Item:
ONSV24FMS073

Original Imperial German WWI Cut Off Painted "Doped" Linen Biplane Aircraft Skin Iron Cross Insignia - Framed 23 ½" × 23 ½"

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. Now this is a fantastic memento from WWI! This is a cut aircraft skin section from a German aircraft, measuring approximately 21 ½"W x 20 ½"H. It has been glued onto a canvas, and is in a very nice glazed glass frame measuring 23 ½" × 23 ½". The piece was recovered after it was downed, as per the note painted onto the piece:

BROUGHT DOWN
NR CASSEL
MAY 22ND 1916

Cassel, France, was to the West of the lines, and served as the headquarters for several units. It is exactly where early aircraft would have been flying during the war. We are unfortunately not certain as to what aircraft this came from but it looks to have been cut from the fuselage. It shows the iconic German Iron Cross used as one of several identifying insignia painted onto German aircraft during WWI. The design is based on the German Schwarzes Kreuz (black cross), the Tatzenkreuz (paw cross or cross pattée).

We have seen period photographs of this insignia painted on the side of the fuselage, the bottom of the wings, the sides of the tail rudder, and in various other places on the airplane.

From what we can see, the skin section is made from "doped" linen or something similar, as with almost all early aircraft. This was fabric specially treated chemicals such as cellulose acetate, which helped make it stronger, less porous, and less likely to stretch. During the WWI period there were many different types of fabric used, from mercerised cotton to silk. Often different aircraft would use different materials, or different parts would use different fabric based on the amount of wear they saw. The skin could be glued on, or attached using tacks or pins.

This piece is made from three pieces with horizontal seams, and looks to have been partially installed with some tacks, which left small circles along one of the seams. The section also looks to have been folded up for a time after it was cut off the aircraft, which resulted in paint loss. We unfortunately do not know the full history of the piece, and there are some pencil markings around the skin piece, as well as some glue that no longer has anything attached. It almost looks like the skin piece had previously been unglazed, which allowed it to deteriorate further.

We can definitely tell that the large Iron Cross insignia has been at least partially repainted, as the areas that flaked off along the fold seams are now black again. There is also an area on the bottom right where it looks like there was previously fabric, now gone, where the black was repainted. The "B" in the inscription also looks partly repainted, before it was framed to increase the display appeal. We assume this was done as an amateur attempt at restoration, however most of the piece has not been tampered with as best we can tell.

This is a lovely item and it comes more than ready for further research and display.

Luftstreitkräfte
The Deutsche Luftstreitkräfte known before October 1916 as Fliegertruppen (Flyer Troops)—was the air arm of the Imperial German Army. In English-language sources it is usually referred to as the Imperial German Air Service, although that is not a literal translation of either name. German naval aviators of the Marine-Fliegerabteilung were an integral part of the Imperial German Navy (Kaiserliche Marine). Both military branches operated airplanes, observation balloons and airships.

The initial deployment of fighter aircraft in the summer of 1915 occurred within the Feldflieger Abteilung, which were being equipped with one or two of the new Fokker Eindecker fighter aircraft for each unit, starting with the five Fokker M.5K/MG production prototypes of the Eindecker, bearing serial numbers E.1/15 through E.5/15. The buildup of the Eindecker fighter force rapidly progressed with regular lMG 08 "Spandau"-armed production examples of the Fokker E.I following the deliveries of the M.5K/MG airframes late in the summer of 1915, with early E.Is going to aces like Max Immelmann, who received IdFlieg serial number E.13/15 in August 1915.

The first step towards specialist fighter-only aviation units within the German military was the establishment of Kampfeinsitzer Kommando (single-seat battle unit, abbreviated as KEK) formations by Inspektor-Major Friedrich Stempel in February 1916. These were based around Eindeckers and other new fighter designs emerging, like the Pfalz E-series monoplanes, that were being detached from their former FFA units during the winter of 1915–1916 and brought together in pairs and quartets at particularly strategic locations, as KEK units were formed at Vaux, Avillers, Jametz, Cunel and other strategic locations along the Western Front, to act as Luftwachtdienst (aerial guard force) units, consisting only of fighters.

Following the era of the KEK units through the summer of 1916, Jagdstaffeln (hunting squadrons), established by the reorganization that started in the late summer of 1916 were fielded by four kingdoms of the German Empire. Individually - each of these units was often known by the abbreviation "Jasta". The Kingdom of Prussia was predominant, with a fighter force eventually comprising 67 squadrons. The Kingdom of Bavaria formed ten of these units, the Kingdom of Saxony formed seven and the Kingdom of Württemberg four.

On 24 June 1917, the Luftstreitkräfte brought a quartet of Jasta squadrons together to form its first fighter wing, Royal Prussian Jagdgeschwader I, incorporating Jastas 4, 6, 10 and 11, and set the pattern for using Roman numerals in the Luftstreitkräfte in the titles of such larger units. Manfred von Richthofen was moved up from command of Jasta 11 to command JG I. Much as Jasta 2 had been renamed as Jasta Boelcke in December 1916 after Oswald Boelcke, Germany's top fighter tactician had been lost in a mid-air collision in October 1916, following the "Red Baron's" death in action in late April 1918, JG I was renamed to honor von Richthofen by order of the Kaiser.

The Prussians established three more Jagdgeschwader. On 2 February 1918, JG II formed from Jastas 12, 13, 15 and 19, with Adolf Ritter von Tutschek in command. On the same day, JG III consolidated Jasta 2 Boelcke and Jastas 26, 27 and 36 under Bruno Loerzer. Finally, on 2 September 1918, the Royal Prussian Marine Jagdgeschwader was formed from the Kaiserliche Marine's Marine Feld Jastas I through V and placed in charge of Gotthard Sachsenberg. Bavaria established the Royal Bavarian Jagdgeschwader IV on 3 October 1918, from Jastas 23, 32, 34 and 35 under Eduard Ritter von Schleich.

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