Sunday, 27 December 2015

Focke-Wulf A 17

The prototype Focke-Wulf A 17 V1 Möwe [gull] passenger aircraft D-1149 Bremen, Werknummer 32, built in 1927. D-1149 was powered by a Gnome et Rhône 9A Jupiter engine and could carry eight passengers. It was operated by Norddeutsche LVG and also flew for Deutsche Lufthansa. The photo was taken at Borkum island in the North Sea, apparently in 1929.

The A 17's passenger cabin measured 3.5 meters in length, 1.5 meters in width, and 1.8 meters in height, and the design provided for four crank operated windows port and starboard. The eight forward-facing passenger seats had adjustable seat backs. The cabin was furnished with lights, curtains, luggage nets, coat hooks, hand holds, and a toilet in the rear. The entry door was located on the port side, and there was an escape hatch in the cabin ceiling. In addition to the passenger cabin, the A 17 also featured two dedicated luggage compartments. (Fischer collection)

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Focke-Wulf Fw 44

Moment of partial touch-down of Focke-Wulf Fw 44 Stieglitz [goldfinch] two-seat biplane trainer ?G+AD (possibly CG+AD), powered by a Siemens Sh 14 radial engine. Aircraft appears to be painted in dark green camouflage, with undersides in 65 and a yellow fuselage band.

This Fw 44 was photographed during the final four years of the war; location unknown. The inscription on the back of the photograph simply reads: Landung im Schnee [snow landing]. (Fischer collection)

Friday, 18 December 2015

Les Avions Francais Aux Couleurs Allemandes, Volume 1

Philippe Ricco, Horse-Série Avions #40, Edition Lela Presse, Le Vigen, France, 2015, ISSN 1253-5354. Illustrated, softcover, published in French.

Cover image © by Edition Lela Presse, 2015.

Latest in a long-standing series of notewothy aviation publications by Lela Presse, this beautiful softcover publication provides a dedicated look at aircraft of French provenance in German service following the German invasion of France in 1940. Philippe Ricco's Les Avions Francais Aux Couleurs Allemandes [French aircraft in German colours] is a magazine-type publication of standard A4 size, featuring 112 pages and 250 photos (some in colour), and it includes 30 well-rendered colour profiles. Moreover, this is actually the first installment of what is intended to be a multi-part study, and it covers aircraft produced by Amiot, Arsenal, Bloch, Breguet, CAMS, Caudron, and Delanne.

Ricco's work focuses mainly on photographic coverage; only brief sections of text are included. The paper quality and photo reproduction are quite excellent, and each image is accompanied by a detailed caption. Where available, the individual aircraft type entries include lists of known codes, units, and other information. The wealth of images collected for this publication is remarkable, and while a certain number of photos have been published before, Les Avions Francais Aux Couleurs Allemandes serves as a competent and complete one-stop compilation.

As has been pointed out on this blog before, and as any serious student of our topic of choice will agree, a publication featuring exceptional content should really serve to render any potential language barriers irrelevant. And many of the photos contained in Les Avions Francais Aux Couleurs Allemandes are indeed exceptional. In addition to numerous very clear shots, there are also many noteworthy camouflage schemes and several interesting detail views. Uncredited (captioned simply as deux officiers allemands), on page 27, top, is what appears to be Luftwaffe Generalfeldmarschall [field marshall] Hugo Sperrle, in front of a Bloch 200.

Volume 2 of this excellent new series will apparently cover aircraft by Dewoitine to Stark, and the publishers also promise to include any corrections/amendments provided by the readers of the previous volume. Very commendable, and very recommended.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Focke-Wulf Fw 190

Unidentified early Focke-Wulf Fw 190 A in what appears to be the standard camouflage of 74/75/76. Underside of cowling appears to be yellow 04. The lack of the forward fuselage extension (introduced on the Fw 190 A-5), along with the presence of the panel line on the air intake duct on the side of the cowling (introduced on the Fw 190 A-1), narrows the possible subtype down to either an Fw 190 A-1, A-2, A-3, or A-4.

