This German manufacturer of rolling stock established in the late nineteenth century later specialized in Wagon manufacturing and other railway hardware, was simply known as "Gotha" but it best remembered by its lineage of heavy bombers during the war. For Londoners the very name of "Gotha" was quickly assimilated with "Zeppelin" as hatred instruments of the blitz. They started in 1914 a highly successful series of bombers based on the design of Oskar Ursinus
. But soon Hans Burkhard
entered the fray and designed brand new planes. From 1917, he was the brainchild of twin pusher biplane bombers capable of long range strategic missions over England. These were the first heavier-than-air planes with that reach. Several dozen of these bombers were built, declined into many subtypes.
Gotha G.V, the emblematic bomber from Gotha
The whole Gotha serie however started with Ursinus's Gotha G.I, and was followed by the Burkhard-designed G.II, G.III, G.IV, and G.V, the most prolific with thirty-six in squadron service. It is seldom known however that Gotha also manufactured training and reconnaissance planes from 1914, with the prefix "LD", his own version of the Taube, the LE.1-LE.3 series, and floatplanes for reconnaissance, training, and even torpedo attack, prefixed WD. The G.VI to X heavy bombers were merely prototypes devised at the end of the war, that saw no production. Despite their amazing performances, Gotha bomber were never "recycled" after the war into civilian airliners and Gothaer Waggonfabrik simply returned to the railway industry, and extended activities on car production from 1921 to 1928 after purchasing Automobilwerk Eisenach. But the fame gained for its planes pushed it to return to the business from the mid-1930s after Hitler accession to power and the Versailles treaty rejection. At this point, Gotha started the production of biplane trainers, called Gotha Go 145, of which 1,182 were built. The company also produced Me-110
under licence and the assault glider Gotha Go 242 from 1941 (1,528 manufactured). But its most impressive feat was to finance and produce the revolutionary Horten Ho 229, from the Horten brothers. The first supersonic, partially stealth bomber, in 1944.
The Gotha G.IV was produced to 230, an amazing number for such a large plane, making Gotha the uncontested heavy bomber champion of Germany. These planes were instrumental in the first "blitz" over Britain, together with the infamous Zeppelins.
Gotha Models, in detail
- Gotha LD.1/2/6/7 multipurpose biplanes (40?)
- Gotha LD.5 single seat reconnaissance (13)
- Gotha LE.1/2/3 Taube monoplane (100?)
- Gotha WD.1/1a reconnaissance floatplane 1913 (5)
- Gotha WD.2/5/9/12/13/15 reconnaissance floatplanes (c30)
- Gotha WD.3 pusher reconnaissance floatplane (1)
- Gotha WD.7 twin-engined seaplane trainer/reconnaissance biplane (8)
- Gotha WD.8 single-engined seaplane trainer/reconnaissance biplane (1)
- Gotha WD.11 torpedo bomber floatplane (11)
- Gotha WD.14/20/22 torpedo bomber floatplanes (69)
- Gotha WD.27 large patrol floatplane (c3?)
- Gotha B.I Recce/trainer 1915 (12)
- Gotha B.II Recce/trainers 1916 (10)
- Gotha G.I/UWD heavy bomber 1915 (20)
- Gotha G.II heavy bomber 1915 (11)
- Gotha G.III heavy bomber 1916 (25)
- Gotha G.IV heavy bomber 1917 (230)
- Gotha G.V Heavy bomber 1917-18 (205)
- Gotha G.VI asymmetric heavy bomber 1918 (2)
- Gotha GL.VII high speed reconnaissance bomber 1918 (20)
- Gotha GL.VIII-X high speed bomber 1918 (c90)
- Gotha G.X high speed reconnaissance (1)
The Gotha Taube A.I (LE series) (1913)
The Taube is a familiar sight for all those aware of German aircrafts during WW1. This peculiar monoplane design, very organic, was quite popular and manufactured with local variants by most German manufacturers in 1912-14. Of these, the LE.3 were the best known. These were typical one seat monoplanes (Eindecker) with specific wingtips and wing warping for steering. Propelled by 50-80 hp inline engines and unarmed, they were the most basic commodity the Luftstreitkrafte had in 1914, the only plane in numbers. The Gotha Taube was internally designated as LE.1, LE.2 and LE.3 (which stands for Land Eindecker or "Land Monoplane") but the army designation given by the Idflieg was A.I.
