Author Jakub Plewka's study of the ultimate wartime incarnations of Messerschmitt's famous fighter follows the established format of the Kagero Monograph series:
Format: Softbound A-4
71 x pages of bilingual Polish/English text
101 x B&W photos
7 x pages of colour profiles
Fold-out colour centre section
21 x sheets of scale drawings
1 x sheet of decals
After a brief introduction describing the operational needs for developing the Bf 109, the author begins a quite detailed analysis of each variant of the Bf 109 G & K. In this very useful chapter, a short section is devoted to every version, from the Bf 109 G-0 through to the 'K-4, which includes manufacturing dates and numbers, details of the equipment specific to each mark along with a list of Rustsatze as appropriate. The translation of the Polish text is very readable with only occasional, minor, idiosyncrasies to give away its origins. The differences between the early marks are easy enough to follow, but the situation becomes much more complicated by the time we reach the 'G-10 - just as in real life. Thanks to chaotic production of this variant, the text demands careful reading, but the author does a good job untangling the nightmare of different "stop-gap" variants introduced by the three major production plants - all nominally the same, but actually far from identical.
Along the way, these sections form a kind of "spotter's guide" to the different production versions, and this theme is reinforced upon by the next section - "How to identify a Gustav version?". This is only a short section, but will be very useful for historians and modellers alike. How often are you faced with photos of machines in books - with either incomplete or misleading captions accompanying them? Well, with the aid of 3 photos of a particular aircraft, this guide shows how to analyse each photo, picking out distinctive features to rule out some versions and finally narrow the search down to arrive at an identity with a fair degree of confidence.
Next up is a technical description of the 'G & 'K. This is quite comprehensive and covers the basic structure, through most of the systems from the engine, fuel and hydraulics etc., radio, armament and landing gear.
"Pilot's mark of Gustav" is the slightly quirky title of a quite unusual section for a book of this nature. It forms a combination of pilot's notes and impressions of the fighter, from getting aboard, pre-flight checks and start-up through take-off into normal flight conditions. Further sections then discuss combat in the Gustav, landing and even emergency bale-out and crash-landing procedures. The only book I've ever read anything similar in was Capt. Eric Brown's "Wings Of The Luftwaffe", and it's a very interesting way to "flesh out" the bare bones of the machine.
A real bonus is the inclusion of a full set of Bf 109 G & K production batch numbers - which is a real asset to accompany the earlier "How to identify a Gustav?". The charts include serial numbers, manufacturer and notes about the variant where known.
Last, but not least, there is a discussion of the camouflage and markings applied in the various theatres where the 'G and 'K saw combat. Obviously, on a topic where entire volumes have been written, this cannot hope to cover the myriad of colour variations, but it does provide a good basic guide for anyone modelling a mid- to late-War Bf 109 and includes some details of internal colours to boot.
Photos and Illustrations
The text is illustrated throughout with some useful B&W photos which have been well chosen to illustrate the different versions. A few are "old friends", having often appeared in print before, but there plenty which are unfamiliar (to me at least). The photos deal almost exclusively with the exterior of the '109 (there aren't any photos of the cockpit, but there are several of the engine and nose armament - some seeming to originate in German technical manuals) and include a fair number of crash-landed or derelict aircraft which give an interesting insight into the variety of colour-schemes prevalent at the end of the War in Europe.
Along with the B&W photos, there's a colour centre section with a couple of quite well-known photos, plus a full-page fold-out of computer-generated 3-D artwork of a Bf 109 G-2 (Trop). This isn't entirely convincing and appears to be the type of 3-D model featured in flight simulators with texture-mapped details, while some of the contours, the airfoil and the canopy area all look rather suspect. On the plus side, the section also includes a set of 3-D illustrations of the cockpit and and instrument panel which work rather better. It's certainly an unusual approach, but I think most modellers would prefer some detailed cockpit photos as a reference.
Turning to more conventional artwork, the book includes an excellent set of 7 full-colour profiles. These are beautifully reproduced and, most importantly from a modeller's perspective, include views of both sides of each aircraft, plus a plan view and details of the underwing markings. The subjects give an excellent cross-section of striking colour schemes, including a Bf 109 G-2 which is the subject of an accompanying sheet of decals.
The decals are beautifully printed by Techmod in 1/32, 1/48 and 1/72 scales, being thin and glossy with minimal carrier film. The sheet includes a full set of stencil data in each scale and the registration and printing is perfect, with the tiny text legible with the aid of a magnifier even in 1/72 scale.
The plans section will be of great value to modellers. Sheets 1-10 cover the Bf109 G-1 to 'G-4 in 1/48 scale, with enlargements of areas such as the armament and undercarriage. The drawings include full cross-sections and riveting patterns, plus ETC 50/VIIId pannier and Mg 151/20 underwing cannon-pod. The main Bf 109 G-2 5-view plan is repeated in 1/32 scale, which should be popular with anyone building the Hasegawa / Revell kits.
Sheets 11 - 19 are a series of 1/72 scale plans covering every version from the 'G-0 through to the K-4, highlighting the differences in an effective visual guide.
Sheet 20 is a 1/72 scale placement guide for national insignia, while Sheet 21 is a stencilling guide for the 'G-2, 'G-6, G'-10/U4 and 'G-14
This is a very useful guide to the Bf109 G/K series. It is well aimed at modellers with it's emphasis on identifying the different versions and the inclusion of scale plans will increase its usefulness as a long-term reference. The colour profiles will definitely serve to inspire some spectacular models and, while markings are only included for one aircraft, the excellent set of stencilling in 3 major modelling scales is a real bonus. Recommended.
Thank you to MMD-Squadron for kindly supplying the review sample.