Corgi AA33717 German Heinkel He-111H-2 Medium Bomber - 1H+JA, Stab./Kampfgeschwader 26, Westerland Airfield, Sylt, October 28th, 1939 (1:72 Scale)
"Guns before butter. Guns will make us powerful; butter will only make us fat."
- Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering, Head of the German Luftwaffe
When World War I ended, the German Air Force was disbanded under the Treaty of Versailles, which required the German government to abandon all military aviation by October 1st, 1919. However, by 1922, it was legal for Germany to design and manufacture commercial aircraft, and one of the first modern medium bombers to emerge from this process was the Heinkel He 111, the first prototype of which an enlarged, twin-engine version of the single-engine mail-liaison He 70, which set 8 world speed records in 1933 flew in February of 1935. The second prototype, the He 111 V2, had shorter wings and was the first civil transport prototype, capable of carrying 10 passengers and mail. The third prototype, He 111 V3 also had shorter wings and was the first true bomber prototype. Six He 111 C series airliners were derived from the fourth prototype, the He 111 V4, and went into service with Lufthansa in 1936, powered by a variety of engines, including BMW 132 radials. The first production models had the classic stepped windshield and an elliptical wing, which the designers, Siegfried and Walter Gunter, favored.
As a military aircraft, it took longer to gain favor, because military load requirements and underpowered engines kept its cruising speed down to less than 170 mph. However, in early 1936, the plane was given 1,000 hp Daimler Benz DB 600A engines which improved performance dramatically enough to bring in substantial orders. The first two mass-production versions, He 111 E and He 111 F experienced great success during the Spanish Civil War, where they served with the Condor Legion as fast bombers, able to outrun many of the fighters sent against them.
In fact, the experience in Spain generated a false sense of security in which the Germans thought that the He 111's light armament and speed would be sufficient in the coming war. Thus, although it was out of date, the large numbers in which it had been produced made the He 111 the Luftwaffe's primary bomber for far too long in the war, availability being more persuasive than practicality for this serviceable, but highly vulnerable, aircraft. Modern fighters like the Supermarine Spitfire and the Hawker Hurricane proved the He 111's inadequacy during the Battle of Britain. As soon as possible, the Luftwaffe replaced the Heinkel with the Junkers Ju 88, reassigning the Heinkel to night operations and other specialized tasks until, by war's end, it was being used primarily as a transport.
Pictured here is a 1:72 scale replica of a German Heinkel He-111H-2 medium bomber that was attached to Kampfgeschwader 26 on October 28th, 1939.
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Historical Account: "The Humble Heinkel" - As the four man crew of KG26 Heinkel 1H+JA boarded their aircraft at Westerland airfield on the Island of Sylt on the morning of October 20th, 1939, they knew that a long and dangerous sortie lay ahead of them. Their task was to perform a long range armed reconnaissance flight over the Glasgow area and on to photograph gun emplacements and naval vessels in the Firth of Forth, a heavily defended area of Britain. During the sortie, improving weather conditions over Scotland made the Heinkel clearly visible from the ground and as well as coming under fire from anti-aircraft batteries, patrolling Spitfires from Nos 602 and 603 Squadrons were quickly on the scene.
Attacking the aircraft from the rear, the Spitfires quickly silenced the intruder's defensive fire, before mounting repeated attacks, peppering the Heinkel's wings and fuselage with .303 machine gun bullets. With the pilot sustaining injury and both of the aircraft's engines damaged, the Heinkel rapidly lost height, with a crash landing the only option available to the two surviving crew members. Striking moorland near the village of Humbie in East Lothian, the aircraft demolished a drystone wall before coming to rest on a slight incline, breaking the Heinkel's back in the process. The aircraft had the notoriety of being the first German aircraft to crash relatively intact on British soil during WWII.