Slipping the Bonds
by George Paterson

Bf 109E-3-3.JG51-BerthelHans

In the early months of WW II, Luftwaffe fighter aircraft had a dark finish on their topsides, which extended right down the fuselage flanks, so that only a small strip of the light blue soffit colour RLM65 was visible in elevation. The topside colours were RLM70 and RLM71, dark green and black-green, and these two colours were so close to each other that it's often difficult or impossible to see the demarcations between them. Some modellers give up, and finish their models in a single dark topside colour.

The pattern of the splinter finish was quite elaborate, and it was first used on Bf 109C's and D's during the Spanish civil war. Here again, Condor Legion aircraft are sometimes portrayed with a single dark-green top finish. It all depends on the quality of archive photographs, and the ambient lighting when they were taken.

I've always been attracted by these early camo styles, maybe because the décor elements such as squadron and unit emblems show up particularly vividly against them.

The Initial Image

This is a 3-D image of Hans Berthel's Bf 109E-3, and it is not very finely sampled, so all the details are simplified. It's the sort of image that would benefit a lot from having all the details refined by hand, and I decided to do that, because I really liked the aircraft's pose, and the overall geometry is excellent.

Treatment of the Image

The basic geometry didn't need any modification, but there are a few points worth mentioning. I don't know the Werknummer of Yellow 3. Some sources give it as an E-1, though I'm accepting Eduard's assignation as an E-3, so I put in the gun barrels on the wings.

The canopy on E-3's was normally the early type, but the present image shows the more boxy later one. Some pilots preferred that canopy type, but others liked the early type so much that they kept it even on their 109F's!. I decided to leave it as is, a retro-fit job, which was common. Eduard opts for the flimsier type.

Turning to the details, I needed to do a lot of refinement, including inserting the fuselage frames and the smaller details, especially on the engine cowlings.

The smaller markings needed some changes. The “Totenhand” below the cockpit was replaced, and the “Kitzbuehler Gems” ahead of it was given a more intense blue area. These were the markings of 3.Staffel.JG51 and 1.Gruppe.JG51 respectively. Of note are the narrow core of the fuselage Balkenkreuz, the placing of the fin cross straddling the fin and rudder, and the unusually large wing crosses, so that they straddle the wing and flap. By the way, the yellow triangle on the rear fuselage was not a feature of Bf 109E's.


I rarely present images that derive from other people's work as blatantly as this one does, but I couldn't resist it this time, because the final picture is one of my favourite Emil images. Apologies to the anonymous author.