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Gotha G.V - side plan
A side plan of the Gotha G.V, the most famous of the German bombers to attack Britain during the First World War
WWI Planes: Crews, Cockpits, Crashes, Contraptions
Ready for trouble, pilot Sergeant Georges Brou mans a Browning machine gun and his observer, Sub-Lieutenant Jean Billon de Plan, raises his Hotchkiss to practice dealing with an attack from behind in a newly delivered Maurice Farman MF.11bis of escadrille MF.62 at Breuil-le-Sec aerodrome in September 1915. On April 27, 1916, Billon de Plan shot down an attacking Fokker E.III fighter. His luck ran out on October 10, however, when he was shot in the head by one of three attacking Albatros D.IIs and his wounded pilot, Sergeant Roger Thuau, was forced to land their Nieuport 12bs in German lines. Thuau was later visited by his three assailants and their leader, who was credited with him as his 14th victory, expressed his regrets at Billon de Plan’s death and left him a photograph signed “to my brave enemy,” from Lieutenant Wilhelm Frankl commander of Jagdstaffel 4. (U.S. Air Force)
A truck hauls German Lieutenant Emil Thuy’s dismantled Albatros D.V along a country road as Royal Saxon Jagdstaffel 21 moves to a new airfield in July 1917. Thuy claimed a French Spad that month for his fourth victory and raised his score to 13 before transferring to take command of Royal Württemberg Jasta 28, surviving the war with a total of 35 and award of the Orden Pour le Mérite. He was killed in an air accident while clandestinely training German pilots in the Soviet Union on June 11, 1930. (National Archives)
First Lieutenant Edward Vernon Rickenbacker smiles for the camera from the cockpit of a Nieuport 28 of the 94th Aero Squadron at Gengoult aerodrome near Toul in northeastern France in May 1918. With the French air service committed to the Spad XIII, Nieuport 28s were bought by the United States to serve in four of its squadrons until more Spads became available. Rickenbacker was credited with five victories in Nieuports and would later command the 94th and score another 21 victories flying Spad XIIIs to become the war’s American ace of aces, as well as receiving the Medal of Honor. (U.S. Air Force)
German ground crewmen place 220-lb. bombs under the wings of a Gotha G.V, which also has two 660-lb. bombs in the center rack. Entering service in August 1917, the G.V moved the fuel tanks from the engine nacelles, as on the earlier G.II, G.III and G.IV, to a less hazardous location in the fuselage behind the pilot. In spite of its refinements, however, the G.V was so much heavier than its predecessors that its performance was not better, averaging about 80 mph in the series of bombing raids the Germans launched against London until May 19, 1918. (National Archives)
The pilot of a German Gotha G.V demonstrates the use of an oxygen respirator apparatus. As altitudes exceeded 18,000 feet, the thinner atmosphere became detrimental to the airmen’s health, contributing to fatigue and deteriorating alertness. A supplemental oxygen supply, administered through a primitive mouth tube, was among the first attempts to deal with the problem. (National Archives)
Two Fokker Dr.Is marked with the yellow cowlings and tails of Royal Prussian Jasta 27 are readied for takeoff at Halluin-Ost aerodrome in May 1918—with rather questionable safety standards suggested by the mechanic lighting another’s cigarette so close to the aircraft in the foreground. In the background is one of the first Fokker D.VII biplane fighters to arrive, to ultimately replace the triplanes as Germany’s premier fighter. (National Archives)
Ground crewmen help guide a Jasta 27 Fokker Dr.I into position for takeoff at Halluin-Ost near Flanders in May 1918. The Staffel was then commanded by 1st Lt. Hermann Göring, whose skill and leadership—at squadron level, at least—earned him the Orden Pour le Mérite and, in July 1918, command of Jagdgeschwader I, the late Manfred von Richthofen’s “Flying Circus.” Göring finished the war with 22 victories and went on to infamy as Reichsmarschall in command of Nazi Germany’s Luftwaffe. (National Archives)
Meet the Gotha: Imperial Germany's Deadly World War I Bomber
Key point: In the WWI era, these bombers represented a significant improvement. However, they weren't enough to win the war for Berlin.
