Following on from my earlier look at the UK based Buchons, both airworthy and under restoration, it is now time to take a look at the original 109s on display in the UK. The current count on or soon to be on public display sits at 4, with one very exciting airworthy prospect for 2017.
BF109G-2 Black 6 – Royal Air Force Museum Cosford
Black 6 is probably the most well known example of the 109 in the United Kingdom. It certainly made a lasting impression on those who attended airshows regular in the 1990s. The airframe, given the serial W/Nr.10639 rolled out of the factory in September 1942 before being accepted by the Luftwaffe the following month. Being a tropical variant of the famous fighter the aircraft was soon moved to North Africa where it would join operational service. Shortly after arriving however, in November 1942, the Luftwaffe lost the aircraft, believed to be as a result of the base of Gambut Main was abandoned.
The damaged and abandoned airframe was soon found by RAF ground crew and, with careful use of spares from around the airfield was returned to working order with the RAF codes CV-V applied to the fuselage. Those codes were the personal markings of Sqn Ldr R H Gibbes who adopted the 109 has his own aircraft for a while. Gibbes was impressed by the incredible performance of the design. After a series of positioning flights accompanied by RAF P-40s, the RAF decided that the aircraft should receive a full test flight program as it was the first example of a G model 109 to have been captured by the allies.
Much of the early test flying and investigations of the aircraft took place in North Africa but Black 6 was transferred to the UK and allocated the serial RN228 in late 1943. The first UK flight took place in February 1944 at RAF Lewendon. Shortly after this first flight the Messerschmitt was flown in a comparative test with a Tempest V, this would be the first of many mock dogfight flights that the aircraft would carry out. After months of touring the country while undergoing trials the aircraft was flown to Tangmere on the 27th March 1945 in what would be its last flight before restoration.
Over the intervening years Black 6 was passed around various airfields, being used for static display at many airshows and events before being a restoration to fly was started in 1972. The restoration project would later move to RAF Northolt in 1975 and again to RAF Benson in 1983. The restoration of Black 6 was an incredible feat and the subject of a very interesting documentary. The restoration finally came to an end in 1991 when the aircraft carried out its first post-restoration flight on the 17th March. After a ferry flight from Benson to Duxford full flight testing was completed with a public debut at the September Duxford show in 1991. The RAF Museum originally allowed for 3 seasons of flying before the aircraft would be grounded. A major starter problem in 1993 led to the aircraft missing a year which saw the RAF extend the term of its flying career. Black 6 became a unique and regular performer at airshows. The RAF Museum would extend the flying career another 2 years with the final display taking place in October 1997 at Duxford. Sadly this flight came to an eventful end with the aircraft ending up upside down in a field across the M11 from Duxford. Thankfully the pilot was unharmed but Black 6 received major damage. The damaged airframe was stored at Duxford until the RAF Museum decided it would be restored to static condition the following summer. The static rebuilt was completed in 2002 and Black 6 took up residence at its new home of Hendon.
Since then Black 6 has been a firm part of the RAF Museum, having been on display in the Milestones Hall, Bomber Hall and now RAF Gosford. It always seems a shame to see a once airworthy aircraft left to being a static exhibit. However, Black 6 is an incredibly rare and still very original airframe and as such of great importance. It is a testament to the RAF Museum and the team of volunteers who restored the airframe that a post-war flying career was possible at all.
BF109E W/Nr.3579 G-CIPB – Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar
The most exciting prospect on this list has to be 109E “White 14” currently undergoing restoration to fly at Biggin Hill. Airworthy 109 airframes with the original Damlier Benz power plants are rare, airworthy 109Es are even rarer. White 14 is one of only two Emils flying on the planet.
This airframe was originally taken on charge by the Luftwaffe in November 1939. Following conflict with a number of Spitfires in August 1940, the aircraft was involved in a belly landing in France. ‘3579 was being flown by Fänrich Marsaille at the time of the accident, Marsaille claimed at least one his wartime victories in this airframe, making the aircraft a true Battle of Britain veteran.
After further wartime service, the airframe was ultimately recovered in Russia this 109 was rebuilt over a number of years in the UK before being sold to Canada in flying condition. ‘3579 flew for many years as part of the Russell collection of warbirds based near Niagara Falls. After a few years on the ground it was announced that the airframe had been sold to a UK based owner and the aircraft would be performing at UK airshows. A couple of years have since passed, unsurprising given the specialist nature of the Daimler Benz powerplant. Engine runs did take place late in 2016 so there is a hope that in 2017 we will finally get the chance to see a genuine BF109E take to the skies over southern England.
BF109E W/NR.4101 – Royal Air Force Museum Hendon
Messerschmitt BF109E-4 W/NR.4101 was built in September 1940 at Leipzig and flew as part of JG51 as a fighter-bomber. On the 27th November 1940 ‘4101’s pilot, Wolfgang Teumer was shot down by Flt Lt George Christie and made a forced landing in a field near Manston. After recovery, the airframe was moved to Hucknall where it was to be repaired. As these repairs carried on the aircraft was repainted into RAF colours with the serial DG200.
The 109 flew again on the 25th February 1941. A year later, having passed through de Havilland at Hatfield, ‘4101 arrived at Boscombe Down before moving to Duxford. While at Duxford the 109 carried out a number of test and demonstration flights. In September 1943, once newer 109 models had been captured ‘4101 was retired to Stafford for storage. The airframe was refurbished at St Athan in the early 1970s before finally being delivered to Hendon in 1978.
As part of the ongoing development work at the Royal Air Force Museum the airframe has recently been moved into the Historic Hangars where it joins the Spitfire, Hurricane and Fiat CR42 from the Battle of Britain Hangar.
109E – White 4 – Duxford
Another example of the rare 109E can be found at Duxford and, by me at least is often overlooked. This airframe was built in 1939 and soon joined the Luftwaffe, initially based at Marquise-Ost. While on operations near the coast of England the aircraft, piloted by Horst Perez, lost a dogfight with a group of Hurricanes and was forced to land in a field near Beachy Head.
Relatively little damage was sustained in the forced landing and as a result the airframe was soon shipped to the United States to take part in a fundraising tour in order to help the British war effort. The aircraft remained in North American throughout the war years eventually moving to Canada after the war ended. This 109 eventually returned to the UK in 1966.
The airframe was acquired by the Imperial War Museum in 1998 and Partially restored. Throughout its tour of the United States the airframe retained its battle damage and is displayed in a forced landing diorama setting complete with bent propellor blades and missing panels. The left wing has been left unrestored, allowing visitors to the museum to see the various messages that were written on the aircraft during its tour. This airframe provides an impressive central point to Duxford’s Battle of Britain hangar.
This concludes a look at the original 109s currently on public view in the UK, there are believed to be a number of other projects in storage, though less is known about the identities/history of these examples. At the moment the UK has no airworthy original 109s, hopefully in 2017 we will see that change.