The temporary inscription on the propeller has unfortunately so far proven illegible, except for the number "82". (Fischer collection, additional information very kindly supplied by Steve Sheflin and Leon Venter, via

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Henschel Hs 123

Crashed Henschel Hs 123 A-1 L2+KM of Lehrgeschwader 2 (LG 2), likely photographed at Tutow, late 1930s (exact date currently unknown to me). Camouflage is the early style of 61/62/63/65. It appears that the aircraft suffered a mishap which sheared off its fixed landing gear, as evidenced by the damage to propeller.

Parts of the aircraft have apparently already been salvaged, and the missing forward fuselage panels and cowling reveal the BMW 132 Dc radial engine. A section of the detached upper wing can be seen in the foreground. (Fischer collection)

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Dornier Do 17

Wreckage of what appears to have been a pristine and somewhat nondescript Dornier Do 17 Z. The aircraft seems to have been partially disassembled after the mishap, its wings stored neatly next to the fuselage. The camouflage scheme is very likely standard 70/71/65.

Unfortunately, even a detail enlargement (lower photo) doesn't provide for a positive identification of the emblem(s) on the forward fuselage. Exact circumstances, date, and location are unknown to me at this time. (Fischer collection)

Thursday, 3 December 2015

German Aircraft Instrument Panels Vol. 1

[Full title: German Aircraft Instrument Panels Vol. 1 - Bf 109 F-4, Bf 110 E, Fi 156, Fw 190 A-3, Hs 123 A, Ju 88 A-4] Dariusz Karnas, Inside Series, Mushroom Model Publications/Stratus s.c., Sandomierz, Poland, 2014, ISBN 978-83-63678-55-5. Illustrated, hardcover, published in English.

Cover image © by Mushroom Model Publications/Stratus s.c., 2014.

This first volume of a potentially substantial series of reference works by Dariusz Karnas is a superb and very welcome publication. The instrument panel of each aircraft featured in German Aircraft Instrument Panels Vol. 1 is described in a section of four to six pages, and each such section contains a minimum of text plus black & white photos, lavish colour renderings of the instrument panel and the individual instruments and gunsights, and, at times, additional drawings taken from the aircraft's handbook.

Needless to say, the colour renderings are the main focus of the book. They are quite accurate and realistic, and some of the individual instruments are depicted at near their original size. The instrument panels themselves are shown both completed and bare, the bare versions being captioned with numbers and corresponding lists of applicable instruments. The individual instruments feature their original German designations and parts numbers as well as the appropriate English designations.

In spite of the orientation of the cover, German Aircraft Instrument Panels Vol. 1 is actually a landscape format book (sized 30 x 22 cm), which permits a larger reproduction of the instrument panels than would have been possible had a portrait format been chosen. Having said that, the nature of large colour renderings, in combination with the somewhat odd choice of a light brown background, at first glance make this publication appear almost like a children's book. But the realism and amount of detail featured are absolutely stunning.

Frustratingly, however, there are also shortcomings. At a meagre 38 pages, and featuring the instrument panels of a mere six aircraft types, the actual content of German Aircraft Instrument Panels Vol. 1 is disappointingly moderate. This is a bit of shame. While the subject matter will, by necessity, require multiple volumes at any rate, it would have been nice if individual volumes would have been produced as slightly more substantial works of reference.

Moreover, while I do understand that both publisher and author will have to adhere to self-imposed limits to keep a publication within a realistic scope and price range, Karnas has elected to omit any other cockpit details, such as instrumented side panels, controls, ancillary equipment, or seats. Or the rear of the instrument panels, for that matter. The small amounts of text contained provide a brief overview of the aircraft types, but no information whatsoever with regard to the instrument panels themselves or their development. While all of these omissions undoubtedly reflect conscious decisions by the author, the inclusion of such content easily would have made German Aircraft Instrument Panels Vol. 1 an indispensable standard work on the topic.

