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messerschmitt bf 109

messerschmitt bf 109

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Camouflage and markings of Messerschmitt Me 109
by Rick KentI believe some readers will raise their eyebrows seeing that I have captioned
the
most popular German fighter ever Me 109 rather than Bf 109. Well, there is an explanation. During mywork as the librarian of the RAF Museum I studied several copies of German books - rather like a smaller version of the British
 Janes All the Worlds' Aircraft 
- dated from 1937 to 1939. Now these, in Nazi Germany, must have had official approval to be published and all of themrefer to the 108, 109, and 110 as "Me" rather than "Bf", so my sources for using the Medesignation are contemporary German ones. I shall leave it to the reader if he/she wishes touse "Bf" as most other references do.As most modellers will know, the Me 109 featured a vast array of standard and non-standardfinished throughout it's service life. Luftwaffe units were allowed much more initiative thanfor example RAF in producing their own schemes to suit local conditions and were not rigidlycontrolled from above in this respect. Here is a collection of twelve examples - many on anon-standard side - that I hope readers will find interesting.
Me 109 colour profiles
Messerschmitt Me 109E-3
4. Staffel, II. Gruppe, JG 77Pilot: Oberleutnant Helmut Henz (Staffelkapitän)Poland, September 1939Here is a Me 109E-3 in the original camouflage scheme used up until after the invasion of Poland, namely a splinter pattern of 
 RLM70 Schwarzgrün
and
 RLM71 Dunkelgrün
on top andcoming right down the fuselage sides, with
 RLM65 Hellblau
underneath. The identificationnumber and II.Gruppe marking are white as is the spinner, all indicating the 4.Staffel.The yellow nose paint was first introduced on 109's during the Polish campaign as arecognition marking to avoid "friendly" fire from the Wehrmacht when operating on groundstrafing missions; I have read that the Luftwaffe lost more 109's this way in Poland than wereactually lost in combat, and hence the yellow became the much used ident colour in futureoffensive campaigns. The shield with seagull badge of II.Gruppe JG 77 was on both sides, but
 
the "Grim Reaper" badge of 4.Staffel was only on the left side. Note the smallsize of the early thin style of cross and original position of the swastika.In addition to the oil and fuel triangles this aircraft also shows the red cross on white squaremarking on the rear fuselage hatch where the first-aid medical kit was stowed.
Messerschmitt Me 109E-1
Stab, JG 53Pilot: Oberleutnant Wilfried BalfanzKirchberg im Hunsrück, Germany, Autumn 1939This 109E-1 of JG.53 is from that period between the invasion of Poland and France when theGerman fighter units were experimenting with alternative camouflage schemes to the original
 RLM70/71
upper surface colours which had proved too dark in the Polish campaign - hence ithas a very unusual splinter pattern of 
 RLM70 Schwarzgrün, RLM02 Grau
and
 RLM62 Grün
on top with the usual early wartime
 RLM65 Hellblau
underneath. The fuselage cross is stillthe early narrow outlined type and the swastika is in the original position over the fin/rudder hinge line. Note that there is one victory symbol on the fin, just above the forward tailplane. The "Pik-As" badge of JG.53 on the nose is well-known. What seems a little unusual is that the aircraftcarries the markings of the
 Major beim Stab
and yet the pilot is only of Oberleutnant rank; perhaps it was not his regular aircraft? The triangle markings in red and yellow are, of course,the usual ones for oil and fuel filling points, and also as a general rule with all Germanfighters the trim-tabs on the control surfaces are painted red as a warning to prevent accidentaldamage.
Messerschmitt Me 109E-4
3. Staffel, I. Gruppe, JG 2
 
Pilot: Leutnant Franz FibyLe Havre, France, July 1940Here is a 109E-4 of the famous Richthofen Geschwader, JG2, at the time of the Battle of Britain. The basic camouflage is that adopted as standard by the time of the invasion of France, namely a splinter pattern of 
 RLM71 Dunkelgrün
and
 RLM02 Grau
on top with
 RLM65 Hellblau
sides and underneath.During the course of the Battles of France and Britain the fighter Geschwarden increasinglytook to toning-down the side colouring with various patterns and colours of mottling andstippling, each devised by the individual units. The type of stippled painting with
 RLM71
asseen on this aircraft was unique to JG2 and was applied by hand using either short-haired brushes or padded rags, unlike the more usual sprayed-on mottling used by other units. Theeffect was to give a much finer spotting of paint than the blotches achieved by spraying. Notehow the stippling has been painted over the outer parts of the original thick white border of the cross, but that the black edging remains.The swastika is now moved to the more familiar later position on the fin entirely. The propeller spinner is black and the blades
 RLM70 Schwarzgrün
. The famous red "R" on silver shield of the Richthofen Geschwader is below the windshield and the
 HORRIDO
badge of 3.Staffel on the nose; both of these markings are on both sides of the fuselage. The yellowcolour of the identification number also indicates 3.Staffel.
Messerschmitt Me 109E-3
Stab, JG53Pilot: Major Hans-Jurgen von Cramon-Taubadel (Geschwader Kommodore)Thevile-Maupertus (Cherbourg-Ost), France, August 1940This 109E-3 has an interesting story attached to the markings. Major von Cramon-Taubadelwas married to a Jewish wife, a fact which came to the attention of Hermann Goering duringthe Battle of France. As a result he ordered that the whole of JG 53 must remove their famousAce of Spades badge and paint a red band around the noses of their aircraft as a mark of shame. In the Autumn of 1940 von Cramon-Taubadel was removed as Geschwader Kommodore and Goering told them they could reinstate their "Pik-As" badge; this they did but at the same time, as a mark of protest, all the pilots of JG 53 had the Swastikas paintedover on their aircraft. Thus it is easy to recognise JG 53 109's late in the Battle of Britain asthey have no Swastikas on them.

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