nmayhew Posted May 15, 2013 Share Posted May 15, 2013 Messerschmitt Bf109 F - The Ace Maker by Marek Murawski€23.59 from Kagero Overview This is the first of a new Special Edition version of Kagero's extensive Monograph series. It looks at what many to consider to be the definitive version of the Luftwaffe's iconic fighter, the Bf109 F, or 'Friedrich'. At over 180 pages, in softback A4 format, this is certainly quite a meaty volume. The coverage at first glance is extensive, and includes the following: design history chronological walk through of sub-variants accounts of the aircraft in various campaigns and theatres original handbook extracts scale drawings showing differences between sub-variants pull-out plans in 1/32 scale A quick word about format: my first thoughts on this book are why on earth does Kagero not use a contents page? They insist on not having one it seems. Yes, as a reviewer, this makes my job much harder to get a 'feel' for the book quickly (boo-hoo I can hear you all say). But it will also frustrate any purchaser when trying to use this book. I say 'use' because this is not a novel which one just picks up and reads from start to finish. It is - presumably - meant to be a reference work, which will be continually dipped in and out of for particular pieces of information. Come on Kagero – give us a detailed contents page in future! Design History and Variants The first 'chapter' if I can call it that covers design history and descriptions of the variants. Just over 20 pages are devoted to the initial concept, prototypes, through the well-known production Marks F-2 and F-4, and then finally to experimental aircraft and test beds. I found the transcript of Kesselring's report on the problems with the F-2 particularly interesting, and this was not something that I had seen before. When considering information about the Bf109 F, and in particular about the F-2 and F-4, there are certain things I look for. These include, but are not limited to: the different supercharger intakes panel line differences on wing upper surfaces - notable the relatively recent discovery of the 'smooth wing' F-2 possible correlation with different slat mechanisms different oil coolers F-4z and associated propeller blade and fuel type changes In my opinion the majority of the above are not satisfactorily dealt with. There is no mention that I could find of panel line differences, Octane levels on fuel and so on (perhaps I might have done with contents or index pages, who knows?). The different supercharger intakes are touched upon, but are not clearly pointed out in photos at this stage. Of more concern is the fact that to my eye all the intakes in the plans look identical in shape, ring bolt for Trop filter excepted, and I really don't think this was the case. I am no expert on the Friedrich, but I have researched a modelling subject in 1/32 scale (Edu Neumann's F-2) and found all these things out myself (thank you to those who have helped); their absence here makes me rather suspicious. When considering differences between variants of aircraft, I much prefer the way the Valiant Wings series of books have dealt with things: technical information in clear and consistent format, accompanied by bullet point highlights - ideal for quick reference. 20 pages sounds a lot to cover the description of what is after all only two main variants that most people would want to know about, but actually it's not much at all. The Friedrich In Combat The vast majority of the book's pages are devoted to the Friedrich in combat – just over a hundred pages in fact. The narrative is broken down by campaign to include: Combat Debut over The Channel (36 pages) Messerschmitt Bf109 F over North Africa and Malta (25 pages) Messerschmitt Bf109 F over Russia (40 pages) Once again there are no sub-headings, so each of these has text that pretty much demands a read start to finish. The allocation of coverage is also interesting: whilst I appreciate that the vast majority of action for this type took place in the East, I imagine most people's interest is piqued by the time in North Africa, JG27, and one Hans-Joachim Marseille. If this is not the case, why have Afrika Friedrich's in colour on both front and back cover? The text reads like the well-known Osprey Aircraft of the Aces series, except there is just more of it. My opinions on that series are mixed: great value, great coverage, but ultimately light weight, and more of a teaser than anything else. I think this applies here – it is effectively three of these Osprey books in one. You have to flick through it to get a sense of this (again – contents page!), as the information on the Kagero website tells you the number of pages and pictures, but leaves you none the wiser as to what you're really buying. There are indeed lots of pictures, some in very high definition, but they are all in black and white which is disappointing. I have not analyzed every picture, but when reviewing a book like this one of the first things I do is try to assess the accuracy of the captions. With respect to unit etc, I just do not have the knowledge, but regarding sub-type is a bit easier. I found a few F-4s which look to be F-2s to me (distinctly different supercharger intake, shallower oil cooler). Similarly, there are aircraft labelled as F-4z Trop when they appear to have shallow oil cooler, and the narrower prop blades – a combination I did not think possible. That these are labelled as such without an accompanying explanation again gives me cause for concern – if I can find these just by flicking through, how many more are there? On the plus side, there are a couple of shots of Galland's 'hybrid' Friedrich showing enlarged cowling blisters very clearly indeed. There are also plenty of first-hand accounts of combat which always help you 'feel' as if you almost there in the mess with the pilots after a sortie! For a book called 'The Ace Maker', the focus is more at unit level than on detailed accounts of particular pilots and their exploits – Marseille groupies, you will be disappointed I am afraid. The Star of Afrika's exploits are covered, but not to any significant degree, and there is no mention of how he met his end (in a G-2). I can't help but feel all of these chapters would benefit from some colour photos – there are some truly excellent ones out there. The combat section finishes with a cursory look at camouflage and marking sizes, and foreign users of the Friedrich. Flugzeughandbuch We have an appendix of some 29 pages (stretching my schoolboy memory of Roman numerals) containing excerpts from the Flugzeughandbuch - original Messerschmitt manual for the Bf109 F-1/F-4. Some of the pictures and diagrams are more technical than others, and no translation from the German is provided, but these things are always useful to modellers I find. Scale Plans There are 20 pages of scale plans, plus an A2 size pull out; those in the book proper are a mix of 1/72 and 1/48 scale, whilst those in the pull out are full 1/32. There are also numerous mini plans of things like ETC racks, Revi gun sights, various MGs and so on – I quite like this and think it's a nice touch. After doing some digging, I am pretty sure these plans are taken from Kagero's earlier Top Drawings book. The plans look very impressive but nagging concerns over supercharger shapes, and the fact that all the upper wing panels are the same tells me that this is not a book for the Friedrich 'experten'. There is a sheet highlighting differences between the variants – each bit is shaded so you can see it – which is good, but in profile these are pretty minimal. Annoyingly, yet also quite predictably, Kagero have ducked out of providing head-on scale comparisons of the different prop blades used, and yet they include 1/72 plans of experimental aircraft with underwing rocket packs. I find that nothing illustrates more clearly the 'style over substance nature' of this book than this omission. Profiles There are some 44 colour profiles to finish the book off, mostly single port side, but there are six three / four view ones. Only here will you find a (single) Marseille aircraft, along with five black and white photographs. The profiles look nice - profiles usually do – but I would have preferred more than the cursory description provided. I also think that having these interspersed throughout the book – as an illustration of an aircraft with a particularly clear photo for example – would be much more use to the modeller. Once again the depiction of the supercharger intakes causes concern. Conclusion I can see that some people will love this 'Osprey on steroids' approach, and appreciate all the plans which exude gravitas and authority. My own personal research tends to be rather more specific, so I confess I do tend to judge books like this quite harshly. For those who have explored the nuances of the Friedrich in some detail already, the lack of clear technical descriptions, fudging of some issues and avoidance of others, will expose this book. That being said, it looks impressive, and you get a lot of book for your €24, so I will let you and your own personal preference be the judge. Good value; some technical information questionable. With thanks to Kagero for the review sample. To purchase directly, click THIS link. Nicholas Mayhew 1 Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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