From spring 1917 to spring 1918, the Royal Aircraft Factory Se 5a and the Albatros DV were the main competitors in the air war that raged over the Western Front. Though the slab-sided Se 5a lacked the sex appeal of its stablemate the Sopwith Camel, it was a rugged, speedy dogfighter flown by men who embodied Trenchard's philosophy of ceaseless attack. A development of the Albatros D III model that had ravaged British formations during 'Bloody April,' the graceful D V held great promise but soon revealed a dangerous flaw. How those two warbirds fared is the subject of Jon Guttman's SE 5A VS ALBATROS DV, WESTERN FRONT 1917-18, the latest in Osprey's 'Duel' series.
Guttman has authored other 'Duel' titles and he has the format down pat. The result is an informative, appealing and wonderfully-illustrated summary of two opposing warbirds. After a brief introduction, he examines the design and development of both aircraft, their technical specs, the strategic situation circa spring 1917, British versus German fighter pilots, combats between the two aircraft, stats and analysis as to winners and losers, etc. The book features a nice selection of photographs, three-views by Harry Dempsey and an air combat scene by Mark Postlethwaite along with cover art and cockpit views by Jim Laurier. Laurier's covers are simply marvelous!
SE 5A VS ALBATROS DV is more than just a collection of dogfight stories; it's a history lesson. The Albatros fighter had a serious failing, its lower wing being insufficiently strong for air combat. Under the right conditions, the wing could twist and break off. Well aware of this problem, German fighter pilots were able to devise tactics to minimize the problem. So, although the Se 5a was always the superior aircraft, the Albatros DV remained a deadly adversary.
In short, I enjoyed Guttman's latest effort. He did a good job of comparing/contrasting the two aircraft and the men who flew them but also illustrated how skill and flexibility can compensate for technical limitations. Recommended.
Readers who enjoyed this book might check out Alex Revell's recently-published 56 Squadron history, also from Osprey. 56 Squadron was the first RFC squadron to operate the Se 5/5a.