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Paul Barber
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Year of the Cat Group Build: BF 109 E4/7 Trop, Tamiya 1/48, ‘Yellow 6’ – Hans Joachim Marseille – in ‘Leopard Camo’

February 17, 2018 · in Aviation · · 36 · 3.8K

The mentality of those whose families fought and suffered on the ‘right side of history' is often, understandably, to automatically consign those fighting on the other side, to a pigeon hole that does not allow for admiration. During this build, I found myself re-reading a lot about a pilot I have no option but to admire on some levels – although I should also be clear that it still feels difficult when I look at the markings on his plane, and think of the regime he fought for, to maintain that admiration. I had long planned to model the mount of this particularly famous ‘enemy' pilot. Although this wasn't meant to be that build or that pilot!

When the was set in motion by the estimable Louis Gardner (to whom great thanks are due for running such a great group and responding so regularly and expertly despite all that life threw at him during this time) I thought I'd do a BF109 E4/7 Trop in the fairly short-lived ‘Leopard' style camo of the Luftwaffe in the earlier days of WW2 in Africa. Given the emblem of the famed JG27 there seemed to be enough ‘cat' involved to make it a valid contribution.

Just about the most famous photographs of that camo scheme are of a 109 said to be flown by Werner Schroer of 8 Staffel, Three Gruppe, JG27 over Libya in 1941.

Many have built the 1/48th scale BF109 E4/7 kit in the ‘Black 8' scheme and just as I was about to commit to it, Louis posted his excellent version of exactly that plane! Ever the gentleman he suggested I should go ahead with the build. However, 2 posts of the same kit in the same markings seemed like something to avoid. This resulted in the first change of direction for my build! Another well-known photograph is of JG27's ‘White 3' – so I opted to build that plane (I even considered painting a background to mimic the famous snap!).

The final twist in the tail of this project though, came about three-quarters of the way through it – while researching in preparation to paint the camo scheme, to my great joy, I read of two aerial battles, one on 23 April 1941 and one on 31 May 1941 during which Hans-Joachim Marseille was shot down by Hawker Hurricanes while flying a BF 109E-7 trop. Like many modelers I have always wanted to build an aircraft flown by the Luftwaffe legend. I have the recent Eduard F4-model Messerschmitt in the cupboard and will at some point follow that well-worn path to build one of his ‘Yellow 14' mounts.

I had previously read that Marseille flew E-7s in Europe and for a period of about a month before the F-models arrived in Africa. Most of the literature however, suggested that there were no details of the actual planes involved. I had given up on building a Marseille E-7, which had been the original purpose of buying the Tamiya 1/48th kit! Thanks to a search that threw up a the ‘Stardust' graphic design studio's ‘Star of Africa project' it became clear that some evidence was available on the plane he flew, as provided by some contemporary photos belonging to the historian and 109 expert Lynn Ritger.

So, the build changed direction a final time and I was very happy to be about to paint the lesser known ‘Yellow 6', fulfilling the original purpose of buying the kit and getting to paint the intended Leopard camo with the emblem of JG27!

The Tamiya kit went together with few issues - I used photo etch parts from Eduard - mostly cockpit, but some on the fuselage (hatches and trop filter), wings (air filters), and on the undercarriage (brake wires and hubs). My exploration of etch continues with a desert Martlet/Wildcat I will post in the near future in this group - the jury is still out in the 'effort vs reward' debate with so little of this type of etch being visible in the final output. I will in future try the more visible gun bays and wing flaps - right now I am still very much learning. Paints were Vallejo Air, and Alclad, weathering was done with Tamiya panel line washes and oils and pastels.

In terms of Marseille, enough has been written and history records his feats as an ace. He eventually became the Luftwaffe's top scoring fighter pilot over the North Africa and was recognized as an unconventional individual who was not aligned to his leaders' views (although that is another argument). When he was shot down by those Hurricanes, Marseille, aged 21, had scored only eight victories. Eventually he would rack up 158 before being killed in a failed attempt to bail out of his brand-new BF 109G-2, which had suffered engine failure, in September 1942. Such are the fine margins when it comes to being a fighter ace.

Gōngxǐ fācái to all! And a huge thank you to Louis for presiding over the fun!

Reader reactions:
18  Awesome

36 responses

  1. Very nice Paul. Great photos and history as well.

  2. Paul, thank you for sharing the story behind the obvious. I had, until now, never seen any tropicalised E-7 flown by H.J. Marseille dressed with that iconic camouflage. Only an European style camouflage Emil, which I assume he brought directly when moving south of the Mediterranean Sea.

