What? A Fokker?

By Rob Morgan

The approach of the centenary of World War I has led many of us to think about what’s almost certain – at least in Europe – to dominate the historical Kriegspiel for the next four years, at least.

The other day, I found myself in one of the many closing-down shops of the Model Zone group. There, I encountered Revell’s Fokker Dr1 triplane, at a bargain price. Naturally, sustained by the motto of the mighty Welshman Sir Clough William-Ellis, who said “Buy it when you see it, not when you need it,” I picked up three for five pounds.

 

Manfred von R's own Dr1

Manfred von R’s own Dr1

You’ll notice the little, easily assembled model is only a bit smaller than 15mm scale, and will fly neatly above the table top over any of the good quality WWI 15mm figure ranges around – Peter Pig, ERM or Mick Yarrow’s, for instance. It’s about 5cm, or 2 inches wide across the wing top, and only a fraction shorter in length. Merely two minutes’ work to put together, but the aircraft doesn’t have a pilot figure. You’ll need the head and shoulders of a small — and I do mean small — figure to be cemented in the cockpit top. I’d suggest a Lineside “boy” or 10mm in suitable headgear that you can adapt. Worth the effort looking around.

In their now-venerable book “German Aircraft of the First World War,” published by Putnam’s of London in the early 1960s, Gray and Thetford describe the Fokker Dr1, and they say this: “the red triplane of the ‘Red Baron’ has probably been the subject of more models than any other.” Well, not surprisingly, this Revell kit is a red triplane, with the earlier Maltese cross wing markings. It’s Manfred’s!

All, however, is not lost, but you can’t field three red ones, naturally. So, of the total of 320 built, a dozen or more served with the elite (until the Royal Flying Corps encountered them) Jasta 18, nicknamed the “Red Noses.” Take a look at the fairly new Osprey title of that name, which gives a good account of this circus, along with plenty of colour drawings of its aircraft. So, to “convert: the Fokkers, all you need to do is choose a slightly different tailplane or rear fuselage colour. Not difficult – a few white stripes or big white dots here or there, a few streamers from each wing tip, maybe? That’s it. You could paint out the Maltese crosses and over-paint basic black ones, which is accurate for the last few months of the war.

The kit has a flying mount of sorts, but it is black, heavy plastic, not much good for strafing the enemy as they surge toward Berlin again. So, use one of the Games Workshops circular, clear, plastic mounts. Instead, they will help the triplane fly about 20 or 25 scale feet above the table, which seems about right for ground attack of the more committed variety.

To end, a few facts about the Fokker Dr1: A single-seat scout of immense, almost legendary, agility, a top speed around 100 mph (or 165-ish kmh) and very nippy for its day, armed with two Spandau machine guns firing forward. Introduced in mid-1917. The last was delivered in April 1918. It had a few structural weaknesses and did on occasion kill its pilots when it crashed, usually decapitating them on the machine gun mountings. Only three examples survived intact, I understand, beyond the Armistice. In addition, a small number were evaluated by Allied flying schools, whose pilots were seriously impressed with it. Unfortunately, sad to say, I can’t equip my post-WWI Eastern European Red and White Squadrons with examples of the delightful Fokker Dr1 – unless that is someone knows of a Polish or Estonian “ace” who flew one!

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