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Bits and Pieces

Fokker D.VII Hidden Away in the Eastern Townships

By Ian Brown, Editor – Bits and Pieces, EAA 657159

Fokker D.VII
Fokker D.VII - the most advanced fighter of WWI

A real jewel can be found just 45 minutes east of Montreal. There’s a beautiful Fokker D.VII at the Brome County Historical Society Museum in Knowlton, Quebec. It was captured at the end of World War I and shipped to the small lakeside village in the Eastern Townships, where it has been housed at the museum. It’s one of only seven in existence, and believed to be the only one in its original condition.

Everyone’s early image of aviation centres on the WWI exploits of the famous aces - the Red Baron, Billy Bishop, and Raymond Collishaw - and their aircraft. By the end of WWI a single aircraft had begun to shine. Designed by Reinhold Platz, the Fokker D.VII biplane was manufactured at the Fokker aircraft factory in Berlin in a reluctant collaboration between Anthony Fokker and Hugo Junkers. Baron Manfred von Richthofen had given personal input to refinements of the design, which won a German flying competition for the best fighter.

The Fokker was designed with synchronized guns that fired through the propeller. When it was first introduced, this concept must have really surprised pilots on both sides. Both pulling the trigger and being on the receiving end for the first time must have been a real shocker equally. Richthofen was credited with 80 kills, 20 of them in one month.

With a 160-hp Mercedes-Benz engine, the aircraft was capable of about the same speeds as a Cessna 152, but in 1918 that was amazing performance. If air combat had been a larger fraction of the total war effort, the result might have turned out very differently.

Senator George G.. Foster had written to Ottawa asking that one of the captured trophies be shipped from Camp Borden to Knowlton where there were several interested local pilots. The aircraft was apparently first displayed in the Martin Annex of the museum which was officially opened in 1921 by Right Honourable Sir Robert Borden, who had been Canada’s wartime prime minister.

In 2010 there was a debate at the historical society about whether the aircraft should be sold, but apparently the director general of the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa said that it should stay where it is and the discussion seems to have died down. It’s believed that Canadian ace Billy Bishop used Fokker D.VIIs in his barnstorming tours after the end of the war.

As an aside, one of my favourite exhibits at this quaint museum is a sword. In the cabinet alongside it is a handwritten note by someone stating, “I stole this from the museum a long time ago. I’m sorry I did that and would like to give it back.” The returned sword is now in its rightful place, along with the note.

If you’re lucky enough to be passing by, the museum is only a few minutes from Highway 10 between Montreal and Sherbrooke. This aircraft has been beautifully kept and is well worth a visit.

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