Albatros D.III in 1/32 scale: building the Roden kit
On September 19, 1917 a German Albatros D.III biplane fighter landed on Dutch soil near the small town of Breskens at the south west coast. The First World War was ongoing during which the Netherlands managed to remain neutral. It often happened that both German and Allied aircraft landed on Dutch soil. The Dutch armed aviation section "LuchtvaartAfdeeling" (LvA) usually had orders to intern such aircraft, and the Dutch Government ensured to pay for both the aircraft and engine to remain neutral at all times.
After this Albatros landed, the German pilot Unteroffizier Franz Becker said he had an engine failure and was lost in the clouds. The commander of the LuchtvaartAfdeeling at Soesterberg sent a recovery team headed by first lieutenant A. Plesman. Who would have thought that this Albert Plesman would later become the founder of the famous K.L.M. Royal Dutch Airlines. This Albatros D.III with c/n 2002/16 got the large Dutch orange roundels of that time and registration "AL211" at the end of 2017.
See for old black and white photos of the National Institute of Military History (NIMH) website of reference [F]
About the Albatros
The German "Albatros Werke" developed the Albatros D.III in the summer of 1916 using experience with their previous types D.I and D.II. The lower wing of the D.III got a narrower chord. This had proved on the French Nieuport 11 to significantly improve maneuverability. Typical for the D.III were also the V-struts and that the fuselage was covered with plywood instead of fabric. Type D.III arrived at the German Flieger Staffeln in late 1916. Quite a few aircraft crashed and it turned out that this was often caused by errors in wing manufacturing. Problems were solved and in mid-1917 the D.III was a notorious opponent against the English and French aircraft over the Western Front. The type remained in production until 1918 even after the successor Albatros D.V appeared.
There were some differences in D.III variants. For example, aircraft built at the Ostdeutsche Albatros Werke (OAW) had a larger rudder with a curve and different engines were also used. Judging by the photos of the only Albatros D.III interned and used by the Dutch LuchtvaartAfdeeling (LvA), this aircraft had the normal rudder.
Roden released an excellent kit #606 in the year 2006. The parts in very light brown plastic are delicately molded. Different propellers and two types of wheels are provided. The kit has the standard rudder and the main dimensions of the model in length and wingspan later proved correct at 1/32.
The decals give a choice of seven German schemes.
First some light flash is removed and the few sink marks filled and sanded. The parts for the appropriate Mercedes DIIIa engine are fine, but some extra cabling made from wire was added. Some wash with thinnen black paint was added on the metal painted parts for realism.
The fuselage insides were painted light "plywood" brown.
The engine is placed in nice nose frames but not a lot of these are seen once the fuselage is closed up. Apply the large exhaust at a later stage and the pipe end was opened up with a drill.
The cockpit built straight out of the box has nice details. The vast majority of the interior is in wood color (read further how to paint it). I painted the seat with leather upholstery a bit darker brown.
Seat straps will added later on.
The fuselage assembly is no problem, but I recommend mounting the LMG 08/15 Spandau machine guns at this stage, it is difficult to reach them later. For these Spandau's a Karaya aftermarket set #B07 is available but I just applied from scrap fine mesh around the cooling jacks of the plastic parts. ( note: I missed a speed indicator, that will be added later).
Four small holes were drilled in the fuslage tail for the elevator cables. Roden correctly indicates where all cables and wires are set on the airframe in their drawings, but also look at the box illustration.
The fuselage was then given a light grey base coat with the airbrush to check for any flaws.
It is likely that the German camouflage paint scheme has been kept on this particular LuchtvaartAfdeeling Albatros D.III. The well known problem with old biplane models is to have absolutely clear what the colours were. It is impossible to estimate colors based on over 100 year old black and white photos. The photo development processes at that time showed large variations and different techniques were used. The best reliable sources when they are available are factory paint instructions of the time.
The Germans started introducing aircraft camouflage in the fall of 1916. In reference [D] you can read a technical interpretation: “Pigmented varnish that was prescribed in two colors was used, namely brown and dark green”. "On the Albatros D.III, the fuselage was provided with a brown-yellow varnish layer or clear lacquer over wood." The Windsock data file from reference [A] also gives similar color suggestions.
