• Hi Guest! Forum rules have been updated. All users please read here.

Merlin-engined Messerschmitt Bf 109 project 1941 - document conundrum

newsdeskdan

ACCESS: Top Secret
Top Contributor
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 11, 2014
Messages
1,035
Reaction score
621
I'd like to seek your help in solving a bit of a mystery - particularly if you're a native German speaker!

A bit of background...
In my Luftwaffe: Secret Projects of the Third Reich bookazine of 2019 (seems like a long time ago!) I published details of a Focke-Wulf study on fitting a Napier Sabre II to a Ta 152. On p60, third column, 6th paragraph, I wrote "There is no known instance during the entire course of the war of a project being run to determine the properties of a Rolls-Royce Merlin or Griffon, or any other Allied engine, when fitted to any German aircraft".

On October 7, 2019, commenting on my bookazine when it came out, secretprojects.co.uk forum member sienar wrote (https://www.secretprojects.co.uk/th...he-third-reich-by-dan-sharp.31565/post-365216):

Finally got this. I haven't read everything yet but I did skim through. One thing stuck out immedietly:
"There is no known instance during the entire course of the war of a project being run to determine the properties of a Rolls-Royce Merlin or Griffon, or any other Allied engine, when fitted to any German aircraft."
There was some correspondence between Messerschmitt and Daimler-Benz about fitting the Merlin engine to a 109 airframe. The main goal of this was to evaluate the relative effectiveness of the Spitfires radiator installation vs the 109. I have no idea why they felt an engine swap was necessary to do that and Willy proposed just swapping the radiators.


I asked sienar where this information came from, and he said it was in a book about Willy Messerschmitt written by Frank Vann and published in 1993 (ISBN 1852604395). I discovered the reference myself on p68 of my first edition copy of Vann. I knew that Vann had got much of his information from a collection of Willy Messerschmitt's papers held at the Imperial War Museum - I had even discussed Vann with the curator there (although it was before his time). Looking back through my photographs of those papers - which are really not particularly accessible, being behind several layers of security, and being in an obscure part of the collection that most people wouldn't even know was there - I found I had actually photographed Vann's source without realising it! (see attachment below - a sheet signed by Willy Messerschmitt and with 'Herr Voigt' also typed onto it at the bottom)

DSC_0738 DB 601 in Spitfire.JPG

So Messerschmitt reported on a Daimler-Benz plan to put a Merlin into a Bf 109 - so far so good. But here's where it gets (slightly more) interesting. I posted this finding on Twitter and had Robin Schaefer of Iron Cross magazine commenting on it:

Bad fake.JPG

At the time, I was angry and perplexed by this accusation. I had photographed 2985 individual sheets from the Messerschmitt papers (and that's only five out of 12 volumes - every sheet of every volume has a sequential number stamped on it, this one being 178 of volume 4) and this is the only one which mentions, in passing, the Daimler-Benz plan to put a Merlin into a Bf 109. I photographed it in 2018 but Vann had clearly seen it in 1993 - 25 years earlier. Vann doesn't make anything of it particularly - he just mentions it briefly and moves on.
It seemed clear to me that this could not be a fake. But a further recent discussion got me thinking. Is the grammar and expression in the Messerschmitt document 'very awkward' to the point of seeming 'fake'? My knowledge of German is not sufficient to answer this question - it just reads like any other German to me.

German speakers - do you think this looks like a 'bad fake'?

If this was a fake, it would have had to be inserted into volume 4 some time before Vann got there in 1992/1993 (presumably - I don't know when his research was carried out prior to publication). Also, the sequence of numbers in vol. 4 is undisturbed, so someone would have had to not only create the fake page but also then destroy the original sheet stamped '178' in situ or smuggle it out of the archive. I don't know what security was like at IWM at the time but I guess it might have been possible to make the switch when the curator's back was turned. I've no idea why someone would go to those lengths though! I mean, who even cares whether DB briefly considered putting a Merlin in to a Bf 109 or not?? What do you think?
 
Last edited:

athpilot

Fly me to the moon...
Joined
Nov 18, 2012
Messages
314
Reaction score
142
Hi, very interesting story! I´m a native german speaker and I don´t know what that guy is talking about! That is the typical german language of that time and context; even without any typos (even the inevitable typo Rols Royce is included). Today even native speakers have their problems to follow a more complex text which consists of some if-sentences (ob-Sätze; konditional Sätze). I cannot say anything about if it´s a fake or not, but the language is german at its best.
 

newsdeskdan

ACCESS: Top Secret
Top Contributor
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 11, 2014
Messages
1,035
Reaction score
621
Hi, very interesting story! I´m a native german speaker and I don´t know what that guy is talking about! That is the typical german language of that time and context; even without any typos (even the inevitable typo Rols Royce is included). Today even native speakers have their problems to follow a more complex text which consists of some if-sentences (ob-Sätze; konditional Sätze). I cannot say anything about if it´s a fake or not, but the language is german at its best.

