Zertsoerer day fighter swansong during Battle of Britain 1940
Early on the morning of the 27th of September 1940, Austrian Gruppenkommandeur, Horst Liensberger, of V Gruppe / (Zerstoerer) Lehrgeschwader 1 led a formation of 10 Bf 110s from his unit on an escort mission for some KG 77 Ju 88s which were supposed to penetrate the London area. It was all the operational a/c he could muster. The bombers were also escorted by Bf 110s from ZG 76 and Bf 109s from JG 27. V / (Z) LG 1 was all but wiped out during this raid, only 3 a/c returning to their base at Ligescourt in France, after which the unit was disbanded and the remaining crew were assigned to night fighter duty. These losses were probably pivotal in persuading Hermann Goering that his Zerstoerer fascination had run its course in terms of effectiveness during the BoB daylight campaign.
By the time the Ju 88s had penetrated to the Kent/Surrey borders, RAF fighters had already forced the Bf 109s to turn for home with their fuel warning lights demonstrating the vulnerability of these a/c on longer missions. This left the bombers protected by the 2 groups of Bf 110s which flew ahead of the bombers. Liensberger’s unit flew in a defensive circle over the Redhill area, under repeated attack from a host of Hurricane units including among others Bob Foster's 605 Squadron from Croydon and Tom Neil’s 249 Squadron from North Weald. Progressively, the heavy fighters were forced to dive for home, a manoeuvre where Hurricanes could often be at a speed disadvantage.
The casualties among the Luftwaffe unit were scattered over the countryside from Surrey through Kent and Sussex. Horst Liensberger hedge-hopped his way south, doggedly pursued by one of the Hurricanes from 249 Squadron, with F/O Percy Burton exchanging fire with the German’s gunner. Both apparently had some success, with Liensberger eventually losing power on both his DB 601 engines, but with Percy Burton seriously wounded. Over Hailsham, Burton had exhausted his 15 seconds of ammunition and just south of the town centre, some 10 miles from the illusory safety of the Channel, the two a/c collided, arguably the result of Burton’s conscious decision, with both a/c losing essential structural flying surfaces causing fatal consequences for all 3 airmen.
Probably inaccurate as far as the camo scheme applied to Liensberger’s Bf 110 at the time it met its end in Hailsham, I decided to finish the a/c in the earlier RLM 70/71 over 65 splinter pattern since the other 2 Bf 110s I’d completed used variations of the later, lighter schemes. Several b&w pictures of his a/c with the earlier scheme provided me with the appropriate background. The only identifiable surviving picture of Liensberger's crashed a/c is the severed complete tail section where the left vertical stabiliser appears to be painted in dark colours rather than 65 with 02 mottling. Some other pics show the crushed remains of the fuselage but without any major identifiable elements.
I’d experimented with some after-market additions on one of my earlier Bf 110 models, so this one used many elements from the Eduard etched set for the Fujimi kit that's the basis of this model. Much of this is difficult to identify in the finished product but added technical realism in my imagination. These are mainly in the cockpit internal fittings, as well as where the u/c retracts into the lower engine nacelles.
At this stage of the BoB, many Bf 110s had yet to be fitted with the external armoured panel on the pilot’s windscreen and Liensberger’s W Nr 3560 was no different. A Squadron vac-formed canopy was used to replicate this, providing a challenge to separate off the various elements of the canopy structure to allow a clearer impression of the extensive detail of both the pilot’s office and the Bordfunker’s radio and MG 15 positions. The clam shell structure of the rear canopy caused endless amusement, but ended up looking not too bad. A Quickboost Revi gunsight, etched pilots’ seat harness and a few scratch-built elements to the canopy internals and cockpit wiring were also added. Techmod’s decal sheet 48409 came to my rescue again, providing both the scale unit codes L1+?B and the unit’s nose emblem of the wolf’s head. However, I struggled with hand-painting the a/c id letter X, as well as getting the Stab green colour almost right. Similarly, the W Nr 3560 on the right vertical stabiliser presented me with a problem. I could produce computer-generated black versions of these for waterslide decals, but white ones, as in this case, were more of a problem for me. This meant I had to paint these by hand with the sad results you can see. Subsequently, I’ve worked out a way to do this more convincingly, but at the time I was well down the learning curve.
The divisions between the schwarzgruen and the dunkelgruen are as difficult to identify as they were on the a/c delivered from the factory, but it turned out reasonably well using Cutting Edge Black Magic camo masks. This time, I was also reasonably pleased with the engine exhaust stains on the nacelles and the wing surfaces behind the exhaust outlets. The top surface stains are a mix of matt black with matt light grey, while the RLM 65 (Tamiya AS-5) under-surfaces are stained with a spray of matt black mixed with some matt brown. Probably a bit over done, but next time!
Looking back on a build completed some time back, those little things that you forgot always stand out. I'd hope today, I'd remember to paint black the underside of the cockpit floor to highlight the MG-FF ejector chute holes that Fujimi failed to unclude in the moulding. They're possibly not the most accurate addiitions, but at the time fitted the one size "good enough" philosophy. There are also various openings that should either have been drilled out or painted black to simulate them. Most glaring of these are the cannon troughs under the nose which would look better with a touch of blast residue, as would the 20 mm ejector slots. Hey ho!
I suspect I’ll have another go at some point to depict this a/c with the lighter RLM 65/02/71 scheme that's probably more accurate for the time Horst Liensberger met his end. I’ll doubtless follow the Eduard route on this if I do it, since I’m sure a lot of the additions that were needed to put a little realistic detail to the Fujimi offering will be included in the Czech box.
The Hurricane is a 1/48 scale Hasegawa kit, a lovely kit to build. It's markings are what I imagine Percy Burton's a/c used but couldn't find anyone who knew what the individual a/c code was and plumped for "D" since it seemed to fit what I could eliminate. I'll probably put a separate post for this one later.
10 additional images. Click to enlarge.