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German Fighters 1936-45 Volume I – the Messerschmitt Bf 109

Histoire and Collections

S u m m a r y :

Title and ISBN:

Histoire and Collections
by Dominique Breffort and Andrew Jouineau
German Fighters 1936-45 Volume I – the Messerschmitt Bf 109
ISBN: 978-2-35250-332-3

Contents & Media:

Soft-cover A4 format; 144 pages; colour and grey scale profiles; black and white colour photographs.

Price:

€33.20 plus postage available online from Histoire and Collections and from specialist book and hobby shops.

Review Type:

First Read.

Advantages:

Single volume snapshot of Bf 109 development that contains a huge range of colour profiles and other information.

Disadvantages:

Organisation of this information could have been significantly better; no contents or index pages.

Conclusion:

A comprehensive Bf 109 reference that is undermined by lapses in coverage and some unusual editing and formatting decisions.


Reviewed by Brad Fallen


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FirstRead

 

When I got back into modelling in 2004 one of the first new reference books I bought was Messerschmitt Me 109 – Vol 2:  from 1942 to 1945, from Histoire and Collection's Planes and Pilots series.  I soon picked up Volume 1, which covered the first seven years of Bf 109 development.  The hundreds of colour profiles gave me plenty of inspiration, while the books' explanation of Bf 109 subtypes was invaluable.  The publishers had made some odd formatting decisions, but the slim size of each volume meant this wasn't really a problem.  As time went on I acquired more comprehensive Bf 109 references, but the Planes and Pilots books remained valued resources.

 

 

These volumes have now been republished as a single 144-page book, the first of a new two-part series that consolidates all of the Planes and Pilots' Luftwaffe releases.  Volume 2 covers the Bf 110, Me 210, Me 410, Fw 190, Me 262, Me 163 and He 162, and will be the subject of my next review.

 

  • German Fighters 1936-45 Volume I  the Messerschmitt Bf 109 Book Review by Brad Fallen: Image
  • German Fighters 1936-45 Volume I  the Messerschmitt Bf 109 Book Review by Brad Fallen: Image
  • German Fighters 1936-45 Volume I  the Messerschmitt Bf 109 Book Review by Brad Fallen: Image
  • German Fighters 1936-45 Volume I  the Messerschmitt Bf 109 Book Review by Brad Fallen: Image
  • German Fighters 1936-45 Volume I  the Messerschmitt Bf 109 Book Review by Brad Fallen: Image
  • German Fighters 1936-45 Volume I  the Messerschmitt Bf 109 Book Review by Brad Fallen: Image
  • German Fighters 1936-45 Volume I  the Messerschmitt Bf 109 Book Review by Brad Fallen: Image
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Histoire and Collections describes Volume 1 as "the reissue, deeply revised and very substantially increased, of volumes 1 and 2 of the Planes and Pilots series originally published in 2001 and 2002 and now out of print".  A comparison between the original and revised texts confirms changes have been made, with the main differences being:

  • A new chapter structure – each section begins with several pages of text and photographs (both colour and black and white), improving on what’s in the earlier books.
  •  Revised information – new material that’s come to light since the early 2000s has been incorporated.  Some of the earlier books’ anomalies – such as their insistence on describing the Bf 109 as the ‘Me 109’ – have also been addressed.
  • More profiles with better captions – profiles were the heart of the original volumes, and remain so here.  Some have been corrected, others have been added and all are well described, with information about units and/or pilots, locations and dates.
  • The new A4 format displays information clearly and is easier to read than the original smaller size.  It's an attractively presented book that’s full of colour and interest, but which also replicates and amplifies some of the things I found frustrating about the earlier volumes.

