Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Bildmappe Ju 388 der Junkers-Werke

Originally produced by the Junkers factory for submission to the RLM, self-published facsimile edition by Dr. Peter Korrell, Wolfenbuettel, Germany. Illustrated, softcover, no text but includes a German-language introduction.

This small 40 page booklet is yet another stunning facsimile publication by Dr. Peter Korrell. The original Bildmappe [Photo Album] was compiled during the war by the Junkers company, for submission to the German air ministry (RLM). The size of the photos was 13 by 18 cm, and Junkers had them glued to grey cardboard pages. The b/w photos had reference numbers, but there were no photo captions.

As usual, Dr. Korrell was meticulous in recreating this unique publication. The photos are no longer glued on cardboard but instead printed on high-quality card stock. The quality of the photographic reproductions is excellent, as it was possible to source all photos directly from the originals. According to Dr. Korrell, more than 40 percent of the photos contained in the Bildmappe had remained unpublished. And even the photos that had been published are reproduced here to a higher quality.

The scope of the Bildmappe is spectacular. The photos first show Ju 388 L-1 RT+KD, Werknummer 340084, and Ju 388 L-1 RT+KC, Werknummer 340083. But the real treasure trove are the subsequent, exquisitely detailed shots of hatches, cockpit, canopy, air intakes and exhausts, wiring, air bottles, fuselage interior, bomb doors, aircraft equipment, and so on.

The booklet contains the familiar German-language leaflet by Dr. Korrell, detailing history and recreation of the original publication.

Rotorcraft Of The Third Reich

Ryszard Witkowski, Mushroom Model Publications, Redbourn, England/STRATUS s.c., Sandomierz, Poland, 2007, ISBN 978-83-89450-43-2, Red Series No. 5109. Illustrated, softcover, published in English.

Cover image © by Mushroom Model Publications, 2007.

In 2002, Classic Publications released "Helicopters of the Third Reich", Steve Coates' landmark study on rotary wing aviation in Germany until 1945. It has become the standard reference on the topic. Ryszard Witkowski's neat little "Rotorcraft of the Third Reich" is thus not a competitor. Instead, it is perhaps perfect for those who have only a passing interest in the subject, and it is also ideal as a compact set of references for modelers.

Due to the fact that helicopters represented a rather diminutive field of aviation which was largely still in development before and during World War II, there is only a finite amount of period material available. It is probably for this reason that Witkowski's "Rotorcraft of the Third Reich" often feels like a compressed miniature version of Coates' "Helicopters of the Third Reich". Witkowski provides an abbreviated overview of German helicopter development and history, including early autogyros, wartime types, projects, aircraft captured by the Allies, and post-war helicopter development.

Needless to say, Witkowski covers many - but not all - of the aircraft featured in the larger work, and there are countless photos which appear in both publications. But a number of these common photos are printed in a slightly inferior quality in Witkowski's "Rotorcraft of the Third Reich", although the very decent paper would surely allow for a better reproduction. Both publications supply numerous line drawings of the aircraft described, and these exhibit only minor differences. There is also a small pull-out with 1/72nd scale drawings of the Focke Achgelis Fa 223 V1, Fa 223 V51, and Fa 223 E. "Rotorcraft of the Third Reich" concludes with several pages of color profiles as well as color photos of surviving aircraft.

This is a handy and very nicely made book, although some questions remain. For example, it would be interesting to find out how Witkowski arrives at the "Fw 354" designation for the Focke-Wulf "Triebflügel" project. This number was not assigned in the RLM GL/C list, and to the best of my knowledge, I also have not seen it in print anywhere else before. Unfortunately, there is neither an explanation nor does the limited size of Witkowski's book provide room for a list of original documents consulted, if any. There is only a short bibliography at the end, almost entirely dedicated to post-war publications.

Monday, 17 September 2007

Junkers Ju 86 Fliegerdenkmal

Previously unpublished photo (from a series of three) of Junkers Ju 86 E-1, NG+??. Date and location unknown. (Fischer collection)

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Horten Ho 229 - Spirit Of Thuringia
(The Horten All-Wing Jet Fighter)

Andrei Shepelev and Huib Ottens, Classic Publications/Ian Allan Publishing Ltd., Hersham, Surrey, England, 2006, ISBN 1-903223-66-0. Illustrated, hardcover, published in English.

Cover image © by Classic Publications/Ian Allan Publishing Ltd., 2006.

Although frequently and ignorantly derided as merely "yet another Luft '46 pipe dream", the Horten Ho 229 was neither only a paper project nor was it simply another aircraft among the uncounted types operated by the German Luftwaffe in World War II. It was a technically, aerodynamically, and aesthetically highly intriguing design which was ahead of its time in many respects. This is even more remarkable if one considers that he Ho 229 did not originate with one of the behemoths of the German aircraft industry such as, for example, Heinkel, Junkers, or Messerschmitt. The Horten brothers thus had to make do without the assignment of a high priority to their design, and they had to cope with inferior financial, industrial, and engineering resources. Add to this the gradually deteriorating situation within Germany as the end of the war approached and the difficulties associated with German jet engine mass production which had an impact on the gestation cycle of any German jet powered design of the period. It is remarkable, then, that the Horten brothers prevailed, managed to bring the design to hardware status, and were able to commence construction of a number of prototypes, three of which were completed and two of which flew.

A serious and competent study of this aircraft was long overdue. We are fortunate that two experts on the topic, Andrei Shepelev and Huib Ottens, have conspired to fill this gap in the documentation of German aviation history. Before the appearance of the book by Shepelev and Ottens, there existed only a handful of publications on the Ho 229, most of them much more limited in format and scope. Among them were David Myhra's typically chaotic and fanciful concoctions, which, due to the absence of an authoritative alternative, unfortunately probably found more readers than they should have.

Horten Ho 229 - Spirit of Thuringia by Classic Publications has since its release become famous for featuring the only known and previously unpublished photo of the assembled Ho 229 V3 prototype. This is indeed a sensational find, and a significant piece in the puzzle that constitues this aircraft's history. But equally astonishing for students of the aircraft are the book's perhaps slightly less spectacular but equally significant further treasures, e.g. the small photo on page 79 showing catapult seat trials specific to the Ho 229, the exhaustive coverage of earlier Horten aircraft designs, or the convincing identification of the Ho 229 V4 and V5 prototypes under construction.

The book is a labor of love. It is extremely detailed, not only with regard to the main facts of the story but down to the lesser known aspects of the history of the Horten brothers and the aircraft's development. Where possible, the authors put faces to names, and there is plenty of background information. In addition, the book provides a plethora of photos as well as superb line and technical drawings, both from original wartime sources as well as by the exceptional Arthur Bentley. There are a small number of color shots where existent or applicable, and Shepelev also contributes his own computer artwork.

The only aspect I found disappointing and highly annoying was the frequent spelling mistake of "Horton" instead of "Horten". Although of course a minor criticism, this should not occur in an exhaustively researched expert publication on the Horten brothers which, after so many years, finally does proper justice to their work. The erroneous spelling of "Horton" can frequently be seen in shoddily compiled English-language texts about the Ho 299, but it has no place in a book such as this one.

At the end of the day, however, this book renders irrelevant all previous publications on the Ho 229. It is a testament to the vision and attention to detail exhibited by the now sadly defunct Classic Publications (now reorganized in slightly different form as Chevron Publishing Limited), and it will stand as the ultimate reference on the topic for many years to come.