Overview

The Fokker Scourge was a term coined by the British press in the summer of 1915 to describe the then-current ascendency of the Fokker Eindecker monoplane fighters of the German Fliegertruppen over the poorly-armed allied reconnaissance types of the period.

Fokker E.III - 1915
Fokker E.III Eindecker - 1915

Background

The early months of the First World War saw the tentative beginnings of air-to-air combat, at first using improvised methods. The first purpose-designed fighter aircraft included the British Vickers F.B.5 - machine gun armament was also fitted to several French types, such as the Morane-Saulnier L and N. Initially the German Air Service lagged behind the Allies in this respect - but this was soon to change dramatically.

In July 1915, the Fokker E.I became operational – this was the first type of aircraft to enter service with the pioneering example of a "synchronization gear" (often referred to mistakenly as an "interrupter gear"), the Fokker Stangensteuerung, which enabled a machine gun to fire through the arc of the propeller without striking its blades. This gave an important advantage over other fighter aircraft. This aircraft and its successors - also commonly known as the Eindecker (German for "Monoplane") for the first time supplied an equivalent of Allied fighters.

Results

Germany's First Aces

Max Immelmann
Max Immelmann
Born: May 19, 1891
Died: October 28, 1916
Oswald Boelke
Oswald Boelke
Born: May 19, 1891
Died: October 28, 1916

By late 1915 the Germans had achieved air superiority, making Allied access to vital intelligence derived from continual aerial reconnaissance more dangerous to acquire. In particular the essential defencelessness of Allied reconnaissance types was exposed. The first German ace pilots - notably Max Immelmann and Oswald Boelcke began their careers.

The number of actual Allied casualties involved was for various reasons very small compared with the intensive air fighting of 1917/18. The deployment of the eindeckers was less than overwhelming - the new type was issued in ones and twos to existing reconnaissance squadrons - and it was to be nearly a year before the Germans were to follow the British in establishing specialist fighter squadrons. The eindecker was also, in spite of its advanced armament, by no means an outstanding aircraft - being closely based on a pre-war French racer.

Nonetheless - the impact on morale of the fact that the Germans were fighting back in the air, and effectively too, created a major scandal in the British press.

Fortunately for the Allies, two new British fighters were already in production which were a technical match for the Fokker, the Airco F.E.2b and the D.H.2. These were both "pushers" and could fire forwards without gun synchronisation. The F.E.2b reached the front with No 20 Squadron in January 1916, and the D.H.2 in February.

On the French front, the tiny Nieuport 11, a tractor biplane with a forward firing gun mounted above the arc of the propeller (on the top wing) also proved more than a match for the German fighter when it entered service with Escadrille N.3 in January 1916. With these new types the Allies re-established air superiority in time for the Battle of the Somme, and the "Fokker Scourge" was over.

Synchronised guns nonetheless quickly became the norm – and later versions of the Nieuport, as well as most new British fighters, were to be fitted with them for the rest of the war.

Aftermath

Like the Fokker scourge, the period of Allied air superiority which followed it was brief. By August 1916 the fighters in the Luftstreitkräfte had been grouped into specialist fighter squadrons, the Jagdstaffeln, and these units were receiving the first of the new Albatros fighters. These were once more able to turn the tables - and by the spring of 1917 were causing very high casualties in the Royal Flying Corps – culminating in the rout of "Bloody April" (April 1917).

In the following two years, Allied aviation became overwhelming in both quality and quantity, with the result that the Germans were only able to maintain limited control over a small area of the front at any time. When even this seemed threatened, they started a crash programme to develop a new aircraft. The result was the famous Fokker D.VII, leading to a short but notable second "Fokker Scourge". The Fokker D.VII was so effective that Germany was required to surrender all of them to the victorious allies as a condition of the Armistice of Compiègne.

"Fokker Fodder"

Fokker Fodder was a derogatory term coined by the British Press in early 1916 for the aircraft of the Royal Flying Corps in France, at a time when Allied aircraft types - especially the British Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2 – were badly outclassed by the Fokker Eindecker, one of the very first true fighter aircraft.

British Aircraft

RAF BE.2 - 1914
RAF B.E.2

The RAF B.E.2 was a British single-engine two-seat biplane in service with the RFC during World War One.

Airco D.H.2 - 1915
Airco De Havilland D.H.2

The D.H.2 biplane was a highly successful pusher with good maneuverability with an excellent rate of climb when first deployed. it was past its prime in 1917.

RAF FE-2d - 1915
RAF FE-2d

This early British two seater saw much action in the early years of the war. It had a reputation for being ungainly, and dangerous to fly.

Vickers F.B.5
Vickers F.B.5 - 1915

The Vickers F.B.5 was the first aircraft specifically designed for air-to-air combat, making it the world's first operational fighter aircraft.

French Aircraft

Morane-Saulnier L - 1915

The Morane Type L was a fragile one or two-seat "parasol" monoplane aircraft armed with a fixed machine gun that fired through the propellor arc.

Morane Saulnier N
Morane Saulnier N - 1915

The Morane-Saulnier Type N was first French aircraft specifically developed as a fighter. Armed with a fixed, forward firing machine gun, its propeller was protected by the metal deflector plates

Nieuport 11 "Bébé" (baby) - 1915
Nieuport 11 "Bébé" (baby) - 1915

The small Nieuport 11 biplane was used by the British and French to counter the Fokker E.III, the Nieuport 11 was disadvantaged by its lack of a synchronized machine gun.

References

  1. Fokker Scourge. (2011, February 6). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 22:14, February 11, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Fokker_Scourge&oldid=412271945