|No Reds Around
The Henschell Hs126 in Russia
By : Deborah Susan Jones : Editor
Peter has a passion of aircraft - including those aircraft of Second World War Germany and he set out to create a painting full of winter atmospherics. Taking a small palette of colours in oil and acrylic - one fast drying (acrylic) and the one slow drying (oil) - he painted a dilapidated looking machine weathered by snow storms and ice amidst sweeping brush strokes denoting stormy weather. I am not that familiar with painting techniques but find myself smitten by the textural nature of the paint in this picture, ranging from thin and transparent to thick and opaque. I can imagine this aircraft going nowhere or if pushed and forced to fly on the attack not being able to carry out its task with any accuracy. We know that finally the Germans had to withdraw in utter confusion and the weather is why.
White paint is notoriously difficult to use (according to wildlife Artist Robert Bateman "it seems nobody makes truly opaque white paint") and Peter has taken a modicum of grey and brown to render it effective. Small palette great effect!
We have many paintings built up over the years, painted with knowledge of the genre and great enthusiasm!
The Action - The Henschel Hs126: a sturdy and reliable aircraft, somewhat ponderous but possessing excellent STOL capacity and able to sustain a lot of damage without protest. The 2-man crew of pilot and observer were seated below and beneath the parasol wing in a tandem cockpit; nicely roomy but affording protection from the prevailing weather and other hazards only to the pilot in the enclosed forward section.
The aircraft was fearfully slow and vulnerable to attack from enemy fighters for whom it was easy prey, carrying as it did (besides the necessary photographic and radio equipment) only light armaments.
Like the British Westland Lysander which resembled it quite closely, the Hs126 had been conceived as a battlefield aircraft for the purpose of carrying out short-range reconnaissance in support of the Wehrmacht. Developed from the failed Hs122, it first flew in late 1936, and 6 Hs126A's were already in action in Spain by the end of 1938, equipping a Kette of the Condor Legion's Aufklarungsgruppe 88 during the closing stages of the Spanish Civil War.
At the outbreak of World War II as the Wehrmacht advanced through Europe virtually unopposed, the Henschel 126 was used, amongst other duties, in support of the Panzer columns, reconnoitering and photographing areas of advance or sniffing out points of resistance. They also harried the endless lines of refugees which blocked the path of the on-coming tanks.
Two Staffeln - 4.(H)/Aufkl. Gr12 and 2.(H) 14 were sent to Libya in 1942, but the Henschel was not well-suited to desert conditions partly (until the wheel spats were removed) because the sand tended to clog up the landing gear and by mid-1942 the Hs126 was being replaced by newly available reconnaissance fighter aircraft.
Henschel Hs126B's also served with distinction on the Russian Front for almost 2 years. In order to cope with the severe winter conditions, most of these aircraft were fitted with temporary ski landing gear.
The painting shown here depicts an Hs 126B frozen into icy immobility during the remorseless Russian winter.
With the appearance of the faster and less vulnerable twin-engined FW189, the Hs 126 was largely stood-down from its front-line position and assumed the role of light glider tug with the Air Landing Wing, towing the DFS230. Surviving aircraft also served with the night ground attack wings and a very few in the Balkans, where they were used in operations against the partisans. Production ceased in 1941.
Deborah Susan Jones : Editor