Into The Lions Den
(18 x 24 Oil on Linen Ė1998)
As the war ground down towards it inevitable conclusion, and the beleaguered German Army began itís long retreat into the homeland, the British Independent Air Force began to bomb strategic industrial locations along the Rhine River.
These long range missions were doubly dangerous for the English aircrews. Flying first through areas patrolled by the front line fighter units, they often came under attack early in their missions and once they reached their targets in Germany, they were often attacked by the Home Defense fighter units. If they succeeded in avoiding the two waves of fighters during the incursion, they were again faced with fighters upon their return trip to Allied airspace.
ďInto the Lionís DenĒ, depicts three IAF DH-9ís under attack by Pfalz D.VIIIís of Kest 1a, a home defense squadron. Two Pfalzes slide beneath the formation, preparing to attack a lower echelon of English bombers. The Pfalz possessed an exception rate of climb and proved to be a success in itís interceptor role. Alternately powered with a 160 Oberusal, 140 Goebel or 160 HP Siemens Halske rotary engine, the D.VIII saw limited production primarily due to itís temperamental powerplants. A few reached the front line Jastas for operational evaluation, but most of the batch of 40 saw duty in the rear areas.
The British DeHavilland DH-9 was developed specifically to fill the role of a long distance medium bomber, ostensibly to replace the successful DH-4. In November 1917, the prototype was flight tested under full load with the Siddely-Puma 230 HP in-line engine installed. Itís performance was less than stellar, but with no suitable replacement near production readiness, contracts were issued for the new design.
Like the Pfalz, the DH-9 too was plagued by engine troubles. As a result, its top speed was just a shade over 100 with an operational ceiling of around 13,000 feet. Hampered both in speed and operational altitude, the DH-9ís relied on mutual protection for their defense. But the home defense fighters were aggressive and with aircraft which could reach the DHís ceiling in under 25 minutes awaiting them, the DH-9 formations were often badly beaten up. On a mission to Mainz, Germany a formation of nine DH-9ís, depleted from the original 12 by engine troubles, were attacked by some 40 German fighters. During the running fight, towards Allied lines, seven DHís were crashed. The remaining two were spared by the timely intervention of British fighters.
The basic DH-9 airframe was later fitted with the American 400 HP Liberty V-12 engine and in this form was known as the DH-9A. With improved performance this DH-9A saw wide service in the Royal Air Force. However, the bulk of the long range missions still fell to the 9Aís somewhat weaker sister.
In spite of initial setbacks, the DH-9 served in France, Britain, Estonia and Mesopotamia proving itís usefulness in observation and artillery spotting roles. Australia, Belgium, Poland, Spain, the Netherlands East Indies and Japan all operated DH-9s at some point during the war. By wars end nearly 3,200 had been produced by some 15 different sub-contractors. The large production made surplus aircraft easy to come by and in post-war use, the DH-9 proved to be a fine aircraft. Pressed into service first with the White Russian forces in 1919, the DH-9 was later used in civilian roles by passenger airlines and mail carriers.
But in the fall of 1918, the bulk of the DH-9ís work was carried out behind German lines, flying ďInto the Lionís DenĒ.
- Commissioned for use as Cover Art work for Flying Machines Press DeHavilland Aircraft of World War One, Vol 2
- 2001 ASAA Awarded Award of Merit
- 2001 Canadian Aviation Museum Honorable Mention
- 2001 Aviation Week and Space Technology First Place (Military) at 2001 American Society of Aviation Artists International Exhibition held at the National Aviation Museum of Canada