As it is, however, this indisputably lovely book is best used in conjunction with existing publications in order to obtain a more complete picture of the subject matter. There are some that are quite essential, such as Peter W. Cohausz's substantial hardcover study Cockpits Deutscher Flugzeuge [German Aircraft Cockpits] (Aviatic Verlag GmbH, 2000), or the same author's Cockpit Profile softcover series (Flugzeug Publikations GmbH, 1998-2000). And then there is, of course, Kenneth H. Merrick's extensive but equally frustratingly incomplete German Aircraft Interiors 1935 - 1945 - Vol. 1 (Monogram Aviation Publications, 1996); another book that could/should have become a standard work for decades to come.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Udet U 11

The sole Udet U 11 Kondor [condor] Grossverkehrsflugzeug [large airliner], Werknummer 243, photographed in January 1926 at Oberschleissheim airfield north of Munich, with test pilot Harry Rother. The aircraft is still in pristine condition and devoid of any markings; it would later be assigned the fuselage code D-828. First flown by Rother on January 19, 1926, the U 11 was powered by four Siemens & Halske Sh 12 air-cooled radial engines with aerodynamic fairings, extended driveshafts (necessitated due to the pusher configuration), and two-blade propellers.

The U 11 was the largest aircraft produced by Udet Flugzeugbau, München-Ramersdorf, following an order by Deutscher Aero Loyd. As is beautifully illustrated by the photos, it was an open-cockpit design with side-by-side seating for the two pilots. The navigator's station was located in the very front of the aircraft, ahead of the pilots. The fuselage was constructed from Duralumin profiles and covered by Duralumin sheets. It could seat eight passengers and also contained a toilet and a luggage compartment.

The wings, featuring two main spars, were manufactured from wood, with fabric covering and a plywood-reinforced leading edge. The empennage consisted of Duralumin tubing and profiles, also covered with fabric. The landing gear was fitted with a then rather common rubber suspension system and 1100 by 220mm main wheels.

Rother's test flights revealed significant design shortcomings, and the aircraft's service career with Deutsche Lufthansa (successor to Deutscher Aero Loyd) was correspondingly brief. The U 11 subsequently crashed during the delivery flight to Deutsche Verkehrsfliegerschule [German air transport school]. The failure of the U 11 was among the reasons for the financial failure of Udet Flugzeugbau and its eventual acquisition by Bayerische Flugzeugwerke AG (BFW). At least one of the above photos appears to have been an official release by BFW, as it bears a company stamp on the rear.

Enlargements of sections of the second photo posted above reveal a number of interesting details (below).

Monday, 27 July 2015

Focke-Wulf Fw 58

Inspection of the starboard Argus As 10 engine of a Focke-Wulf Fw 58 C Weihe [harrier] liaison aircraft, photographed at Cottbus, near Berlin. Unfortunately, none of the aircraft's markings are visible, thus rendering a more detailed identification difficult.

The inscription on the back of the original photograph reads: Vor dem Start [before take-off]. The exact date is unknown, although judging by the attire of some of the mechanics, the picture appears to have been taken in summer. (Fischer collection)

Friday, 24 July 2015

After The Battle Magazine: Nordhausen

Karel Margry, After The Battle magazine no. 101, Battle of Britain International Ltd., London, England, 1998. Magazine article, illustrated, published in English.

Cover image © by Battle of Britain International Ltd., 1998.

As related in my review of Jean Paul Pallud's After The Battle magazine article First Manned Rocket Launch (issue no. 151), posted here on June 4, 2013, After The Battle is a quarterly military history specialist publication, committed to an extremely well researched and deeply absorbing "then and now" approach, and focused on the period of World War II. Moreover, After The Battle magazine's articles are abundantly illustrated, and the photos provided are expertly captioned. This is something I consider essential, but it is all too often lacking, even in dedicated special interest publications.

