Canopy from Bartels' Bf 109G-10
Anyone familiar with the aces who flew the Messerschmitt 109 will recognize the name of Heinrich Bartels. Although he began his combat career with Erg./JG26, he is best known for his tenure in IV./JG27, formed at Kalamaki, Greece in May of 1943. Originally assigned to 11./JG27 at that time, he had transferred to 15./JG27 by December of 1944. It was while serving with this unit that Ofw. Bartels was shot down and killed in an encounter with 56th FG P-47 Thunderbolts near Bonn on 23 December 1944. The following passage from Werner Girbig's "Six Months To Oblivion" gives a brief and chilling account of his loss:
"Only a few hundred yards away, near the moated castle of Gudenau, a Messerschmitt struck with an incredibly violent impact and buried itself deep in the frozen ground. No parachute was seen, and it was to be 24 years, almost to the day (26 January 1968- LMR), before more was known about this crash. It was the Bf 109G-10of Oberfeldwebel Heinrich Bartels, who had destroyed a Thunderbolt just before he was himself shot down. This was the 99th kill scored by this 26-year-old holder of the Knight's Cross from Linz on the Danube, who had been flying with IV./JG27 since May 1943." (Girbig, p. 72)
As noted above, the wreck of Bartels' last "Marga" (Regensburg-built Bf109G-10 W.Nr. 130359, "Gelbe 13") was found in January 1968. Ofw. Bartels had returned from his final mission.
For a more detailed account of Heinrich Bartels' career and scoring, have a look at http://www.luftwaffe.cz/bartels.html.
In July of 2001, I was fortunate to be able to attend the IPMS/USA National Convention in Chicago, IL and meet many, many friends there...among whom were Jerry and Judy Crandall of Eagle Editions. I've known them for some time, and Jerry had been mentioning to me for the preceding few months that he had a gift for me the next time he saw me. I wasn't entirely sure what he might have in mind, but when I did finally meet up with them at the convention, nothing could have prepared me for what he brought. Jerry handed me a package wrapped in bubblewrap, and I couldn't quite figure out what it was at first. As I opened up the package, though, a chill ran through me...I recognized what it was immediately, the aft corner of the starboard panel of an "Erla Haube", and one which had clearly seen better days. Stunned, I asked if he knew where it came from. "Bartels" was all he said.
There are few times in my life that I've been at a complete loss for words...this was one of them. Heinrich Bartels' last earthly moments were spent looking through this canopy. I still get a chill holding the piece, knowing its story. I am deeply grateful to Jerry and Judy for their generosity and friendship, and am still inspired by their unrelenting generosity and good cheer.
The canopy piece
The piece itself is quite substantial; the most surprising aspect is the thickness of the Plexiglas. Below you will find four scans of the piece with a standard ruler to give a sense of size. Note also that a hand-engraved serial number (beginning with 109, appropriately enough) appears on the upper aft edge of the piece. In looking at the scarring present on the piece, there are several gouges which look as though a high-speed drill were run against the Plexiglas, causing a semi-circular melted area to appear...it is possible that these might be nicks from .50 caliber bullets, as the size seems to be consistent with a .50 cal slug. Further evidence to support this would be the manner of Bartels' crash...the 109 went straight in at maximum velocity, indicating that Bartels had been hit or killed prior to impact. Whatever the cause, this very historic artifact speaks volumes of the ferocity of the crash, and it's sobering to know that Heinrich Bartels spent his last seconds of life looking through this canopy...
Feel free to email or post any questions on the Discussion Board...and before anyone asks, IT'S NOT FOR SALE! ;)