Airco DH.4

The Airco DH.4 was a two-seat biplane bomber designed for both air reconnaissance and daytime bombing, and was the first British bomber to have effective defense.


Development and construction:

Like the Airco DH.1 and Airco DH.2, the Airco DH.4 was developed by chief developer Geoffrey de Havilland at Aircraft Manufacturing Company.

This aircraft should be a light bomber suitable for both air reconnaissance and daytime bombing. At the beginning of development, it was assumed that the built-in engines Beardmore Halford Pullinger should be 160 hp. The prototype, however, was equipped with a Beardmore Halford Pullinger with 230 hp. In August 1916, this was presented and further tested because of the good flight characteristics of the Central Flying School.

After the end of the tests, the aircraft was certified good stability, easy control and excellent crew accommodation. In addition, the aircraft could fly as high as no other British aircraft before.

With no final decision made during the test phase on whether the original Beardmore Halford Pullinger 160 hp engine would be ready for production, the designers chose the water-cooled Rolls-Royce Eagle in-line engine, which was in the final stages of development. With this engine, another prototype was equipped for comparison purposes in the summer of 1916.

Because of the good performance and characteristics, the Royal Flying Corps decided to order 50 pieces of the aircraft. Orders also came from the Royal Naval Air Service.

Production began in late 1916, with the first series of the aircraft equipped with Rolls-Royce Eagle III 250 hp engines. In the second series already VIII engines with 375 hp were used. However, since these were available only in limited quantities, not every aircraft was equipped with it. This meant that the later series of Airco DH.4 was delivered with different engines.

After the USA entered the war on April 6, 1917, their unprepared Luftwaffe had to be set up ready for war. However, since there were no suitable aircraft, plans or manufacturers in the US, a commission was sent to Britain and France to inspect the aircraft used there and to select suitable models for the US Air Force.

In addition to the Airco DH.4, the decision was also made on the Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5 and the French SPAD S.XIII. In each case some sample copies were brought in the USA which were extensively examined by the designers there and adapted for their own requirements. Following orders from 9,500 aircraft, Boeing Airplane Corporation, the Dayton-Wright Airplane Company, Fisher Body Corporation and Standard Aircraft Corporation began producing the American version of the Airco DH.4. By the end of the war, around 1,885 aircraft had been built in the United States.



Airco DH.4 early production


Airco DH.4


Airco DH.4 in formation flight




Use in the First World War:

In January 1917, the first Airco DH.4 were delivered to the 55th season in France, by the end of the year had six squadrons on this aircraft.

The goal was not only strategic bombing of the German positions on the Western Front but also the bombing of German cities in response to the attacks of British cities.

In addition to the Royal Flying Corps, the Royal Naval Air Service also received a squadron of these bombers. The 2nd season flew with attack, mostly on the Aegean front. But also for the Coast Guard, the bombers were used. On 5 August 1918, even the German Zeppelin L70 could be shot down.

Overall, the Airco DH.4 proved to be a reliable and stable aircraft at the front. The British pilots also rated it the best single-engine bomber of the war, which was easy to fly despite the bomb load of up to 210 kilograms. However, the disadvantage was the large gap between pilot and observer, which led to poor communication between them. Especially during the aerial combat this often led to mistakes. The distance was due to the built-in tank located between the pilot and the observer. The lack was however only with the Airco DH.9 fixed.

With the founding of the Royal Air Force in June 1918, the strategic bombing began on German territory. The 55th season was selected for this, which introduced different tactics in the course of the missions as the wedge shape or the concentrated defensive fire in the formation.

After the truce, the Royal Air Force formed the communication squadron No. 2 and took over some Airco DH.4, but rebuilt them and provided the aircraft with a closed cabin. Also the airplanes in the USA, which were not brought to the front, were rebuilt and used mainly for the civilian use.



An Airco DH.4 of the US Marine Corps


An Airco DH.4 flies in November 1918 over the German positions




Technical specifications:

Designation: Airco DH.4
Country: Great Britain
Typ: Bomber
Length: 9,35 meters
Span: 13,21 meters
Height: 3,35 meters
Gewicht: 1.085 kg empty
Crew: Max. 2
Engine a Rolls-Royce Eagle III engine with 250 hp

a Rolls-Royce Eagle VII engine with 375 hp

Maximum speed: 195 km/h
Reach: 485 kilometers
Armament: one Lewis machine gun 7,7 mm,
one Vickers machine gun 7,7 mm,
up to 210 kilograms of bombs






You can find the right literature here:


The First Air War, 1914-1918

The First Air War, 1914-1918 Hardcover – December 1, 1990

In this concise study, Kennett tells the complete story of World War I's air battles, from Eastern to Western front, from the skies of Europe and its seas to those of the Middle East and Africa.