Captured LE.3 on Flickr, Kees Kort coll.
. Gotha LE.1/A.I blueprint
Gotha A.I (LE.1) specifications:
Wingspan 9.00m, Length 8.70m, Height 2.90m, Wing area 21.75m2, Weight 800/1380 kg, Type 1 PD Argus As IOC 100hp engine, top speed 212 kph, 180 kph cruising speed, range 630km, ceiling 3700m. See also: Gotha-A-I on valka
The Gotha LDs
LD.5 (src. Library of Congress)
These early planes, dating back from 1914, were designated LD for Land Doppeldecker ("Land Biplane") shaping a family of multipurpose aircrafts before and during the early part of the war. These weak but stable planes were used for training and reconnaissance and were conventional designs. They had two-bay unstaggered wings but also a tailskid landing gear.
Also they had two open cockpits in tandem for the pilot and observer. It seems they were in service with the Luftstreitkrafte but it's unclear if there stayed as prototypes (one of each type) or saw actual production. They were obsolete past 1915. Figures are unknown, however several were supplied as military aid to the Ottoman Empire after German service.
The LD.1 was the basic open-cockpit biplane, the LD.1a a 1915 variant with a 100 hp (75 kW) Oberursel U.1 rotary engine, the LD.2 was fitted with a 100 hp (75 kW) Mercedes D.I inline engine, the LD.4 and LF.6a had some minor changes and engine variations and the LD.7 (Idflieg B.I, possibly the only one mass-manufactured) had minor changes and a 120 hp (89 kW) Mercedes D.II engine. The B designation meant they were used for reconnaissance, unarmed.
The Gotha LD 5 were built in November 1914, first flew in December, and were small biplanes designed as fast scouts for the Kavallerie Flugzeug. The undercarriage were a single-strut structure with cable bracing forward and a light steel tube to the rear. The fuel tanks were located in a protected corner in front of the cockpit. Their 100 h.p. Oberursel U I. engine ensure reasonable performances, but the LD.5 was rejected for field service, but kept as a single seat advanced trainer. In fact Gotha produced 13 of them apparently but they were not included in the Idflieg B-series.
Shot down Ottoman LD.2
Gotha B.1/B.II 1915-16
Gotha B.I - src militaer-wissen.de
The Gotha prefixed B-types (Unarmed reconnaissance) were unarmed reconnaissance/trainer aircrafts, with two seats, conventional tractor biplanes, produced outside the main line in a relatively few numbers: 22 in all, counting 12 B.I in 1915 and 10 B.II in 1916. They were a development of the Gotha 1914 biplane design fitted with a 120 hp inline engine, and factory designated LD.7.
It was later classified by Idflieg as Gotha B.I. and saw a small production in early 1915. The B.II (factory designation LD.10) differed significantly with larger wings, shorter fuselage and a rotary engine, similar to the earlier Gotha LD.1 two-seater, powered by a Gnôme 100 hp rotary engine.
Gotha B.II specifications:
Lenght 7,25 Meter, Span 14,5 Meter, height 3,45 Meter, weight: 525kg empty, Crew 2, Engine: Oberursel U.I rotary engine 100 hp, top speed 115 kph, range unknown.
The Gotha Floatplane saga
Gotha WD.2, Ray Wagner Collection.