(Later the Germans started to use various lozenge patterns printed on canvas on many aircraft, but this was not yet the case on this Albatros).
Colors on the model
The Albatros D.III fuselage had a plywood covering with varnish. The engine covers are probably corroded alloy and I airbrushed these in a mixture of aluminum and light grey. On the rest of the fuselage, the plywood wood color was first applied with the airbrush with Humbrol Hu93 light brown enamel. As noted above, the Albatros had varnish over the fuselage and so you typically see the wood grain.
The wood grain effect can be achieved as follows: paint the part in the Humbrol Hu93 enamel. After that, you need a thick artist oil paint, such as from Talens van Gogh series.
When the first enamel layer is slightly dry, you can draw grain in one direction with a piece of sponge dipped in darker brown oil paints depending on how a wood panel is finished. Wipe a little further with a piece of tissue to spread further. (on the photo, the propeller is seen for this treatment).
The rudder, which was a tube frame covered with fabric, was painted a little lighter brown. The whole assembly now got an gloss varnish layer of Johnson Future/ Pledge airbrushed over.
The colours were discussed above. On upper surfaces of the wings and the tailplane, wide bands of green and brown will be airbrushed. For the "brown and green" I used Revell Aqua acrylic paints #83 Rost and #364 Laubgrün. For the light blue undersides I used Vallejo acrylic #961 Sky Blue.
(The camoulage pattern will be presented later on Page 2).
Continueing with the wings.
Each wing is fortunately one piece which makes alignment easier. The radiator is also in the middle of the upper wing and that is correct for this particular LvA Albatros (in later Albatrosses it was usually set more to the right). Don't worry about the wire rigging at this stage, with the technique used here, it can be done later.
Next wings with the ailerons and tail surfaces will get colours. But first, orange areas with Gunze Sangyo H14 orange acrylic was airbrushed on a light grey background at the location of each LvA roundel: at the bottom and on top of the upper wing for the 4 large roundels and under the lower wing the 2 smaller roundels. The diameter is always slightly smaller than the wing chord.
Round circles of masking tape were then applied to those surfaces using a compass cutter. The two roundels on the fuselage with a diameter of 19 mm were also airbrushed.
The lower wing and tail surfaces were set onto the fuselage. Than, the fuselage was wrapped in with paper in order to airbrush wing colours.
The airbrushed orange roundels were masked with tape using a compass cutter.
Next on upper surfaces of the wings and the tailplane, wide bands of green and brown were airbrushed.
Note the grain shown on the fuselage
The small fairings at the bottom wing joints were painted light grey.
After the paints dried, the next step is the upper wing. The top wing with the struts can be mounted well, but the outer V-struts are rather weak. I chose to make the front strut of these V-struts out of brass metal with a set of Skybirds '86 Strutz wire. The strut length is obviously similar to the plastic and use super glue.
The central “cabane struts” are also a bit weak, so be careful. Check with a triangle that the whole is set symmetrical. You will inevitably get some glue stains, but you hide them later trough tipping with a fine brush.
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[A] Albatros fighters, Ray Rimell, Windsock datafile special, Uitgever Albatros Productions, 1991.
[B] Albatros info on NedMil pages of the IPMS Nederland site: https://www.ipms.nl/artikelen/nedmil-luchtvaart/vliegtuigen-a/vliegtuigen-a-albatross-d3
[C] De interneringen van vliegtuigen tijdens de Groote Oorlog, Gerdessen en Geldhof, Uitgeverij Geromij, 2016. Page 96. (text in Dutch)
[D] De geschiedenis van “Camouflage en Kentekens op de vliegtuigen van de Nederlandse Strijdkrachten”. John Greuter, Joke Bossong, Max Schep en Luuk Boerman, Uitgeverij Bonneville, 1997. Several pages. (text in Dutch)
[E] De Eerste Wereldoorlog en Nederland, Meindert de Vreeze, Modelbouw in Plastic, MIP 2014-4 , IPMS Nederland, 2014. (text in Dutch); on IPMS webpage
[F] Dutch National Institute of Military History, NIMH,
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This article in Dutch language will be/ is published in IPMS.NL magazine MIP 2020-5
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Created this page December 11, 2020