On May 25, 1917, a fleet of 21 bombers lumbered in a line at 12,000 feet over the English coast. The biplanes, each carrying 13 bombs, had wingspans exceeding 70 feet, immense for World War I aircraft. German military leaders called the planes Gothas, hoping the name would add an element of terror to English citizens in their homes below.
Earlier that day the Gothas, a top-secret weapon carefully concealed at Belgian airfields, had taken off and headed toward England, about 175 miles away. The super-bombers were led by Ernst Brandenburg, personally selected to head Kagohl 3, the elite of Kaiser Wilhelm’s bombing squadrons organized for raids on England. The target was London. Because the British weren’t expecting these newly designed warplanes, they were not prepared to spot their arrival or to stop them.
Ironically, in the spring of 1917, British residents believed the battle for the skies over their country was already won. They had been able to sleep soundly in their beds for about eight consecutive months with no German Zeppelins daring the North Sea with their deadly bombs. The Gothas now heading toward London had a much greater potential for causing damage than the Zeppelins, which could muster only small bomb loads.
The German Gotha
Although no other bomber, German or Allied, cradled more than two 112-pound bombs, the Gotha was capable of carrying more than 10 times that amount and dropping them with remarkable accuracy by using a high-tech Goerz bombsight.
Twin engines gave these bombers a top speed of 88 miles per hour and a ceiling of 16,000 feet, well above the reach of most defensive fighters then based in England. Because the Gothas flew so high, tanks of liquid oxygen were available if needed by crewmembers. The aircraft’s many unique features convinced German leaders that the Gotha was a plane capable of winning the war.
The 34-year-old Brandenburg took off with 23 bombers from grass fields near Ghent and headed for the Nieuwunster Airfield 40 miles away to refuel. (A reserve fuel tank was later installed under the upper wing to avoid this delay on future raids.)
One Gotha experienced engine problems halfway to the coast and landed near Thielt. Another suffered fuel line problems over the North Sea and began falling behind. Unfortunately, Brandenburg had no radio (because of its prohibitive weight) to find out what was wrong with this Gotha, which was painted with undulating serpents from nose to tail. Finally, the pilot of the troubled plane fired several red flares to indicate he was turning back and dumped his bombs into the sea. Meanwhile, an observer on board scribbled a message about the bomber’s problems to be carried back to a German coastal station by one of two pigeons aboard.
“The Whole Street Seemed to Explode, With Smoke and Flames Everywhere”
Brandenburg had marched off to war in 1914 as an infantry officer, but after being severely wounded ended up an air observer flying over the front. From observer he had moved up to command the important Englandflieger, or England Squadrons, which he was now leading up the Thames Valley without opposition. Thick, towering clouds greeted the planes over the capital instead of the clear weather forecast in Belgium. Accurate bombing would be impossible, so the pilots reluctantly turned southeast and headed off to find another target.
They dropped a scattering of bombs along the way over Kent. These were aimed at Lympne Airfield and destroyed a few British airplanes about to take off. The Gothas then went in search of Folkestone, a major supply port for British armies in France.
The sky was clear at this seaside resort filled with unsuspecting crowds in a holiday mood for a Whitsun celebration. The Gothas droned high overhead. Although the raid lasted only 10 minutes, 60 bombs found their way to unsuspecting throngs in the Tortine Street shopping district. “The whole street seemed to explode, with smoke and flames everywhere,” one eyewitness reported. “Worst of all were the screams of the wounded.” The death toll was 95 along with 260 wounded, far higher than from any German Zeppelin airship raid.
The Gothas droned out over the North Sea again for the return flight to Belgium, ending their raid. The Germans had just introduced a new degree of aerial warfare, changing how wars from the sky would be fought during World War I and in future wars.
German efforts to create strategic bombing from the air with specially designed monster planes sprang from the hope of escaping the war’s hideous and interminable slaughter of ground troops. The bombers appealed to the German emperor and his High Command because they believed civilians had been softened by the Industrial Age and saw a chance to strike at the working class, considered Britain’s soft underbelly.
The Kaiser’s Secret Weapon
Brandenburg was personally selected to head Kagohl 3, the elite of the Kaiser’s bombing squadrons for the raids on England, by General Ernst von Hoeppner. Kagohl 3 was attached to the German Fourth Army in Flanders, but operated independently of fighting on that front. Its orders came directly from the German Army High Command (OHL).
