South African National Museum of Military History: Restoration of The Focke-Wulf 190
by Anthony Speir
Four years of research involving correspondence with a number of authorities both here and overseas has preceded the restoration programme.
Due to the chaos which inevitably occurred in the final weeks of the Second World War, aircraft and personnel were moved from place to place as necessity dictated and the majority of the relevant records were either lost in these moves, destroyed out of loyalty or found their final resting place in parts of Eastern Europe which have been closed to most researchers. Eye witnesses are now in the twilight of their lives and memories have faded.
Because of the problems of supply and communications, stores often ran short of particular items, types or colours with the inevitable result that, for example, incorrect paint colours were used which did not conform to those laid down in official instructions. Aircraft were not repainted (and often not re-marked) when transferred from one unit to another and, after capture, were crudely repainted in the colours and markings considered appropriate by the captors.
In the case of this aircraft, it was repainted at least twice whilst in British hands and was stripped of virtually all traces of paint when it was first assembled in South Africa.
The nomenclature of the aircraft A-6/R6 has given rise to considerable research problems as there was clear evidence that the R6 field modification (the fitting of the 21 cm rocket tubes under the wings) was never carried out. This conundrum was finally solved by the discovery of a modifications plate hidden under several layers of paint confirming that field conversion R8 had been fitted and relevant mounting points were found to confirm this. R8 is the underwing fitting of a 30 mm MK 108 cannon outboard of the undercarriage legs and it has been decided that this conversion should be incorporated in the restoration programme. Drawings have been obtained of the 'pods' in which these underwing guns were mounted on an experimental basis and these have been reconstructed and fitted with replicas of the 30 mm cannon.
Photographs obtained from official sources in Britain show the aircraft fitted with unusual radar aerials which have been identified by one of Germany's leading authorities as a special form of range-finding radar which was being developed to counter the massed formations of American day bombers. This radar was, as far as can be ascertained, never put into operational use as the main stock of equipment was destroyed in a bombing raid before it could be distributed. The radar aerials have been faithfully copied in replica and fitted to the wings.
Although firm evidence is not forthcoming, a combination of circumstantial information leads to the belief that the aircraft was serving with an experimental unit (erprobungsstelle) 8/JG 11 and it has been decided to paint it in the colour scheme and markings appropriate to this unit.
Since the authentic weapons are not available, replicas of the armament have been carefully constructed to enable the aircraft to be exhibited as nearly as possible as it appeared during its operational career.
It should further be noted that German aircraft damaged in service were frequently returned to their factory of origin and were rebuilt to later mark number standard before being sent out to an operational unit. In such cases the aircraft usually received a new factory serial number (werk nummer), a practice which has compounded the difficulties of tracing accurate information on a particular aircraft.
Whilst the fuselage werk nummer on the Museum's aircraft has been confirmed from several sources, two other werk nummern have been found, one on a label in the radio compartment and the other inside the vertical stabiliser. This rebuilding practice has also led to incorrect nomenclatures being applied to some aircraft and to confusion when trying to trace the history of a particular aircraft.
Whilst making no claim to infallibility, the Museum has faithfully restored the aircraft as nearly as possible to its original condition as extensive research and available sources will allow.
Grateful acknowledgment is made of advice and information received from numerous sources both inside South Africa and overseas. Especial thanks are due to Mr. Phil Butler of Great Britain, Herr Fritz Trenkle and Dr. Gunther Meinhardt of West Germany and Captain Dave Becker of the SAAF Museum, Pretoria and our deep gratitude to Plascon Paints and specially Commandant Tommy Coetzee for the generous donation of all the paints used as well as much valuable advice.
Although of very poor quality, this photograph shows the original "Neptun-Lilliput" range-finding radar aerials fitted to the Museum's Fw-190. Photographed at RAF Farnborough, 1945.
Paul F. Straney and Robert Sacchi © 1992