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172
The One That Got Away

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Historical background
On 5th September 1940 at 10.10 hours, an Adjutant of II Gruppe, JG 3, Oblt. Franz Xavier Graf von Werra, made a safe belly landing near Marden, 7 miles south of Maidstone, Kent. His Messerschmitt Bf 109 E-4 W. Nr 1480 was damaged in the air so the pilot was not able to reach his home base. Circumstances of the damage are not clear. Some sources credit it to P/O Gerald "Stapme" Stapleton of No. 603 Squadron RAF, other credit half of this victory to F/Ltn. Pat Hughes (234 Sqn RAF), other suggests that it was P/O George Bennions of 41 Sqn who made the initial damage to von Werra's plane before "Stapme" and Hughes scored a victory. Other sources claims this victory to friendly fire from the He 111's which von Werra was escorting on the fatal flight or a ground fire from nearby searchlight battery. Let's leave all these doubts and theories to the historians as in the end the German ace become a prisoner of war. Right after beginning of his imprisonment von Werra attempted his first escape. He tried many times to leave the Great Britain without saying “Good bye” to the hosts, unfortunately to him without success. In January 1941 he was transferred to a prisoner camp in Canada. On 21st January he jumped out of the prison train which departed from Montreal. After crossing St. Lawrence river von Werra made his way over the border with United States, which were still neutral at this time. With the help of German consul, who had paid the bail for illegal crossing of the border and enabled another escape from the USA to Mexico, von Werra was on his final way back to Germany. With the stops in Rio de Janeiro, Madrid and Rome on 18th April 1941 von Werra arrived back to Germany becoming a national hero. He was awarded by Adolf Hitler with the Ritterkreautz. Few months later he joined back the Luftwaffe as a Gruppenkommandeur of I./JG 53 and fought over the Russia achieving 13 air victories, rising total amount of his victories up to 21. In August 1941 JG 53 was transferred to Katwijk in Netherland for rest an re-equipement. On 25th October 1941, von Werra failed to return from a training sortie after the engine failure in his Friedrich ending his life in the sea north of Vlissingen. The story of Franz von Werra and his famous escape from imprisonment was depicted in 1957 in the movie with Hardy Krüger The One That Got Away., directed by Roy Ward Baker
Building process
In this story I have used an Airfix 1:72 scale kit of Messerschmitt Bf 109 E-4. You can find my review of this kit by following THIS LINK and an Aires resin cockpit presented HERE. Assembly process was fairy easy as this is a very simple kit with the lowest difficulty level, according to Airfix difficulty rates you can get just 1 flying hour if you manage to build it. I have complicated it a bit by using Aires cockpit interior which needed some careful fitting to the original fuselage halves. Plastic kit fuselage halves needed to be thinned down to accommodate Aires cockpit tube. I dry-fitted the parts together many times but after final assembly I think now that the side walls could be thinner. It's a hard lesson for my future Emils. When everything was more less fitted and sanded I painted all internal details of pilots office and made its final assembly. Having two major components, wings and fuselage, assembled together plastic parts started to look like a scaled-down airplane. As usual next step was adding smaller details: windscreen, back glazing section, tail wings, landing gear. I paid a lot of attention to all joint lines. Some needed a bit of liquid putty and sanding paper, other needed a gentle rescribing. I tried really hard to encounter any serious problem but I failed. As the kit is basic so are the details. To enhance it I made few improvements. The easiest one was addition of vertical bar in radiator air intakes under the wing, eyelets for anchoring plane to the ground and making a hole in the tail section for lifting fuselage. I also removed the original rudder control cables, drilled holes and replaced it with a thin stretched sprue. Two more improvements were done around engine. Fuselage machine gun muzzles were removed so I had to rework openings in the engine hood. MG barrels, in the fuselage and wings, were later replaces by turned brass products from Master Model. Last improvement, which I have actually done when the whole model was finished, was drilling the imitations of exhaust outlets. It looks rather symbolic but still better than originally done by Airfix. And so was the whole building process. It didn't take me more than few hours of constant work, though splint into few late evening modelling sessions.
Camouflage scheme interpretation
As usual next step was painting. First of all I had to make my own interpretation of the plane look on the 5th September 1940. I decided to forget about kit painting scheme and other modellers and base my judgement on the archive photographs available in the internet. There are many of it depicting machine with W. Nr.1480 on different stages of its life. Picture from France shows mostly its port side and tail section. Pictures of the wreckage on British soil presents fuselage starboard side. The plane as depicted in France looks rather clean, without slightest mottling and colours have the same shades on nearby panels. In Kent, its fuselage is very dark in the cockpit section and engine hoods have different shades. My conclusions are pretty simple. Two section of fuselage skin in front of the windscreen were replaced from some other plane as the demarcation line between RLM65 and "dark" green is clearly placed higher than on the engine hood and has different shade. I take this colour as RLM 02. Darker shade of fuselage is not camouflage, as suggested by few model kits producers, but smoke, maybe from the burning engine. If you take a look at the fuselage photographed with two Britons examining the armament, you can notice the JG 3 emblem with something like a washed outline. If the colour was washable it was not the paint. So I simulated more extensive smoke here.
Painting
Ok, theories aside. For the camouflage colours I have decided to use Pactra acrylics for the simple reason – I don't have other suitable paints from the RLM palette. Pactra acrylics are not the best paints on the market but for me this time they worked good enough. To improve adhesion to styrene, which is the weakest point of Pactra paints for me, the kit was washed to remove any sweat and fat from fingers and painted first with the thin coat of Gunze Base White primer. It was used for painting the wing tips and rudder. To improve spraying characteristics of Pactra acrylics I use Gunze Levelling Thinner for diluting. This step prevents clogging of the airbrush nozzle and generally improves paint characteristics. After preshading each colour was sprayed on the model. Colours were separated using Tamiya masking tape. I did not use any special or secret technique: good dilution of paint, adjusted air pressure and a patience while painting panel after panel. Some details, like wheels or frames of cockpit glazing, I have painted with a precise brush. I washed the panel lines but it was not necessary, they are overdone now despite I tried to tone them down by "washing" with the base colour. Who knows, maybe I have just invented a new technique of "washing the previous wash"? Places were the decals had to come were sprayed with some Gunze gloss lacquer. Cartograf decals provided by Airfix worked like a charm with Micro Set and Sol decal agents. I didn't use stencils allocated for the engine hood as archive photos clearly shows there was no stencils on the original plane in this place – Airfix instruction is wrong at this point. A coat of Revell 02 matt varnish diluted with nitro thinner did the final dead matt finish.
Summary
The kit is really simple and enjoyable. I have started it as anti-flu pill with the only target to get it done and practice few tricks. The addition of turned brass gun barrels, resin cockpit and few other scratch build modifications increased a bit its general attractiveness from the modeller point of view. If you are really ambitious you can try to make the rivets on the skin but it was too much for me. Luftwaffe is not my main are of interest so I decided not to invest too much time in this generally simplified model kit. Anyway with a careful painting it turned out good enough to win a distinction at the biggest scale modelling festival in Bytom, Poland which took place on 2nd-3rd March 2013. Fun of building and a medal won in the contest are really great pay-off of all my time and efforts invested in this kit.
References
Here are few useful links which I extensively used as my reference:
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About the Author

