by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
Among the recent publications from Valiant Wings is a very useful study of the Henschel Hs 123 - the Luftwaffe's biplane dive-bomber and ground attack aircraft which, despite its clear obsolescence, famously proved so useful on the Eastern Front that unsuccessful attempts were made to have it put back into production when more modern aircraft were rendered inoperable by the harsh conditions.
Part of the Airframe Detail series, the book follows the highly successful established formula as author Richard Franks provides an historical guide to the aircraft, combined with a detailed illustrated study of the technical details, an outline of camouflage and marking carried, plus a modelling section.
The 66-page A-4 paperback volume is printed on high quality glossy stock, with excellent clarity to the numerous period photos and illustrations, and high quality colour artwork by Richard Caruana.
The book is divided into the following sections:
Camouflage & Markings
Taking each in turn, I always feel calling the first section in these books an Introduction risks doing it something of a disservice, because it's certainly not something to overlook. Over the course of 11 pages in this case, the author provides a detailed account of the development of the aircraft, along with its service with the Luftwaffe and elsewhere, beginning with the Legion Condor in the Spanish Civil War and following it's successful career which was only ended by the lack of spares as late as 1944 during the bitter fighting on the Eastern Front.
A number of countries showed interest in the Hs 123 and it saw service with the Chinese and Spanish air forces, flying with the latter into the early 1950s when the last one was scrapped following an accident on the ground. So, sadly, not a single example (or even partial airframe) has survived of this fascinating aircraft which fought on successfully long after its predicted obsolescence.
Thus, the Technical Description provides a sort of "virtual walkaround" and is a goldmine of information for modellers. Obviously, with no museum exhibits to examine, the section has to rely for the most part on vintage photos, along with original illustrations from the Hs 123 pilot's and servicing manuals. In many ways this is no bad thing, because using original source material ensures historical veracity; the only area were it has been possible to back up the period documents with modern colour photos is the BMW 132 radial engine - and these illustrate the pitfalls in relying on restored exhibits for colour references, because there are clear differences evident.
The 23-page section is broken down to cover the aircraft in 8 main stages:
Many of these are further subdivided, so for instance, you'll find 4 pages of cockpit details, 5 pages devoted to the armament and sight, and another 4 covering the propeller, engine and cowlings. All in all, it's a fantastic resource for anyone building a kit of the Hs 123.
Camouflage & Markings begins with the author's usual important warning about trying to draw absolute conclusions over colours from vintage B&W photos, before embarking on a very detailed 18-page study of the Hs 123 throughout its career. There's plenty to whet modellers' appetites here, from the classic pre-war 3-colour topsides splinter patterns, through temporary winter camouflage, to the dappled finish on a Chinese machine and the striking silver post-war Spanish scheme.
As usual, Richard Caruana does a fine job bringing many of the schemes to life with over 30 high quality profiles (plus plan views in some cases). The shape of the rudder looks a touch off to my eyes - but this hardly matters, because the illustrations aren't intended to be used as scale drawings.
Handsome Henschel. Some may be a tad disappointed that there's only one kit build included in this volume - but it's an excellent one, featuring GasPatch's wonderful 1:48 kit in the safe hands of Steve Evans. As usual, Steve does an excellent job, clearly illustrating over 7 pages how well this kit goes together. It's a personal favourite of mine, so I can fully understand his enthusiasm for the kit - as he puts it "Suberb, simple as that!".
Rounding everything off is set of Appendices spread across 4 pages, listing the (surprising to me) quite large number of kits and accessories of the Hs 123 that have been released over the years, along with a useful bibliography. Some of the items included never appeared and not all are in production - but the list gives a great idea of "what's out there" and is perfect for anyone scouring e-Bay etc. for rare items to use or collect.
ConclusionI've really enjoyed Valiant Wings' study of the Hs 123. It's a very useful reference which will appeal to historians and modellers alike. I wish it had been available when I tackled the GasPatch model last year, but I have a second kit on the shelf which I'm really looking forward to building and this book will be a real help. I can recommend it to anyone looking to add detail to a model of the Henschel in any scale.
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