A striking commander with dark, intelligent eyes, Brandenburg emphasized training his crews to handle the unwieldy bombers and to fly together like geese. In the middle of May when the Gothas were ready for their first raid on London, the revered Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg was driven to a Flanders airfield in a large open car to give Kagohl 3 airmen a fitting sendoff. The lined-up planes were snow-white except for bold black crosses on their tails and fuselages and customized body painting to suit a crew’s own taste.
The Germans began air attacks in late 1914 by using their unique Zeppelins. While drawing considerable publicity, these airships caused only minor damage. When the OHL lost faith in the Zeppelins, it ordered increased Gotha bomber production. These planes were produced by the Gothaer Waggonfabrik AG Company, a prewar maker of railway carriages. The German High Command wanted 30 Gothas ready by late May.
Dubbed “the Kaiser’s secret weapon,” Gothas were a big improvement over early aerial combat efforts in small, rickety planes. Early emphasis had been on “dogfights” between opposing pilots, then some airmen began tossing small bombs from their open cockpits. Soon French pilots were dropping pencil-sized steel darts called flechettes on unsuspecting ground troops 1,500 feet below. Some were said to have fatally wounded a German general riding on horseback.
Bombing efforts gradually became more sophisticated until larger bombers like the Gothas were specially designed to pack a bigger wallop. Gothas were only 41 feet long, far shorter than their extensive wingspans. Two early Gotha models had 72-foot wingspans, with wings on more widely used G.IV models extending 77 feet. The bombers ranged from the G.I model with two 160-horsepower Benz motors, to the improved G.IVs equipped with more powerful 260-horsepower Mercedes motors. The fuselage and wings were made of plywood and fabric.
Brandenburg Pounces on London
In the front sat the navigator/bombardier, who was also the front gunner. Behind were the pilots. The tail had two guns reachable by a tunnel running through the rear fuselage. One was called the “sting in the tail” because it shot downward to cover the tail’s blind spot. The other rear gun was able to shoot above the plane if an attacker approached from that direction.
The machine guns were fitted with electrical dynamo-driven heating so they could be fired in the cold air of high altitudes. Because of chilling temperatures, the airmen dressed as warmly as possible. In addition, oxygen was taken along, but it wasn’t always used. “We rather preferred to restore our body warmth and energy with an occasional gulp of cognac,” claimed one pilot.
Brandenburg had to wait weeks for another try on London, but when good weather was predicted, he pounced. Brandenburg and 14 Gothas took off from Ghent at 10 am on June 13, hoping to return before forecast thunderstorms at 3 pm.
By midday the Gothas were droning up the Thames. The distant rumble was heard first by English suburb dwellers, who stepped outside to watch the planes—their wonder greater than their fear. They stared in awe at the distinctive formation three miles up. Because of their great height, a British volley from ground guns proved fruitless.
At 11:35 am, the Gothas dropped some bombs on London’s East End, with a cluster falling between the Royal Albert Docks and the borough of East Ham. Eight men were killed at the docks and bombs damaged some sheds, offices, and railway cars. Brandenburg, in the lead plane, fired a white flare signaling the Gothas to unleash their main bomb loads, Liverpool Street Station being the prime target. With terrible explosions, 72 bombs landed within a mile of the terminal—only three hit the station itself. Some victims were trapped in a wrecked dining car and two coaches were set afire.
Airplanes in the skies + FAF history
The Gotha G.IV was a heavy bomber used by the Luftstreitkräfte (Imperial German Air Service) during World War I.
Experience with the earlier G.III showed that the rear gunner could not efficiently operate both the dorsal and ventral positions. Hans Burkhard's solution was the “Gotha tunnel”, a trough connecting an aperture in the upper decking with a large, triangular cross-section opening extending from the wing's trailing edge rearwards along the bottom of the rear fuselage.
The Gotha tunnel allowed the top-side gun to fire through the fuselage at targets below and behind the bomber. A separate ventral 7.92 mm machine gun could still be mounted, and there was even a provision for a fourth machine gun on a post between the pilot's and bombardier's cockpits, although this was rarely carried due to the weight penalty.
