Eagle Editions have published the latest instalment in their highly successful series – Wings Of The Black Cross. Written by Jerry Crandall, with artwork by Thomas A. Tullis, the Letter-sized 36-page magazine-style study features a wealth of previously unseen photos (by me, at least) of Luftwaffe aircraft. As so often, the bulk of the subjects are in a very sorry state, found among the countless wrecks that littered Germany and the formerly occupied countries. The casually taken snap-shots give tantalizing glimpses of what would have been a Luftwaffe modeller's dream-come-true, all sadly lost now – although it's tempting to wonder what scraps may still lie waiting to be uncovered on the sites of some of the former aircraft dumps.
The sad condition of the aircraft does nothing to diminish their value as subjects for research, and scattered among them are some real gems, from the experimental Hs 129 fitted with a downward-firing mortar system, to a series of new shots of the well-known He 219s found at Grove that will give pause for thought to anyone who believed the question of their camouflage had been settled once and for all. In particular, an aerial view among the latter appears to show very interesting non-standard camouflage patterns (although some may be the result of tarpaulins and camouflage netting). The quality of the photos contained in the book does obviously vary greatly, but Eagle have done a fine job bringing out the available detail.
Following the photos are a series of eight beautiful colour profiles which do a fine job of bringing to life some of the aircraft seen earlier. Among them is also one very interesting subject that does not appear elsewhere in the book; a new Bf 109G-6 in the colours of the "ace of aces", Erich Hartmann. But equally, the only small disappointment with it is that Eagle Editions weren't able to obtain permission (yet) to print any stills from the original film on which the artwork for this aircraft is based.
Making exact interpretations of the colours of aircraft based on B&W photos inevitably entails a certain amount of "educated guesswork" based on known references. We all too often take researchers' conclusions for granted, but just how much an identical scene can vary depending on the film stock (and photographic paper) used can be witnessed in two photos of the wrecked aircraft at Mühldorf. In the first, an Fw 190D seems to sport a "light/dark/light" fuselage band, while in the second the tones are totally reversed, revealing the "Yellow/White/Yellow" of JG2.
We've witnessed a rather heated online debate lately about the pros and cons of relying on photographs as a source from which to take precise measurements. Well, the same scene is also a perfect illustration of the potential perils in doing so, because the second of photos of the Mühldorf photos has clearly been "stretched" laterally. Ironically, there's a detail of the same shot on the rear cover which is undistorted, so hopefully this can be addressed in a future edition.
Jerry Crandall has accompanied the photos with detailed and informative captions drawing on his extensive experience of the subject. Nevertheless, interpreting any photo can be very subjective, and the only caption with which I'd take exception is that for a Bf 109K-4 "Yellow 12" on Page 11, which sports a noticeable "shadow shaded" effect on the Gruppe Welle marking. Jerry suggests that it's the result of it having been repainted over an earlier one, but as the "ghosting" isn’t confined to the marking, but also occurs elsewhere in the shot, it seems much more likely to me to be a photographic error – either the camera or the darkroom-printer being jogged to produce a slight double image.
Wings Of The Black Cross #6 presents another fascinating collection of original photos that will be of great interest to historians and modellers alike, and a real goldmine of inspiration for anyone planning Luftwaffe dioramas set at the end of the war. Recommended.
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Highs: A wealth of well chosen rare photographs backed up by top quality colour profiles.Lows: One photo has been distorted at the printing stage.Verdict: Wings Of The Black Cross #6 will be of great interest to historians and modellers alike.
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About Rowan Baylis (Merlin) FROM: NO REGIONAL SELECTED, UNITED KINGDOM
I've been modelling for about 40 years, on and off. While I'm happy to build anything, my interests lie primarily in 1/48 scale aircraft. I mostly concentrate on WW2 subjects, although I'm also interested in WW1, Golden Age aviation and the early Jet Age - and have even been known to build the occas...