    About the model, I think you did a good model indeed, especially the hard to get RLM80 spots, although in the picture there seems to be missing part of the underwings radiators (possibly you cut them to be posed open and were not glued at the time of you took the photo). And if you allow a small feedback, the underside should be a bit more weathered, specially leakings and fumes, often seen in battle worn Emils. I guess it would be a correct balance with the excellent upper fuselage and wings weathering you applied. Again, thanks for posting

  3. That's great feedback about the weathering Pedro, and yes those parts were added in after cutting away for the etch replacements!- I may well try to replace it with another photo. Thanks for noticing!

  4. Wow that turned out really well Paul. I have the Airfix E-4 Trop in the stash and boy does your build give me inspiration to build it. Excellent job buddy, I like the way the Leopard camo really stands out on the 109.

  5. Thank you Tom, can't go wrong choosing an Emil - some nice colour options on that kit if memory serves!

  6. Can only concur with [all] the above comments, Paul - great presentation, sir.

  7. Paul,
    Your 109 looks amazing. You nailed it !

    I never realized HJM flew an "Emil" in Africa. I was always under the impression he flew "Freiderichs" and early "Gustavs" there. So I just learned something, and that's good...

    I like how you posted original era photos of the planes with your article. I especially like the photos of your model with the worn antique style edges. That is cool ! What a great presentation.

    I met Lynn Ritger at the Hobby Town store in Ormond Beach FL once. Sadly the hobby store moved to Sanford FL, and it's a bit more of a drive now for me. At the time Lynn lived nearby in Daytona Beach. We talked about 109's and F4U's. You're correct, he really knows his 109's ! He's a good guy.

    Your 109 is a very welcome addition to the "Year of the Cat" GB. Thanks for posting your build log and the final reveal. This GB has been better than I ever imagined. It's all due to guys like you, who made it special.

    Thanks again my friend. Your 109 rocks !

    The work you have been doing on your Desert Wildcat is amazing too... Here's a few pictures Paul provided of his Wildcat... If you haven't done so, please go check out his build log under "The Year of the Cat". It's amazing.

    Paul has some serious skills...

    and I wanted to try out the new posting feature that allows us to add photos to our comments. As you can see, it works great.

    This is thanks to Martin and his staff.

    Well done Sirs !

    • Thanks Louis for the comments - and for the two group builds I have been involved in - you give a lot to this little (growing) community. More importantly thanks for the support - I can always be sure you'll have something constructive or instructive to say. As for the Wildcat, the tub is now in the fuse and it is primed. Shouldn't be too much longer!

      And as for the borders on the photos, I thought that since the change of build was based on some old shots I'd quietly pay homage to that with a bit of minor creativity myself. The original photos accredited as owned by Lynn Ritger come from a website that produced an art work project called 'Star of Africa' from 'stardust studios' as I said - I'm a little jealous of your time actually meeting Mr Ritger! This HJM plane was news to me too - I'd still enjoy seeing more evidence about this plane - but essentially what we do is often a little intuitive where evidence is thin. Your African campaign FW190 comes to mind - there are literally hundreds of beautifully drawn depictions of 'black double chevron' but we'd love to see just one convincing photograph to be sure!

      • Paul,
        My compliments are well deserved by you. Your work is always top notch, and I sincerely mean this.

        I really would like to get a copy of a good picture of Adolph Dickfeld's "Black Double Chevron" FW in North Africa... I have found errors with artists renderings before, and would rather not rely on them totally.

        A case in point... Look at the new Tamiya 1/35 scale M4A-3 Sherman "Easy eight" Korean War version. For years the "Cat Faces" on these tanks were always painted as a yellow color in every illustration and kit decal you found.
        All of a sudden, Mr. Doyle produces a vintage color picture of the Korean War Sherman tanks. Guess what ?

        The cat faces are RED ! not yellow... as believed all of these years.

        Lynn is a nice guy to talk with. Too bad we didn't keep in touch. Live and learn I guess.

  8. Wow, that’s some serious Wildcat work! Thanks for pointing it out Paul, there so many stuff posted on imodeller that it just happens some pass under the radar, like that awesome work Paul is doing

  9. wonderful background & build. You’re very talented

  10. Hi Paul. A really skilful piece of work, and a thoughtful piece of writing. I think it is a difficult emotional position to admire the men who fought for the 'wrong' side. Equally there was lot of very dubious characters who flew on 'our' camp. If you think of the very contentious issue of shooting at pilots who bailed, there were several atrocities committed on both ends of the axis. This horrendous practice was not made a 'crime' until 1949.

