With almost 34.000 units build, the Messerschmitt Bf 109 is the most produced fighter aircraft in history, and was the Luftwaffe´s standard fighter between 1937 and 1945. Although supplemented by the superior Focke Wulf Fw 190 in later years, the Bf 109 remained the backbone of the Luftwaffe, and almost all top Luftwaffe aces scored the majority of their victories in the Bf 109. One of the challenges of the Messerschmitt Engineers was to keep the aircraft up to date over the years, introducing a lot of refinements considering the engine, avionics and arnament, although the basic airframe of the Bf 109 was not heavily modified. This led to a lot of different versions and sub-versions, namely the A- to G- variants and the final K-version, with the A to D versions produced before the outbreak of WWII.
This Bf 109 here is an early Bf 109 B-2 version, first flown in 1937. Spotting features of the B-version are a very different cowling design compared to later versions, with a large radiator under the belly (the A-D versions were powered by Junkers Jumo Engines, all later ones by Daimler-Benz), and a two-blade propeller. One of the most advanced fighters of its time, it first saw operational use with the Condor Legion in the Spanish Civil War, where it was superior to every other fighter it encountered – and achieving air superiority for the Nationalists, which was a major step to victory for Franco and his troops.
This Bf 109 B-2 of Jagdgruppe 88 was flown by Hauptmann Gotthard Handrick (1908 – 1978), the squadron leader of this unit. Handrick gained five victories in Spain and 10 victories in WWII, where he was assigned to different squadron commands. The most interesting part of his biography is that he was an athlete and Olympic Medal winner before joining the Luftwaffe. He won the Gold medal in modern pentathlon at the Olympic Games in Berlin 1936 (and is, to this day, the only male German athlete to win this discipline). The spinner of his Bf 109 in Spain was decorated with the Olympic Rings, unfortunately not included with the decals.
When it comes to the Bf 109 in 1/72 scale, the are a lot of kits to choose from, but the early A-D versions are somewhat harder to find. I didn´t want to tackle a Czech short run kit this time, so I selected the rather old tooling from Heller, dating to the 1970s (still avaiable in newer reboxed runs). A mediocre fit and soft plastic is what to expect from a Heller kit from this era, but what surprised me the most are the decals, especially the ones applied to the fuselage, as they are plainly to big (the reg numbers and the top hat are more like 1/48 scale !). I did use them anyway, although there are up-to-scale aftermarket decals avaiable, but they cost as much as the entire kit !
Gotthard Handrick (left), Olympic Medal Winner & Fighter pilot