Slipping the Bonds
by George Paterson
Wilhelm Crinius was a Luftwaffe fighter pilot and an ace with 114 victories. He was the son of a painter and decorator. His working-class background was a bit of a surprise to me, because the family's latinate surname often indicates a more middle-class or professional status. The clue to this conundrum may be that the family came from an area just west of Hannover, quite far north in Germany therefore, and the culture there is influenced by Scandinavian practices – the Swedes in particular often use learned-sounding surnames.
Crinius joined the Luftwaffe in January 1940, and was doing his pilot training throughout the 1940 campaigns in Poland and France, and the Battle of Britain. It was early 1942 before he was posted to a front-line unit, 3.JG53.
He took part in the assault on Malta, flying 60 missions with no victories. Then, in May 1942, his unit was sent to Russia, and in early June he gained the first of his victories, shooting down two Sturmoviks. On September 22. 1942 he chalked up his hundredth success, less than five months after his first!
In November 1942 I.Gruppe of JG53 was sent to North Africa. On 13. January 1943, having already gained 14 more victories, he got into combat with RAF Spitfires and was hit in the thigh. Trying to escape with his damaged Bf 109G-2, his engine went on fire, and he ditched it in the sea. Luckily, he was picked up 24 hours later, but after convalescing from his injuries,Wilhelm Crinius sat out the remaining two years of the War as a POW, and later had a career in industry. He didn't join the new Bundesluftwaffe like many of the other aces did. He died in April 1997.
His flying career was therefore very short, and all his victories were won in less than nine months.
The Initial Image
This is one of a group of four model photographs that I picked up during a search for JG53 images. The most striking was taken from the front starboard side, and I decided to get a picture from it; but there was another one taken from the port rear side, and I thought I'd tackle it first. I still haven't done the other image.
Both these photographs are big as downloaded, 1600 X 1200 pixels, but both are of rather soft definition; in this one, the definition falls off badly towards the nose, where a lot of the important detail lies. I would need to define the nose detail as best I could.
Treatment of the Image
My routine selection work was more difficult than usual, but eventually I got the result I wanted, including a quite detailed portrayal of the rudder markings, showing 112 victories. That means the time frame is January 1943. The anonymous author of the model has shown the tail-wheel un-retracted, which I think is authentic. I've read that although G-2 machines had the retraction mechanism for the tail-wheel, in practice it was usually fixed in the down position. In contrast, the fuel-filler triangle is shown in the low position between frames 1 and 2, as on F models, whereas G's had it at high position between frames 3 and 4, as I have shown it.
My background for this picture originally had a Danish AF C-130 roughly where the model's spinner lies, and two Saab JAS-39's taking on fuel behind it. Below is not the sea, but banks of very smooth cloud.
I was rather pleased with the final result. That's probably why I haven't started on the more dramatic model picture yet!