About Mecenas
FROM: KATOWICE, POLAND


Comments

Hi Michal Very nice! I actually mistook the model for a much larger scale build from the front page photo! Very impressive. All the best Rowan
MAR 09, 2013 - 08:35 PM
Thanks guys!
MAR 10, 2013 - 01:58 AM
Great build of the downed bird Michal. Interesting story about the escaped pilot too. How were the propeller blades bent? That really looks nice. I agree with Jean-Luc that one or two figures would be a nice addition. Jelger
MAR 10, 2013 - 08:57 AM
Thanks Jelger. Propeller blades were first all bent just in fingers and for two lower ones I used also some rounded pencil with the diameter ca. 5-7mm to round them much more. I agree about the figure, I also thought about it but currently I don't have in my stash. I still keep this model as a work in progress so I hope to make few improvements and additions to the base. Thanks for suggestions.
MAR 10, 2013 - 09:44 AM
Beautiful build! I read the book as a teenager, it was even translated into Swedish! It is a fascinating story. Magnus
MAR 11, 2013 - 01:54 AM
Hi Magnus, do you mean von Werra's memoirs from his escape? I thought this book was never published even in Germany...
MAR 11, 2013 - 08:57 PM
A bit of googling turned up this: "Kendal, Burt: The one that got away" . The book I read was a Swedish translation from this one (one of the three languages it has been translated into obviously )! I suspect the author have had access to the original manuscript, I remember references in the book where he pointed out that the original text had been altered by the nazi propaganda machine (among other things, the ethnicity of the members of the British police was of the utmost importance...). Magnus
MAR 11, 2013 - 09:24 PM
So you mean the novel based on real story not the book written directly by von Werra.
MAR 11, 2013 - 10:15 PM
Exactly! I only remembered that I had read a book and not if it was by von Verra or by some other author, it wasn't a first-person narrative but it told the story about how he escaped and tried to steal an aircraft from the RAF! Magnus
MAR 11, 2013 - 10:23 PM
One of the links at the bottom of my article give a good story of all his attempts to escape, including stealing of an airplane.
MAR 12, 2013 - 12:33 AM