Tuesday, 4 June 2013

After The Battle Magazine: First Manned Rocket Launch

 photo Pallud_ATB_151sm.jpg

Jean Paul Pallud, After The Battle magazine no. 151, Battle of Britain International Ltd., Old Harlow, Essex, England, 2011. Magazine article, illustrated, published in English.

Cover image © by Battle of Britain International Ltd., 2011.

After The Battle is a military history magazine, specializing in an in-depth "then and now" approach to the topics covered. It is published quarterly by Battle of Britain International Ltd. in England, and its focus lies on World War II. I have been an avid reader of the magazine (and the same publisher's books) for over two decades, primarily because After the Battle is not afraid to publish lengthy and extremely comprehensive articles - something that has unfortunately become anachronistic for most publications in our day and age. The research applied in compiling the articles is immaculate, and the extensive photographic content is often stunning, not least due to the fascinating then and now comparisons.

Every so often, After The Battle publishes articles on topics relevant for those with an interest in German aviation and aerospace history of the period. Prime examples are, perhaps, The V-Weapons (ATB no. 6, 1974), The Peenemünde Rocket Centre (ATB no. 74, 1991), Nordhausen (ATB no. 101, 1998), or Dulag Luft (ATB no. 106, 1999). All back issues of the magazine remain available through the publisher's website.

First Manned Rocket Launch, Jean Paul Pallud's 20-page article in After The Battle no. 151, is a heavily illustrated account of the Bachem Ba 349 Natter rocket-powered point-defence interceptor program. The text of the article begins with a description of the state of the air war over Germany at the inception of the program. It then chronicles the development, construction, and testing of the Ba 349, Lothar Sieber's ill-fated first manned flight, and the effort to transport parts of Bachem's workforce and complete Ba 349 aircraft out of the reach of advancing enemy troops.

As is typical for After The Battle, Pallud's article is expertly researched and comprehensive, even if one takes into account that the publication of Brett Gooden's requisite milestone work on the Ba 349, Projekt Natter - Last Of The Wonder Weapons (Classic Publications, 2006) has set a very high standard. What makes Pallud's First Manned Rocket Launch particularly interesting, however, is the fact that the numerous historic black & white pictures are augmented by colour photos of the very same locations as they look today.

These current-day comparisons include, for example, the main production hall of the former Bachem plant (now used by Hymer, a motorhome manufacturer). This is significant, as the building was scheduled for demolition at the time the modern photographs were taken. Other comparisons include the Heuberg launch site of the first manned flight, the crash site of Lothar Sieber's Ba 349, the sites where the later, modified pole launch towers were erected, or the meadow in Sankt Leonhard, Austria, where dispersed Ba 349s were captured by US forces. Moreover, images of the excavation of the remaining wreckage of Ba 349 M23 (Sieber's aircraft) in 1998 are also included.

All in all, After The Battle no. 151 is quite indispensable for any serious student of German late-war high performance aircraft.

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