Saturday, 26 November 2011

Messerschmitt Bf 109 B-1

M. Maslov, ExPrint NV Ltd., Moscow, Russia, 1995. Illustrated, softcover, published in Russian and English.

Cover image © by ExPrint NV Ltd., 1995.

It’s blatantly obvious, the entries in this blog frequently feature what one could term "obscure publications". The reason for this is simple. It is often an obscure, underground publication which turns out to be a hidden treasure. It is one of the privileges of running such a blog (and doing it entirely without being restrained by the fetters of commercial demands) that one is not necessarily required to bow to the preferences of a wider audience but instead is granted the complete freedom to also cover such little known gems

This little booklet is a prime example of the above. At 26 printed pages and a format of 200 x 290 mm, it certainly seems insignificant enough. In fact, it comes across like a thin magazine. But in reality, Maslov’s Messerschmitt Bf 109 B-1 is an extremely detailed walk-around type publication, revealing amazing details of an otherwise rather poorly covered variant (simply due to lower production numbers and its absence from front line units during World War II) of Messerschmitt’s Bf 109.

On December 4, 1937, during German operations with the Legion Condor as part of the Spanish Civil War, Feldwebel Otto Polenz landed his early model Bf 109, coded 6●15, on Republican-held territory after running out of fuel. The then state-of-the-art fighter aircraft was of course a priced possession. While still in Spain, it was thoroughly tested by the French. Subsequently, the aircraft was shipped to the Soviet Union for further evaluation at the NII VVS air force research institute. The NII VVS prepared a comprehensive and exhaustively illustrated report, the photos of which now constitute this fantastic booklet.

Following a brief introduction in Russian and English, Maslov’s Messerschmitt Bf 109 B-1 is basically a photo album with compact captions. The photos show incredible detail and cover most parts of the aircraft. They are hugely interesting, not least because there still exists a dearth of reference material on early Bf 109s (as opposed to the abundance available on later versions of the aircraft). Included in the coverage are the Jumo 210 engine, the cockpit and its components, the landing gear, interior details, armament, and much more. The booklet is thus also an excellent modeler's reference.

In closing, a couple of points should perhaps be addressed. In my humble opinion, the modern four-view drawing on page 12 might be slightly questionable in some areas, e.g. the Bf 109's nose section. Moreover, Maslov (and much of the available literature on German military aviation in the Spanish Civil War) refers to this aircraft as a Bf 109 B-1. In his excellent The Messerschmitt Bf 109 - Part 1: Prototype To "E" Variants (SAM Publications, England, 2005), Lynn Ritger proposes that it was, in fact, a Bf 109 A. Ritger backs this assertion by means of a number of intriguing observations.

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