The Basics - Gerätebrett (23.06.2019)
As a way of background I started with flight sims around 2001 with original IL-2, followed by IL-2 expansions, CloD, War Thunder and now mostly IL-2 BoX in VR. Parallel to playing games I developed an interest in historical facts of that period and utilized military hardware. This mostly reflected in acquiring and reading a large collection of relevant (technical) books and visiting museums, ideally with large aircraft collections. Now I have decided to go somehow a step further and get an actual piece of history into my home. This way the project to re-create an instrument panel of an actual German fighter plane was born.
The choice of Bf 109 is rather easy: given over 30 thousand produced planes the amount of available original pieces and instruments in working condition is rather high. G version is again the most produced one and already reflecting shortages of later war, leading to a more practical approach to elements of construction / instruments utilized. Because a lot of work on the actual planes was done in the field one can probably argue that most combination of instruments is possible as long as the time period and functionality make sense. The idea further developed after a visit to Flugwerft Schleißheim near Munich and purchase of an excellent Motorbuch Verlag book: Messerschmitt Bf 109 Workshop Manual. Instrument panel of Bf 109 G-2 Black 6 which is outlined in great details and with multiple high quality picture in the book serves as the main reference. The story of this plane is amazing and would probably justify a separate thread. It was the last air worthy Bf 109 from original German production until a crash in 1997. It has be carefully re-build, but not into an air worthy version to minimize risk of total loss. It is currently on display Royal Air Force Museum Cosford. Further information is derived through existing pictures and videos of surviving exemplars, but also linking back to the gaming world: I did find myself jumping into IL-2 BoX in VR to cross reference some instruments and understand the exact location of others. These are modeled in a superb fashion in the game and it is amazing to be able to compare VR view then with actual physical instruments and hardware lying around.
First Step: Gerätebrett
Obviously the first thing one needs to re-create an instrument panel is the panel itself with a nice sounding German name: Gerätebrett. Decision to go for G version already proved helpful as late war Bf 109 utilized wood as the main material for the instrument panels. While E and F version had a metal panel starting from G versions the decision was made to move to wood, probably to save cost / materials and facilitate higher production rates. Basically any woodwork place could supply these to Messerschmitt factories. You can actually see the same in Me 262, it is beautiful and visibly reflected in the game: instrument panel of the most technically advanced plane in the second world war was made from ... plywood. Getting a "real thing" was not really an option. Existing "originals" usually already contain the instruments, while my goal was to start collecting on a basis of clean panel. Theoretically, based on existing technical drawings and plans, it would be possible to build an exact replica. Luckily there are already sufficient enthusiast out there who tackled this probably. I was able to acquire an exact replica of a full instrument panel (Gerätebrett) including the top panel which contains the placement for the Revi, ammo counters, wing cannon warning lights and the flight watch ( Gerätebretträger) from a very friendly and helpful gentleman on German ebay. As you can see below it contains proper cutouts for all required major and minor instruments.
The layout and markings are similar to the pictures of an actual Gerätebrett salvaged from a Bf 109 wreckage at the end of the war in a German village.
First Instrument - Junghans clock (07.07.2019)
The first instrument for the cockpit project is the Junghans Bo-UK1 Blindfluguhr, blind-flight or instrumental flight cockpit clock with movement cal. J30 BZ. The RLM ( Reichsluftfahrtministerium or Ministry of Aviation of the German Reich) specification number was Fl. 23885 (standing for Flieger i.e. Plane). Within the category of aircraft clocks for Luftwaffe there were two main types: (i) 8-day movement with a turning bezel and (ii) blind-flight clocks-chronographs for short-time measuring (seconds and separate 15- or 30-minute dial). Both types had the 4-hole screw mounting plate. The 8-day clocks were mostly for bombers and transport planes, while chronographs such as this one were used in the fighters and destroyers.
