Finished Fokker D.VIIF – late, but only by 99 years

About two years ago I wrote a post about my Fokker D.VII project at roughly the midway point. I finished it in April of 2016, and neglected to share the photos. The full ordeal of the build will be documented in an upcoming IPMS/USA Journal article, but here’s the historical background and the explanation of the diorama.

Wilhelm Hippert was an ace, but his Fokker D.VIIF was also one of the most strikingly painted of the Great War. With the checkerboard fuselage, Jasta 74’s blue nose and landing gear, and the name “Mimmi” painted in enormous letters across the top wing’s four-color lozenge camouflage, it stood out even in an era of wild paint schemes.

The finished model, which has some paint under all those decals!

Wilhelm “Willi” Hippert began his air war as a member of Feldflieger Abteilung (FFA) 227, piloting a two-seat reconnaissance aircraft on the Western Front. He and observer Leutnant Heinrich Klose combined on the destruction of a Royal Aircraft Factory FE.2d from No. 20 Squadron, RFC over Lomme on March 17, 1917, and his aggressive flying led to his transfer out of observation aircraft and into the Albatros D.Vs of Jasta 30 over the Italian front.

Promoted to Vizefeldwebel (roughly, sergeant), Hippert became an ace flying over the Battle of Caporetto. On October 2, 1917, he claimed his second victim, a 40th Squadriglia Savoy Pomilio SP.3 pusher scout. October 25 saw Hippert dispatch a Sopwith Camel, followed by an SAML on November 30. On December 8, Hippert achieved ace status when he shot down a second Camel near Treviso, and he added another Camel to his tally on January 11.

On March 5, 1918, Hippert was transferred to the newly-established Jasta 74 on the Western Front, flying the Fokker D.VII. The squadron experimented with high-altitude breathing equipment to gain an altitude advantage, but it would achieve only 24 victories before the war’s end. It was here that Hippert acquired his colorful checker-boarded mount. On June 7, he claimed a Dorand AR2 over Beaumont-sur-Vesle, and added two French bombers, a Caudron R.11 and a Breguet 14 B.2, on August 22 (although the Breguet was never claimed).

From there, Hippert’s story goes cold. Unlike other German aces who were caught up in the intrigue of the political upheavals of the nation, or who made their fortunes in stunt flying or in Hollywood, Hippert seems to have disappeared from history. His memory lives because of his striking Fokker – and because we modelers enjoy building it.

Since the model would find a home in a non-modeler’s house, I bought a nice acrylic case with a finished wooden base on eBay for less than $30. That lent itself to a diorama: why simply stick the Fokker on a wooden base when a diorama would look better?

I mulled over several options, but I decided to avoid making a hangar, drilling posts for a fence, or otherwise getting too involved in features that would overwhelm the Fokker. Instead, I simply coated the base with scenic glue and sprinkled it with sifted dirt. After I masked the edges of the base, the dirt was painted a gray-brown color. I then sprayed on some thinned white glue and spread on some coarse turf, based on a photo I found of Jasta 74 on a remarkably non-prepared airfield in 1918. To brighten it up a bit, I added a sparse sprinkling of Silflor flowers.

Note the small flowers – Silflor’s wonderful products added a bit of color to the unprepared airfield.

I allowed the storyline to be dictated by the figures I had on hand. Quickboost’s German/Austro-Hungarian pilot figure came out about halfway through the build; he sported a moustache very much like Hippert’s. I painted him and set him aside.

Wilhelm Hippert? Is that You? And boy, money was a lot bigger back then!

The 3D-printing site Shapeways provided me with a package of 50 German WWI ground crewmen – all different poses! – and the orderlies with the champagne and the ground crewman were among them. And W+D Models sells the very best WWI figures out there, including a set of Royal Flying Corps pilots and lots of German foot soldiers. One of the British pilots would get a transfer to the French Air Force for purposes of this scene.

The excellent W+D figures of the French pilot and the German guard really stand out for their excellent sculpting.

The Fokker D.VIIF frames the little ceremony quite nicely.

In 1:72, this scene doesn’t take up much space.

The high-altitude breathing apparatus can just be seen below the cockpit.

These figures told my story: one of Hippert’s last victims, a French bomber pilot, is received by the victor with a toast delivered by two orderlies. He’s not particularly excited about it; even less excited is the guard detached to watch the prisoner. While one of the orderlies delivers a snappy salute to the prisoner, the guard shoots him a sideways look. Meanwhile, while the officers engage in their silly ceremony, a mechanic attends to the real work of caring for the Fokker D.VIIF.