, and got cracking. First task was to see what sort of silk purse could be made of the sow's ear plastic, so I spent some time cleaning up the major airframe components. The shapes are actually pretty good, and if I can conquer the PE (and the rigging, Oh the rigging...) I think all will be well. Here's the major structure. More to come as I get through it.
  4. Hi all, I'm planning to build the Airfix Gladiator in Latvian markings using decals from Print Scale and Kora, using the swastikas from the former and the serial number/insignia from the latter. I would appreciate it if anyone could confirm what shade of olive/khaki/green was used- the Insigna Magazine monograph on Latvian Air Force aircraft and the Print Scale instructions say dark green but the Kora instructions say khaki (FS 20040). Thanks in advance for your help.
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