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Modelling 'Red 1' with Tamiya's 1/48 Bf109E-4

 

By Andrew Johnson

 

 

The story of red '1' of 5/JG51 and its destruction on 18th August 1940

Hauptmann Horst Tietzen was Staffelkapitan of the 5th staffel, II Gruppe, JG 51 based at Marquise Est in France in summer 1940. By the 18th August 1940 he was an ace with 20 victories. He had gained combat experience and victories in the Spanish Civil War and was not far behind the leading aces Luftwaffe aces; Galland, Molders and Wick. At about 16.30 h on that day he took off with his Gruppe to escort 58 Dornier 17zs of KG 2 on a bombing mission to RAF Hornchurch in Essex they were joined by other BF109s of III Gruppe of JG 26. At about 17.30 the formation was intercepted by a total of 15 Hurricanes of 32 Sqn (based at Biggin Hill) and 501 Sqn (based at Gravesend) Squadrons. The escorts successfully defended the Dorniers shooting down a Hurricane from 501 Sqn (Flt Lt Stoney) but in turn at 17.35 Flag Officer Witorzenc and Pilot Officer Zenker of 501 shot down Tietzen and his wingman near Whitstable in Kent. Their aircraft fell into the sea and the pilots did not survive. On that day 501 Sqn lost a total of 7 aircraft and 2 pilots. The 18th of August has been called the hardest day of the Battle of Britain due to the high casualties suffered by both sides on that day. Presumably red '1' still lies somewhere underwater in the Thames estuary.

Modelling Red '1'

Having been enthralled by the book 'The Hardest Day' by Alfred Price on the Battle of Britain on the air combat of 18th August 1940, I was interested in modelling an aircraft that saw action on that day. I was delighted to see Aeromaster had a sheet that included the 109 of Horst Tietzen. His aircraft was a Bf109E-3 so this is what I needed to go out and buy. Having followed the dispute on the accuracy of the Tamiya Bf109E-3 and its nose cowling and supercharger intake I wondered about the Hasegawa BF109E-3. But many modellers on the web didn't really go for that either. I decided the best policy was to go for the new Tamiya Bf109E-4 with its improved shape and simply use an E3 canopy. The only other difference people mentioned was a different type of cannon.

Cockpit

I decided to use the Eduard PE set for the cockpit. I had some photos of the cockpit of the Bf109E at the RAF museum at Hendon as my guide. To my mind photo-etch is always the way to go for instrument panels. Behind the instrument panel and before the photo-etch I always add a thin sheet of clear styrene to act as glazing. The PE set doesn't give you everything so scratch building is also needed, particularly to construct a decent throttle/mixture box and levers. I use white glue to give the knobs on the end of levers etc. Also helping are the 1/48 cockpit data placards from Reheat. For the Revi gunsight I used a resin product from MDC to which you need to CA glue your own reflector glass. To the side of the Revi sight I added a placard decal and to the bottom an electric lead from the small 5 amp fuse wire. For the oxygen lead I wrapped 5 amp round 15-amp fuse wire and then CA glued this to the top of the oxygen bottle. Some photos show the Bf109E bucket seat as proud of the cockpit sill and others below. I cut and adjusted my seat to be a little proud (I imagine my pilot isn't so tall) and it seems to look better.

Fuselage

The cowling needs a number of slots opening. Those on the top I imagine were for spent cartridge ejection and there are also some cooling slots at the side. I did this with a pin vise and then a sharp blade. I then sanded the cowling underneath the slots to try and achieve a scale thickness. If you don't do this it looks like the cowling is made from 1" steel! Underneath the engine just behind the spinner is another vent. On the real aircraft you can easily see a tube or is it an oil reservoir through this vent. So I added here some styrene tube of a suitable diameter. Eduard gives you some nice grills for the oil cooler and radiator matrices.

You need to drill a suitable hole in the spinner nose (where the cannon wasn't fitted on the E) and in the rear fuselage just forward of the tail which are the jacking points. Hollowing out the exhaust stubs, and adding the brake lines I needn't go into, as it is part and parcel of our trade.