Click here!



Aircraft of World War I 1914-1918 (Essential Identification Guide)

Aircraft of World War I 1914-1918 (Essential Identification Guide) 2nd Edition

Illustrated with detailed artworks of combat aircraft and their markings, Aircraft of World War I: The Essential Aircraft Identification Guide is a comprehensive study of the aircraft that fought in the Great War of 1914–18. Arranged chronologically by theatre of war and campaign, this book offers a complete organizational breakdown of the units on all the fronts, including the Eastern and Italian Fronts. Each campaign includes a compact history of the role and impact of aircraft on the course of the conflict, as well as orders of battle, lists of commanders and campaign aces such as Manfred von Richtofen, Eddie Rickenbacker, Albert Ball and many more. Every type of aircraft is featured, including the numerous variations and types of well- known models, such as the Fokker Dr.I, the Sopwith Camel and the SPAD SVII, through to lesser-known aircraft, such as the Rumpler C.1, and the Amstrong Whitworth FK8. Each aircraft profile is accompanied by exhaustive specifications, as well as details of individual and unit markings. Packed with more than 200 color profiles of every major type of combat aircraft from the era, Aircraft of World War I 1914–1918 is an essential reference guide for modellers, military historians and aircraft enthusiasts.

Click here!



World War One Aircraft Carrier Pioneer: The Story and Diaries of Captain JM McCleery RNAS/RAF

World War One Aircraft Carrier Pioneer: The Story and Diaries of Captain JM McCleery RNAS/RAF Hardcover – June 13, 2011

Jack McCleery was born in Belfast in 1898, the son of a mill owning family. He joined the RNAS in 1916 as a Probationary Flight Officer. During the next ten months he completed his training at Crystal Palace, Eastchurch, Cranwell, Frieston, Calshot and Isle of Grain, flying more than a dozen landplanes, seaplanes and flying boats, gaining his wings as a Flight Sub-Lieutenant. In July 1917 he was posted to the newly commissioning aircraft carrier HMS Furious, which would be based at Scapa Flow and Rosyth. He served in this ship until February 1919, flying Short 184 seaplanes and then Sopwith 1½ Strutters off the deck. He also flew a large number of other types during this time from shore stations at Turnhouse, East Fortune and Donibristle.

He served with important and well-known naval airmen including Dunning, Rutland (of Jutland) and Bell Davies VC. He witnessed Dunning’s first successful landing on a carrier flying a Sopwith Pup in 1917 and his tragic death a few days later. He also witnessed the Tondern raid in 1918, the world’s first carrier strike mission. He took part in more than a dozen sweeps into the North Sea by elements of the Grand Fleet and Battle Cruiser Fleet. He carried out reconnaissance missions off the coast of Denmark, landing in the sea to be picked up by waiting destroyers. He witnessed the surrender of the High Seas Fleet. Promoted to Captain, he acted as temporary CO of F Squadron for a time postwar.

Click here!



A World War 1 Adventure: The Life and Times of RNAS Bomber Pilot Donald E. Harkness

A World War 1 Adventure: The Life and Times of RNAS Bomber Pilot Donald E. Harkness Paperback – June 25, 2014

A deeply personal and revealing eyewitness narrative of one airman's life as a bomber pilot in England 's RNAS (Royal Naval Air Service) in WWI. It is a true story, an adventure, and a war memoir carefully constructed from Captain Donald E. Harkness's unpublished diaries, letters, sketches and photographs - only recently uncovered nearly a century later - that documented his remarkable experiences and military adventures over England, France and Belgium. The first book written by a highly decorated WWI flyer from New Zealand that captures the "behind the scenes" life of RNAS pilots, as well as the surprises, terrors, traumas, humor, and sheer excitement of an aerial form of combat never before experienced by anyone, anywhere - and only eleven short years after the Wright Brothers historic flight at Kitty Hawk. With a talent for writing, Don begins an epic journey at a major turning point in history when the world is poised at the dawn of flight, and bracing itself for unknown dangers of unprecedented sophistication and savagery. Don's journal reveals unique insights and vivid imagery of another time and experience, to wit: - the terror and devastation of a Zeppelin bombing raid in London - the training regimen of early flying schools, and their serious & comic episodes - the wonder, awe, and poetry of flying aloft in the majestic heavens - vivid bombing raids, plus the raid that earned him the DSC - his crash-landing and capture - working with the underground to help downed pilots evade capture - London's unrestrained exuberance on Armistice Day; . . . and much, much more.

Click here!






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