Thanks Sven - I couldn't see anything glaringly wrong with the text (as you say, spelling errors, particularly of foreign aircraft/company names, are as common in German documents as they are in British ones - the number of times I've seen 'Messerschmidt' written in Allied intelligence files, for example) but I presumed there was something I'd missed.
As I said, it seemed highly unlikely to me that someone would go to the trouble of faking up that one specific sheet - there would be nothing to gain in doing so as far as I can tell. If you were going to all that trouble, why not fake up something more interesting??
 

Jemiba

ACCESS: Above Top Secret
Staff member
Top Contributor
Senior Member
Joined
Mar 11, 2006
Messages
8,269
Reaction score
1,116
I agree with athpilot, there's no awkward grammar, it's just a list of requirements for the installation
of a Merlin to a Bf 109.
Ok, in a grammatically fully correct paper, the points 5. and 6. should have been separated from the
first three requirements, as they aren't linguistically directly linked to the request for checking the other
preconditions (in quite a demanding tone !), but it was written with a type writer, even before the advent
of Tippex. But such faults often aren't corrected even in nowadays papers, where corrections would be just
a click away.
 

Sherman Tank

I don't want to change my personal text
Joined
Oct 15, 2016
Messages
159
Reaction score
77
I don't speak German but I'm familiar with British archive material and the amount of effort you would have to go through to fake the stamped folio numbers and pencil annotations (and those folio numbers are exactly the same style as used in Admiralty documents at Kew) is such that I can't imagine anyone doing it for something this obscure. There's no earthly benefit.
 

newsdeskdan

ACCESS: Top Secret
Top Contributor
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 11, 2014
Messages
1,035
Reaction score
621
I agree with athpilot, there's no awkward grammar, it's just a list of requirements for the installation
of a Merlin to a Bf 109.
Ok, in a grammatically fully correct paper, the points 5. and 6. should have been separated from the
first three requirements, as they aren't linguistically directly linked to the request for checking the other
preconditions (in quite a demanding tone !), but it was written with a type writer, even before the advent
of Tippex. But such faults often aren't corrected even in nowadays papers, where corrections would be just
a click away.

The demanding tone you mention is characteristic of Willy Messerschmitt - from the many letters of his that I've read and the verbatim accounts of his speech during GL meetings, he always spoke/wrote like that! I suppose it's what you would expect from someone in charge of such a large and important company, particularly at such a critical time. Other sources also corroborate Messerschmitt's annoyance with Daimler-Benz about radiators and engine installation in general. There's a lot on this point in Calum's The Secret Horsepower Race - so the subject matter of the note doesn't seem especially remarkable to me. The only thing that's different, and which doesn't appear anywhere else as far as I know, is the mention of putting a Merlin into a Bf 109.
Thinking about the rivalries of writers during the 1960s and 1970s - particularly between William Green and practically everyone else if what I've heard is accurate - I did wonder whether someone might conceivably have wanted to make a point by somehow suggesting a foreshadowing of the HA-1112 Buchon. But as far as I'm aware Vann is the only writer ever to reference this particular note and he doesn't make a big thing of it. Green and others from the golden age of WW2 aviation writing were still around in 1993 - but Vann wasn't really an aviation writer as such either. As I understand it, he was a retired British Aerospace executive who had met, or at least seen, Messerschmitt postwar and was interested in his life, hence the book.
I'm therefore still leaning towards the idea that this is a genuine document!
 

newsdeskdan

ACCESS: Top Secret
Top Contributor
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 11, 2014
Messages
1,035
Reaction score
621
I don't speak German but I'm familiar with British archive material and the amount of effort you would have to go through to fake the stamped folio numbers and pencil annotations (and those folio numbers are exactly the same style as used in Admiralty documents at Kew) is such that I can't imagine anyone doing it for something this obscure. There's no earthly benefit.

