Valiant Wings Publishing | Airframe & Miniature No. 5: The Messerschmitt Bf 109 Early Series (Second Edition)
Reviewed by Kevin Futter
UK publisher Valiant Wings Publishing has revised Number 5 in its Airframe & Miniature series, entitled The Messerschmitt Bf 109 Early Series (V1 to E-9 including the T-Series): A Complete Guide to The Luftwaffe's Famous Fighter, and released it as a Second Edition. The author is Richard Franks, and the illustrations are shared between Richard Caruana, Jacek Jackiewicz, and Juraj Jankovic. This revised edition also sports superb all-new cover artwork by Jerry Boucher.
The expanded content in this edition takes the page count from 160 to a massive 232, plus a gatefold section of scale drawings in 1/48 scale. It's extremely well printed on quality glossy paper, and the reproduction of all drawings and photographs is first-class.
The contents are broken up into 11 separate chapters, grouped into two distinct sections:
- Airframe Chapters
- Bf 109B Series
- Bf 109C & D Series
- Bf 109E Prototypes
- Bf 109E Production
- Bf 109 T-Series, Projects and One-off Conversions
- Camouflage and Markings & Colour Profiles
- Miniature Chapters
- Bf 109 V1 to E-9 and T-series Kits
- Building a Selection
- Building a Collection
- In Detail: The Bf 109
There is also a preface, along with a collection of appendices at the rear of the book:
- Bf 109 V1 to to E-9 (including T-series) Kit List
- Bf 109 V1 to to E-9 (including T-series) Accessory List
- Bf 109 V1 to to E-9 (including T-series) Decal List
The sample images below (courtesy Valiant Wings Publishing) should give a good indication of the nature and style of the book's contents:
While not mentioned in the table of contents, the 10-page Preface describes a potted history of the early series of Bf 109s, and provides useful support for the subsequent technical information.
The sequence of chapters covering the evolution of the airframe spans a substantial 50 pages, and consists of brief summaries supported by period photos and crisply-rendered greyscale profile drawings. They are clear and easy to follow, and form a handy guide for discerning what features distinguished which variants.
The Camouflage & Markings section runs at 30 pages, and is split into a discussion section with supporting photographs, and a separate collection of notated colour profiles. This chapter also includes a handy stencil placement guide, and a page of example unit badges.
The colour profiles in this section are by Richard Caruana, and cover the gamut of schemes worn by the various Bf 109 variants dealt with elsewhere in the book, including foreign users. All in all, this chapter provides plenty of information and inspiration for modellers looking to build a early-series Bf 109.
Chapter 8 features a brief description of the commonly available early-series Bf 109 model kits. Such is the popularity of the Bf 109 as a modelling subject, that even in 1/32 scale, the number of included kits has been necessarily truncated. The much-loved but rarely-seen Matchbox kit is not covered, but the constraints of the format make that understandable.
Chapter 9 is Building a Selection, and features no less than nine kit builds:
- MPM 1/72 Bf 109 V1 by Libor Jekl
- Tamiya 1/72 Bf 109E-3 converted to a Bf 109A by Libor Jekl
- Tamiya 1/72 Bf 109E-3 backdated to E-1 by Libor Jekl
- Special Hobby 1/72 Bf 109E-4 by Libor Jekl
- Airfix 1/72 Bf 109E-7 Trop by Libor Jekl
- Airfix 1/48 Bf 109E-1/E-3 by Steve Evans
- Wingsy Kits 1/48 Bf 109E-1 'Emil' by Steve Evans
- Eduard 1/32 Bf 109D Conversion by Steve Evans
- Eduard 1/32 Bf 109E-1 by Steve Evans
These builds are extremely well done, though of course they can only represent the tiniest fraction of available kits to build. I personally would have preferred to see the Eduard 1/32 D conversion replaced by a build of either the Trumpeter or Cyber-Hobby kits, which are otherwise not represented here.
Chapter 10 is called Building a Collection, and has become my favourite section of the Airframe & Miniature series from Valiant Wings. It features a series of annotated isometric 3D line drawings by Jacek Jackiewicz, with additional artwork by Juraj Jankovic. These are designed to illustrate the salient differences between the various development and production airframes as the series evolved, and form a perfect companion to the earlier 'evolution' chapters.
There are, however, several incorrect call-outs directing the reader to page 147, which now appears to be page 165 in this new edition. It's a small thing, but a shame it wasn't caught in proofing all the same.
Chapter 11, In Detail, features an extensive selections of photographs and diagrams, covering both period and surviving Bf 109s. Many of the images have been published previously, but many more have not. The walkaround photos have been taken with a modeller's eye, which is not only welcome, but very handy.
The four appendices cover the usual list of available kits, aftermarket, decals, and mask sets, as well as a concise bibliography for further research.
At the very back of the book, secured inside the rear cover, is a set of 1/48 scale Bf 109 plans in gatefold format. These are printed on heavy, non-glossy plain stock, and cover the following airframes:
- Bf 109 V1
- Bf 109B-0
- Bf 109D-1
- Bf 109E-1
- Bf 109E-7 Trop, E-7N Trop
- Bf 109T-2
All drawings are by Jacek Jackiewicz and look very nicely done.
Not being a Bf 109 expert, I can't give a considered evaluation of the accuracy or veracity of the text itself, and so will leave that to more knowledgeable readers. All other elements of the book ooze quality however, from the clear photography to the beautiful profiles and the detailed scale plans. Contemporary photographs are plentiful and very nicely reproduced. Overall it's an impressive attempt to be the Complete Guide the title alludes to.
Not having the First Edition to hand, it's hard to gauge what's new in this Second Edition, and whether it represents a worthwhile upgrade for existing owners of the first release, so I'll leave that up to the reader to decide. But if you missed out on the First Edition like I did, then I can highly recommend that you grab this one.
Thanks to Valiant Wings Publishing for the review sample.
© Kevin Futter 2022
This review was published on Wednesday, July 13 2022; Last modified on Wednesday, July 13 2022