The aircraft clocks were deemed very valuable, so that per standing Luftwaffe regulation the German pilots were instructed, as far as possible, to remove it and the optic gunsights (Revi) after an emergency landing, before leaving the plane or wreckage. The primary manufacturer Junghans had its main works in Schramberg in the Black Forrest (Luftwaffe manufacturing code on the watch eb, cja, nas) but produced in war time in several sites in Schwenningen (htq), Renchen (jrr), Wien (jrs), Exbrücke (kqd), Braunau (ksm) und Dammerkirch (kzn). As with many instruments the clock underwent a series of developments from early types produced in late 1930 up until 1944-1945. The changes were driven mostly by necessity of war material rationing and simplifications of manufacturing process. All in all 5 main variants are known, with several sub-version. An excellent overview including high resolutions pictures can be found here: https://www.junghans-vintage.de/de/uhren/flugzeug-borduhren/junghans-borduhr-bo-uk-1-fl-23885-junghans-j30-bz-v1.html?index
The clock presented here is clearly a (very) late war model, corresponding to version V 5.2. The changes from early models include things like bezel made out of bakelit instead of metal, plexiglas cover instead of glass, cheap stamped metal for levers instead of brass, no logos and lack of any decoration. The production information is stamped directly on the body instead of a separate small plate as in previous models. There you can see the designation "Borduhr" in the first line, type number (Gerät-Nr.), production number (Werk-Nr), RLM requirement designation (Anforderz, reflecting the Fl 23885 number mention above) and location of production (Herst.). This clock has "nas" there which corresponds to one of the main Junghans main works in Schramberg in the Black Forrest. The designation of the mechanism (J 30 BZ) can be clearly seen inside, beyond the black dust cap, after removing the back plate which is uses a bayonet lock system. So actually this is probably the "cheapest" version of the clock, but it does reflect the reality of late war and fits well into a combat aircraft of a late war Luftwaffe pressed hard on all fronts and loosing planes and pilots at alarming rates.
The clock obviously tracks time with a minute and hour hands, but can be also be used to (i) to track flight time by rotating the bezel (but unlike the dive watches the bezel can be rotated in both directions) and (ii) a separate 15 minutes timer utilizing the smaller dial on the bottom and the seconds hand. To activate the timer, you had to push the button situated on the bottom part, below the main crown. The seconds hand would start moving and the minutes counter hand at 6 o’clock. The counter would move one time for each full minute. If you push the button again, it stops the timer and the next push resets both hands to zero. The timer was necessary for approaches with no visibility, to track distance flown with dead reckoning and maybe to track the time engine was operating under emergency power. The main crown at 6 o'clock position was used to wind up the clock. Secondary function was to set the time if the lever at 5 o'clock position was pulled out, the lever had an additional marking with luminescent paint so the pilot could see whether the clock was running or not.
The clock is fully functioning, I tested it and it seems to have less than 1 minute error over 24 hours period, the timer is very precise and I could not identify any substantial errors (1-2 seconds) over a 15 minutes period. I think this is rather remarkable for a time piece which is over 74 years old and has been manufactured under extreme war conditions. I have no information whether it was actually mounted in an air plane or which model, there are no records which could connect the production numbers of specific instruments with an aircraft, besides some captured models or wrecks discovered recently. It now has been put on the Gerätebrett as the first instrument of hopefully many to come.
All German planes in IL-2 BoX include the use of the Junghans Bo-UK1 Blindfluguhr. So far as I can tell it is the same 3D model across all planes, it seems to have a more spartan design as compared to early war types, i.e. no logos, no detailed markings and red sector indicators. Not sure if this is just an mistake, or focus on performance and limiting the amount of details in the cocpkit. One clear error is the lack of minutes numbering (either 5,10 and 15 minutes marks for late war or every minutes in early war version) for the second minutes hand. This was corrected for the clock model in the Fw 190 D-9 and Me-262 where the 5,10 and 15 minutes marks have been added. This model are most comparable to the real clock I have, but they still use a more elaborate crown typical for earylier war models but without other elements (such as red arrows and more frequent minute marks for the smaller dial). While for fighters and attack planes the clock is located on the instrument panel, for bomber it is placed directly on the control stick. This is very well seen on Ju-88 and He-111.
For the final thoughts just a comparison between the early war version and the late war version:
I will continue to post updates here as I progress on this "adventure". I would like to share the interesting facts in relation to these fascinating machines as I hopefully myself learn more while researching and hunting for appropriate artifacts for this side project.
Happy to hear your comments and answer your questions as good as I can.