Thanks Sherman Tank - this is also my experience and my conclusion. Why even bother to fake something like this?? As I said, unless it was part of some sort of arcane rivalry and someone was going to extreme lengths to prove some highly obscure point, which no one noticed until 1993, I don't see why anyone would do it.
When I photographed the first five volumes of Messerschmitt's papers, I didn't notice what was on this sheet - it just went under the camera like everything else (you can see the shadow of the camera stand in the photo) and I didn't even bother to read it until sienar prompted me to search for it. Looking at the photo, there is no visible difference in the thickness or agedness of the paper - it's altogether unremarkable.
I can only conclude that it's genuine and I remain still puzzled as to what could cause Iron Cross's Robin Schaefer to think it was a fake.
 
Last edited:

Sherman Tank

I don't want to change my personal text
Joined
Oct 15, 2016
Messages
159
Reaction score
77
I'm definitely sure nobody of sound or even unsound mind would go through the trouble of ginning up a fake document about a Merlin-engined Bf 109 project and inserting it into Messerschmitt's papers and then do nothing further with it. Not even a letter to the editor of some aviation magazine. And why only fake a single page document on the subject? Surely an obsessive would create a more impressive narrative than that.

That doesn't rule out some crunchy nutter faking a random document just to give future historians a headache, but that's well into "can't disprove a negative" territory.
 

newsdeskdan

ACCESS: Top Secret
Top Contributor
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 11, 2014
Messages
1,035
Reaction score
621
I'm definitely sure nobody of sound or even unsound mind would go through the trouble of ginning up a fake document about a Merlin-engined Bf 109 project and inserting it into Messerschmitt's papers and then do nothing further with it. Not even a letter to the editor of some aviation magazine. And why only fake a single page document on the subject? Surely an obsessive would create a more impressive narrative than that.

That doesn't rule out some crunchy nutter faking a random document just to give future historians a headache, but that's well into "can't disprove a negative" territory.

Given the amount of effort that would be required to make the fake and get it inserted (you can't just walk in off the street to view Messerschmitt's papers, it's appointment only, you have to go through a security checkpoint, you can't take bags or coats into the reading room etc.) you would have to have a certain level of dedication to the cause.
You're right about the subject matter too - if you were going to do it, why not have Messerschmitt discuss a prototype, perhaps saying that it was already ready to fly with a captured Merlin installed or something? Surely that would make a stronger point than just mentioning that DB was thinking about doing it!
And there's something else. I believe the stamped numbers indicate that this sheet has been microfilmed. I think the IWM has the microfilmed versions of Messerschmitt's papers too, though I've not seen them. Presumably it would be possible to find the relevant frame of microfilm that shows this sheet and corroborate its authenticity through that if necessary.
 
Last edited:

newsdeskdan

ACCESS: Top Secret
Top Contributor
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 11, 2014
Messages
1,035
Reaction score
621
Sounds like more proof that social media feedback is often not worth the pixels its written on.

You would think that Robin Schaefer, who describes himself as a German military historian (https://robinschaefer-historian.com/recent-work-what-i-do/) and appears to have been involved in several high-profile projects, would know what he's talking about - hence why I wanted to investigate his response to the document further. I don't know Schaefer but I knew that I could rely on secretprojects.co.uk forum members to provide a good critical assessment of the document in question.
 

Hood

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Sep 6, 2006
Messages
2,059
Reaction score
1,571
I can see from the picture in the Twitter feed why he might be suspicious.
In the image you shared here we can see the whole stack of papers and the edges of the page, its colouration and physical condition and the marks on it, so its easier for us to assess visually whether it looks like a period document or not. The Twitter image just shows the text.

I guess the topic looks potentially suspect too. Had it been talking about fitting a Jumo 211 to a Bf 109 then it might have raised fewer eyebrows but 'Merlin' and '109' in the same sentence tends to get the mouth watering a bit more and if no-one other than Vann has ever revealed this and its never appeared in the vast literature on the 109, you could be forgiven of thinking that its too good to be true.

As for grammatical mistakes, well a good many archival documents have them, I've seen some obvious uncorrected mistakes in documents. These are work documents. I bet none of us writes a grammatically perfect email every time at work! Everybody has their own personal writing style. I wouldn't expect a showpeice document, people are pressed for time and they knock out the words to get the job done.

As I said in another thread last week, fakes have been inserted or pages removed from archives despite security precautions so its not impossible. But its not highly probable that someone would seek out an obscure section of a collection (even of a famous person) and insert a single page. There would have to be a motive.

