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Old 14th April 2019, 16:16
INM@RLM INM@RLM is offline
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Heads-Up: Axel Urbanke's Mit der Kamera an der Front

This book is magnificent. If your serious interests include early-war Luftwaffe camo & markings, and/or unit operations with the Bf 109 E-series then you really cannot be without this title.

I only recently spotted it although gives the publication date as 21-Jan-2019. If that date is accurate it is strange that the silence since then has been deafening, since the publisher’s main claim is genuinely and entirely true in spades. “The color images provide completely new and unexpected information about camouflage schemes, Staffel colors and emblems.”

To this reader at least these points were new and particularly significant:

1. Since at least 1963 and the publication of Karl Ries’s Markings & Camouflage Systems of the Luftwaffe Aircraft in World War II, Vol I the England-emblem of I.(J)/LG 2 had a white L and the map of England was crimson red. Not so: the L was golden yellow, and the England is in green. These colours are documented in the full-page colour photos at pages 165 & 178. Moreover, a separate stencil was used for each element and the relative positioning varies on different aircraft. Sometimes the L slightly overlaps the map and sometimes it just kisses it. (b&w photos at pp.168 & 170). This was a new Gruppe emblem but contrary to what one might immediately assume it was only introduced at the start of Barbarossa (p.168), long after missions against England were being flown by the unit. The emblem looked forward to the rematch, not backwards to the last bout.

2. It was not only Bf 109 Fs & Gs finished in desert colours that were shipped to the Ostfront. I.(J)/LG 2 as the unit that seems to have used the E-series for longer than any other front line unit also received some desert-camouflaged machines in the second half of 1941. Page 165 has a full-page colour photo of a 3.Sta. E in desert brown heavily over-painted with a dense scribbling of dark greens, and across pages 196/7 are b&w shots of a 1. Staffel E-7 (W.Nr. 6389) in a pristine tropical sand-and-spinach scheme identical to that of some repainted I./JG 27 aircraft photographed in Cyrenaica.

3. As a colour reference photograph of RLM grau 02 A on an all-metal aircraft the full-page photo of a Bf 108 at p.167 can hardly be bettered. Moreover, the nose and lower cowling panels of the As 10 – common to a host of Luftwaffe aircraft – have probably come from a different machine and are finished in pale grey, all except for the top part of the side panel, which like the upper cowling panel has been overpainted in RLM 02. (From the traces left on the inside of the cockpit framing this aircraft was previously finished in Messerschmitt’s proprietary overall cobalt blue scheme.)

Put this shot alongside the Kl 35 in the middle-ground of the colour photo across pages 4 & 5 of Lw. im Focus Spezial No. 1 and you get an immediate and impressive contrast between the appearance of the Fliegerlack 7122 alkyd single-paint version of RLM grau 02 on a metal aircraft, as compared to the Fl. 7109 Ikarol (Lacquer group 04 for metal) and Fl. 7135 nitro (Lacquer groups 20 & 30 for external wood and fabric-coverings) versions where a primer coat of green or red was applied first. The Fl. 7109/7135 version appears noticeably more solid/less shiny, denser and with an apparent tone that is slightly darker (to my eyes).

4. There is another beautiful full-page colour reference photograph of RLM grau on a metal aircraft at p.73. This time it is a Bf 109 D (included in this title only for continuity – the book explains). Retrofitted with ejector exhausts, finished in the RLM 71/02 scheme with RLM 65 fuselage sides, it has clearly been rebuilt not too long before. The RLM grau of the wing camouflage segments here appear rather denser than the tone of the Bf 108 at p.167 – maybe the latter was slightly over-thinned beyond the normal 3:1? – but the scheme and appearance of the aircraft photographed is exactly that shown in the Bf 109 E colour paintings at p.87 of the 2008 Hikoki edition of Ullmann’s Luftwaffe Colours. Here it is the grey tone of the greenish-grey RLM 02 grau that is definitely predominant and the overall impression is of a pronounced contrast between the grey and the green segments. More dazzle-painting than camouflage. From this we can deduce that at least (some of) the aircraft manufacturers/rebuilders were using RLM 02 in a pure and unadulterated form when applying the 71/02/65 scheme in the relatively limited period this finish was mandated.

So what of the distinctly greenish shade of RLM grau 02 on Blume’s 109 E in pages 3 to 6 of Lw. im Focus Spezial No. 1? Here the green predominates and the appearance is exactly what we have been taught as the typical case since the 1963 appearance of the paintings at pp. 56/7 in Karl Ries’s Markings & Camo, Vol I. For this reader, the inescapable conclusion is that for aircraft repainted by units or workshops closer to the front in the 71/02/65 scheme with the high Trennlinie, to tone down the unnaturally high contrast between the pure versions of the two upper surface tones, the RLM grau 02 was not infrequently mixed with more than a lick of the RLM 71.

