by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
New from MMP Books comes the first part in what looks set to be a truly essential guide to the fighters flown by the Finnish air force in the periods before and during the Winter War and Continuation War. In fact the book’s title hardly does it justice, because the authors Kari Stenman and Karolina Hołda do far more than simply describe the colours used; instead, each of the aircraft covered is described in two stages. First, its service history in Finnish hands, and then the specific camouflage used.
The service histories make fascinating reading, as the Finnish pilots racked up quite phenomenal tallies against the numerically superior Soviet air force, and continued to score heavily in fighters that were considered obsolescent or failures elsewhere. Even the totally outmoded Bristol Bulldog managed to down a Polikarpov I-16 monoplane in December 1939, when just 4 of the veteran biplanes scrambled to intercept a mixed force of 40 bombers and 20 fighters!
The aircraft covered in Volume One are:
Bristol Bulldog Mk.II and IVa
Gloster Gladiator Mk.II
Morane-Saulnier MS 406
Brewster Model 239 Buffalo
Following that, the Appendices tackle national insignia and registration markings with reference to original documents, before covering the development of Finnish camouflage in general, ending with a very useful list of the colours used on each aircraft type, together with the nearest FS equivalents.
One of the beauties of the Finnish air force from a modeller’s perspective is the sheer variety of foreign aircraft flown. Each arrived painted initially in the standard contemporary camouflage of its county of origin, before being re-camouflaged to a lesser or greater degree (often in the field) and, eventually, receiving in most cases a full overhaul and repaint in the Finnish Warpaint schemes developed in 1940.
This gives rise to a wonderful blend of hybrid schemes. Then, add to that temporary winter camouflage patterns and some truly epic levels of weathering (particularly on the Fiat G.50, where the original Italian paints showed quite extraordinary degrees of flaking) and you’ve got my personal type of model painting paradise.
All of this is brought to life vividly with a great selection of original photos, overwhelmingly new to me and reproduced here beautifully, plus a selection of really excellent colour profiles backed up by accompanying reference shots.
The book is printed on high quality stock and hardbound, and comes with a price tag of £35, which may sadly deter casual buyers. However, when you consider the huge amount of information packed into the 208 pages, I consider it's actually excellent value for money; indeed, if you view it in terms of the number of fighter types covered in detail, it works out at just £5.83 per aircraft - and you are highly unlikely to find individual studies of this quality for a price like that.
conclusionIf you're interested in the Finnish air force in WW2, I think the new book from MMP is essential reading. I’ve found the subject fascinating as long as I can remember, and this volume presents a mass of information I’ve never seen elsewhere. It’s a great read and - always a sign of a good aircraft book for me - got the modelling juices flowing to the point where I bought the new 1:32 Special Hobby “Finnish” G.50 to keep me busy while I wait for Volume 2 to be published, which promises a further bewildering array of foreign types in Finnish colours! Thoroughly recommended.
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