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Classic Airframes' 1/48 Mőlders
Messerschmitt Bf 109D

by Lynn Ritger


Messerschmitt Bf 109D-1
Ltn. Werner Mölders, 3./J88, La Cenia, Spain, Late July, 1938


Classic Airframes' 1/48 scale Messerschmitt Bf 109 D  is available online from Squadron




For a detailed examination of the contents of Classic Airframes' 1/48 scale Messerschmitt Bf 19C/D kit, see the review elsewhere on HyperScale

Hailing from Gelsenkirchen, just northeast of Essen in the Ruhr, Werner Mölders joined the German army in 1931 and served for three years as an infantry officer cadet before being granted a transfer to the nascent Luftwaffe in 1934. His path to flight school was not as successful as one might expect; he failed his first entry exam, but was eventually accepted on his second try after forcing himself to not become airsick. Following his training and obtaining his pilot's certificate, he was initially posted to Fliegergruppe Schwerin on 1 July 1935, flying Heinkel He 51Bs under the command of Maj. Hans-Hugo Witt. By April 1936, he had shown sufficient flying skill and leadership aptitude to be designated an instructor with JG 134 at Dortmund.

Several hundred miles to the southwest, an exiled Spanish general by the name of Francisco Franco had launched a military operation to wrest control of Spain from the corrupt and unresponsive government. After a personal plea to Adolf Hitler for aid, the initial cadré of German "tourists" and equipment arrived at the port of Cadiz on 6 August 1936 and moved north to Seville to aid Franco's embattled Nationalist forces. This conflict would be used as a proving ground for German forces and tactics, and it would be over the sun-bleached Iberian landscape that Werner Mölders would first make history. Having spent the better part of two years as an instructor, Leutnant Mölders volunteered to go to Spain and finally arrived on 14 April 1938. As he had extensive leadership experience, he was tapped to replace Adolf Galland as the leader of 3./J88 which was currently based at La Sénia, on the border between Cataluña and Comunidad Valenciana.

He was assigned a relatively new Bf 109D-1 coded 6-79 upon his arrival which soon carried the nickname "Luchs" (lynx), and it was only a matter of time before he scored his first victory, an aircraft he listed as a "Curtiss" which he shot down on 15 July near Algar. He scored another two victories on the 17th and 19th, but had to wait another month before downing his fourth aircraft, an I-16 "Mosca" on 19 August. At this point the Republican army offensive along the Ebro river front was reaching a crescendo, and furious fighting ensued over the next two months.



By 31 October, Mölders' score stood at 13, the majority of which were I-16s, and he scored his last confirmed victory in Spain on 3 November- once again over a portly "Mosca". He would return to Germany as the most successful fighter pilot of the Legion Condor, and was showered with awards and praise for his accomplishments over Spain. Mölders would later become the most celebrated military figure in Germany as he was the first pilot to surpass Manfred von Richthofen's tally of eighty victories, and he would also become the first fighter pilot in history to claim 100 aircraft, a feat accomplished on 15 July 1941 over Russia.

As a soldier, Mölders was among the best Germany ever produced, but it was his strengths as a man which have caused his name to be revered to this day. A devout Catholic and loyal husband, he did his absolute best to serve his country, even as his doubts about the government grew.

Tragically, he was killed in a strange accident on 22 November 1941- he was enroute back to Germany to serve as a pallbearer for Generaloberst Ernst Udet who had committed suicide several days previously, and the Heinkel He 111H in which he was a passenger suffered a double engine failure whilst in the landing pattern for Breslau airfield. The aircraft hit a factory smokestack and crashed, killing Mölders and the pilot, while two other men survived with wounds.

In recent years there have been theories that the German government may have orchestrated the death of their greatest pilot because of some hard questions he was beginning to ask about their conduct, although to date there has been no hard evidence supporting this theory.



Mölders' name was carried by his unit, JG 51, throughout the remainder of WW2 and is still in use today with JG 74. There was also an Adams-class destroyer named for him, which was retired in 2003 and is now on display in Wilhelmshaven.




The original Classic Airframes Bf 109 kit released at the beginning of 2006 was a very early A/B variant, with the long slats, inboard oil cooler, and no wing guns. This boxing features reworked wings with the more common short slat configuration along with the MG 17 access panels and ejection chutes in the wings, along with the outboard mounted oil cooler. A choice of cowlings is once again given, which is a tremendous boon to those of us with multiple old Hobbycraft kits in the stash waiting for some help for their misshapen noses!

One small detail to watch out for is the position of the oxygen filler and 24 volt ground power plug... the kit fuselage retains these features in the location of the earlier A/B series, and you will need to fill and rescribe the hatches in fuselage station 3 on the starboard side.


Kit construction has been amply covered in other reviews, and the D kit introduces no new surprises for the unwary builder; just take care to align all the nose components through dryfitting and careful sanding and filing.



Painting and Markings


Several decal options are given in the kit, including two Swiss options, a Hungarian D, and two of the most recognizable aces to emerge from the Spanish Civil War- Gotthard Handrick and Werner Mölders. I chose the latter option, and began digging into the history of the aircraft. Mölders' D-1 was coded 6-79, one of the last D models sent to Spain prior to the introduction of the far more powerful Bf 109E, and as such there was little ambiguity about the color scheme... it was painted in 63 over 65, not 62 as has recently been theorized. The sole remaining Spanish Civil War-era 109 still carrying traces of it's original camouflage was being offered for sale recently, and thanks to the cooperation of the seller, I was able to obtain very close photos of the remaining paint areas which were grey, not green. (Plug: for more information, see my book "Modellers Datafile No. 9, Messerschmitt Bf 109 - Prototypes through E series", available through SAM Publications). 63 was a warm, slightly greenish grey which was very close in tone to RLM 02, so not wanting to complicate things I just used plain Testor Model Master 02 over 65 and was plenty happy with the result. The wingtips and rudder were painted in plain old Testor white from the small square bottle, and then it came time to make a decision on the propeller spinner.


There is one photo from late August 1938 showing 6-79 with four victories (following Mölders' claim on 19 August) which shows the spinner in a distinctly different tone from that of the airframe... but what color was it? The artist of the superb box art piece, Jerry Boucher, hypothesized red, and the tonal contrast does seem to fit. However, red was the Staffel color of 2. Staffel, and Mölders was the Staffelkapitän of 3. Staffel... so it's unlikely he'd have another unit's color on his aircraft. 3. Staffel aircraft were sometimes seen with yellow spinners (their unit color), but this photo seems a bit too dark for yellow. So, I went with plain Aeromaster Dunkelgrün 71, simulating a faded 70 spinner as I felt this was the most likely option. The fronts of the prop blades were painted with Floquil Old Silver, burnished with Hawkeye Designs' aluminum polishing powder, while the rear was painted black.

Decaling was an absolute cinch, although here again I'd like to give a slight heads up about stenciling. As evidenced in photos, Mölders' aircraft did not carry any wing walk markings so do not use either of the options given on the decal sheet. Final assembly included adding the slightly modified landing gear assemblies and tail struts (which virtually snapped into place... a welcome surprise), and after a few thin coats of Dullcoat and removal of the canopy masking, it was done.

I chose not to weather the aircraft at all, as 6-79 was kept in immaculate condition by Mölders' ground crew, and I'm thrilled with the model's final appearance. It looks great parked next to my earlier Bf 109A coded 6-3, and I can see several more of these excellent kits being added to the collection!

Many thanks to Classic Airframes for the review sample.



Additional Images


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Model and Images Copyright © 2007 by Lynn Ritger
Page Created 09 August, 2007
Last Updated 24 December, 2007

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