During the First World War, the Dutchman Anthony Fokker was building aeroplanes in Germany. First, his factory was located at the Johannisthal airfield, near Berlin. In 1913 he moved to Schwerin. A lot of different types were designed and build there, among which were the famous ‘Eindecker’ series, and the Dr.I triplane. At the end of 1917, Fokker was out of the picture as supplier for fighter aircraft. This is the time where the story of the D.VII starts.
Building of the prototype of what was to become the Fokker D.VII started in December, 1917 in the Fokker factory at Schwerin. At that time, Reinhold Platz was working as designer. The designation for this type was V.11, which stands for Versuchsmachine no. 11 (Experimental aircraft No. 11). This V.11 had a number of novelties that included a car-type radiator in front of the engine and cantilever wings with no external bracing wires, which made for a very clean appearance. A list of the other V-types can be found here.
At the end of January, 1918, the first competition for D class machines was held at Adlershof. In this competition, German pilots from the front flew in new types, to test them, and choose which one would be produced for the front. In this first competition the V.11 came out as the ultimate winner, and was designated D.VII. A list of the other aircraft that were flown at the competition can be found here.
Anthony Fokker tells in his autobiography “The Flying Dutchman” that he flew the V.11 before the contest started. He noticed that it wasn’t flying too well, and it needed to be changed. So, working all weekend day and night, Fokker and some mechanics lengthened the fuselage and enlarged the vertical fin. Flying it again, Fokker noticed that it was very sensitive on the controls, but further it was flying wonderful.
Fokker was awarded large contracts for the aircraft that was to become the D.VII. Because the Fokker factory at Schwerin did not have the capacity to build large numbers of the plane, Fokker’s rival Albatros had to manufacture the D.VII under license. Eventually they were built by the Albatros factories at Johannisthal and the Ostdeutsche Albatros Werke at Schneidemühl. Fokker received a 5% fee from Albatros for every D.VII they build.
The D.VII’s that were built by these different factories, had differences in the way they were build. To identify the factory, the D.VII’s received the following designations:
|Ostdeutsche Albatros Werke||Fok. D.VII(O.A.W.)|
The total number of D.VII’s built is unknown, but production is estimated at 2000 by all three factories. More information on the production can be found here.
Like all the other aircraft, every D.VII received a German serial number , which consisted of a 3 or 4 digit number, for instance ‘6681’, followed by ‘/18’. In this example it means the 6681th D-type aeroplane ordered in the year 1918. These numbers were painted on the fuselage sides of the aircraft, and on a manufacturing plate.
The Fokker D.VII is the only aircraft mentioned by name in the Armistice demands of November, 1918. Germany was ordered to surrender “1,700 airplanes (fighters, bombers – firstly, all of the D 7’S and all the night bombing machines)” (number of aircraft to surrender are not always the same).
In the end, not all D.VII’s were handed over. Some were flown back to Germany by their pilots and hidden in sheds. From the ones that were flown to the collection points of the Inter-Allied Control Commission, some were wrecked during landings or taxiing. After the war, some were sold abroad. Anthony Fokker flew from Germany and smuggled six trains with sixty wagons each full of aeroplanes and tools to Holland. Among these were 120 D.VII’s. In Holland he started a new company, but that is a different story.
Little is known about the fact that in 1940 a new design was made for a D.VII derivative, Fokker ‘Ontwerp 203’. The Netherlands were occupied by the Germans and the Fokker factory had to manufacture and repair aircraft. This design was to be a sportsplane as gift for Herman Goering.