The WD.2 -the acronym stands for "Wasser Doppeldecker" or "Water Biplane" and following models were a lineage of reconnaissance seaplanes from Gotha just before and during the early part of the Great War. The first model was developed from the naval version of the Avro 503, made under licence by Gotha, called the WD.1. This conventional three-bay biplane with tandem open cockpits, a Benz Bz.III engine and two pontoons under the wings, a third under the tail.
These were unarmed, altough after being sent to the Ottoman service they were rearmed with a 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG in a ring mount on the upper wing, fired by the observer. But this prewar machine was slow, and in an attempt to reach better performances, Gotha designed the WD.2 prototype (WD2a). This version had a reduced wingspan (15.6 m (51 ft) span) and a Mercedes D.III. engine.
It was further developed into the WD.5 another prototype which led in turn to the WD.9, which saw a small production. This model was armed, with a trainable 7.92 mm (.312 in) for the observer, relocated forward of the pilot. Only one was used by the Hochseeflotte, the batch was then sent to Turkey but with a less powerful engine (WD.2).
The WD.12 was powered by a D.III-powered, but still unarmed, and featuring a much better streamlining, notably around the engine with a revise cowling, and a propeller spinner. This model saw a small production for the German Navy, although the bulk went to the Ottoman Navy. A reduced production of WD.13s followed, similar but refitted with the earlier Benz.III engine. Only two WD.15s were built afterwards, completely redesigned with a plywood-covered fuselage and a Mercedes D.IVa engine. Their fate is not known.
After 1914 Gotha was searching to arm the WD series, and before the development of the interrupter gear a forward firing arc with a relocated the engine to the rear of a nacelle ("pusher") with the tail on booms either side of the engine was the seemingly best solution. Gotha already licence-built some Caudron G.3s and later LD.3 and LD.4, but the definitive design was more inspired by the AGO C.I and C.II. They sported indeed molded booms instead of a lattice frame. A single prototype of the WD.3 was built and tested but Gotha soon turned to other configurations.
Eight of these twin-engined seaplane trainer and reconnaissance biplanes were built, almost a record for Gotha floatplanes. The pusher WD.3 being rejected by the Imperial German Navy, another layout still allowed to free the central nacelle, the twin-engine configuration. Therefore the next WD.7 was a conventional biplane with tractor engines located on the leading edge of the lower wing. This plane was tasted and accepted in service, and therefore eight were delivered, used as trainers for torpedo bombing.
In 1917 two were converted as gun-platforms, testing a 37 mm (1.46 in) autocannon by DWM. The same airframe was used to create the WD.8, reconnaissance version using this time a single Maybach Mb.IVa in the nose, much more powerful (240 hp). The sole armament was backward-firing, a single 7.92-mm Parabellum MG ring-mounted on the observer's cockpit. This single WD.8 was tested and later used by the German fleet, numbered 476.
Gotha WD.8 reconnaissance seaplane, derived from the torpedo-bomber WD.7
This model was another torpedo bomber seaplane derived from the WD.7. but with a larger and more powerful design. It was still a conventional biplan, twin-engined tractors on the lower wing, pilot and observer in tandem cockpits and twin pontoons. But the engines were now tow Mercedes D.III, 120 kW (160 hp) each, propelling the plane at 120 km/h (75 mph), with a climb rate of 1.3 m/s (250 ft/min). They could launch a 725 kg (1,600 lb) torpedo. Only 12 were delivered in 1916 to the Imperial German Navy. The Royal Netherlands Navy also used these after the war.
Gotha WD.11 torpedo seaplane, a larger and more powerful WD.7
All three models were derived from the WD.11 and were so close that they are often assimilated in the same group, the 20 and 22 only be slightly modified variants. They represented the largest production of seaplanes for the Navy by Gotha so far, with 69 being turned out until late 1917. Basically the formula since the WD.7 was kept, and these were still were conventional biplanes, with twin engines this time mounted in a tractor-fashion.
