The Planes of Geoffrey de Havilland
One of the great designers in the period 1914-1918 was Geoffrey de
Havilland, formerly of the Royal Aircraft Factory and latterly chief
designer for the Aircraft Manufacturing Company (Airco). His first design
for them was a two-seat pusher design designated DH1. This was a typical
pusher along the lines of the Vickers FB.5. Only a few were produced
and the type saw little use - mostly in the Middle East.
De Havilland DH2 serial unknown
No. 32 Squadron RFC
De Havilland's next design was to become famous as the aircraft with
which the world's first homogenous fighter squadron was equipped - the
DH2. As there was no means of safely firing through the propellor arc,
the DH2 stayed with the pusher layout of the DH1 and was armed with
a forward firing Lewis machine gun.
When No.24 Sqn RFC arrived in France on 7 February 1916, it was the
first unit to be equipped with a single aircraft type - a practice soon
to be widely adopted by all nations when possible. Eventually two other
units were equipped with the type, Nos. 29 and 32 Sqns arriced in March
and May. The last DH2 was returned to depot on July 1 1917 when No.32
Sqn completed re-equipping with the DH5.
De Havilland DH4 A7624
No. 55 Squadron RFC
The next notable design was the DH4. This was a two seater that was
used for bombing and reconnaissance. The DH4 was used by the RNAS as
well as the RFC and later became the only American built aircraft to
enter combat, when 'Liberty' planes were used by units of the USAS.
De Havilland DH5 A9474
2/Lt FS Clark
No. 41 Squadron RFC
On 29 October 1917 Clark was shot down and taken POW, his aircraft
later being photographed in German hands.
The DH5, like the later Sopwith Dolphin, featured reverse staggered
wings, and like the Dolphin experienced much negative opinion due to
this feature. Although the DH5 wasn't destined to be a great fighter
aircraft, it was well-built and could take a great deal of punishment.
This in conjunction with it's great forward visibility, led to its being
used for ground attack work.
De Havilland DH9 B7637 (?)
No. 211 Squadron RAF
Despite the excellence of the DH4, it was apparent a successor would
soon be required. A new engine, the 230hp Siddeley Puma was in development
and showed much promise. Therefore the DH4 was redesigned to accept
the new engine, additionally the pilot and observor were now seated
close together to facillitate communication - one of the drawbacks to
the DH4 was the distance between teh two crew members. Unfortunately
the Puma turned out to be a failure, and many were lost due to engine
failures behind enemy lines. Additionally, in action the DH9 was found
to be slower, had a lower ceiling and could only carry a portion of
the DH4s bomb load. However production of the DH4 had been stopped,
so the RFC/RAF was forced to carry on using the inferior DH9 until the
improved DH9A could be brought into service.