It seems to underline the limits of social media, trying to assess the worth of something via a single picture and a few words.
 

newsdeskdan

ACCESS: Top Secret
Top Contributor
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 11, 2014
Messages
1,035
Reaction score
621
I can see from the picture in the Twitter feed why he might be suspicious.
In the image you shared here we can see the whole stack of papers and the edges of the page, its colouration and physical condition and the marks on it, so its easier for us to assess visually whether it looks like a period document or not. The Twitter image just shows the text.

I guess the topic looks potentially suspect too. Had it been talking about fitting a Jumo 211 to a Bf 109 then it might have raised fewer eyebrows but 'Merlin' and '109' in the same sentence tends to get the mouth watering a bit more and if no-one other than Vann has ever revealed this and its never appeared in the vast literature on the 109, you could be forgiven of thinking that its too good to be true.

As for grammatical mistakes, well a good many archival documents have them, I've seen some obvious uncorrected mistakes in documents. These are work documents. I bet none of us writes a grammatically perfect email every time at work! Everybody has their own personal writing style. I wouldn't expect a showpeice document, people are pressed for time and they knock out the words to get the job done.

As I said in another thread last week, fakes have been inserted or pages removed from archives despite security precautions so its not impossible. But its not highly probable that someone would seek out an obscure section of a collection (even of a famous person) and insert a single page. There would have to be a motive.

It seems to underline the limits of social media, trying to assess the worth of something via a single picture and a few words.

Until sienar pointed it out to me in Vann, I hadn't even noticed he'd written about a vague and no doubt quickly dropped Merlin-109 project. I'm not a big Merlin or 109 fanboy and so it's pretty meaningless to me. It may be that someone somewhere has previously published something about this Merlin-109 plan but having searched through various other Messerschmitt books and online I couldn't find anything.
I actually posted the document in question on Twitter, in fact, as a sort of correction for my bookazine - because I'd said in print that there was no such project when that document, Vann and indeed sienar had proven me wrong! I was totally unprepared for someone coming back at me to declare that what I had posted looked like a 'bad fake'. In fact, it seemed to me at the time that Schaefer was suggesting either 1) I had foolishly been taken in by an obvious fake and was now ignorantly declaring this fake to be real or 2) I had probably faked the document myself to get clicks on Twitter. I was utterly horrified.
Regarding the spelling/grammar, I suspect, though I could be wrong, that Messerschmitt didn't 'write' this himself but rather dictated it to a secretary before signing it. As effectively the chief executive of Messerschmitt AG at the time, I really can't see him sitting there with a typewriter typing it out for himself. This might explain a certain discontinuity in the flow of the text.
I saw your note about pages being removed from archives or added. As I said, I agree that if someone was determined enough they would be able to get a carefully crafted fake into the IWM and even remove or destroy the original document. The documents are checked when you've finished with them but I suppose if the faked sheet was good enough the only way to tell it apart from the others would be to know what the original sheet said and to then notice that the text had 'changed' - unlikely with when the volume runs to hundreds of individual sheets.
But as mentioned, I can't see any reason to fake this particular sheet, and the subject matter generally fits in with the wider narrative on Messerschmitt's rather difficult relationship with Daimler-Benz at that time.
 

edwest

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Nov 9, 2007
Messages
1,189
Reaction score
317
As a long-time researcher, I must add my dismay about so-called social media. Personal contact is required. Getting to the bottom of anything requires a certain level of expertise, and personal interaction.

Yesterday, my employer gave me a message from someone who has a video channel online. I was asked to look at what was being posted/streamed. What I found were two young men who were playing at being TV personalities. They were out of their depth and accountable to no one but themselves. Social media is a double-edged sword. As the years pass, the internet allows anyone to do whatever they want, both qualified and unqualified. As a moderator on my company's message board, I know that one comment by one writer is just that. One man, one vote. That one person may state certain things but they are almost always false, amateur assumptions.
 

nuuumannn

Cannae be ar*ed changing my personal text
Joined
Oct 22, 2011
Messages
233
Reaction score
380
But as mentioned, I can't see any reason to fake this particular sheet, and the subject matter generally fits in with the wider narrative on Messerschmitt's rather difficult relationship with Daimler-Benz at that time.

Very interesting thread, Dan and you and Sherman are probably right, the document is not faked at all, after all, why would that have been faked specifically? Did you pose the question to Shaeffer regarding its authenticity?
Surely a Merlin on Bf-109 we have seen after war with Hispan Suiza

Fake news, never happened... :)
 

Attachments

  • Buchon.jpg
    Buchon.jpg
    234.2 KB · Views: 26

newsdeskdan

ACCESS: Top Secret
Top Contributor
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 11, 2014
Messages
1,035
Reaction score
621
But as mentioned, I can't see any reason to fake this particular sheet, and the subject matter generally fits in with the wider narrative on Messerschmitt's rather difficult relationship with Daimler-Benz at that time.

