The Fieseler C-156 Storch has been described as the "eyes of the Wehrmacht" and Jerry Campbell's latest book begins by quoting William Green's remark - "It has been said that wherever the Wehrmacht was to be found so would be found the Storch". Despite the aircraft's vital importance in many roles, the Storch will probably be best remembered for two outstanding wartime missions; the rescue of the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini from Gran Sasso by SS Hauptsturmführer Otto Skorzeny and Walter Gerlach; and extraordinary flights by Hanna Reitsch into and out of the maelstrom of Berlin in April 1945, carrying General Ritter von Greim to meet Hitler in his bunker.
Style and contents
The book follows the now well-established In-Action format; 50 pages, A-4 softbound with 97 B&W photos and 10 colour profiles, plus scale drawings. The text really takes a back seat to the well-captioned photos, but is clear and informative and backed up with a number of excellent diagrams by David Gebhardt illustrating various aspects of the different versions of the Storch, such as the cockpit interior, landing gear and exhaust configurations. Obviously, the quality of the photos is variable because they are wartime originals, but the reproduction is excellent and some are treated to a full-page treatment which makes it easy to pick out the details.
The text is broken down into the following sections (most sections consist of a half-page of clearly written text; the longest is the introduction at two pages):
- gives a basic overview of the design of the Storch, it's development for production and it's success in competitive trials against the Focke-Wulf Fw 186, Siebel Si 201 and Messerschmitt Bf 163 (no relation to the later Me 163). It's interesting to read that the Storch had already made such a good impression on the RLM that they basically wrote the specification around it, so quite what chance the competing designs ever stood is open to debate.
Fi 156 A-1
- the first production version
Fi 156 C-1 to C-3
- the major production versions and , from the C-2 onwards, the first to be armed. (The civilian B series was never produced due military priorities)
Fi 156 U
- an interesting series of trials for an anti-submarine version carrying SC50 bombs or a captured French depth-charge.
Fi 156 C-5
- which introduced more power and an external fuel tank under the fuselage
Fi 156 D-1
a specialised ambulance version, with larger loading doors to permit the carriage of 2 stretchers.
With the book covering wartime versions in some detail, it's a little surprising is that a section isn't devoted to the postwar production in France (as the Morane Saulnier MS 500, 501 and 502) and Czechoslovakia (as the Mraz K-65 Cap).
Plans and Artwork
As with most In Action books, there is a set of well drawn general arrangement plans. These are sized to fit the page rather than produced to one of the standard modelling scales, which is a little frustrating. Seeing as modellers undoubtedly make up a large part of the readership, it would be a real bonus to have these plans printed in, for instance, 1/72 scale with a table of percentages for enlargement.
(Although it's a pretty straightforward task to work out the scale from the published dimensions, I was lucky enough to have a beta-copy of a very useful programme written by our own Chuck Shanley, which made easy work of determining the scale of the drawings - they are near enough 1/110 - and providing ratios for convertiing to standard modelling scales.)
As usual, there is some excellent colour artwork by Don Greer. The centre-page spread of 10 profiles covers a good selection of colour schemes, from the Condor Legion, through Finnish and Italian machines, plus of course a variety of German aircraft. There are no plan views, so you'll have to find other references for the standard splinter pattern, but there are useful enlargements of the unit badges.
The front and back covers feature paintings by Don - and the rear pictures mark something of a departure from his usual style; a painted aircraft is superimposed over a photo background which looks as though it's been treated in Photoshop or similar. The effect is certainly striking; the subject really "pops out" in an almost 3-D manner, but the background chosen in one picture is a little suspect... there appear to be satellite dishes on the roofs of a village!
Overall, this is an excellent reference - well researched and illustrated - which will be of great value to anybody building a model Storch. There are a number of kits available; Heller's 1/72 scale version, plus Eduard's partially etched "stripped" version for the ambitious. In 1/32 scale, Hasegawa's venerable kit is still an excellent choice. All we need now is a new, accurate 1/48 scale kit to be released...
Fieseler Storch In Action is available for $10.46 direct from MMD-Squadron who kindly supplied the review sample.