The G.IV introduced other changes. The fuselage was fully skinned in plywood, eliminating the partial fabric covering of the G.III. Although it was not the reason for this modification, it was noted at the time that the plywood skinning enabled the fuselage to float for some time in the event of a water landing. Furthermore, complaints of poor lateral control, particularly on landing, led to the addition of ailerons on the lower wing.
Crew: 3 (pilot, nose gunner, dorsal gunner)
Length: 12.2 m
Wingspan: 23.7 m
Height: 3.9 m
Wing area: 89.5 m2
Empty weight: 2,413 kg
Gross weight: 3,648 kg
Powerplant: 2 × Mercedes D.IVa, 193 kW (260 hp) each
Maximum speed: 135 km/h
Endurance: 6 hours
Service ceiling: 5,000 m
Armament: 2 or 3 × 7.92 mm Parabellum LMG 14 machine guns
Up to 500 kg of bombs
As a result of the First World War (1914), the empires of his first cousins Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany fell, while the British Empire expanded to its greatest effective extent.
In 1917, George became the first monarch of the House of Windsor, which he renamed from the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha as a result of anti-German public sentiment.
In November 1916, the Gothaer Waggonfabrik received a production order for 35 aircraft this was subsequently increased to 50 in February 1917. A further 80 aircraft were ordered from the Siemens-Schuckert Werke (SSW) and 100 from Luft-Verkehrs-Gesellschaft (LVG). Compared to the Gothaer aircraft, these license-built aircraft were slightly heavier and slower because Idflieg specified the use of a strengthened airframe. In order to counteract this, SSW built a number of highly modified examples, including one driven by tractor instead of pusher engines, one with an extra bay added to its wing cellule, two with a new airfoil section for the wings, and one with a supercharger.
Aurora’s 1/48 Gotha G.V Bomber Review with Kit Release History
Built by Gothaer Waggonfabrik AG, the Gotha G.V was a heavy bomber used by the Luftstreitkräfte (Imperial German Air Service) during World War I. It corrected a design flaw of the G.IV–mounting the fuel tanks in the engine nacelles, which contributed to three-quarters of G.IVs destroyed in landing accidents! Gothaer moved the fuel tanks to the center of the fuselage. Housing Mercedes D.IVa engines rated at 190 kW (260 hp), the smaller engine nacelles were mounted on struts above the lower wing, e.g., “floating,” between the wings. Thirty-six were built and began operations in August 1917.
Gothaer Waggonfabrik G.V Bomber
The fuselage was fully skinned in plywood. It was noted at the time that the plywood skinning enabled the fuselage to float for some time in the event of a water landing. The Gotha belly blind spot was defended by an innovative “gun tunnel.” The underside of the rear fuselage was arched, allowing placement of a rearward facing machine gun to protect from attack from below. There was a bulge from the left side of the cockpit for the pilot.
The bomber was defended by two or three 7.92 mm Parabellum MG14 machine guns, and attacked with up to 1,100 lbs of bombs.
Aurora issued their Gotha G.V in the late 1950’s. At the time it may have been the largest model airplane kit produced. The Gotha was impressive, with a (relatively) slim and aesthetic fuselage, and elegant semi-swept wings. With the “floating” engine nacelles, large size, plenty of struts and bracing, three crewmen, guns and bombs, the model was a sensation.
The first release was in 1958 and wore kit No. 126-198 (kit number 126, suggested retail price $1.98). The box top was the typical ‘hardbox’ of that era, which was a colorful lithograph ‘slick’ glued around folded cardboard. This is issue was molded in bright burgundy and black.
First Issue Aurora Gotha Bomber from 1958. Box artwork by Jo Kotula
In 1971 a hobbyist/model kit dealer name Ross Abare commissioned Aurora to produce 1,000 of the models in the same plastic color, the original artwork and kit number. However, the non-‘Famous Fighters’ logo was used, thus forever separating the Abare issue from the original issue. Mr. Abare was reportedly quite upset, as he wanted exact copies.
Abare Issue Aurora Gotha Bomber from 1971. Box artwork by Jo Kotula. Note lack of ‘Famous Fighters’ in the logo border
In 1972 Aurora reworked the model, removed the raised plastic decal locators, and reissued the kit as No. 1126-350 under Aurora and 1126-300 with their subsidiary K&B. There may be additional price suffixes as well. These improved molds were molded in a deep blue and black. The box artwork is by Amendola, who did many of the K&B issues.
