Kagero Publishing keeps us busy at selecting and collecting references for our models. Zvezda gave us recently a good chance to add new Bf 109 F-4 in quarterscale to our display cases, while Kagero has just provided us a new big reference for this kit, and of course many other Friedrich model kits available on the market in each scale. The book which at this moment lies in front of me is “Messerschmitt Bf 109 F. The Ace Maker.” and it starts a new line of Kagero references – the Monographs Special Edition.
Content of this new series is quite impressive. On 184 pages in A4 format author and editors have managed to accommodate a very heavy load of knowledge.
The book starts in a rather traditional way with the introduction and design background. These two “chapters” are followed by description of particular variants from F-1 to F-6, experimental variants and test-beds. Modification of particular variants and depicted on the archive photos printed in specific sections. Photos clearly present many characteristics of specific planes like air intakes, wing tips, ETC racks for bombs or fuel tanks, rocket projectiles in wings or undercarriage with removed covers.
Description of combat use starts on page 24 over the Channel. Title of this section is a bit misleading as it contains not only description of Friedrich's baptism of fire and first clashes with RAF fighters but also extends in time as far as May 1942, which was nearly 1 and a half years after the premiere appearance over the Western Front. From the Channel, which cold waters were so feared by many pilots, in the next section we are travelling to the warm and sunny area of North Africa and Malta only to join the JG 27 and JG 53 in their fights over desert. African story of Fritz extends up till September of 1942 when the units begun converting into Gustavs. The largest historical section is focused on the Eastern Front. It is understandable as since 21st June 1941 it was the biggest battle front of the World War II in Europe and Friedrich was the main German fighter plane at that time. Description of the service on the Eastern Front takes 26 pages, although few pictures taken in Russia can be found also in the previous “African” section.
As this type of Messerschmitt fighter was not only used by Luftwaffe author provides a short preview of foreign users, including German allies and enemies with their captured planes. This preview is rather symbolic, only to provide a reader some brief background although where possible the author gives as much detail as is known, like W. Nr. And individual letters of captured planes.
Historical part of the monograph ends with specification of camouflage and markings of German Bf 109 F's. Generally we get a regulations and numbers of colours used of particular battle fronts, types of national markings etc but what is more we can also find here an interesting information about specific camouflage features in various units.
Listing of bibliography and endnotes takes last two pages of the first part.
Second big section contained in the monograph presents nineteen excerpts taken from the “Bf 109 F-1 bis F-4 Flugzeughandbuch” originally published in May 1941 by Messserchmitt company in Augsburg. Drawings reveal a lot of detailed interior, equipment and other mechanisms which are normally not visible on many reference photographs, even taken on the museum exhibits. Descriptions of the drawings are written in German language, as in original publication, and in a Gothic font so I'm afraid many readers may find it difficult to understand the legends. For those readers author provides an index and description of these reprints briefly saying what is presented on particular page – easy and useful solution.
If you think that is all what this publication contains you are wrong. After reprints of manual we find twenty pages of scale plans in 1:48 and 1:72 scales. Drawings for 1:32 scale are printed on both sides of a folded A2 sheet inserted to this book. This chapter represents quite typical features for Kagero: views from up to six sides, fuselage transverse sections, presentation of different versions with their characteristic details, different types of additional equipment (fuel tanks, bombs, gun pods), enlarged drawings of instrument dashboard, gunsight, armament, racks or tropical filter – these is just quick preview of what can be found on these plans. Rivet counters will be especially happy as you can find schemes of riveting on all drawings for each scale. I did not count it yet so I have no idea whether their number is true or wrong but at least you can get an idea of general rivet lines layout.
Last chapter contains colour profiles of 44 airplanes. Three planes are presented from all side views. One profile of depicted planes, “Yellow 14” flown by Hans-Joachim Marseille is supported by four extra archive photos in sepia style, made after achieving 100th air victory of the famous pilot. I bet these profiles will be a strong inspiration for many built models as each of them is very attractive in its own way.
This books sets a level of comprehensiveness really high in the sector of monographs for mass-customer. Real freaks of the topic surely have more detailed references already, penetrating this construction details and its history much deeper than in the publication reviewed here. For me one of its most important asset are great quality archive photographs from the author's collection. Photos were very carefully chosen. Each of them presents some important or characteristic detail, usually more than one on each photo. Photographs are large and sharp, viewing them is just a pure pleasure. There is also a plenty of inspiration for smaller and larger dioramas.
Text is written in a friendly language, without any unnecessary pseudo-technical jabber. Of course there is no place for action when describing camouflage but in the sections of the Friedrich's career on different battlefronts you can find many interesting digressions about some particular pilots, details about shot-down enemies (including names, squadrons numbers, places etc). This makes this text similar to a action novel with many characters. Citations of pilots' memoirs makes the action even more real, gives you at least some flavour of the dogfight.
General statistic information for this monograph says a lot about content: 184 pages, 228 archive photographs, 19 sheets of aircraft manual reprints, 20 sheets of 1:48 and 1:72 scale drawings and additional A2 sheet with 1:32 drawings gives in total quite heavy load of knowledge and reference stuff. And that in just one book.
I am very glad I had the pleasure to review this book and be one of its first readers. I hope it will be a great reference for many scale Friedrichs seen on contests and of course Aeroscale.
Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE.
Highs: Great archive photographs: large, focused, carefully choosen, many close-ups. Very comprehensive presentation of this version. Many scale drawings and colour profiles. Lows: None for me.Verdict: Great ammount of knowledge provided in just one book. Highly recommended.
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