n the summer of 1919 journalist Jan Przybyła published a small booklet titled Z Orlich Bojów Lotników Lwowskich (Eagle Battles of the Lvov Airmen), which covered the first six months of fighting for the city of Lvov – or rather, the airmen’s part in it.
The author of this booklet had an opportunity to meet some of the pilots involved: Cpt. Stefan Bastyr and Lt. Stefan Stec, and their machines – Fokker E.V fighters – an event which made a lasting impression on him. Both were heroes praised in popular folk songs:
This must be Bastyr flying
The machine obeys him like a well-tamed beast
And if it’s Stec at the controls of the Fokker
It’s an air show to admire!
The Fokker was at that time (early May 1919) the number one topic among Lvov residents, who discussed it and opined at will. The aforementioned journalist, when faced with the famed lethal Fokker, noted the following impressions: “The Fokkers, the fighter and pursuit aircraft that only recently arrived from the city of Poznań, catch one’s attention even at a distance. They have quickly made their presence felt in the skies over Lvov, chasing away enemy aircraft. The Fokkers are so fast they can easily catch up with enemy biplanes and engage them with their twin machine guns from close quarters. The Fokker is a single seat aircraft; it is the pilot alone who flies the machine and attacks the enemy. Hence, the main armament is mounted on top of the fuselage, near the engine; the machine guns are constructed such that their bullets pass through the whirling propeller disc without damaging the blades.
The Fokker has its sting pointed forwards so the pilot has to manoeuvre to keep his enemy ahead of him. If an enemy machine places itself above, the Fokker can “stand on its tail” and attack from below; should an enemy be lower, the Fokker will dive nose-first and pound him from above… We look at the Fokkers with due respect; indeed their shapes make one think of sea seals (seal in Polish is “foka”, which sounds a bit like “Fokker” – translator’s note). These beasts seem to look down upon you, as if they wanted to say: and who allowed you in here? Go away and don’t spoil the air! Keep your distance and do not touch me – only the chosen can!”
The history of this aircraft is well worth exploring – it was, of course, a Fokker E.V, which Lt. Stefan Stec flew when he was credited with his first aerial victory over a Ukrainian Nieuport fighter aircraft.
The Flying Razor
he first purpose-built fighter aircraft to take part in the Great War was the Fokker E.I2-E.IV, a single-seat monoplane constructed by Anthony Fokker. The Allies pressed similar designs into service: the French Morane Saulnier Parasol and Morane Saulnier N. After no more than a couple of months, all the combatant nations switched to biplane, or even triplane fighter aircraft. However, the last year of the war saw the reappearance of monoplane fighters over the battlefields.
The German Inspection der Fiegertruppe decided to hold a contest between the country’s aircraft manufacturers for the award of a production contract for a new fighter design. The prototypes submitted to the Jagdflugzeugwettbewerb4 were thoroughly tested by factory pilots as well as by pilots selected from frontline units. Their opinions were crucial in choosing the best available designs to be purchased by the Army. For the first contest in January, a restriction was imposed – later much criticized – to the effect that all the submitted designs had to be powered exclusively by the inline Mercedes D III engine. During the following contests, however, the restriction was dropped and the producers were no longer limited by any preliminary conditions.
The second contest was organized at Adlershof, between 27th May and 21st June 1918. Among the contestants were all the important companies: Albatros, Kondor, L.V.G., Pfalz, Roland Siemens-Shuckert and others. Anthony Fokker was also present with his designs, as winner of the January contest. The Fokker company submitted several prototypes, mostly monoplanes. To the great surprise of everyone concerned, the winner was the Fokker V 26, the brainchild of Reinhold Platz, a brilliant autodidact. The many aircraft designs known as ‘Fokkers’ in fact owe their reputable place in the history of aviation to this man; the Fokker D.VII, for instance, is widely considered one of the best German fighters of the Great War.