Corgi AA38509 German Messerschmitt Bf 110E-1/N Destroyer - VJ+OQ, Rudolf Hess, Augsburg-Haunstetten, Germany, May 10th, 1941 (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
The Messerschmitt Bf 110 was an aircraft of very mixed fortunes. It has often been criticized for its failure during the Battle of Britain, while its successes in other fields have been largely ignored. Despite not living up to the Luftwaffe's expectations it did manage to serve Germany throughout the Second World War in the long-range escort fighter, fighter-bomber, reconnaissance, ground attack and night fighter roles.
The long-range multi-seat escort fighter is possibly the most difficult of combat aircraft to design. Certainly no entirely successful machine in this category emerged from the Second World War, and when Professor Willy Messerschmitt began design studies for such a warplane towards the end of 1934 at the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke at Augsburg his problems would have seemed insurmountable had he possessed a full knowledge of interceptor fighter development trends abroad. Such a machine as was required by Marshal Goering to equip the elite "zerstorer" formations that he envisaged had to be capable of penetrating deep into enemy territory, possessing sufficient range to accompany bomber formations. The fuel tankage necessary presented a serious weight penalty and called for the use of two engines if the "zerstorer" was to achieve a performance approaching that of the lighter interceptor fighter by which it would be opposed. Yet it had to be maneuverable if it was to successfully fend off the enemy's single-seaters.
The Bf 110Es were capable of carrying a respectable bomb load of 4,410 lb (2,000 kg) as fighter-bombers, while straight fighter and reconnaissance versions were also built. These, and later versions, were operated with a fair degree of success in many war zones. The Bf 110F was basically similar to the E, but two new variants were produced - the 110F-2 carrying rocket projectiles and the F-4 with two 30 mm cannon and an extra crew member for night fighting. The last version, the Bf 110G, was intended for use originally as a fighter-bomber but, in view of the success of the F-4 and the increasingly heavy attacks on Germany by Allied bombers, was employed mostly as a night fighter.
Pictured here is a 1:72 scale replica of a German Messerschmitt Bf 110E-1/N twin-engine fighter that was piloted by Deputy Fuhrer Rudolf Hess, who crash-landed at Floors Farm, Eaglesham, Scotland, on May 10th, 1941.
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Historical Account: "Making Peace" - One of the most mysterious episodes of the Second World War occurred over Northern Britain on the night of Saturday May 10th, 1941, as the Chain Home radar network picked up an unidentified raid approaching the coast of Northumberland. Crossing the coast near Alnwick, the Royal Observer Corps identified the raid as a single Messerschmitt Me-110 fighter which continued flying inland in the direction of Glasgow and was tracked until it hit the west coast of Scotland. With a Defiant nightfighter now on its tail and with fuel reserves running low, the intruder was seen to turn back inland, before crashing at Bonnyton Moor, Eaglesham, near Glasgow at 23.09pm. The lone pilot was observed parachuting to earth and was promptly detained by a pitchfork toting farmer, who when inquiring if the airman was German, was surprised by the excellent English of his prisoner, who went on to give his name as Hauptmann Albert Horn. Collected by the Home Guard, the prisoner was later interviewed by an Observer Corps Major, who almost immediately recognized the airman as none other than Rudolf Hess, senior Nazi Party official and Deputy Fuhrer of Germany. Why had such an important political figure made such a hazardous, one-way flight and what were his intentions?
Taking off from the Messerschmitt factory airfield at Augsburg-Haunstetten in Bavaria at 17.45 UK time on May 10th, 1941, Nazi Party official Rudolf Hess had a long and dangerous flight ahead of him. Even though his unarmed Me-110 fighter was carrying additional fuel, this was always going to be a one-way flight and it is unclear what his intentions were - surely, capture by the British would be the best possible outcome. During later interrogation, it is reported that Hess planned to land by parachute on the estate of Scottish nobleman, the Duke of Hamilton, a man he had previously met at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin and someone thought to be politically influential in trying to muster support for a negotiated peace with Germany. A fascinating incident which has been the subject of a great many conspiracy theories over the years, Hess's true intentions have never been definitively ascertained, however, the flight did coincide with Germany's decision to launch a massive offensive against the Soviet Union, in addition to Hess being somewhat side-lined in the Nazi Party hierarchy. Hitler was reported to have been enraged on hearing about the actions of his trusted deputy and described him as having lost his mind. This incident did highlight the invaluable contribution of the Royal Observer Corps during WWII, as once a hostile aircraft had reached the British mainland, radar was of no use and tracking information was provided by this impressive network of vigilant volunteers.