Review: New World War 1 Titles from Squadron/Signal

Fokker D-VII in Action, Aircraft Number 166, by D. Edgar Brannon, illustrations by Don Greer and Joe Sewell, 49 pages, color covers and 2 center pages, 92 b&w photographs, US $7.95.

Over the years, the Squadron/Signal In Action series has provided affordable, widely available reference materials covering a variety of aircraft, ships and vehicles. Unfortunately, this series of books has become somewhat notorious for poor accuracy. I am sorry to report that this latest contribution to the series continues in this dubious tradition.

The Fokker D-VII was the best WW1 German fighter aircraft that reached large scale production and deployment in the last year of the war. Its clean, rectilinear lines have made it a popular subject for a variety of scale models, both static and flying. Because of this popularity, the D-VII has been described and illustrated in several specialized publications, most of which are now, unfortunately, long out of print. Detailed information on these machines has thus appeared in print previously.

Unfortunately, the author of this volume does not appear to have utilized many of these sources. The result is a book with rather bland and uninformative text and captions seasoned with a few glaring errors. The volume has been produced in the well-established format of the earlier books in the series. While it contains numerous photographs, their quality is uneven. Several reproductions appear to be poor quality copies of old photographic prints. This has washed out or otherwise obscured the detail in a number of the illustrations. The usual detail drawings show variations in details such as cowling panels and exhaust manifolds. The color profiles in the center pages are well rendered with reasonably accurate colors.

In spite of its flaws, this reviewer found this book useful as a first introduction to First World War military aircraft for modelers or enthusiasts. It as possibly the only in-print book on this Fokker fighter, though one hopes it is only as a stepping stone to new research. Conditionally recommended.

Nieuport Fighters in Action, Aircraft Number 167, by Peter Cooksley, illustrations by Don Greer and Ernesto Cumpian, 49 pages, color covers and 2 center pages, 96 b&w photographs, US $7.95.

Aircraft produced by Société Anonyme des Etablissements Nieuport served in the air services of all major Allied combatants through all of World War 1. Indeed, many machines left over from that conflict soldiered on for several years thereafter in military and civilian roles. This latest volume in the Squadron/Signal In Action series covers the evolution of the Nieuport V-strutter fighters from Model 10 through Model 27 plus the development of the triplane fighters and the Model 28. This is a tall order for a book using the standard In Action format.

This latest offering incluides all of the standard features expected in an In Action book: photo coverage, a modest amount of text, a centerspread of color profiles, and various line drawings showing general airframe arrangements and various construction details. The three-view drawings are not printed in any specified scale. They appear somewhat smaller than 1/48. No scale bar is provided. Comparisons with other scale drawings and photographs cast suspicion on their accuracy. The various detail line drawings are mostly cartoonish and offer limited help to the modeler.

The color illustrations in books of this series frequently inspire model builders. It is thus terribly unfortunate that the color covers contain several glaring errors. To begin with, the cover of the book depicts a Nieuport 28 of the 27th Pursuit Squadron. But the sequence of colors in the American cockades on the wing is incorrect. From the center, the colors should be white, blue, red, not the white, red, blue shown. How such a fundamental mistake could be made by a well known aviation illustrator is hard to imagine. Happily, the ten color profiles in the center pages are nicely rendered and fundamentally accurate, though some experts may question the selection of colors on the cowling of the Nieuport 28 of the 95th Aero Squadron. The rear cover features two illustrations that appear to have been rendered using a computer and have a rather hyperreal appearance. However, the Nieuport 11 of Escadrille Lafayette is shown in an overall silver finish and lacks a cockade beneath the upper wing. Neither of these features is documented in photographs known to this writer.

Reference photographs are a principal attraction of books in this series. While the selection of Nieuport photographs is reasonably good, several well-known images are poorly reproduced. There are some interesting photos of Nieuports in Italian service that were welcome to this reviewer. More would have been a treat. The text is brief and hardly adequate as an explanation of the variations between the many different models of Nieuport fighters. The text only made sense to the reviewer because he had other books to use as references. The text says little about the service use of these aircraft or their performance against contemporary enemy machines. It was interesting to note that use of Ni 17s by Swiss was described in the text without illustrations.

One useful inclusion is the extensive coverage of Nieuport's odd-looking triplane fighters. No fewer than 5 different triplane machines are illustrated with photographs. There are also drawings of an aircraft based on an Ni.17 fuselage. This makes the book a good single source of information for this variant.

Overall, Nieuport Fighters in Action provides a very broad view of the evolution of Nieuport fighters during WW I. As a modeling reference, it is not particularly informative. The text and photo captions contain a number of errors and inconsistencies which could have been corrected had the authors and/or editors checked other available sources. While the book is an inexpensive source of images and information on these machines, better written, more informative books are currently in print. Caveat emptor. Recommended with severe reservations.

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Text © 1997 by Charles Hart.