Ordinarily, you’d think any manufacturer handed a contract from the WWI-era German War Cabinet would be thrilled to build war machines for the Kainer’s cause. Not so for Hannoversche Waggonfabrik AG, a German aircraft manufacturer that had to learn the ropes while others were all-too-eager to feed the war effort. The Company had been known as a railway rolling stock constructor until required by the German government in 1916 to start the construction of aeroplanes. The aircraft branch of the company was established at Hannover-Linden where other types were first manufactured under license until 1916 when the Hannover type itself came on stream.
The Hannover CL.II was an escort fighter, produced in Germany during World War I, designed in response to a 1917 requirement by the Idflieg for such a machine to protect reconnaissance aircraft over enemy territory. It was a compact biplane of largely conventional configuration with single-bay staggered wings of unequal span. The fuselage was a thin plywood paneled, wooden monocoque design, very similar to the style of fuselage in Robert Thelen’s Albatros series of single-seat fighters. The main units of the fixed tailskid undercarriage were linked by a cross-axle, and the pilot and tail gunner sat in tandem, open cockpits, with the gunner’s cockpit elevated above the line of the upper fuselage to afford him a greater field of fire. For the same purpose, the aircraft featured an unusually compact empennage, with a short fin integral with the rear fuselage structure and a biplane tail unit that allowed the rear gunner to have a larger field of aftwards fire when defending the aircraft. Smaller than the usual C-class reconnaissance aircraft, it was easy for enemy pilots to mistake it for a single-seat fighter; a mistake that would bring them into the line of fire of the rear-facing dorsal gunner when closing from astern.
The CL.II was also produced under licence by LFG, under the designation CL.IIa. The type was widely produced, and as the war continued, was increasingly employed as a ground attack machine, remaining in service in this role until the Armistice.
A copy of Hannover CL.II, named CWL SK-1 Słowik, was the first aircraft built in independent Poland, in CWL in Warsaw in 1919. It however crashed during a public flight on August 23, 1919 in Warsaw, due to faulty bracing wires, killing its constructor Karol Słowik.
Look for Wings of the Great War’s rendition of the Hannover CL.II biplane fighter (WW11901) to assume its role in the war effort this March.