While searching for images to illustrate my Wartime article, I came across this German propaganda poster from 1918. It ultimately didn't make the cut but I think it's very interesting. The seaplane soaring into the top left of the poster is a Friedrichshafen FF.33; in fact it is the very one which scouted for the raider Wolf during its voyage into Australasian waters in 1917, Wölfchen ('Little wolf' or rather 'Wolf's cub'). But what about the two people in the lower right, cowering in fear before the swooping aeroplane? They appear to be stereotypical and somewhat racist images of Africans, or possibly Papuans. I suspect the latter. The Wolf came close to Africa twice, near the Cape of Good Hope on both its outbound and inbound legs, but it also sailed past Rabaul after preying on Allied shipping in the South Pacific. Rabaul would have had more resonance for Germans than South Africa, because it had been the capital of German New Guinea until 1914, when the Australians occupied the colony. So perhaps this poster should be seen as suggesting to the German public that Wolf's visit was a token of Germany's continuing claims in New Guinea and would soon return to reclaim its imperial possessions. And that it had reminded the natives who their real masters were.
But the poster had a more overt purpose, indicated by the text at the bottom: to advertise the Deutsche Luftkriegsbeute Ausstellung, or 'German air war booty exhibition', held in Munich sometime in 1918 (after February, when Wolf returned to Germany, and before November, presumably) along with associated military concerts. Presumably these were primarily propaganda exercises to rally the home front, but they may also have been used to raise funds for the war effort. However, I haven't been able to find much information about the exhibition, other than this poster and the rather striking ones below. (Apparently a pocket guide is still extant.)
This one, which appears to be a generic poster with a blank space for organisers to fill in with more timely information about the exhibition, also shows the Wölfchen, this time in profile view, and presumably that's Wolf itself steaming into the lefthand side. Presumably the aircraft itself was on display in the exhibition. The fact that Wölfchen was used twice must tell us something of the propaganda impact of Wolf's successes in successfully evading all the Allied navies after sinking so many merchant ships; no other recognisable individual aircraft appears in the posters I've found, not even the Red Baron's Dreidecker. But equally it might tell us something of the desperation beginning to be felt in Germany in 1918, because after all Wolf's successes could not and did not alter the course of the war.
Here's another exhibition poster showing a German aeroplane. Or rather the left half of one…
… here's the right half…
… and here they are stitched together somewhat ineptly by myself. (Click for full size.) It shows an Albatros D.V, engine running and presumably in flight. The word 'DELKA' in the top left corner might be thought to be the name of the Albatros, or maybe the pilot, contrary to my claim above that there are no specific aeroplanes identified in these posters. But it reappears in the last poster reproduced below and I think DELKA is just an acronym for the exhibition itself, i.e. DEutsche LuftKriegsbeute Ausstellung.
Most of the posters are more like this, showing German airpower dominating Allied airpower, usually signified by an imperial eagle and a terminally damaged enemy aeroplane. And that's what you'd expect from a war trophy exhibition, captured machines, not friendly ones like the Wölfchen and the Albatros. But that's being pedantic, and maybe there's some nuance to the word Kriegsbeute which I'm not picking up.
It's noticeable that all the Allied machines in these posters are actually British machines. Why no French ones? The French Aéronautique Militaire was as big as the RAF or bigger, certainly not to be sneered at; yet all the roundels are blue on the outside and red on the inside. Were the British seen as the main opponents in the air? Or is it just that these are the only DELKA posters which are to be found in museum collections in the English-speaking world because they were more interesting to English-speaking collectors?
Also, the aircraft depicted appear to all be fighters, not bombers or scouts (apart from the Wölfchen), of course). So they seem to be playing into the 'knights of the air' myth, as popular in Germany as it was elsewhere, and not, for example, making claims about how well-protected German cities are against air raids. (Which only affected a very small proportion of Germans, of course, and mostly in the west: Munich apparently received just three bombs over the whole war.)
The grisly sight of Allied planes twisting, burning to the ground showed the German public that the Reich would stop at nothing to win.
– Peter Fritszche, A Nation of Fliers: German Aviation and the Popular Imagination (Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 1992), 94.
The last poster (and possibly the preceding one) is actually not from the 1918 DELKA, but the 1917 one, so it seems to have been a semi-regular event (though possibly only held twice). And possibly a travelling one too — there's no specific location given (other than the 'Zoo'), but this poster was printed in Berlin, whereas some or all of the ones above were printed in Munich, so maybe that's where it was held. That's the only evidence I've found for the 1917 DELKA, though, apart from a modified version of the same poster showing it was still on in March as well as February.
This work, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License. Terms and conditions beyond the scope of this license may be available at airminded.org.