by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
Erik Mombeeck and Maciej Góralczyk have recently published Special Album No. 4 in the Luftwaffe Gallery series. The new title focuses on JG 5 “Eismeer”, and follows the existing format of these excellent reference works, being softbound landscape A4 with 96 pages printed on high quality stock.
The book presents the classic combination of period photos (most of which I’ve never found reproduced elsewhere), personal accounts by members of JG 5 and a selection of top quality colour profiles - this time by Janusz Światłoń. Neil Page provides the English translation from German and French, and the result is a highly “readable” and informative volume.
The photos are printed large on the page, which allows the reader to pick out a mass of useful detail. Obviously, the originals do vary in quality because these are basically "snapshots", not carefully posed official photos. As such, they offer a far more authentic view of the day to day life of the air- and ground-crew than you’ll find in staged scenes, capturing often missed details of uniforms and equipment along the way.
JG 5 operated a range of fighters, and the types shown here include:
Bf 109E-1s and ‘Ts through to ‘G-14s
Bf 110Ds through to ‘Fs
Fw 190A-3s through to ‘A8s
There are some really excellent shots of unit-applied camouflage tailored to suit the terrain over which the unit operated, making this book a real goldmine of reference material for anyone looking to model some of the highly distinctive colour schemes.
The captioning is concise and very informative, identifying personnel and locations, and pointing out notes of interest in the equipment and markings of the aircraft.
A fair number of the aircraft shown are also among the colour profiles, which really bring their subjects to life. Obviously, translating any black and white photo into full colour artwork involves a degree of educated interpretation, but the match between Janusz Światłoń’s profiles and source photos is very impressive indeed, carefully replicating distinctive camouflage and weathering. I’ll certainly be confident using them as the basis for future models.
Along with the colour schemes themselves, there's a mass of incidental reference information to be gleaned through careful study of the photos - much of which can be incorporated into builds. Whether it's patches of primer or bare n/m showing, weathering and staining patterns, or simply the details of the airfield equipment and structures, this photo archive is a treasure trove of useful material for Luftwaffe modellers.
But the photos and profiles are really only half the picture, because the lives of the aircrew in this harrowing theatre of war are told in their own words in extensive first-hand accounts.
These really illustrate the hardships of operating in the far north, and it’s clear throughout that the unforgiving environment is a second, undeclared, enemy. In particular, the accounts of crews’ efforts to rejoin their units after crash landing illustrate only too clearly just how tough life was in this theatre of war.
The accounts are also enlightening in revealing the considerable friction at times between the pilots on the front line and staff officers in the rear. And while the photos showing pilots appearing cheerful through to the bitter end of the fighting, the personal accounts tell a different story (probably closer to the truth), because the tone changes noticeably as the course of the war turns increasingly against the Luftwaffe. From early optimism and frustration at missing out on the action, the friendly rivalry between pilots chasing the Knight’s Cross, and laughing off close shaves (such as a rifle bullet missing the head of one pilot by 10 cm and hitting the canopy framework), by the end the tone is much darker as more and more “old hands” are killed, invalided or captured:
"At his funeral... there was the usual pathetic drivel about heroism, the Fuhrer, the people and the fatherland... For myself, an era had come to an end… For days afterwards, in the Staffel, out in the dispersals and even in the Kasino, there was only muted conversation, if anyone spoke at all. With the situation in the far north becoming more and more bleak, everyone had his own thoughts, secretly wondering when he too would be "caught"."
ConclusionI thoroughly enjoyed reading Luftwaffe Gallery Special Album No. 4 - JG 5 “Eismeer”. It’s a book that works on multiple levels; obviously, from a modeller’s point of view, as a fantastic reference for some unusual and distinctive Luftwaffe projects, but equally as a moving reminder of the human cost to those caught up in fighting in some of the most unforgiving conditions imaginable. Recommended.
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