The best way for me to address these issues is to run through the chapters in detail.  These are laid out in chronological order of Bf 109 development as follows:

  • The rebirth of the German fighter – a useful text and photographic description of the Luftwaffe’s early years, this chapter also includes maps of German fighter dispositions in the early war years, four view drawings of Bf 109 maintenance markings, and seven pages of unit insignia and identification markings.
  • The birth of a myth – covers development of the V-series prototypes and the Bf 109 A.  Five profiles of the former are included, but the Bf 109 A isn’t illustrated until the following chapter.
  • From the 'Bertha' to the 'Dora':  the first versions of the Bf 109 – All of the Jumo-engined variants are described here, with profiles of four A models, nine Bs, five Cs and 30 Bf 109 Ds.  Two pages are dedicated to the Condor Legion and Luftwaffe camouflage applied to these early 109s.
  • The Messerschmitt 109 E – the hero of the Blitzkrieg – this is a chapter of two parts.  The text, supported by nine grayscale profiles, describes the Emil’s evolution from Daimler-Benz powered prototypes through the E-1 to E-9 production variants.  There’s also an illustrated description of the main camouflage schemes applied to Emils.  The remainder of the chapter is devoted to 48 profiles of Bf 109 E-1s.
  • The Bf 109 E-3 – 54 Bf 109 E-3 profiles are backed up by a short explanatory text and several pages of fine photos of E-3s.
  • The Bf 109 E-4 and E-7 – there are more good photos here – albeit many of them familiar – and a longer text section that explains the late Emil variants.  This chapter has a greater variety of profiles than any other:  42 Bf 109 E-4s, 1 E-5, 22 E-7s and (somewhat curiously) one Bf 109 E-3.
  • F for 'Friedrich' – this short chapter introduces the Bf 109 F through a history of the variant’s development, and drawings of camouflage and rudder markings applied to the type; unfortunately the camouflage illustrations are repeated on two consecutive pages.
  • The first versions of the Bf 109 F – focusing on the Bf 109 F-1 (one profile) and F-2 (38 profiles), this chapter also includes the first part of a guide to different Bf 109 F versions.
  • The F-4, the most handsome of the Bf 109? – I found it hard to disagree with this chapter’s title. However its structure is odd in that, in addition to 57 Bf 109 F-4 profiles, it also contains a page of Bf 109 G camouflage schemes.  The Bf 109 F variants discussion from the previous chapter is continued here, although for continuity’s sake it might have been better had the two parts been combined.
  • G for 'Gustav' – another short chapter that’s dominated by three pages of line drawings pointing out the differences between each Gustav variant.
  • From the G-1 to the G-4 – an arguably incomplete look at early Gustavs in that, while there is one Bf 109 G-1 and 17 G-4 profiles, there are none of G-4s.
  • Bf 109 G-5 and G-6 – a similar omission here is the absence of G-5 coverage, although this is made up for by the 66 G-6 profiles.  This includes 19 in non-German markings, although only 12 of these are listed in the dedicated ‘foreign colours’ section!
  • Bf 109 G-10 – 16 profiles.
  • Bf 109 G-8, G-12, G-14 – the two seat trainers are adequately covered with four profiles, but the Bf 109 G-14 is underdone with only eight given the type’s numerical significance in late Bf 109 production.  There’s also a handy chart of Reich defence bands by unit.
  • The Bf 109 K for 'Karl' – the last wartime production Bf 109 is covered in detail, with a text explanation of the differences between planned variants from K-1 to K-14, followed by 32 Bf 109 K-4 profiles. (Incidentally, most of my Bf 109 reference books suggest that ‘K’ was short for ‘Kurfürst’ rather than ‘Karl’.)
  • The final chapter, the derivatives of the Bf 109, looks not only at postwar Avias and Hispanos, but also includes profiles of a Spanish F-4, Swiss G-14 and Finnish G-6.

You can see from the above why I have mixed views on this book.  It’s packed with valuable information, but undermined by lapses in coverage and some unusual editing and formatting decisions.  It’s almost as if the publishers decided to merge their old and new material, and go to print without proofing the final product.  A contents page and/or index would also have helped.

Finally, I have doubts about how long my copy of the book will hold together.  Some of the stitching inside has already come loose, and I suspect the same of some of the glue on the binding.

 

 

Conclusion

 

German Fighters Volume 1 is a helpful Bf 109 reference that – like the works on which it is based – I can see myself using on a regular basis. 

Many of its features, such as the illustrations showing the differences between Bf 109 subtypes, are very useful.  However the book is also sufficiently poorly organised that I can’t help but question the rigour of its analysis.  This may be unfair, as the authors have gone to considerable effort to update their original publications. 

Recommended as a Bf 109 primer in the context of my comments above.

Thanks to Osprey Publishing for the sample.


Review Copyright 2017 by Brad Fallen
This Page Created on 11 May, 2017
Last updated 11 May, 2017

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