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The Etrich Taube was one of the most distinctive pre-war German fighters. It was the first mass produced aircraft in Germany and was used by not only the Germans, but the Austro-Hungarians and the Italians. Indeed, an Italian in a Taube, Giulio Gavotti, became the first man to drop an aerial bomb on November 1, 1911 during the Italian war in Libya. By the time the First World War began, though, it had been superseded by faster aeros, both mono and bi-wing, though it still had a valuable role to play as an observer aircraft as its wings were made of a translucent membrane which made it harder to spot from the ground than other similarly sized aircraft.
It often carried a forward facing machine gun, however, care had to be taken not to obliterate the propeller as the famous ‘interrupter gear’ – which allowed a machine gun to fire through a propeller without hitting the blades – was still years away.
The Taube was a two-seater, however the flamethrower the German Commander Knights added to the aircraft for the battle of the Ark added considerable weight, so only one pilot manned each Taube for that historic engagement. I saw them testing that new weapon two days before the battle and I can remember thinking I wouldn’t want to be in a wooden boat on the receiving end of it.