Russian Aces of World War 1
by Victor Kulikov
Osprey Aircraft of the Aces series #111
Imperial Russia had very little in the way of aircraft at the start of the First World War. Much of what they used was provided by France and Great Britain, with a few aircraft of their own design. The story of their pilots is one of improvisation, adaptation and daring. Both the conventional and unconventional were used to engage and defeat enemy aircraft, including ramming, dropping anchors and a variety of guns and mounting systems for them. Author Victor Kulikov presents a brief history of Russian aviation with biographies of the 13 aces officially produced by Russia in WWI.
The book is broken down to five chapters and a brief index. They are as follows:
Fighter Aviation in Russia
Aces of the 1st BAG
Aces of the 7th AOI
Aces of the 9th AOI
Much needed translations are provided, such as BAG-battle aviation group, and AOI-fighter aviation detachment.
The story of Russian Combat Aviation begins with Peter Nesterov, commander of the 11th corps aviation detachment. He tried everything he could to add armament to his aircraft, including a blade to the rear of the plane to cut open balloons, a weighted rope to throw in the propellers of enemy aircraft, pistols, and finally, ramming and destroying an enemy aircraft, which killed the enemy crew and himself.
Alexander Kozakov, Russia's highest scoring ace, carried a sea anchor with explosive attached, hoping to snare an enemy aircraft and then detonate the explosive. When this failed, he also rammed the enemy aircraft, destroying it but surviving himself, scoring the first of 16 official victories. The cover art on the book shows Kozakov's attempt to snare the German aircraft.
Author Kulikov provides a good overview of Russian aviation, and numerous photos are provided as well, showing types of armament, the aircraft used, and innovations applied by Russia to try to combat their enemies in the sky.
The stories of the individual pilots give basic information on where they were born and educated, how they entered flight training, and then into the individual victories they scored. Many of them flew together-Russia's aviation force had perhaps 150 fighter pilots at the end of the war so the group was fairly tight knit. None of the 13 aces served with the new Bolshevik-Soviet forces following the revolution, either having been killed in combat or fleeing to join the White Russians and then moving on to other service. One, Ivan Loiko, did defect back to the Soviet Union in the 20s, but was convicted as a spy and sent to a labor prison.
I was surprised both at the seemingly primitive conditions of Russian aviation at the beginning of the war, and the ingenuity and courage of the pilots who sought to overcome the obstacles they encountered.
Photos and art
In addition to the stories and black and white photos accompanying them, a very nice selection of 28 full color side profiles is included showing the aircraft of various Russian pilots. Four additional top profiles are included, and an index to the illustrations is included in the appendix.
Sources for information presented in this book are all from official Russian state archives, so pilots listed in other references are not included in this book as their victories may not be officially credited or included in the lists.
Russian Aces of World War 1 is a nice reference, giving a good account of the efforts and exploits of Russia's ace pilots, with a very good selection of photos. It should be useful to fans of WWI aviation and students of Russian aviation and history.
My review sample was provided courtesy of Osprey Publishing. The book can be at many online merchants and specialty bookstores, with a suggested retail of $22.95 US.