Siemens Schuckert D.III
The scene: At the warning of approaching bombers, the pilots race to
their fast-climbing interceptors. Soon they are among the hapless allied
aircrew wreaking havoc on their formations.
The place: Skies over Germany
The year: 1944? No . . . 1918, and the interceptor is the Siemens-Schuckert
The SSW D.III was designed as a fast-climbing interceptor and was to
make use of the new 11 cylinder Siemens-Halske 160hp counter-rotary
engine. This engine featured a propeller and cylinders that rotated
opposite to the crankcase, allowing a slower propeller speed for the
same power and the elimination of torque among other things. Initial
tests of the Sh.III engine in the SSW D.IIb saw the remarkable (for
the time) climb of 7000m in 35 minutes, and the decision was made to
design a new interceptor around it.
Tests with the prototype D.III fitted with a two-bladed propeller and
long undercarriage that typified the first incarnation of the type.
showed that ground handling left a lot to be desired, therefore a new
four-blade propeller and shorter u/c were soon to be standardised on
the production D.III. In tests against the Fokker D.VII and Albatros
D.V, the SSW D.III was the faster of the three.
The first pre-production batch was ordered on 26 December 1917 and
were numbered D.8340/17 -D.8359/17, the one shown below being the second
pre-production aircraft. Note the full cowl and original rudder shape.
Seen here is D.III 8341/17 in ex-works finish of stained fuselage,
natural metal cowl and five-colour lozenge on wings, rudder and elevators.
In common with all the other SSWs profiled here the wing lozenge was
applied at 45° to the leading edge. The interplane struts were also
wrapped in lozenge fabric, possibly as protection against the wood splintering.
Siemens-Schuckert D.III D.8346/17
Ltn Walter Göttsch
OC, Jasta 19
In April-May 1918 40 D.IIIs and one D.IV were sent to Jagdgeschwader
II for evaluation. That seen here is D8346/17 and was to be the aircraft
of Ltn Walter Göttsch of Jasta 19. At his behest D8346/17 had its fuselage
doped in white, however Göttsch was killed on 10 April 1918, before
he had a chance to use his white D.III. Also note the overpainted rudder
Siemens-Schuckert D.III 83xx/17
Ltn Oliver von Beaulieu-Marconnay
Another Jasta of JG.II to receive the SSW was Jasta 15. On 28 May 1918,
von Beaulieu-Marconnay downed a French AR.2 for his first of an eventual
25 victories. To date few photographs of Js.15 SSW D.IIIs have come
to light, therefore this profile is based on the Jasta marking practice.
Formerly serving with the 4th Dragoons, von Beaulieu-Marconnay used
their branding iron insignia on his aircraft. Later transferred to Jasta
19, which he would take command of on 2 September. On 16 October 1918
he was shot down and severely wounded by another German pilot. As it
was understood that he was dying, his Pour le Merite was hurriedly awarded.
He had turned 20 the month before . . .
Although the tests of the D.III and D.IV in combat had shown the type
to be excellent climbers, it was felt they could be faster and more
manoeuvrable. And when it worked the combination of SSW D.III airframe
and Sh.III engine was 'faultless'. However after just 10 hours of operation
the engines began to overheat, have pistons seize and crankcases shatter.
The problem was traced to a bad batch of oil, but the damage was done
and the D.III was withdrawn from service for upgrading. As it was withdrawn
from service, the words of the JG.II commander, Hptm Rudolf Berthold,
rang out "the Siemens fighter be made available again for Front-line
use as quickly as possible for, after elimination of the present faults,
it is likely to be become one of our most useful fighter aircraft."
At the factory the SSW D.III was now fitted with a new rudder, new
ailerons, shorter wings, the engine cowl was cut away on the bottom
for improved cooling and other, less visible modifications were made.
The Sh.III engine was also banned from frontline service pending a 40-hour
test.... This was completed in July and the type returned to service
at the end of July.
Ltn Alfred Greven Jasta 12
Some of the D.IIIs were returned to JG.II/Jasta 12, including that
seen here which was flown by Ltn Alfred Greven. Note that the cowl is
now cutaway on the bottom, but not to the extent that will be seen on
other D.IIIs. The marking of JG.II was a blue rear fuselage and tail,
while the component Jastas used differing colours on the nose to identify
their aircraft. As already seen Jasta 15 used red, while Jasta 12 used
white, Jasta 13 used green and Jasta 19 used yellow. Greven's D.III
has a natural metal cowl and white panels. His aircraft was also photographed
with and without a spinner.
After the modified D.III and D.IVs were evaluated the decision was
now made to assign the bulk of the fast climbing SSW D.IIIs to the home
defence Kests and the faster, more manoeuvrable D.IV to frontline Jastas.
Siemens-Schuckert D.III 1611/18
Kessler (first name and rank unknown)
Formerly with JG.II, 1611/18 was one of the D.IIIs that was returned
to the factory for modifications.
Siemens-Schuckert D.III 1626/18
Another D.III serving with Kest 4b was 1626/18, most of the aircraft
of this unit had a small number on the fin and a personal motif on the
fuselage. Reimann appears to have used a striped tail instead. Tailplane
colours are unknown.
Siemens Schuckert D.III
Ltn Ernst Udet
The most famous D.III is that of Ltn Ernst Udet, however it is unknown
if it was ever flown in combat. The name on the side is that of his
fiancée Elanore 'Lolo' Zink, and was carried on all his aircraft in
1917-18. Udet survived the war with a total of 62 victories.
Windsock Datafile No.29: SSW D.III-D.IV; Peter Grosz; Albatros
Productions Ltd 1990
- Profile Publication No.86: Siemens-Schuckert D.III & D.IV;
Peter L Gray; Profile Publications 1966
- Over The Front 9/4; the Journal of the League of WW1 Aviation
- Above the Lines: NLR Franks, FW Bailey, R Guest; Grub Street,