Roden 1/32 Siemens Schuckert Werke DIII

By Russell Bucy

Lo! - Ernst Udet's Siemens Schuckert Werke DIII


After reading the book "The Aviators" I wanted to know more about Ernst Udet, Germany's second highest scoring German WWI ace with 62 aerial victories. During one engagement with France's leading Ace Georges Guynemer, Udet's guns jammed, and Guynemer had him at his mercy. Instead of shooting him down, Guynemer flew along side him for a while and saluted-- this story undoubtably helped contribute to the "myth" of aviation "chivalry" during WWI. Udet's life intersected with many other early aviators, including three from the US - Rickenbacker, Lindberg, and Doolittle who are the focus of "The Aviators" (a great book by the way). Udet graciously hosted all three at his home in Germany to discuss aviation progress in the 1930s - he and Doolittle had some wild times! Udet was by all accounts a bit of a reckless character, quite a partier, and a talented stunt pilot, traveling extensively in North and South America. He attended the Cleveland Air Races, and flew in several movies. During the First World War, he flew a succession of aircraft, including the Siemens Schuckert Werke DIII (SSW DIII). Several of his WWI aircraft sported a red fuselage with "LO" in large white letters - his nickname for his fiancée - Eleanor "Lola" Zink. When the Nazis took power in 1933, Udet was forced by Goering to become the director of aviation procurement, and was responsible for development of the Ju 87 Stuka and the Bf 109, which he personally test flew. However, he was never a Nazi, and Goering used him as a scapegoat for the Luftwaffe's early failures, leading to Udet's suicide in November 1941. A sad end for a great flyer.

Introduced in April 1918, the SSW DIII had a massive Siemens Halske eleven cylinder rotary engine (known as the Sh III) and a four bladed prop. It was powerful, highly maneuverable, and had excellent performance at higher altitudes. The Sh III had an internal gearing in which the cylinders and crankcase moved in an opposite direction from the crankshaft, which greatly reduced the effects of inertia on the aircraft. Some sources confuse this with "counter-rotation" of the propeller, but this is not the case as the prop is fixed to the crankcase. Although inventive, the Siemens Halske design used mineral oil for lubrication due to a shortage of castor oil, and the Sh III engine tended to overheat, shortening it's service life to about 10 hours. The SSW DIIIs were all withdrawn from service in May 1918 to replace their engines and cowlings with the new Sh IIIa engine and a cut down cowling, with air scoops added to the prop hub to increase cooling. The new Sh IIIa engine and cowling increased engine life to about 40 hours. The SSW DIIIs were returned to the front by July 1918 at the demand of its former pilots, who thought they were exceptional dog fighters. They were joined in August 1918 by the SSW DIV which had a shorter wing cord. Only 50 SSW DIIIs made it into front line service, along with another 50 or so SSW DIVs, even though nearly 230 were ordered by the German Air Service. German and Allied pilots that test flew them describe them as the best fighter to emerge from WWI.

The Kit

Roden has provided us with some nice 1/32 kits over the years, and this is one of them, but it's not without a few warts. It comes with a complete cockpit, nice engine detail, a one piece upper wing with appropriately thin trailing edges, separate ailerons, rudder, horizontal stabilizers, a full decal sheet with lozenge wings and markings for four different SSWs. However, the moldings have a bit of flash and there are some heavy sprue gates. Some of the cowling and fuselage parts have rough texture in some areas, and the panel lines on the fuselage are a little heavy. The fit is not the greatest in the fuselage and lower wing roots. This is compounded by Roden's use of very hard plastic, which increases the effort in sanding and cutting. The older Roden decals also have a tendency to adhere poorly - however I discovered with a little application of heat this can be overcome. If you have some modeling experience and patience, this kit will yield a very nice model.



I like Roden's line of 1/32 scale kits, but often they require some work to get the fit right. This kit is no different. If you have some experience with biplanes, the SSW DIII won't be too hard to build, but I don't recommend it for beginners. I learned my lesson with Roden's decals - which I think are quite nice, but need an application of heat to work well. There are not a lot of parts in the box for this kit, which is one reason I like it. Except for the notes above, this was a pretty much "out of the box" build for me that took about 45 hours, some of which was due to mistakes of my own doing.


  1. Aircraft in Profile #86, Siemens Schuckert DIII & DIV, Peter Gray. Doubleday Pub.
  2. Classic WWI Aircraft Profiles Vol. 1, Terry Treadwell & Edward Shacklady. Cerberus
  3. Aircraft of WWI 1914-1918, Jack Herris & Bob Pearson. Amber Publishing
  4. Eagles of the Black Cross, Walter Musciano. Ivan Oblansky Publishing
  5. The Great Air War, Aaron Norma. Macmillan Publishers
  6. Kaiser's Aces, Marek Murawski. Kagero Publishing

© Russell Bucy 2017

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This article was published on Friday, July 07 2017; Last modified on Friday, July 07 2017