The two best night fighters in WW2:
The British Mosquito and the German Uhu (Owl)
Models and diorama by Bjørn Jacobsen
It was in February 1942 that the RAF Bomber Command began to focus its attacks on the German civilian population when it shifted from strategic bombing to night-time area bombing of cities.
This resulted in an ‘Around the Clock’ bombing offensive - RAF by night, USAAF by day.
Flying over Germany by night was, however, a risky business: The highly efficient German Flak and night fighters caused terrible losses to the British Bombers.
Six in ten British bomber aircrew were killed, one of the highest casualty rates of any service in the war.
Germany’s main night fighters
were the Messerschmitt Bf-110G,
the Junker Ju-88G6, the Dornier
Do-217J and the Heinkel He-219A
The Heinkel ‘Owl’ entered service
in 1943 and was the most
fearsome opponent to night-time
bombers during WW2.
It was the fastest of the propeller-
driven night-fighting aircraft with a
top speed of 416 mph (670 kmh)
and a ceiling of 41,660 feet.
It was armed with 2 x 30mm and
2 x 20mm cannon and 2 x 30mm
‘Schräge Musik’ cannon – and had,
among many other new inventions,
ejection seats for the two men in
In April 1944, however, new
developments took place in the
The RAF decided enough was enough with casualties from the German night-fighters.
Equipped with the new
De Havilland Mosquito Mk. XIX
night-fighters, the British
operations against the German
night fighters began in earnest.
With four 20mm cannons in its
belly, the Mosquito could reach a
speed of 424 mph (682 kmh)
thanks to their light wooden
For all practical purposes, the
maximum speeds were about the
same for the two aircraft.
But the Mosquito had a better
climb rate and acceleration,
because of a better power loading.
On the other side, the He-219
turned much tighter and faster
than the Mosquito which had a
much weaker airframe.
But most important for the British
night fighter was the new British
Al radar which was at least as
good as the one in the Owl.
The British also employed a tactic
that the Germans had initially used
against them: the Mosquitos would loiter near German air bases, intercepting German night-fighters as they took off and landed.
This was aided by British intelligence, who had established secret FAO (forward air control) posts near German night fighter bases, which could broadcast their intel directly to Allied night-fighters.
Patrolling from FAO point to FAO point, Allied night fighters would hopefully pick up the scent of German night fighters and be able to take them out before they disappeared into the night.
The RAF claimed that the Night Fighter Mosquitos shot down fifteen He-219 in 1944 - 1945.
The Owl, on the other hand, scored several confirmed kills against the Mosquito (exact how many is unknown).
Building the He-219 Uhu
The kit is from Tamiya (1:48).
A very nice kit and a real pleasure to build.
The first to be built was the Uhu’s cockpit which was a little tricky because of all the small PE parts.
The cockpit was painted RLM66 (Gray Green), mixed up with about 20% white to get a reasonably correct scale colour.
The cockpit was mounted in a metal frame which prevented the model from being a tail sitter.
In the Tamiya kit, there are just the flaps that are separated from the wings, and I, therefore, choose to cut out (with a scalpel) both elevators and ailerons.
The antenna mast sits on the top of the rear canopy.
To make it stronger, I reinforce the inside of the canopy, burned holes with a hot needle and attach a brass rod as the antenna mast.
The He219 had a tremendous punch with up to six 20mm cannons under the belly and wing roots and two MK108 30mm cannons in Schräge position (i.e. they could shoot forward and upward).
The Schräge MK108 guns had short barrels so the gun could be hidden completely in the fuselage without the barrels poking out.
All the guns on the He 219 were located so far behind the pilot that the nozzle flames would not ruin their night vision.
Wheels and landing gear, wheel wells and wheel doors are assembled and painted with RLM02 (grey-green).
After the primer was airbrushed on the model, aluminium paint was applied on the wing edges, nacelles and propeller blades.
When chipping some of the parts which are worn most, the aluminium will appear, and it will look worn.
The camouflage on He-219s varied from plane to plane, from completely black to completely light, or a mixture of both.
B4+AA was painted in RLM76 (light grey / blue) with spots (mottling) of RLM75 (grey / purple) on top of wings and fuselage.
After photographing the He-219 on the ground, the wheels were removed and the weel doors were closed.
The propeller blades were RLM02 (black/green) and spinner RLM76.
Building the engine fire
The following was needed to
make the fire:
Ten 5mm 9V LED lamps.
These LED lights emit almost
no heat and are ideal for
making this kind of use.
You might ask; why ten?
The answer is simple:
It was what I had.
Holes were made in the left
engine nacelle, and the LED’s
were placed “all over” the nacelle. It was room enough inside the empty nacelle to
connected the wires from the LEDs to the wires going down the clear tube to the
A chicken wire stretching back from the nacelle, over the tail rudder and into the night
was used for holding the “smoke” in place.
Yellow cellophane was wrapped around the LED lights and fixed to the chicken wire.
Kapok was used for smoke. Kapok stretches better than cotton and it easier to apply in
thinned layers.The Kapok was airbrushed black and brown. And some yellow/red cotton
was used close to the fire.
A 10mm acrylic tube was fixed to the belly of the He-219. The tube would support the
aircraft on the diorama, and it would hide the electrical wires to the LEDs in the left
The wires in the tube ended up underneath the base and were connected to a 9V
battery. A small switch made it easy to turn the light on and off.
Building the Mosquito
In the diorama, the Mosquito should be in the background of the burning German night fighter.
To get the perspective right, the Mosquito was built as a 1/72 kit.
When the two aircraft were placed in the same diorama, the 1/72 Mosquito would hopefully look like it is some distance away from the bigger 1/48 He-219.
The kit was a De Havilland Mosquito NF XVII from Tamiya.
It was a rather simple model to build, especially when the wheels doors should be closed, and the propeller blades removed.
The Mosquito night fighters had Medium Sea Grey and Dark Green on the upper sides of fuselage and wings.
On the underside, it was either black or Medium Sea Grey. I choose to paint the underside matt black.
All colours were mixed with white (10-15%) to compensate for the scale effect.
All painting on the Mosquito was done by hand.
A 5mm clear acrylic rod was fixed to the Mosquito.
The rod should support the plane when placed in the diorama.
Base and Background
This was very easy. It was night, and everything was supposed to be dark.
The base was painted black/grey, and the cardboard for the background was painted in the same colour.
The measures were: Base: 70 x 55 cm, Background: 90 x 60 cm.
When I photographed the diorama and the models, I turned off all the lights in the room, except for two reading lamps (halogen) which I directed toward the white ceiling.
This gave not a lot of lights, but enough to get the night-effect I was looking for.
A tripod was necessary because of the exposure which was 15 seconds (f22).
The acrylic rods were almost invisible against the dark background.
Before we go to the diorama, let's imagine the Mosquito sneaking up on the unsuspecting German night fighter.
These two pictures were made by pasting pictures of the models into a more suitable background.
To do this, you’ll need a photo editing program for your PC.
And here is the Diorama:
Please note that the aircraft was not fixed on the base. They could easily be moved around.
In the picture above, the Mosquito was placed ahead of the He-219
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