Very interesting thread, Dan and you and Sherman are probably right, the document is not faked at all, after all, why would that have been faked specifically? Did you pose the question to Shaeffer regarding its authenticity?
Surely a Merlin on Bf-109 we have seen after war with Hispan Suiza

Fake news, never happened... :)

As I mentioned above, when Mr Schaeffer said, "If you'd passed that to me without comment I'd say its a bad fake", I wasn't sure whether he was implying that I had 'faked' the document myself or that I had simply been foolish enough to be taken in by a fake. Either way, it was shocking to me. In the end, I decided not to take it any further with him. I was confident that the document was not a fake, for all the reasons I've outlined above, but even so I thought I would seek a second opinion from the knowledgeable members of this forum.
 
Last edited:

Calum Douglas

Piston engine designer
Senior Member
Joined
Jan 17, 2019
Messages
141
Reaction score
343
Website
www.calum-douglas.com
But as mentioned, I can't see any reason to fake this particular sheet, and the subject matter generally fits in with the wider narrative on Messerschmitt's rather difficult relationship with Daimler-Benz at that time.

Very interesting thread, Dan and you and Sherman are probably right, the document is not faked at all, after all, why would that have been faked specifically? Did you pose the question to Shaeffer regarding its authenticity?
Surely a Merlin on Bf-109 we have seen after war with Hispan Suiza

Fake news, never happened... :)

As I mentioned above, when Mr Schaeffer said, "If you'd passed that to me without comment I'd say its a bad fake", I wasn't sure whether he was implying that I had 'faked' the document myself or that I had simply been foolish enough to be taken in by a fake. Either way, it was shocking to me. In the end, I decided not to take it any further with him. I was confident that the document was not a fake, for all the reasons I've outlined above, but even so I thought I would seek a second opinion from the knowledgeable members of this forum.

From a purely logical perspective, the only way an external party would be able to verify if a document was fake, would have been if they had earlier made their own complete copy of the Messerschmitt personal papers, and had then gone back and checked, and found that page wasn't present; OR if they subjected the page to forensic examination and had the paper and ink dated, and had the typewriter lettering cross-checked.

(incidentally ... I wonder how many books on Messerschmitt have been written by authors who have never even opened that file ?)

Having looked through piles of this sort of stuff myself, my only comment to Dan on this page, is that I`m embarrassed he found something I didn't know about yet. It would never have crossed my mind to even consider its veracity, not when you`ve got actual dialogue in the RLM stenographic records (which were photographed by IWM, and which I subsequently had digitized from reels which were in turn microfilmed aeons ago, and so I consider basically un-fakable), like:

"Messerschmitt: May I say something on the
engines? One would have to check once again
how the English were able to get 1600hp out of
a 27-litre engine — the Merlin engine. I believe
that we are not on the right path with engine
development. We have much too big engines while
other much smaller, faster running engines
seem to get more out.

Göring: Our Jumo 213 runs even faster!

Messerschmitt: This is an exception.
But I wonder why it is not yet possible that we
can get out of DB 601 the performance that the
English have. Perhaps they have been more
sensible in their development efforts?"

"Karinhall, 18th March 1943:
Stenographic Record of the
Meeting with the Reichsmarschall,
Discussion beginning 11am"

35mm Vol 62, Frame# 5528

=======
Also, Twitter is now basically the cranial equivalent of a dirge. From what I can see consists of cat videos, personal whining and people trying to prove other people wrong to make themselves feel better.

I find it amusing someone would question such a page, when, there are piles of books on sale right now which are actually full of unreferenced rubbish which demonstrably never happened. For example, when is anyone going to go after the people writing that the German pilots called the P-38 the "Fork Tailed Devil" ? (which the 'Daily-Mail' paper on Britain parroted as recently as 12th Nov 2019). There is not one single period document of any sort saying that one German ever said that in the war, and in fact, the phrase first appears in the P-38 aircraft manual. Just to check I did a pdf keyword search of my digitized RLM records (circa 100,000 pages), and despite giving the OCR a helping hand by just searching for "Gabelschwanz" (without the Teufel) found... zero matches. Anyway...

Plenty of solid "meat" for those wishing to "go after" fraudulently recorded historical tidbids without imagining that Tom Cruise did a mission-impossible style break-in at the archive to swap pages of the Messerschmitt files.
 
Last edited:

Similar threads

Top