1/72 MPM Bf 109H

Gallery Article by Gavin Parnaby on July 15 2016

 

      

Components:

  • MPM kit 72069

  • Eduard accessory set 73348

  • Eduard paint mask CX247

  • NH Detail filler caps A72-001

  • Quickboost pitot probe QB72 325

  • Superscale stencils sheet 72-604

  • Aeroclub main undercarriage legs

With the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings, I elected to build something of an unusual participant, having none of the usual in my stash for one thing. There is little extant concerning the Bf109H, which was built in very small numbers only, but some evidence points to a few airframes being passed to Aufklarungsgeschwader 123 at Guyancourt near Paris. Apparently, all armament save the 20mm engine cannon was removed, and two ventral cameras installed in the aft fuselage for reconnaissance purposes. The aircraft, adapted from the G-5 variant by the addition of two wooden, constant-chord wing sections at the root, adding 2m to the overall span, was unpopular with its pilots ("Oh, Heinrich, you make me shudder" one Luftwaffe airman is recorded as having exclaimed) and was apparently deliberately left exposed to Allied strafing raids in order for the unit to rid itself of it. The few airframes available were apparently given the Sisyphean task of photographing the beaches and surrounding areas in the weeks after the 6th of June.

The aircraft had few other changes to distinguish it from the G series. The underwing radiators were left at the same position relative to the fuselage, while the main landing gear was where it had originally been, leaving the aircraft with a wide-track undercarriage that must have been significantly safer on takeoff and landing. The H-1 variant, the only one built, apparently had a tall fin, rather than the standard fin of the H-0. 

MPM released a kit of the aircraft, the only one in 1/72, rather early on in their history. The mouldings are relatively crisp, although the detailed parts are best replaced. Being a Bf109, there is a wide selection of aftermarket available - I replaced the exhaust stubs with Quickboost items, the main wheels with a pair from True Details, the main gear legs with a secondhand white metal pair (Aeroclub, I believe), the cockpit was based around the True Details set, and I added a Quickboost airdata probe. The kit's fret of photoetch parts was augmented by the Eduard Big Ed set, from where I also acquired canopy masks. A set of fuel filler caps from NH Detail was also employed.

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Construction began with the True Details cockpit bathtub, which went together just fine. The background colour was Humbrol RLM66 Schwarzgrau, with the instrument faces in black. The control column bellows was rendered in Humbrol Tan, while the seat straps were picked out in grayish-white. The luggage compartment door behind the pilot's head came from the kit.

The kit contains both framed and 'Galland hood' type canopies. The H-1 was represented as having the latter, and I added the map lights to the forward frame from plastic rod and the kit armour plating to the aft end. I did not paint the upper edge, which does not coincide with a canopy frame, unfortunately, and had to fudge it with a stripe of RLM66 on the outside of the vacform canopy. The glass for the Revi gunsight was rendered from clear acetate. The canopy was dipped in Clear prior to removal from the sheet.

Two small intakes were added to the forward end of the engine cowling, and the machine-gun troughs were filled in, to represent their being plated over. The camera apertures were cut from the fuselage halves before they were joined, and were painted black inside, being boxed in with plasticard. The tailplanes are attached to the fin by butt joints, and one failed during handling, some hasty supergluing being needed to repair and make good the joint. 

The wing consists of a single ventral and two dorsal panels, the usual breakdown. The fit is good, with comparatively little filler needed, towards the aft end of the ventral panel. The wheel wells are too small for the larger wheels fitted to the G-5 and later models, and were enlarged, prior to the Eduard rims being fitted. The integrally moulded radiator flaps were cut and bent to the ~15 degree deflection typically seen at rest. Grills for these, as well as the ventral oil cooler are provided in the kit. The single struts seen before these were added from plastic rod. The bulges over the wing cannon breeches were removed - these were separate plates, screwed into place and replaced with flush ones when the guns were not fitted. A hole was drilled into the starboard wingtip for the pitot probe, and the Eduard ventral radio aerial fitted. 

The canopy was attached, and required a substantial amount of filling, particularly on the starboard side.

The kit prop is quite usable, the blades being separately moulded, enabling the correct pitch angle for takeoff to be set. The aperture for the engine cannon was opened up in the centre of the spinner. The curvature of the forward engine cowling was found to be too sharp, so the spinner was temporarily attached, so that the contour could be made good. When complete, blades and spinner were painted in RLM70 Schwarzgrun (Humbrol 91). 

The D/F loop and radio mast were obtained from the kit fret.This also has the exhaust deflector shields, which were carefully fitted to the upper edge of the exhaust stack slot. The replacement exhaust stacks themselves were painted with a mixture of Humbrol Gun Metal and Track Colour.

The main gear legs had the torque links added from the kit fret. The undercarriage and gear bays were painted in Revell RLM02, as was the interior of the oil coolers and radiators. Romney watercolour black and sepia inks were used for shading. The tailwheel was retractable on the H-1, and the bay doors closed when the wheel was extended. Hence this was not modelled. 

The fuel filler caps were added, principally to the wing underside. The set only contains enough for one aircraft, and some had to be left out. Countersunk holes would have been ideal, but I considered such a refinement beyond my skills at the time. 

With the bulk of the assembly complete, the model was sprayed in acrylic grey primer overall. Another essay in preshading of panel lines was carried out, but this had limited success. The topcoat was uniform Humbrol and Xtracolor RLM76 Hellgrau, the German equivalent to RAF PRU Blue, and the most probable scheme for a high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft. Xtracolor gloss varnish was applied over the top prior to the application of the decals.

The kit decals, a Propagteam sheet, generally performed well, although a degree of carelessness required me to replace the swastikas and the upper wing Balkenkreuzer. No individual markings were indicated in the kit, or by any other reference material. Perhaps none were applied in the short period the aircraft was with the unit. I augmented the markings with stencil data from an early Microscale sheet, entirely assuming the disposition of these, based on 109 standards, and assuming that they were applied in the factory. 

With the decals applied, and a coat or two of Xtracolor matt varnish to complete, the exhaust stacks were fitted, a slight trimming being required to fit them into the slots. I was unsure whether any exhaust staining would have developed on aircraft with such a short life, but decided to apply it in order to enliven the finish. 

The undercarriage was fitted, splayed outwards and forwards, using 5-minute epoxy and medium viscosity cyanoacrylate. A bit of bending had to be carried out on account of careless fitting of one gear leg. The doors were attached with medium viscosity cyanoacrylate. 

The final stage was the fitting of the HF aerial, the aft end of which fits into a socket in the upper fin, rather than on a forwards-projecting mast as in the short-fin majority of 109s. This was made out of stretched sprue, painted black and appropriately tensioned. 

The result was a handsome-looking machine from many angles, which tended to make one look at conventional 109 models as being too short in span, which is an interesting optical illusion! The beginning of a series of designs that would eventually leave Messerschmidt AG entirely, and culminate in Blohm und Voss' BV155 is evident. The evidence is frustratingly scanty, and is likely to remain so. Nonetheless, it was an interesting build of the most obscure German series variant of the Augsburg Eagle, and a relatively nice kit, if lacking in the refinements of the latest kits of the more familiar varieties. A Z and an X await...

Gavin Parnaby

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Photos and text by Gavin Parnaby