30 May 2012
After growing up in the Eastern Townships and being a lifelong aviation buff, I was astonished to learn about the genuine, unrestored Fokker DVII that resides in Knowlton (Lac Brome), Quebec.
I finally managed to see and photograph this machine last week. All I can say is “wow”. The aircraft is a gem, as is the museum. Where else can one see a genuine 1918 Albatros factory-applied lozenge camouflage pattern surrounded by period 1921 stained glass?
This small museum is operated by the Brome Lake Historical Society, a body that receives almost no government funding. Knowlton is located about 1.5 hours east of Montreal, and is equidistant to the Quebec-Vermont border at Stanstead. There is a modest ($5.00 Cdn.) admission fee. The museum is tripod and camera friendly. Language barriers are non-existent. Most people in this part of Quebec are fluently bilingual (French and English). I found the museum volunteers to be friendly and helpful, although they seemed somewhat bemused that somebody would actually travel across the country from British Columbia just to see an old aeroplane…a feeling shared by my long-suffering wife Heather!
The museum has no official website, but an excellent photo essay of this airframe, including more numerous and better quality images than mine, can be found here. Edward Soye, who wrote his masters thesis on the subject, has published a terrific article here.
I hope you enjoy the photos as much as I enjoyed finally getting to see this rare bird!
Incidentally, my late grandfather Albert Edward Bryant served at Mons, Vimy and Ypres in the 6th (McGill) Siege Battery. Seeing this amazingly well-done local museum brought tears to my eyes and made it really hard to hold the camera steady. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Click on any image to start a full-screen slide-show (and hit “Esc” to return here)
Entrance to the museum
Remember. It’s just an old wooden propeller…it’s just an old wooden propeller…it’s just an old…
But it’s attached to this!
and the whole darn thing is surrounded by all this gorgeous old-growth wood and wonderful stained glass…
Now I’m quite certain nobody has dusted here recently, and the lighting is less than perfect, but there is a helpful stairwell on the NE corner of the building that allows one to see the topside of the aircraft. I used one of those small “gorillapod” travel tripods to wrap around the stairwell railings. A very handy gadget even with my rather heavy Nikon D90. Note that the aircraft is not pristine. There is noticeable fabric damage in a few areas, including the top of port wing visible here. I’m glad nobody has tried to fix it in the interests of “restoration”.
Did I mention the unbelievedly gorgeous stained glass? 🙂 It makes getting the white balance rather tough for poor photographers like myself, but the natural light gives a warm glow to everything in a building that hasn’t changed much since 1921 when it was built expressly to house the Fokker, and ceremoniously opened by then-Prime Minister of Canada Robert Borden.
More fabric damage, this time on the port rear fuselage. This may have happened sometime after 1962 when the aircraft was last moved outside at the Canada Aviation Museum and reassembled in the current location, but this is pure speculation on my part. The damage does not look “new” to me.
The engine bay appears complete to me, but I’m no expert
Undercarriage detail. I was quite taken by the quaint Boy Scout mounting technique. Seriously. Is that a square lashing or the prototype for a bungee cord?
Underside port wing. This was the only place where the lozenge camouflage was noticeably irregular compared to the rest of the airframe. To my untrained eye this looks like a patch job, but was it done in 1963 or 1921 or 1918?
Others before me have noted that various parts of the airframe show different serial numbers. Apparently changing elevators/rudders/ailerons and other components was fairly typical in the field during WWI. Remember that the Fokker DVII only started arriving on front lines in April 1918. So was this a genuine field mod or a re-assembly of components by the Canadian Government after one Senator Bolton of Knowlton politely asked “could we pretty please have an aeroplane for our museum?” Trivia. Total travel cost to ship a Fokker by train from Camp Borden, Ontario to Knowlten, Quebec in 1920? $112.50 Cdn. Those were the days my friend.
The cockpit area seems to be completely intact. Sadly my detailed pics of the dual spandaus turned out poorly.
For me the most incredible part was the realization that this was not a museum re-creation. This was the original item created at the Albatros factory in 1918.
There were a bunch of other war trophies within the museum, including this mortar
and these incredible examples of WWI wartime propaganda juxtiposed beside another piece of exceptional glasswork.