1972 issue with artwork by John Amendola.
The final issue, kit No. 785 from 1976, is the subject of this review. The dramatic box art was replaced with a photograph of the built model on a white background, and fabric texture was added to the model surface.
Aurora’s final release of the the Gotha – 1976 issue
This mighty Gotha contains 112 parts molded in olive and black. Earlier editions had two or three groundcrew, and the 1970s sqaure box editions also had a vacuform display base.
The molding is fraught with flaws: sinkholes, ejector marks–notably on the mainplane struts–seam lines, and flash abound. One crew member looks as though he took a 150 mm round through the tummy! Notice the dimpling near the wingtip of the wing in the bottom of the photo. Many parts are over scale, such as the latices propeller guards. However, some pieces are fairly to-scale, like the pilot’s control column and the landing gear struts.
1976 issue parts (click on any photo to enlarge)
1976 issue parts (click on any photo to enlarge)
This model is considered toy-like by today’s standards. The model’s fortes and foibles have long been debated, so I will touch upon the more obvious and interesting issues.
Much of the detail is soft and simplified. Almost all of the control surface horns are molded on, and out of scale. The ailerons did not mate flush with the wings, so there should be a gap with noticeable hinges between them.
No solid bulkheads should compartmentalize the fuselage. The top of the front fuselage was open on the right half from the nose gunner/bombardier station back to the rear gunner station. It had no top! There is no interior detail inside the fuselage. Nor are there the four windows at the bombardier station.
Outboard from the fuselage, the first 8 feet of lower wing (reaching just outboard the engines and main gear) was plywood with no dihedral. A gap should exist between the wooden and fabric wing segments. The belly gun tunnel is boxy–it was rounded on the actual aircraft. The tail skid was metal tubing instead of the fin style type in the kit. Most wing struts are too bulky, as are the scarf rings. The Parabellum MG14 machine guns are basic. It is a shame the crew suffers from poor molding, as they have decent detail.
1976 Gotha machine guns and crew (click on any photo to enlarge)
The fuselage is textured to simulate fabric. I do not know if the G.V had fabric over the plywood, as some Luftstreitkräfte aircraft did.
Painting, Decals and Instructions
The instructions are simple and nicely illustrated. It includes a diagram for painting the lozenge camouflage. A rigging diagram is also included.
Initially, G.V’s were used for day bombing and had the five color day lozenge print fabric on upper and lower surfaces. Most G.V’s flew night bombing, typically painted with large five color dark irregular polygons. This pattern was different from the pattern used in the printed fabric. Individual markings were common.
The decals are over 30 years old, yet are not yellowed. The national insignia are the early style, instead of the straight style. No unit information is provided though G.V’s flew with Bogohl 3 (formerly Kagohl 3). Decals one aircraft are provided, aircraft 547, Go G.V 504/18.
1976 Aurora Gotha decals (click photo to enlarge)
This kit is another classic trip down memory lane. With a wingspan of over 19 inches (480 mm), and a fuselage of 10 inches (258 mm), this model debuted with a “wow” factor. Even today it is sought for building and collecting. They are rare and disappearing. If you decided to bring the model up to date, it certainly requires quite a bit of work to correct the deficiencies. Move slowly and deliberately to align the struts for the upper and lower wings. There are many examples of well-built Aurora G.V’s on line, so you can make a good model from it.
Interesting model, whether built out of the box, or super-detailed. Until a few days ago the only injection-molded 1/48 Gotha.
Flaws in molding, details, engineering, rare and disappearing. Much of the detail is soft and simplified.
First appearing in March 1915, the Caudron G.IV was a two-engine French bomber. It was equipped with a free-firing Vickers or Lewis machine-gun in its front cockpit and, sometimes, a second machine gun over its top wing that could fire behind.
The G.IV came into service in November 1915 for the French Air Force, but they were also soon adopted by the Italian Air Force and used on the Italian Front.
It could carry a 220 lb (100 kg) bomb load and it became a common sight in the skies above the Western Front between November 1915 and the Autumn of 1916, when it was replaced with the Caudron R. series.
