Book Review
SPAD VII vs Albatros D III
SPAD VII vs Albatros D III 1917-18 * Duel 36
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

SPAD VII vs Albatros D III, 1917-18
Series: Duel 36
80 Pages

Fascinating— a superlative worthy of this book. Indeed, all of the titles in the Duel series that I have read have been marvelous. This book is no exception and I state that irrespective that the subject is of two of my favorite aircraft!

When the SPAD VII (Officially the SPAD 7.C1) was introduced in August 1916 it brought overall quality that paled little through the end of the war. The first Albatros fighters showed up a few months afterward; the type’s performance remained competitive for most of the conflict although it was dogged by structural problems and ‘improvements’ that actually took development backwards. While both types were license-built by allies, the Albatros built by Austro-Hungarian Oesterreichische Flugzeugfabrik Allgemeine Gesellschaft (Oeffag) was greatly modified and improved. Almost universally acclaimed the best Albatros, Oeffag fighters increased performance to match or exceed even later Allied types.

While both aircraft suffered flaws, the Albatros’ were worse. The wings failed in flight. The SPAD suffered first from engine cooling problems, and when their powerful powerplant could carry them aloft, their balky machine gun interrupter gear often failed.

The twin-gunned Albatros D III is the fighter most associated with “Bloody April”, the 1917 aerial slaughter of the Royal Flying Corps. Despite severe structural flaws, this month was undoubted the D III’s pinnacle of success. The D III continued to soldier on despite the arrival of the ‘improved’ Albatros D V, and its dubiously improved Albatros D Va. Famous pilots such as Rittmeister Manfred Freiherr von Richthofen ran up their scores in the type, and preferred it to its successors. Albatrosen were flown by Germany and Austro-Hungary.

Development of the single-gunned SPAD lead to the more powerful SPAD XIII. The improvements came with teething problems that delayed the SPAD XIII effectiveness into 1918, and many SPAD units always kept some of the more reliable SPAD VIIs available. One of France’s greatest aces, Captain Georges Guynemer, was a SPAD proponent. The SPAD was flown by France, England, Italy, Russia, America, and Belgium.


Esteemed author and researcher Jon Guttman is a wealth of WW I aviation knowledge and his laurels are furthered with his excellent telling of this story. This is his written eleventh title for Osprey. He explains the plans, organization, employment, development, design philosophies, tactics, and effectiveness of these two adversaries. With his extensive background in WWI aviation, Mr. Guttman’s efforts are clear and easy to follow, while remaining captivating. He introduces you not only to the aircraft but also to the pilots that flew them. German ace Heinrich Kroll scored many of his 33 kills in D IIIs, was shot down four times—twice in flames!—make ace by downing one of France’s greatest aces, Sous-Lt Rene Dorme of N3. SPAD ace Armand Pinsard was downed and captured, escaping to shoot down more Germans before injury in a flying accident (He returned to service in 1940, lost a leg, and then joined the French volunteers who fought with the Germans on the Eastern Front). Irish RFC ace William J.C. Kennedy-Cochran-Patrick is thought to have the greatest number of Albatros kills.

Aircraft performance is compared in detail. Several tables and charts compare the important numbers of SPAD and Albatros performance. This was eye-opening for me as I learned that the Albatros was heavier than the SPAD and that most pilots found the SPAD to be more maneuverable! This book reveals the SPAD’s great flaw was the Birkigt synchronizing gear was prone to jamming the gun. Whereas the SPAD VII replacement, the SPAD XIII, was the superior aircraft, its unreliability kept the SPAD VII fighting on; on the contrary, the Albatros D III soldiered on because its replacements were not superior fighters (At least until the Fokker D VII arrived).

SPAD VII vs Albatros D III features firsthand accounts and reminiscent of pilots from both sides. This is a thoroughly gripping book. The careers of the aircraft with each major combatant are summarized. The book includes tables of the top Albatros D III killers of SPADs, as the top SPAD killers of Albatrosen, by country.

SPAD VII vs Albatros D III, 1917-18 is presented to you through 64 pages in seven chapters and an index:
1. Introduction
2. Chronology
3. Design And Development
4. Technical Specifications
5. The Strategic Situation
6. The Combatants
7. Combat
8. Statistics And Analysis
9. Aftermath
10. Further Reading

Photographs and Illustrations
First of all there is a great deal of photographic support of this work. World War One era that it is, some photos seem hardly worth reproducing, while others are studio quality. Several of captured SPADs. Several make great source material such as SPADs with their access panels off. A particularly interesting photo is of an Albatros climbing back into formation with the reconnaissance plane it is escorting, the pilot Ltn d R Josef Friedrich of Flik 24, holding his fist up in triumph, having just vanquished a SPAD (In fact it was a Nieuport, and the pilot limped back to base). By far the best part to me is the high quality computer graphics by Jim Laurier. These illustrate the SPAD and Albatros aircraft, their cockpits, weapons layouts, and a through-the-gunsight view of an Austro-Hungarian D III receiving the final burst from an Aviazione del Regio Ecercito SPAD. Also enriching the book is a two-page color painting by Mark Postlethwaite. Finally, two maps show the position of airfields.

Fascinating— a superlative worthy of this book. Indeed, all of the Duel series that I have read have been outstanding. This book is no exception. It has opened my eyes to facts unknown about these two antagonists. The pilots’ accounts are very educational. I highly recommend this book.

Please remember, when contacting manufacturers and sellers, to mention you saw this book here—on Aeroscale.
Highs: Authoritatively researched, documented, and presented. An excellent selection of illustrations and photographs.
Lows: Some of the photographs are of dubious quality.
Verdict: Students of Albatrosen or SPADs in particular, and WWI air combat in general should be thrilled by this book.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: Other
  Mfg. ID: ISBN: 9781849084758
  Suggested Retail: £12.99, $17.95
  Related Link: Book on Osprey Site
  PUBLISHED: Apr 28, 2011

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.


Sounds like quite a fascinating read.
APR 27, 2011 - 08:00 PM
I like it!
APR 29, 2011 - 05:40 PM

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