South Africa's Warbirds
A Visit to the South African National Museum of Military History
By Paul F. Straney and Robert Sacchi
Photographs and ancillary material courtesy Anthony Speir, Aviation Curator, S.A.N.M.M.H.
During the Second World War, British and South African forces captured many German aircraft. These aircraft were usually put on display for War Bond tours, among them the "Speed the Victory" cavalcade in South Africa. At the end of the war, South Africa sent several such aircraft to the museum for preservation.
The Bf-109E arrived at the Museum with a great many missing or damaged parts. For this reason there are no immediate plans to restore this aircraft.
Among these was one of the first captured aircraft to arrive in South Africa, a Messerschmitt Bf-109E-3 of Jagdgeschwader (Fighter Wing) 26. This aircraft, Black 2, factory number 1289, still carried the last two letters of the factory code behind the fuselage cross when captured, "SH" starboard, and "FA" port. The aircraft was originally manufactured at Erla Maschinenwerk GmbH, Leipzig, in 1939. The Luftwaffe accepted it on 3 July 1939.
The 109E after repainting. The Museum staff tried to more accurately reproduce the markings this aircraft carried at the time it crash-landed in England.
On 28 November 1940, Unteroffizer (equivalent to American Corporal) Heinz Wolf of I/JG26 flew a sortie over Southeast England. He ran out of fuel and crash-landed in Udimore, Sussex County. The aircraft belly-landed on a farm and hit an outhouse. The outhouse collision caused wing damage. Unteroffizer Wolf was uninjured. He spent the rest of the war as a POW. This Bf-109 was shipped to South Africa in about 1941 and displayed on several occasions. Because it was vandalized both in England and South Africa many of its major airframe components are missing, or replacements. When the museum repainted it in 1991, they painted on the original markings. The museum has the aircraft displayed in a crashed position with its undercarriage extended. The museum might soon display it "bellylanded," as it looked when it crashed.
The Museum's Bf-109F-2. The engine cowling is from a 109G-2, and most of the control surfaces were replaced with wooden replicas after the aircraft was vandalized, but this aircraft remains unique as the only surviving 'F'-series aircraft known to exist anywhere.
The other Messerschmitt Bf-109 is an F-2/TROP, manufactured by Arado. This is the only known Bf-109F in existence. Its factory number is 31010 and its aircraft number is "White 6." The markings indicate the aircraft belonged to JG 27. The top scoring German pilot on the Western Front, Oberleutnant Hans-Joachim Marseille, served in JG 27.
No. 7 Squadron, SAAF, captured this aircraft at a landing field called Marble Arch in Libya's Western Desert in damaged condition. The SAAF repaired it by cannibalizing other captured German aircraft. The repair crew probably fitted it with a G series engine cowling. The small scoops right above the front of the exhaust manifold proves the engine cowling is from a G-1 or G-2. The rest of the airframe is an F-2. Flown to South Africa in stages, the aircraft first went to 62 Air School. It subsequently took part in fundraising cavalcades throughout the country. It arrived at the museum in 1944, and was stored in the open for the next ten years.
During this time souvenir hunters took much of its instrumentation and several control surfaces. In 1954, the museum restored the aircraft, replacing the missing control surfaces with wooden replicas. It is restored in I/JG 27 markings, with a standard Luftwaffe desert color scheme, and radio-call sign letters 6+I. The fighter is fitted with a special tropical air filter to protect the engine from sand and also carried a pilot's survival kit in case the pilot force-landed in the desert.
Paul F. Straney and Robert Sacchi © 1992