Inevitably, as the hugely successful Datafile range continues to expand, so attention is starting to focus increasingly of lesser known WW1 aircraft and those that bridge the gap into the post war period. This means some real gems that rarely get any coverage at all, such as the subjects of the latest volume - Gotha's final bomber aircraft.
Datafile #143 covers a small family of closely related machines - the G (or GL) VII, VIII and IX, plus the GL.X which strictly speaking wasn't a bomber. All the designs differed quite radically from earlier Gotha bombers, and grew from a call for a new type of high-altitude bomber/reconnaissance aircraft, fast enough to evade the latest Allied fighters and operate in daylight above the range of anti-aircraft guns. The resulting machines were broadly similar, and carried a crew of just two (pilot and observer/gunner) in a compact snub-nosed fuselage, with two closely spaced inline engines driving counter-rotating propellers mounted in variously two- or three-bay wings.
Colin Owers' text gives a concise description of the development, construction and camouflage of the late Gothas, which arrived to late to see much operational use as a number of teething troubles were ironed out. Few records have survived of the series' operational use, but the aircraft seem to have been a disappointment in the service environment, despite their initial promise. However, a number of surviving Gothas went on to serve with foreign air forces after the war and, interestingly, Czechoslovakia actually ordered new airframes from Gotha after the Armistice had been signed.
Although the machines are relatively obscure, the book is packed with no less than 78 photos of the different types. Obviously, the quality of these varies considerably, but the best are astoundingly clear and are printed full-page so that plenty of useful detail can be discerned - a perfect reference for modellers.
As far as I know, there isn't a kit available of any of these late Gotha's, but the centre of the Datafile contains scale drawings by Martin Digmayer reproduced in 1:72 and 1:48, and the aircraft looks a very promising project for scratchbuilders. Of course, the appearance of these plans may well change things, so we may be able to look forward to some short-run kits, but I think it's safe to say that the "majors" will never touch these very interesting aircraft. Rounding things off, Ronny Bar has provided a trio of excellent colour profiles illustrating the GL.VII in Ukrainian and German service, along with a Belgian G.IX.
With their combination of excellent research, rare photos, and all-important scale drawings, Windsock Datafiles are the primary source for most WW1 modellers. Recent volumes such as this only underline their value in covering quite obscure, but nevertheless very interesting aircraft that otherwise would receive scant attention. Highly recommended.
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Highs: Concise but detailed text accompanied by well chosen photos, high quality colour artwork and excellent scale drawings.Lows:Verdict: An excellent reference for both historians and modellers alike. These Gothas would make for an ambitious scratchbuilding project - but kits have a habit of following the publication of Datafiles, so we may yet see them appear as short-run models...
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About Rowan Baylis (Merlin) FROM: NO REGIONAL SELECTED, UNITED KINGDOM
I've been modelling for about 40 years, on and off. While I'm happy to build anything, my interests lie primarily in 1/48 scale aircraft. I mostly concentrate on WW2 subjects, although I'm also interested in WW1, Golden Age aviation and the early Jet Age - and have even been known to build the occas...