After The Battle no. 101 is one of the magazine's occasional issues to contain material regarding the German aerospace industry of the period. For anybody reasonably well versed in German history of the 20th century, the name Nordhausen will be inextricably linked to the abysmal existence of the Mittelwerk GmbH underground production facilities in the Kohnstein mountain and the associated Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp. The Mittelwerk facility was created with the aim to protect the manufacture of some of Germany's most advanced aerospace products - Fieseler Fi 103 missiles, A4 rockets, and Junkers jet engines - from Allied bombing campaigns. It was not least the bombardment of the Peenemünde rocket research centre on the shores of the Baltic Sea in August of 1943 that revealed how vulnerable Germany had become to air attacks as the war dragged on. Mittelbau-Dora, on the other hand, housed the inmates who were forced to construct both the concentration camp itself and the tunnel system of Mittelwerk.

The enormous Mittelwerk underground manufacturing plant and the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp are prime examples of the immeasurable ruthlessness applied by the National Socialist leadership in order to vainly attempt to avert an inevitable, self-inflicted, and utterly complete defeat. The associated cost in terms of human suffering was staggering and yet of no consideration whatsoever to the powers that be. In spite of such colossal and infinitely inhuman efforts, however, both the construction of the facilities and the actual mass production of rockets, missiles, and engines at Mittelwerk came too late in the war to still effect a perceptible impact - other than the indescribable human misery perpetrated at Mittelwerk and Mittelbau-Dora, that is.

Nordhausen is the main feature of After The Battle no. 101. It is a 42-page investigation into the wartime history and subsequent fate of the Mittelwerk and the Mittelbau-Dora, written by accomplished long-time After The Battle author Karel Margry. The article is presented in the typical After the Battle format, i.e., carefully researched text, illustrated by numerous black & white photos, many of them providing interesting comparisons between wartime scenes and the very same locations as they appeared at the time the article was written (1998). In addition, four colour photos relating to the topic can be found on the magazine's cover and in the centre-spread. The article also contains various maps to provide context with regard to geographic locations, underground production facilities, and concentration camp installations.

Moreover, the deeply captivating - and frequently intensely disturbing - photo content complements Margry's competent and comprehensive narrative enormously. The images provide views of the inside and outside of the Mittelwerk production facilities as well of the situation at Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp. The historic photos were taken both during the war and right after the cessation of hostilities, and the comparison with the modern day situation is often intriguing. Although much has been published about wartime Germany's underground manufacturing facilities in recent decades, images depicting the inner workings of these facilities are still somewhat rare, and Margry's Nordhausen provides a number of such extraordinary glimpses. Next to various details of the tunnel system itself, there are many shots of A4 and Fi 103 components at various assembly stages.

Perhaps most importantly, however, the article does not neglect to delve deeply into the topic of slave labour and the associated concentration camp installations, in text and pictures. This is an immensely crucial subject matter all too often willingly (and thus negligently and spinelessly) "overlooked" in uncounted otherwise competent specialist publications on the late-war German aerospace industry and its output. The construction of the camp and manufacturing plant at Nordhausen as well as the subsequent manufacturing operations resulted in a death toll of around 20,000 human beings. The rational, clean layout drawings of the camps thus stand in perverse contrast to what can only be described as drastic images depicting the fate of those unlucky enough to have been confined there.

The creation of much, if not all, of the most modern and fascinating German aerospace equipment at that stage of the war would have been impossible without the implementation of slave labour of the most barbarous kind. This is an irrevocable fact of greatest significance, and it apparently renders rather uncomfortable a number of authors specialised in the field. It is to Karel Margry's credit that he did not elect to cheaply skirt around the issue and that he instead addressed it frankly and yet without hyperbole or tendentiousness.

All back issues of After the Battle magazine, including the above reviewed issue no. 101, remain available through the publisher's website. More information regarding Mittelwerk and Mittelbau-Dora may be found in Yves Le Maner & André Sellier's remarkable Bilder aus Dora, reviewed elsewhere in this blog.