There is much other interesting material on the camo+markings theme in this volume: the phased introduction of yellow ID markings during the BoB across pp.35, 37 & 49; the use of brown and then grey for the ID numbers of 3. Staffel aircraft in this Gruppe – borne out by multiple colour photographs; a superb colour shot of a pale grey Fw 58 C at p.157 (Note # below); and several colour photos of ever-darker late- and post-BoB 109 finishes). But for this reader the four points above were the outstanding jewels.

The second claim by the publisher“To provide a complete picture of I.(J)/LG 2’s operational history … “ is only partly delivered. However, to achieve this realistically would have required a far bigger book. In practice, in more than one place you will see a change of gear and some more pragmatic words: “To describe all of the missions against England flown by the Gruppe would exceed the scope of this book. What follows is therefore a rough outline of the missions flown ...” (page 30), and “The missions flown during the next 14 days will only be roughly outlined, as a detailed description would exceed the scope of this book” (p.169). However, this is still a perfectly good, solid and frequently very detailed account of this Gruppe between Jan-40 and early Jan-42.

There are some minor slips but how could there not be in a book of this size and depth? Three that I noticed:
p.93 The suffix F added onto the end of a W.Nr. should not be a mystery. It was long ago identified as indicating Flugklar, “The letter 'F' after the W.Nr stood for 'Flugklar' which identified it as a rebuilt or repaired aircraft which had been cleared for return into service. [See first post of thread 35250 here. Original discovery I believe was by Peter Cornwell.] Although W.Nr. 6430 was definitely built by Fieseler, this block was not only W.Nr. 6402 to 6500. In fact 500 E-1s were built by Fieseler with W.Nr. 6001 to 6500. There were only two 109 E blocks in the 6xxx sequence, and the Fieseler block was followed by 23 E-7s from WNF, as W.Nr. 6501 to 6523. [See the Übersichtsliste der Änderungs-Anweisungen Bf 109 (once?) posted at]

p.125 If it is a III. Gruppe Stuka in the background it will be from St.G. 2 not St.G. 77. The later supported 2.Armee in northern Yugoslavia and then sat out the Greek campaign there because logistics were too limited to deploy it any further south.

p.145 The wreck of Hurricane W9243 was not photographed at Larissa. This aircraft was only flown to Greece on 18-Apr and Larissa was abandoned by the RAF on 16-Apr. It was almost certainly found at Eleusis, the only base used by RAF Hurricanes after the move from Larissa and before the further retreat to Argos in the Peloponnese.
There are some minor imperfections where a few things seem to have gone astray in the layout step.
pp.30/1 a photo is missing. The second caption identifies an in-flight photo “on the left” of ‘Black 11’ together with ‘Black 12’. There is no such photo in the book.

p.51 caption refers to a double page spread of photos depicting fighter-bomber training, but one full-page photo appears here whilst the next has arrived overleaf at p.52.

p.164 caption that refers to “The above photo” actually indicates the photo on the opposite page.
And there is still a fair sprinkling of typos that really should not have got through: e.g. Piher for Pihen (ifc caption but correct in the German), Geleit- on p.51 should have been Begleit-, Luftflotte 2 not 4 on p.123, p.134 it was 12.Armee & Panzerguppe 1 that advanced east into Yugoslavia from Bulgaria towards Skopje and Nis respectively, 2.Armee attacked northern Yugoslavia from Austria, on p.137 there is Tannina for Yannina (correct in the German), the intact ex-RHAF Blenheim I at Tatoi on p.148 is B268 not 8268, p.208/9 the aircraft number is described as cinnamon-brown but the painting opposite shows grey with a very slightly brownish tinge, etc.

Summary: Many of the full-page colour photographs are invaluable reference shots for RLM shades. (For the dedicated, imo these are in the beyond price category.) The paintings by Juanita Franzl have been executed beautifully and with enormous attention to accurate detailing. The text is very workman-like and useful. Overall rating: A brilliant achievement and a superb piece of work: imo completely essential for those modelling or studying this area.
Note # Comparing this Kamera colour photo with that of the He 51 on page 11 of Barbas: 'Das Vergessene As', whilst the latter is definitely in a 'classic' pale grey overall scheme, the Fw 58 here looks more likely to be RLM 76 overall with several areas subsequently touched-up in the same blue-grey tone.

Note: A puzzle for me at first: Vrba spelt here as used in the contemporary German records is Varba on today’s maps of Bulgaria.

Last edited by INM@RLM; 15th April 2019 at 19:31. Reason: Add a footnote
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