    JG 27 exemplify this emotional 'dissonance'. They (well, mostly) adhered to a knight's code. I am very much not romanticising any aspect of war, but humanity and compassion were not the sole property of the allies. Many of JG 27's ranks were in direct conflict with the ethos of the Nazi party and several of their fliers pilots fell foul of this.

    In old Scot's language there's a saying, "we're all Jock Tamson's bairns" - under the surface, we are all the same.

    • David, you'll know the stories of Marseille driving out to look after those he had shot down when possible, and dropping notes to Allied airfields detailing the crash sites of their fliers. He was certainly different. In 158 kills only 4 or 5 were bombers. I certainly wouldn't want to say shooting down bombers was not honourable but Marseille seems to have lived for something different. Thanks for the thoughts - mine was a simple bit of re-telling that you have improved with your comments; thank you.

  11. Paul, outstanding build on the 109 "Emil", a desert scheme that I have planned to use in a future build with a Hasegawa Trop kit I have in the stash. The scheme and weathering is subtle, until Pedro pointed out some areas too look for or have, I would've never noticed any lack of details under the 109. Particular aircraft weather or get oily under the air frame in certain ways when in heavy daily use in combat and in theatre. Also may depend of the environment as well. Regardless we may see this again in the model of the month, it is worthy. Well done presentation and a bit of history. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks for the kind comments and ideas on the weathering Chuck. I have been trying to reign mine in a little - I have gone too far on occasion and not far enough on others (I didn't weather at all during my first incarnation as a modeller aged somewhere well under 10 years old and I think I have sometimes been carried away and unsubtle!) - I think Pedro is right to spot an imbalance between the top and bottom sides of this build . I will look again - it is never too late to add! Thanks for the kind words - as I said above - still some way to go but I'll keep trying an learning!

  12. Paul,

    A very impressive build and some new information on Marseille E-7 complete with photo's. The paint job is top not and the green splotches are beyond my abilities. The only niggle I have is the yellow 6 is too big and the font should be smaller so that the number is no taller than the white and black cross at its horizontal crossing. That being written and being very picky,picky and anally esoteric . It wouldn't be relevant to a Judge in a contest. Over all two thumbs up.

    • Not a niggle at all Stephen - I kind of knew - for love nor money could I find a smaller 6 in yellow without a border - I should have made a stencil but time wins sometimes. It is actually an inverted 9! Although the shape just about works! As I said above the HJM E-7 came as a surprise and I'd love to see more evidence.

  13. Very nice build, like esp. the weathering. The opened cockpit gives that extra live.

  14. A very outstanding build and article! Thank you Paul, i'm a huge fan of camel weed cammo!

  15. Nice work on the 109 and good research. Getting a Marseille E is very cool indeed.

    Since you commented you are working on your skills, let me suggest you want to thin your paint more and set the compressor at a lower pressure. This will allow better detail when freehanding, without so much overspray. I usually thin paint 50-50 and run the compressor at about 15psi. You can then tighten down the spray nozzle and get really fine lines.

    • Thanks Tom, spot on as ever. I have been have trouble with a damaged compressor and I’m nursing it until I can find time to get another. Which is not to say that it wouldn’t happen anyway because, as you say I am still working to hone my skills! I will of course use your advice once I have replaced the offending article!

  16. Yet another Tamiya kit that has been lifted to another level by some skilled modelling and thorough research. I like the level of weathering, the way you've got the dirt and wear shown on the wheels is especially enjoyable to look at. A great addition to this fantastic group build.

  17. Thank you George. Going back to Tamiya is a joy. My 5 year old saw a Tamiya Dora in the cupboard and asked if we could build it together. It is falling together! The research is potentially better than the build, but I certainly enjoyed both!

  18. Lovely build! There is one of these in my future, as I really love the scheme. Great article as well - I wish I had the patience to do as much in-depth research, but I'm always too eager to get the model going and mounted on a stand! Excellent model Paul.

  19. Thanks Greg - my builds are like a 'punctuated evolution'. Things happen quickly but in bursts. There can be long gaps in between activity - so during times when I am not getting the chance to build, I try to read a lot. And as I said, the research is often better than the output! Hopefully I'll get to redress the balance at some point. And hopefully you'll soon get a 'desert camo' 109 mounted on a stand!

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