Vickers Bullets, Windsock Datafile 154

Published: October 14th, 2012     
Cover
Cover
Author: Colin A. Owers
Reviewed by: 
Brian R. Baker, IPMS# 43146
Company: Albatros Productions, Ltd.
ISBN #: 978-1-906798-24-6
Other Publication Information: Softcover, 11 ½ x 8 ¼ In., 32 pages plus four-color covers, 10 color drawings, 82 black and white photos, 7 pages of 1/48 and 1/72 scale drawings, plus many detail photos
Price: $17.50
Product / Stock #: Datafile No. 154

History

Windsock Datafiles has produced a number of excellent reference works on various aircraft of the World War I era, and they are certainly to be commended for publishing another this subject.  For those who are tired of Spads, Camels, and Fokkers, this one will be a breath of fresh air as few people have ever heard of this aircraft, let alone its interesting history.

The Vickers "Bullet" series of biplanes was first produced in August, 1915, in an attempt to provide the RFC with a high-performance fighter for the Western Front.  Powered by a Monosopape rotary engine, the prototype, designated ES-1, was a short, stubby biplane with a bullet-shaped fuselage, which was probably the origin of the name.  Various wing and engine arrangements were tried, including positive staggered wings, all in an attempt to make the airplane easier to fly.  One disadvantage of the plane was that the pilot had very poor visibility due to the wing position and cockpit shape, and another was the unreliability of the Monosopape engine.  From personal experience, I can attest that flying an airplane that you cannot see out of can be a frightening experience.  The plane was fast but was never ordered in meaningful quantities by the RFC. The few that were ordered were finally sent to the Middle East and were used by a number of squadrons, but their combat record was undistinguished.  The plane appeared in three forms: the ES-1, Mks. I and II, and the F.B. 19, Mk. I and Mk. II. The FB.19's differed in that the Mk. II had a positive wing stagger.

However, the airplane did have a combat career in, of all places, Russia.  The Tsarist Government was desperate for any combat airplanes, even those rejected by the major powers, and about 24 F.B 19 Mk. I's were sent to Russia in 1916/1917, and these were used, first by the Tsarists and later by the Communists until they finally wore out in the early twenties.

The Book

The book actually covers both the RFC service and the aircraft's career in Russia.  In addition to a very interesting and readable text, numerous photos illustrate the type in various markings, and tables at the end document the aircraft's combat record.  In short, for a book this size, there is a lot of information presented here, not only from the British author Colin A. Owers, but also from Russian Aviation Historian Marat Khairulin, who had access to Russian archives dealing with the plane's operational history in Russia.  In short, about everything there is to know about this rare and unusual airplane is included in this book.  The photos and drawings are excellently reproduced.

Recommendation

This book fits in with previous Windsock Datafile publications and is certainly worth getting if you have any interest in aircraft of this era.  As of now, I'm not aware of a kit of this plane being available, and Burns' Guide doesn't list one, but there is certainly enough information in this book to scratchbuild one.  Highly recommended.

Thanks to Albatros Publications for the review copy and IPMS/USA for the review opportunity.

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