Compiled by two leading writer/researchers at Lela Presse (the leading French publisher of Luftwaffe publications),'Luftwaffe in Colour - from glory to defeat 1943-45' is the keenly awaited second installment of a two-part photographic compilation of the best of Luftwaffe colour photography published by Casemate in this English-language edition. This is a card-covered softback featuring some 160 pages on thick glossy paper. Volume I was divided into nine chapters covering theatres from 'Poland and the Sitzkrieg', the 'Blitz and the Battle of Britain", 'Barbarossa', the 'Mediterranean and Africa' and Volume II continues with chapter X, 'Facing the Soviet steamroller', through to chapter XIV 'The Eagle Falls' via chapters on the Mediterranean front and the 'invasions' in the West. So while the first half of this volume features the best from the German Propaganda-Kompanie reporters, the second is compiled largely from French and American sources. And while the German PK photo reporters on the ground for the launch of Blitzkrieg and the subsequent campaigns had privileged access to colour film arguably the Americans had access to even more of it and their photos in comparison are rather more 'spontaneous' and generally of excellent quality. In France many colour images originate from newly captured airfields. In among the wrecks and relics there is plenty of interesting material - aircraft featured include machines from the anti-partisan unit Geschwader Bongart and a selection of Ju 88s from the Junkers Frontbetriebreparatur (FBR - advanced maintenance facility) at Villacoublay near Paris. With Ju 88s operating from no fewer than thirty eight aerodromes throughout France at the height of the Battle of Britain the French had quickly gained a certain amount of expertise on the type which helped the Vichy authorities to preserve employment and some of their aircraft manufacturing base.
There are more airfield scenes from Austria, Czechoslovakia and Denmark (Ju 88 night fighters). The capitulation on 8 May 1945 provided the opportunity to record a host of late-war machines surrendering; SG 10 Fw 190s arriving at Neubiburg and the red-bellied Doras of JV 44 at Munich-Riem are just two of the highlights - it still seems difficult to believe that when the first images of these machines came to light some believed them to have black and white striped lower surfaces. All types of aircraft are presented in colour; from the rockets and jets to the bizarre piggy-back Misteln, from seaplanes and transports to night fighters, trainers and reconnaissance machines. Among my personal favourites are the rare colour images of the Dornier Do 24 T seaplanes of Seenotstaffel 81 deployed to evacuate civilians from the Baltic pockets ahead of the on-rushing Red Army - during these airbridge flights from Nest to Rügen one trimotor is recorded as having loaded over 100 passengers (17 adults and 99 children!). Such flights were flown by unarmed aircraft - to lighten them - at wave-top height. At least one crashed into the lake at Kamp - the four crew and 72 civilians were lost.
Any photo book stands or falls on the quality of photo reproduction and fortunately here not only is the standard very high but the quality of 90% of the images is very good indeed while each picture is informatively and expertly captioned. This is a book to keep close to hand for reference, to dip into constantly.
Below; Me 321 'W6+SW' of the GS-Kdo.2 (Grossraumsegler) seen in the Kuban at Sslawjanskaja just weeks after the fall of Stalingrad in mid-February 1943. He 111 Z-1 'TM+KI' is on the right of the image in the background. The two Bf 109 G-2s are 'white 3' of 4./JG 52 and the 'chevrons + bars' of the Kommodore Major Dietrich Hrabak. Low res image copy courtesy of Jean-Louis Roba and extracted from 'Luftwaffe in Colour -from glory to defeat 1943-45 ".