The fuselage was wider, therefore the pilot and observer sat side-by-side in an open cockpit, that facilitated communication, while a second 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG was fitted in an open dorsal position. The large wings also could be folded for storage. Larger, better armed, these WD.14 were found however not very ineffective because of their low speed and poor agility. Many were later converted as mine layers, and transports landing machine gun detachments (Operation Albion, October 1917).
The next WD.20 had large auxiliary fuel tanks for long-range reconnaissance, and was used for this duty only. A few prototypes WD.22 also were built, having two extra engines in push-pull configuration. The WD.14 had two Benz Bz.IV, 150 kW (200 hp) each, capable of 130 km/h (80 mph), with a 8 hours endurance, and climbing in 1.3 m/s (250 ft/min). They were 14.45 m (47 ft 5 in) in lenght, 25.50 m (83 ft 8 in) in wingspan, and 5.00 m (16 ft 5 in) tall, weighting 3,150 kg (9,845 lb) empty and 4,642 kg (10,234 lb) fully loaded.
A camouflaged Gotha WD.14 torpedo seaplane in 1914. In practice these were too slow to make effective ones, being easy targets for AA defense by 1917 standards.
The WD.27 was the last Gotha seaplane which first flew in 1918. It was derived from the experimental WD.22, and given two Mercedes D.III, 120 kW (160 hp) each in push-pull configuration and a 31m wingspan. They carried no armament, and were used as reconnaissance planes, the weight being reserved to additional fuel. Basically they were design to acte as "eyes of the fleet", less conspicuous and faster than airships for that task. However contemporary Navy records show three German Navy serial numbers allocated, but photos shows that only one may have been flown.
An unidentified Gotha WD.27 long range seaplane in 1918. Three numbers were allocated but perhaps only the prototype was flown.
The Gotha Bomber Legend
Gotha G.I 1915
By mid-1914, Oskar Ursinus (German flying magazine Flugsport editor) was designing a large twin-engine seaplane of unconventional configuration with a snub-nosed fuselage attached to the upper wing, while the engines were mounted on the lower one... This was to minimize asymmetrical thrust if one an engine failed, which was current at the time. This also minimised the drag on the upper wing and provided excellent views for the three crewmen and broad fields of fire.
Ursinus worked under Major Helmut Friedel, presenting a seaplane design which matched Idflieg March 1914 large aircraft specs leading to the construction of a prototypeat the Fliegerersatz Abteilung 3. The B.1092/14 also called FU ("Friedel-Ursinus") was powered by two 75 kW (100 hp) Mercedes D.I engines, was armed with a 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG in the nose, and chrome-nickel armor. It flew on 30 January 1915 but was also noted difficult to fly and lacking in structural integrity. It was also underpowered, but sent to the front (Feld Flieger Abteilung 28) based at Ujatz on the Russian Front.
Proved under service conditions, a contract was issued for production on 1 April 1915 at Gothaer Waggonfabrik AG. The company indeed acquired the license from Ursinus, but Hans Burkhard simplified and refined the design and the new "GUH" was lated called Gotha G.I, sometimes Gotha-Ursinus G.I. Production started on 27 July 1915, each powered by two 110 kW (150 hp) Benz Bz.III engines, and 18 G.Is in three batches were delivered until their replacement by a home design. The last batch was given more powerful 160 hp Mercedes D.III engines and one extra MG, plus twice the armor. A single UWD, converted floatplane was also ordered by the Navy in April 1915, and flew in February 1916, quickly named the Trojan Horse. It was lost after an October 1916 hard landing.
The Gotha-Ursinus was the only one using this unorthodox upper-wing fuselage arrangement, which had some advantages, but also drawbacks, partly corrected with the late production of the plane at the end of 1915. They were mostly used for defensive patrols and reconnaissance than bombing by 1917 for the survivors, as they made easy targets for fighters.
Gotha G.II 1915
Wikipedia Gotha B types