In February 1918, Gothaer tested a compound tail unit with biplane horizontal stabilizers and twin rudders. The new tail unit, known as the Kastensteuerung, improved the aircraft's marginal directional control on one engine. The resulting G.Va subvariant incorporated the new tail as well as a slightly shorter forward fuselage with an auxiliary nose landing gear. All 25 G.Va aircraft were delivered to Bogohl 3, the new designation for the former Kagohl 3.
Carried an increased payload comparing to the earlier G.Va, and operated at a maximum takeoff weight of 4,550 kg (10,030 lb). To reduce the danger of flipping over during landing, Gothaer introduced the Stossfahrgestell ("shock landing gear"), a tandem two-bogie main landing gear. The Stossfahrgestell proved so good that it was fitted to all G.V's in Bogohl 3. Some G.Vb aircraft also had Flettner servo tabs on the ailerons to reduce control forces.
Idflieg ordered 80 G.Vb aircraft, the first being delivered to Bogohl 3 in June 1918. By the Armistice, all 80 aircraft were built but the last batch did not reach the front and was delivered direct to the Allied special commission.
Operational use of the G.IV demonstrated that the incorporation of the fuel tanks into the engine nacelles was problematic. In a crash landing, the tanks could rupture and spill fuel onto the hot engines. This posed a serious problem because landing accidents constituted 75% of all operational losses. In response, Gothaer produced the G.V, which housed its fuel tanks in the center of the fuselage. The smaller engine nacelles were mounted on struts above the lower wing.
The Gotha's pilot seat was offset to starboard with the bomb bay immediately behind. This allowed for a connecting walkway on the port side allowing crew members to move between the three gun stations. The Gotha included an important innovation in the form of a "gun tunnel" whereby the underside of the rear fuselage was arched, allowing placement of a rearward facing machine gun protecting from attack from below. To this point, bombers were vulnerable to attack from this quarter and the Gotha removed this last blind spot.
Operational use of the Gotha G.IV demonstrated that the incorporation of the fuel tanks into the engine nacelles was a mistake. In a crash landing the tanks could rupture and spill fuel onto the hot engines. This posed a serious problem because landing accidents caused 75% of operational losses. In response Gothaer produced the G.V, which housed its fuel tanks inside the fuselage. The smaller engine nacelles were mounted on struts above the lower wing.
The Gotha G.V pilot seat was offset to port, with the fuel tanks immediately behind. This blocked the connecting walkway that previously on earlier machines allowed crew members to move between the three gun stations. All bombs were carried externally in this model.
The base variant of G.V offered no performance improvement over the G.IV. The G.V was up to 450 kg (990 lb) heavier than the G.IV due to additional equipment and the use of insufficiently seasoned timber. The Mercedes D.IVa engines could not produce the rated 190 kW (260 hp) due to inferior quality of fuel.
Gotha tunnel Edit
The Gotha included an important innovation in the form of a "gun tunnel", whereby the underside of the rear fuselage was arched, early versions allowing placement of a rearward-facing machine gun, protecting against attack from below, removing the blind spot.  Later versions expanded the tunnel to remove the lower gun, providing a slot in the upper fuselage that allowed the rear gunner to remain stationary.
Yesterday, Mr. Postie delivered some reference material courtesy of Mr. Sticks'n'Strings, so my evening was dedicated to study of said reports and construction details.
And it's mentioned in those reports that there were 2 fuselage tanks present in G.V. Those of same construction, located behind pilot, not side by side, but one in front, one in rear, blocking the gangway, normally associated with this type. This is doing my head at the moment.
The aircraft in question is G.V 979/16 'FST' shot down in May of 1918. It bore night camouflage - dark lozenge printed fabric and undercarriage with extra wheels added to the front of of standard landing gear. As described for 'night landing', this is not uncommon feature, mind you, but.
Was this twin petrol tank feature present on all G.Vs or was it some sort of 'custom' or test set-up present only on small number of late war airplanes? The aircraft in question is G.V 979/16 'FST' shot down in May of 1918.
I still don't have my scheme selected for my bird and I thought that I have plenty of time, but it looks like that I will have to make decision rather sooner as the build will need to be altered as per chosen aircraft. So. will I go with this 'FST'? Will I go with light coloured 'snakes', will I chose 'Erika' in night dress? Would 'Erika' had the same petrol tank set-up as 'FST'? Or would I create semi-fictional aircraft 'Lo-Ri 3'?