Monday, June 3

Read n' reviewed: Valiant Wings - Messerschmitt Bf 109 Early Series

The new Airframe and Miniature series book on the Bf 109 is branded as a one stop shop for modellers on one of the best-selling kits in history of kit making – how could it not sell? The answer is of course it will sell very well – but is it any good? This is what we will investigate today…

Valiant Wings Publishing Airframe & Miniature series
The Messerschmitt Bf 109 Early Series (V1 to E-9 including T-Series) -A Complete Guide to the Luftwaffe’s Famous Fighter

Author: Richard A. Franks.
208 pages
English Language
Softcover Portrait A4 size
Colour, B&W photos & Isometric drawings. + 2 sets of fold out scale plans featuring 6 types of Bf 109
£19.95 directly from the Publishers
When I heard about the latest book from Valiant Wings Publishing I thought – “well the next Tamiya kit in 32nd will be the Bf 109”…. well I was wrong – but the reason i thought this was because like with a few of their previous books the choices from VWP have been right at the centre of the modelling zeitgeist of the time. Well no matter as there are PLENTY of fans of Luftwaffe aircraft and of those plenty who love the Messerschmitt Bf 109.

The book is called – “Airframe & Miniature book, ‘The Messerschmitt Bf 109 Early Series (V1 to E-9 including T- series) - A Complete Guide to the Luftwaffe’s Famous Fighter’” and it is peened by the respected aviation author Richard A. Franks.  Mr Franks has penned a few of these that I have read already now – both on the Hawker Tempest and the He-219  - I liked very much in the reviews i mentioned that they represented an all-in-one title for each of these aircraft.

Now the Bf 109 early series is the subject of this book – from the experimental versions right through to the E’s and the Naval “T” series of aircraft right up to the end of that line before the “F”, “G” and “K” models took over with heavier armament and more speed for interception of the faster allied fighters. This book deals with what is often revered as the true origin of this aircraft before these additions took away some of the manoeuvrability of the airframe.
The publishers have not skimped on this title’s page count however – they actually extended the page count to take in more detail, and the book is heftier than it’s earlier compadres – that is a good thing her thought – let’s go through the chapters.

The book starts with the genesis of the aircraft – Through the development of the fighter in from 1933 by a very clever Willy Messerschmitt who shaped this fighter (It’s main competitor at the time being the-112) into what we know today, after winning the fly off competition. The type broke several records which are discussed as well before we go marque for marque through the development of the fighter. Through the early “V” series to the “B” and “C” series, some of which served in the Spanish Civil war in aid of Fascist Franco regime. For each of the aircraft in this section there are side profiles of the shape of the aircraft, werk numbers if they were a limited production or record attempt, and details on their camouflage and markings. A lot more detail than I have seen in other titles – I am already warmed up!
We go through the “E” type prototypes and then to the production versions of this model in the next few chapters, this is the real star of this book so most people will be very interested in this part. This is put together like the earlier models play-by-play, showing specifics when it needs to and the changes between the different models in point form and description as well as pictures.
In the chapter about camouflage and marking we pretty much get what it says on the tin – after a brief disclaimer about not every aircraft always being the same as orders said they should be (too true) we are taken through the early models and their markings in the Spanish conflict, with several pictures of these lesser known aircraft – and some good ones at that that show off some peculiarities. We also get a description of the unit markings that many of you may have seen on these aircraft “the hat”, “Mickey Mouse” and “The Wooden eye” Quite interesting reading.

Into proper “Luftwaffe” service – we look at some early “C” and “D” version and the “E’s” that were used in the west from 1937 onwards. We are walked through the often confusing lettering and symbols on the sides of these aircraft in Luftwaffe service (< - I o etc.) which was a great help. We talk national markings as well as the infamous (to modellers anyway) change from using the darker camouflage colours to the slightly lighter 02/71 shades. Several pictures of well-known and very mean looking yellow nosed Messerschmitt’s flesh out this section very well and help explain the change from bright blue sides on these aircraft to mottled sides in operations over the channel and in the battle of Britain. We also investigate a grey scheme (complete with more disclaimers just in case people are not getting it) that is a theory but not a proven one. It is good to know these things though and it would be remiss to not have this in the book – well done Mr Franks.
We look at several Afrika aircraft in this section as well before we look at the aircraft of the allies of Germany and the neutral country of Switzerland as well. There are top down coloured line drawings showing the evolution of the camouflage patterns of this aircraft through the theatres of war, as well as an excellent guide as to where the warning  and aircraft stencilling goes on the painted airframe.

There are several pages of great aircraft profiles next. Drawn by the well-known Richard Caruana they are of top quality and show nearly every different user of the type. These look very nice to me, and although there is a trend now to show aircraft profiles weathered these do me just fine. This section is topped off with unit badges who operated the early ‘109.
The next subject is something that modellers in 1/144,1/72nd, 1/48th,1/32nd and 1/24th will cherish – it is a kit guide of early Messerschmitt 109’s that shows pretty much every kit of note – including the very latest  48th kits from Eduard, and the 32nd kits from Trumpeter and Cyber Hobby  This is a great gift to modellers, as the author takes us through every facet of each of these models – some from the same moulds but these differences are noted in the text.
The accuracy of the kit, the panel lines, decals, and special features are all mentions and this is a really great starting place for anyone wanting to make their own kit but who maybe isn’t sure about a kit. This part could save you a lot of money and heartache!

The next section the modellers get more bang for their buck with a grouping of excellent builds displaying many of the kits mentioned in the last section. These are all pretty immaculate builds with great photography; the builders do not shy away with pointing out a few things they do not like about the kits here and there which is the best type of review you could get really. At least you know they are on the level.
The progression of the airframe is shown next through a series of 3D isometric views by Jacek Jackiewicz. I love these as they show a better angle than just a side on look - Werk numbers when needed + how if in any way the airframe has been modified from a previous version + any special points are brought up here.
The next section is a very detailed “walk around” section displaying in textbook drawings, part breakdowns in service manuals and often coloured pictures of each part of the aircraft.  Four aircraft were studied and used in the making of this book, and the pictures here are excellent. It seems the authors were able to climb around the aircraft or had access to a lot of it, which is better than most of us get. Although this section has a lot of text for the drawings in German, you can see what is going on and I think these drawings will help scratch builders especially.
There is a concise kit and aftermarket point list in the rear including decals and books accompanied with many pictures, there really hasn’t been any leaf unturned here. A long list of books is also included in an extensive bibliography of the type as well.

Last but definitely not least is the two fold-out aircraft scale plans in the rear of the book.  These are on thick , very good quality paper, These are of the “V”, “B”, “D”, “T9” and “E1” & “E7” aircraft – a great resource – they are in 1/48th scale which a third of modellers will no doubt not like ( not their scale) but it is the most popular scale for serious modellers and it fits in more drawings – a compromise had to be made – we can’t all have it our way I suppose. Notwithstanding scale issues, they are great drawings, very detailed and a most welcome way to top off the book, as they can be removed if needed without destroying the book.

Well, again Valiant In my opinion has got the “All-in-one” definitive book for the modeller. A shame a few more of the modern publishers haven't cottoned onto this yet – this is the blueprint guys…..

If you like the ‘109 or modelling, then this book is for you.

Thanks to Valiant Wings Publishing for this great one-stop-shop book.