The Junkers Ju 88 was one of the most versatile aircraft to see service in WWII, so much so that it would be impractical to try to cover all the variants in detail in a single volume. Instead, Valiant Wings have wisely decided to focus on the early development of the aircraft through to the proposed 'B series in the present book, saving the later variants for second volume.
Author Richard Franks has produced an excellent study of this iconic aircraft, packing a huge amount of useful information into its 272 pages. The book follows the series' familiar format, dividing the content loosely into "Airframe" and "Miniature" chapters, but the distinction is slightly artificial, because modellers will find a lot of useful material in the "Airframe" coverage, and aircraft enthusiasts will undoubtedly also be interested in the "walk-aound-style" coverage in the "Miniature" section.
Things begin with a 25-page Preface which presents an interesting overview of the development of the Ju 88 and its service in a bewildering variety of roles with the Luftwaffe and other air forces. The chapter includes a lot of interesting original photos, many of which are new to me.
The coverage includes the Ju 88's post-war career with the Armée de l'Air, plus captured airframes evaluated by the Allies.
The Evolution chapters cover each of the variants separately. The three chapters deal with the prototypes, pre-production and A-series, and finally the B-series. Combined, that totals 37 pages of side profiles, each accompanied by detailed notes, plus period photos where possible.
Along with the well-known production versions, there are some fascinating "odd-balls", such as the 'V2 and 'V5 with their extended noses. These instantly cry out as wonderful modelling projects for anyone looking for something "different" to turn heads in a line-up of Ju 88 kits.
Camouflage & Markings span almost 40 pages and features a mass of high quality colour artwork by Richard Caruana, backed up by period photos (a few in colour) and a good description of the camouflage and tactical markings worn in each theatre of war. There's a useful list of Luftwaffe unit codes, plus a full-page diagram of serving stencil placement.
There's plenty here to whet the modelling appetite amongst the featured examples, especially with some of the field-applied paint schemes, the foreign-service markings and captured airframes.
The "Miniature" section of the book begins with 17 pages of reviews that cover most of the commonly available Ju 88A Kits, plus a quick round-up of some of the older kits that have appeared through the years. Many of the latter are no longer worth considering for accurate builds, but some will be rarities that will appeal to collectors.
Having the main reviews compiled back-to-back will be very useful for anyone trying to decide which kit to purchase, because they all have their pros and cons and are often aimed at different experience levels and price-points
There are just two builds featured in Building A Selection, but they are both excellent as Steve Evans tackles the Revell 1:72 Ju 88A-1 and ICM's Ju 88A-4. Each is described in detail and illustrated with clear close-up shots of the construction and painting.
Building A Collection covers a lot of the same ground as Evolution, the difference being that it uses isometric views of each variant instead of side profiles. The artwork by Wojciech Sankowski works really nicely to highlight the changes and specific features of variant, and the drawings are annotated with detailed captions and occasionally backed up by period photos.
It really underlines just how many variants there were of the Ju 88's prototypes and 'A and 'B-series, because it requires some 40 pages to cover them all! As usual, I wish the material in the Evolution and Collection chapters could be combined somehow to present the information together, because it's all useful to modellers and you'll almost inevitably find yourself flipping back and forth between the chapters.
For many readers the In Detail section will be reason enough to purchase the book. A problem with a conventional "walk-around" would be that there are so few preserved A-series airframes, but this isn't an issue here because Valiant Wings rely primarily on original photographs and diagrams from the pilots notes and servicing manuals. So, while there are some modern colour shots of museum exhibits to show details that would be appropriate to the A-series, the bulk of the illustrations are vintage and hence much more reliable in terms of accuracy.
The 81-page chapter is divided into the following sections, each often further sub-divided to provide precisely the kind of detail that is invaluable for modellers:
Engine, Cowlings & Propeller
Oil, Fuel, Coolant & Hydraulic Systems
Rounding off the text are 15 pages of Appendices, with illustrated lists of Ju 88 kits, Accessories and Decals, plus a Bibliography for further reading.
Last of all, Valiant Wings include an excellent set of fold-out 1:48 plans which will obviously be easiest to use if you remove them from the book. Sadly this will leave the scale drawings loose to get mislaid or damaged, so it would have been nice if there was a flap inside the back cover to keep them safe.
Airframe & Miniature #23 is a book that will be of equal appeal to aircraft enthusiasts and modellers alike, and I'd go so far as to declare it something of a "must" if you're intending to super-detail a build of the Ju 88A series. I'm sure there'll be a degree of cross-over for later variants which will be covered in the follow-up volume. I think it's safe to predict that they will combine to be the most comprehensive guide to the Ju 88 in all its forms that's readily available, and that fans of this iconic aircraft will want to have both among their reference books.
Airframe & Miniature #23 - The Junkers Ju 88 Pt.1 is available now from Valiant Wings - Price: £28.95
Many thanks to Valiant Wings for the review sample.
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