Sunday 14 June 2020

HA-1112 M1L Buchon - Kagero Monograph no. 67

The Bf 109 had a long association with Spain, the type having undergone its baptism of fire during the Spanish Civil War. Post-WWII versions of  the Bf 109 saw frontline Spanish service until the mid-1960s. Now Spanish author Eduardo Manuel Gil Martínez tells the full story of the 'Buchon' and its many variants in this latest monograph from Kagero (released in late 2019).

The HA-1112 M1L Buchon was essentially a fusion of the Messerschmitt Bf 109 and the Rolls Royce Merlin engine, and was the last in line of this famous fighter. Having seen the type 'blooded' in combat as early as 1937  - a world first - the last of the line, the 'Buchon', remained in service in the "Ejercito del Aire" until 1965 and was still being constructed well after the Korean War and the first 'jet vs. jet' combats. The final “Buchon” variant – the only Bf 109s with four-bladed props - did not enter service until as late as 1957.

The saga started with Spanish attempts to find engines for their Me 109 airframes - it is not clear to me from the text why the Germans never delivered any DB engines with the Spanish Bf 109 order.  As no-one was supplying military equipment to the Spanish during WWII - indeed Franco sent a volunteer unit, the 'Escuadra Azul' to the Eastern Front -  Hispano Aviacion had been contracted to build some 200 Bf 109 G-2s under license in November 1943. Twenty five G-2 airframes were supplied from Germany presumably for pattern-making, technician training and so forth - but no engines, these apparently requisitioned by the Luftwaffe. The first attempts to 're-engine' the Bf 109 airframes involved marrying the Hispano-Suiza HS 12-Z-89 engine, a modification of the French HS 12Y powerplant. This resulted in a considerable number of mods to the type as the engine rotated in the opposite direction to the DB engine. The Ha 1109 J first flew during March 1945. Later and more successfully, the Rolls-Royce Merlin was fitted to the German airframe after embargoes on the export of military goods to Spain were lifted in the early 1950s. The author makes the point that the first and last of the Messerschmitt Bf 109 line were thus powered by the British Rolls Royce.

The first Spanish "G-2s" did not enter service until 1947 and were constructed in a number of different versions - HA 1109 J even known as the Me 109 J to the Ha 1112 - essentially a Merlin-engined 'Jota'.  Hispano Aviación had been established when an Hispano-Suiza car and aircraft parts factory complex in southern Spain was taken over by "Nationalist" forces in 1939, during the Spanish Civil War. Located in Tablada, in the Triana district of Seville, the Hispano factory - in addition to the licence built version of the famous Messerschmitt Bf-109 Gustav - also went on to produce the Hispano HA-100 Triana and the Hispano HA-200 Saeta jet trainer and light attack aircraft designed by Willy Messerschmitt. Hispano Aviación was taken over by Construcciones Aeronáuticas SA (CASA) in 1972, which is now part of Airbus.

below; powerfully armed 'tripala' with rocket-rails and 20mm cannon.

The 'Buchon' as it became known became a 'movie star' as  early as 1957. Appearing in 'Der Stern von Afrika' were the HA -1109s - these machines were surprisingly successfully passed off as Bf 109 Friedrichs of JG 27. The type cemented its reputation with 1969's 'Battle of Britain' blockbuster. There were a number of subtle differences to these film aircraft 'modified' from their stock military configuration to look like Emils. The wing fences were removed, as were the wing cannons. Fake wing 20mm cannons were added, also cowl guns. One of the most noticeable differences involved the wing tips. They were changed to look more like the squared 109 E wing tip. However, they were not merely shortened, but replaced with a more representative item. Interestingly, most of the BoB Movie survivors have reverted to the original pieces.

There is much interesting info on the types in Kagero's book. Did you know that early, Jumo-powered Bf 109 variants in Spanish service actually survived until July 1955? I didn’t, either.  And how were condoms used in aircraft maintenance? See page 35. Want the official name for the Buchon’s vivid “cobalt blue” finish? You’ll find it here.