Everything was going together just fine and it was time for my masterstroke, the addition of a vac-formed Bf109E-3 canopy (Squadron). As every modeller knows there is always a glitch on every build, which prevents it from being the perfect model. To my horror I discovered the canopy was about 3 mm short. Clearly it was not meant to fit a Tamiya Bf109E but rather a Hobbycraft or something. I had to make the best of it with filling and what not but it was still not terribly satisfactory, anyway you have been warned! To get the framing on the inside of the canopy I added thin strips of styrene with white glue. Then I scored the canopy to show where the real one is split allowing it to open for ventilation. I then white glued the knobs that open the sliding parts of the Perspex plus the canopy-unlocking lever. You mustn't forget the separate red canopy jettison lever just above the throttle. I think if the Spitfires and Hurricanes had such jettison levers we probably would have lost fewer pilots. The 109 had a cockpit hood retaining wire and spring that would be taut when the hood is tilted open to the right. After much examination of photographs I connected mine (thin Lycra thread with a small piece of 5-amp fuse wire curled round at one end) with CA glue between the top of the armoured headrest and the front top of the rear (non-hinging) cockpit canopy.

Wings

The Tamiya cannon barrels aren't very satisfactory so I replaced these with some beautiful Aires resin 20mm FF cannon. With these the muzzles are open and you almost feel you could look right down the barrel to the breech! The fuselage and wings fit together beautifully bless you Tamiya. However the two underwing radiators need the addition of a support strut in the middle, easily made with thin plastic rod. The flaps were often drooping when on the ground, so no problem there, but what about the leading edge slats? Whilst it is common to see them deployed (popped out) with the F and G variants when the aircraft was on the ground this did not appear to be the rule with the E. The only Bf109E I saw with slats out had just suffered a landing accident. On this basis I glued my slats in.

Painting, Weathering and Display Base

I under-shaded first by spraying appropriate panel lines with Aeromaster tire black. I then used the appropriate Aeromaster acrylics for the paint job, which was no problem. Then came the crunch for me; the fuselage sides are mottled with both RLM 02 and 71 over the Hellblau. This mottling is something all Luftwaffe aficionados pride themselves on, would I be able to join this elite club? No! With acrylic paints at low pressure and the airbrush nozzle close to the surface my mottles looked too big. But worse of course is the acrylics don't like this on/off low pressure treatment and soon start to dry in the airbrush tip causing unwanted spits and speckles. OK, I know enamel paints would be the answer but I don't use them anymore. A colleague in the modelling club suggested cutting out a template for the fuselage sides and then laboriously cutting out holes to spray through to achieve the mottling effect that way. Well life is too short, so my solution was to use cotton buds (Q-tips?) dabbed in paint. I then mottled some scrap paper till the paint was nearly dry and then dabbed it onto the plane. To my eye this was satisfactory. After spraying a coat of Klear (make sure the plane is dust free first) I then applied the decals. The Aeromaster were fine but the Tamiya decals are way too thick for my liking. Next time I'll have to buy Aeromaster stencils too! After another coat of Klear, weathering was the usual mix of oil wash and pastels. Some silver was dry brushed in appropriate areas particularly the pilot hand and foot holds on the fuselage port side. On the whole my photos of Bf109Es in August 1940 do not show them to be overly weathered and exhaust staining was not usually excessive.

The base was plywood covered with polyfilla. My trees were some sprigs of asparagus cut down in autumn from my allotment with their stems sunk in the polyfilla. The dry polyfilla was then painted brown before the white glue and covering of static grass. I see a base as essential to display models; they seem so much like a fish out of water otherwise.

Envoi

The period of the Bf109E in 1940 was when the Luftwaffe was at the height of its power with staffel, gruppe and geschwader emblems reflecting that self-confidence. After the Battle of Britain some of that self-confidence was lost.




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