Friday 5 June 2015

Das vergessene As - 'The forgotten Ace' by Bernd Barbas' Luftfahrt Verlag Start's Barkhorn biography reviewed here by Tim Wheeldon

Many thanks to Tim Wheeldon for jotting down a few thoughts on the impressive new tome from Start Verlag devoted to the 'second'  - and forgotten - Ace, Gerd Barkhorn.

Whilst there has been much written about the Luftwaffe's other two highest scoring pilots, Erich Hartmann, 352 victories and Gunther Rall, 275 victories, there has been relatively little coverage devoted to Gerhard Barkhorn who, with 301 victories, was the only other member of the exclusive "300 Club". Aptly named "The Forgotten Ace" this book sets out to put this right. Published by Luftfahrtverlag Start - the same people who do the excellent Luftwaffe im Focus series - it appears in the same dual German/English format. In the foreword author Bernd Barbas recalls the origins of the book, which had it's beginnings back in October 1982 after a meeting with Barkhorn himself. Tragically just four months later Barkhorn and his wife were both killed in a car accident. Since the intention had been to record more interviews with Barkhorn the project was abandoned. Luckily, years later,  and after looking through his original material, Barbas decided to take up the project again......

 We now have this marvelous book some thirty years later. The book is replete with photos over its 207 pages, a good few taken by Barkhorn himself and to a large extent previously unpublished. Also published here for the first time are numerous colour slides - some 30 or so - taken by Barkhorn himself. It has to be said that they are high quality images and the publisher's treatment really does them justice - many are printed over a full page as can be seen in the page views presented here. This is most useful if you are a modeller, as the quality of reproduction is such that many many details are revealed that would normally disappear. These rare images are supplemented by Claes Sundin's high quality profile artworks; indeed there are side-views of all the aircraft flown by Barkhorn. In addition there a number of maps distributed through the text showing Barkhorn's airfields and his movements during the war. The book is split into the following sections;

Foreword* The Barkhorn Family*. Flying Training* With JG 2 "Richtofen"-10 January to 31 March 1940* With JG 52 in the West and East, (sub sectioned as follows) - action in the home war zone and on the Western front 1940/41 - with II./JG 52 on the Eastern Front 1941 - operations 1942-43 - acting Gruppenkommandeur of the I. Gruppe - Gruppenkommandeur of II. Gruppe - the war year 1944 - 1945 towards the end* Kommodore of JG 6 "Horst Wessel" * With Jagdverband 44* The postwar period*. In the Bundesluftwaffe*. The accident*. Promotions/Decorations*. Victory list of Gerhard Barkhorn* Sources.

The excellent translation of the text is supported by many eye witness accounts and excerpts from Barkhorn's dairy along with combat reports, all of which make up an easy-to-read book. Even if the Eastern front is not your area of interest, the book looks at every aspect of the ace's life, so Fw 190 Doras and Me 262 jets also feature. Post-war Barkhorn's role in the 1964-65 'Tripartite Squadron' - the evaluation unit that carried out trials of the Hawker Siddeley Kestrel , forerunner to the VTOL Harrier- is also briefly described. Barkhorn also recalls his crash landing on 13 October 1965, when, at the controls of XS 689 code No 9, he cut the throttles too early, with the aircraft still one metre off the ground, wrecking the undercarriage. As he extricated himself from the cockpit he was heard to mutter "..302 ''.. To sum up, well worth investing in just for the quality of the photos of the aircraft and, if you're a modeller, there are some great ideas for dioramas within the pages. Note too that there is a limited edition decal sheet available to purchase from the Start website covering all the aircraft flown by Barkhorn..

Barkhorn's aircraft in more detail on this blog here

Thank you Tim!

So highly recommended indeed - it certainly looks very impressive and the attention lavished on the production by the publisher appears self-evident from Tim's page shots. Do please click on the link to visit the Luftfahrtverlag Start website!