In this period, the Centenary of World War 1, it is interesting to note that 2 original WW1 German aircraft are contained in the collection of the Australian War Memorial (AWM), including a Albatros D.Va single engine biplane scout/fighter aircraft, serial no. D5390/17.
This aircraft was manufactured in mid-1917 and served with Royal Prussian Jasta 29 based at Bellincamp. On 17 December 1917 this Albatross was one of 6 aircraft from the Jasta which attacked a 3Sqn (AFC) Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.8 serial no. A3618, crewed by Lieutenant J L M Sandy (pilot) and Sergeant H F Hughes (observer). The R.E.8 was carrying out an artillery spotting mission. Two more R.E.8‘s joined in the dogfight and in the ensuing battle the pilot of the subject Albatross, Lieutenant Clausz was wounded in the thigh and crash landed on ground near the 21st Battalion, 2nd Australian Division AIF and was taken prisoner. His aircraft was recovered and assessed by personnel of 3 Squadron AFC. The aircraft had sustained bullet damage to a fuel tank which caused it to land, largely undamaged.
Sadly, Lieutenant Sandy and Sergeant Hughes were mortally wounded by one single bullet, however the aircraft flew on and gently crash landed with little or no damage, the crew were still sitting in their seats the next morning when the R.E.8 was found. A very bizarre and unhappy event.
The Albatros was repaired and evaluated at Repair Park, 1 ASD at St. Omer on 18 December 1917. From there the aircraft was flown back to Lympne in Kent UK in January 1918 and then to Aeroplane Experimental Station, RFC and again evaluated.
Eventually the aircraft was allotted to Australia as a War Prize. D5390 went to Melbourne on the 30th November 1920, and was with AWM at the Melbourne and Sydney Exhibition Buildings. From 1941 the Albatros was displayed in Aircraft Hall in Canberra AWM, until 1962 when it was stored at Duntroon. It was then decided to have the aircraft restored.
The work was completed by the Camden Museum of Aviation, under the direction of Mr. Harold Thomas. Warbirds Online well remembers visiting Camden at the time and seeing this fantastic restoration prior to its shipment back to the AWM. Subsequently work was carried out on the aircraft in 2008 and today it is still in pristine condition in the AWM Anzac Hall.
Warbirds Online is very grateful to have access to two beautiful images of this aircraft from the Ralph Cusack collection taken at the time of the Camden restoration in the 1960s.
This is one of just a handful of genuine WW1 survivors left in the world and as such is a true national treasure.
© John Parker 2015