Here is the newest book in MMP’s “White Series”: Finnish Fighter Colours 1939-1945, Volume One. The author, Kari Stenman, is a name long associated with publications on the Finnish Air Force. Just scanning through my library, I see him as the author of several Osprey “Aircraft of the Aces” books, as well as a Squadron/Signal book. In fact, in the acknowledgements section of this book he mentions research assistance he has received over the last forty-five years! This book is clearly written by a dedicated expert in the field.
The book itself is hardbound, with a nice glossy cover and the 200+ pages within are produced on high-quality stock with a matt finish. Photos, mostly black and white, are on virtually every page. Most are at least ¼ page in size. Numerous, extremely high-quality side profiles are also present. Text is all in English, and is very well-written.
This is Volume One of a two-part series. The series is not separated by chronology, but rather by aircraft type. Aircraft covered here are:
- Bristol Bulldog II + IVa
- Fokker D.XXI
- Gloster Gladiator II
- Fiat G.50
- Morane-Saulnier MS 406
- Brewster Model 239 (Buffalo).
Volume Two will cover the Hurricane I + IIA, Hawk 75A, Caudron CR 714, Messerschmitt Bf 109G-2+ G-6, Myrsky, Polikarpov I-16 + I-153, LaGG-3, and P-40M.
The breakdown of this book is a little different than I anticipated. I expected to see a general discussion of Finnish AF camouflage and markings, followed by specific applications to different airframes. Instead, the author provides a brief, one-page introduction, and then dives right into the aircraft types. The overall discussion of Finnish camouflage and markings is present, but it is in the form of appendices at the end of the book. This is by no means an issue, just not the order in which I was expecting things. The information is all there, and is quite comprehensive.
So, after a page of acknowledgements, and a page introducing and summarizing the war situation, the author immediately starts in with the first aircraft. Each aircraft type has two sections dedicated to it. The first section covers operational history of the type in Finnish service, while the second discusses specific camouflage and markings. Both sections have photos with in-depth captions describing the markings. The second section includes numerous full-page color profiles (both side and top/bottom views), accompanied by photos of the subject. This section in particular I found to be extremely clear and well-presented.
There is a LOT of information in these chapters, not just about markings but also about the men and machines themselves. Plenty of anecdotes about individual missions are included, along with a lot of facts and statistics regarding the Finnish Air Force. The size of each section varies by aircraft. For example, the Bristol Bulldog is covered in just 8 pages; the Brewster 239 has over 50.
The appendices in this book are as valuable as the main text. They are as follows:
- Appendix One: “National and Registration Markings” covers the evolution of the Finnish national insignia markings, complete with proportionate drawings.
- Appendix Two: “Numbers and Letters” - an original chart is reproduced here showing all the various numbers/letters in the proper font. I am sure this could be scanned and used for making one’s own stencils or decals.
- Appendix Three: “Colours & Warpaints”. This is a key appendix – a complete discussion of the evolution of Finnish AF camouflage, complete with technical order excerpts and colors used. There is a table listing all Finnish colors, their FS equivalents, and which airframes these colors were applied to. There is also a section in here dedicated to “Eastern Front Markings.” The yellow theater markings used to denote Luftwaffe aircraft operating on the Eastern Front were also applied to Finnish machines, since they were comrades in arms against the Soviet Union. Here are just a few of the many interesting tidbits in this appendix: washable glue (with chalk) was used for the white winter camouflage per official order; often a lemon yellow color was used for the Eastern Front markings as stocks of RLM04 equivalent color ran out.
MMP’s Finnish Fighter Colours book is another first-rate publication from the folks at MMP. It is clearly a labor of love for the author, and his research and dedication shows on every page. Production quality, as well as content, is first-rate. If you are interested in this subject, this is a must-add for your collection. There are loads of photos and gorgeous, well-documented color profiles. Absolutely recommended! And I am very much looking forward to Volume 2.
Thanks to MMP Books for the review copy, and to IPMS USA for allowing me to review it.