There has been a debate among modelers regarding the exact blue color used on the HA-1112. Rumor had it that they were painted with automotive colors - "Peugeot Blue" to be exact. It seems the Spanish CO owned a Peugeot and thought his planes would look great in the same color. Everything was painted blue from the gear legs to wheel hubs. (Model by Barry Numerick).

Some reviews of this latest Kagero monograph have pointed to the " ..over 80 picture-packed pages.." but in reality there are only 55 pages of text and pictures, 3 pages of annexes with the remaining 20-odd pages comprising air-show contemporary photos, some taken from wikipedia under the 'creative commons' license. There are also four pages of color shots of contemporaries of the 'Buchon' in Spanish air force service ie, Starfighter, Harvard, T-33 which have nothing to do with the Hispano Ha  -1112 story whatsoever.

However as in the 'bad old days' with Kagero, the text in the book is virtually unreadable. As one reviewer put it,  "..  the text is wearisome to read. Some diction frankly borders on bizarre. And some sections actually defy discernment. But attention to context – and a  grasp of history – help divine much of the book’s awfully opaque English "... There was a time when Kagero would send this blog author their monograph texts for proofing, editing, translating and generally re-working - by a native English-speaker. See some of the credits in their Bf 109, Fw 190, Ju 88 and He 111 books for example. But they haven't done that for a while, as their release programme slowed.

  ‘A star has born’

But most modelers undoubtedly buy Kagero titles for the pretty pictures – not for proper prose. And this one doesn’t disappoint. It’s certainly a colorful project reference! For modelers, the Special Hobby kit is the only current option in 1/72, although Classic Plane had a resin conversion years ago. They also made limited run complete kits of several versions of the HA-1112. A Czech company, Lift Here, also made a complete resin kit. In the larger scales, Buchon Scale Models have done magnificent conversion sets for the HA-1112 in 1/32 and the HA-1109 in both 1/32 and 1/48. They also have a line of accessories for these aircraft as well. The whole line is superb, very well researched and beautifully cast resin. Perhaps one day they might think of doing these in 1/72. 

Kagero are distributed in the UK and available in North America from Casemate.

Links to Buchon Scale models and to Barry Numerick's  72nd scale 'Buchon' conversions and builds follow;

Three CASA HA-112-M1L Buchóns (5926427425)

The Messerschmitt Stiftung's "Rote Sieben" (Red Seven) was built as a Hispano (CASA) license built Bf-109, the Hispano HA-1112 M-1L Buchón in 1950 with c/n 139. After delivery she first served with the Ejercito del Aire with serial C.4K-75. After being stuck off charge she was stored in Tablada before being sold to the United Kingdom in 1968, registered as G-AWHH. She starred as a Bf-109E "yellow 11" and "red 14" in movie "The Battle of Britain". For another role in a movie she was reconverted into a P-51 "Mustang" with a fake belly-cooler attached. But she unfortunately crashed during a take-off and was severely damaged.  (Malcom Auld video)

After her accident she was sold to the USA being registered as N3109G and restored to flying condtion. She was flown for the first and last time from Casper, Wyoming in 1986 as she crashed on take-off. After she was "repaired" to represent an Bf-109E-4 in static condition and in open storage. She was in a terrible state when she arrived in Augsburg, Germany in the 1990s where a couple of enthusiasts had the ambitious plan to restore her to Bf-109G-4 "Gustav" specifications, including the Daimler-Benz DB605 engine. Her first owner gave up on the plan fairly soon an in 1998 she was moved to the Messerschmitt Air Company (MAC) at Albstadt-Degerfeld. There she would undergo an expensive and time consuming restoration, that took over 30.000 hours. The work was completed in 2004 and on October 8 of that year she was presented to the public; the Rote Sieben had come to life!