The Heinkel He 115 was a powerful three-seat World War II Luftwaffe seaplane. It was characterised by outstanding handling both in the water and in the sea, but the He 115 also marked the end of an area.
The huge seaplane was the last combat aircraft of its kind.
It originated in 1935 but when it made its first flight in 1937.it was already outdated due to low speed and inferior defence armaments. This was improved in later models, but the plane was still very vulnerable to attack from fighters.
The He 115 was therefore quickly removed to areas where they could perform their duties with little risk of meeting enemy fighters.
The highest concentration of the big float plane was, therefore, to be found in Norway.
Its long coastline and distances from allied fighter bases made the location ideal for the He 115.
The aircraft had its finest moment on anti-shipping operations against Arctic convoys from bases in northern Norway.
Realizing the strategic importance of the supplies flowing to the Soviets, Germany planned to make the convoys so costly in lives and ships that the Allies would be forced to abandon any further attempts.
They assembled a force of more than 260 aircraft and about 30 U-boats to greet any convoys that attempted the voyage.
Convoy PQ 17
The PQ 17 was a large convoy of 35 merchant ships, escorted by several destroyers and anti-aircraft ships.
Crammed into bulging holds were nearly 300 aircraft, 600 tanks, more than 4,000 trucks and trailers, and a general cargo that exceeded 150,000 tons. It was more than enough to completely equip an army of 50,000
The PQ 17 from Iceland on June 27, 1942, for the port of Arkhangelsk in the Soviet Union.
Three days later, it was located by German forces, after which it was shadowed continuously by German BV 138 planes
Acting on information that German surface units, including the German battleship Tirpitz, were moving to intercept the convoy, it was ordered to scatter, and the escorting vessels were ordered to withdrew westwards to intercept the possible German raiders (which never materialised).
For the merchant ships, left without escorts and scattered in the narrow confines north of the Arctic Circle would prove fatal.
The result was a massacre: Of the 35 merchant ships which left Iceland, only eleven reached their destination.
The slaughter began on July 5.
Soon the Arctic airwaves were filled with frantic distress signals from stricken ships.
A British freighter was among the first victims, going down after being torpedoed by a U-boat.
Next to go was an American ship.
Then a flight of nine German dive bombers arrived, while U-boats accounted for another American vessel.
Before semidarkness mercifully put an end to the massacre, PQ-17 had lost nine ships.
The attacks continued for three more days without respite. Roving aircraft caught up with and sank ships, while prowling U-boats, working alone or in small wolfpacks, dealt death blows to others.
On the 10th, German planes caught two ships running for landfall southeast of Murmansk. They, too, were pounded to pieces and sent to the bottom within 100 miles of safety.
The next few days, more stragglers came limping in, but it would take until July 28 for the last of the survivors of PQ-17 to arrive.
KüFlGr 406 (based in North Norway) was flying the Heinkel He 115 and conducted several torpedo raid against the scattered PQ 17.
Each Heinkel carried an F5 torpedo some seven and a half metres long weighing 775 kg, of which 200 was explosive.
To launch the weapon the He 115 had to maintain a speed of 180 km/h at an altitude of forty metres.
In theory, the torpedo could be dropped up to two kilometres from the target, but in practice, a more realistic range was barely 800 metres, a distance at which the plane would find themselves in a maelstrom of defensive fire from the armed merchant ships.
The toll taken on the abandoned convoy was horrendous.
More than two-thirds of the convoy had gone to the bottom, along with 210 combat planes, 430 Sherman tanks, 3,350 vehicles and nearly 100,000 tons of other cargo. More than 120 seamen were killed, and countless others were crippled and maimed.
The model and diorama below, show one of the He 115 from KüFlGr (Küsten Flieger Gruppe) 406 attacking one of the merchant ships of QP 17, July 1942
Building the Heinkel He 115
The kit was the 1/48 from Special Hobby.
Besides the normal sprues and the decals, the box included some resin parts, etched brass sheets.
The building of the aircraft was a pleasure; every part fitted nicely, and almost no putty or sanding was needed.
The big floats and the struts were surprisingly easy to fit.
The painting followed the normal procedure: First, a coat with primer, then pre-shading, then camouflage paints and last a coat with clear (Johnson Future).
Then it was time for decals and weathering at as the last post; a coat with a satin varnish.
The camouflage was the standard colours for the Luftwaffe seaplanes: RLM 72/73/65
I needed the propellers to rotate freely and glued a brass rod to each propeller acting as propeller shafts. Then I drilled holes in the engines and inserted the propeller shafts. They would rotate when blown upon (for ex with a hairdryer).
I was building one of the planes (K6+TH) belonging to KüFlGr 406, which was based in North Norway.
Unfortunately, the markings of this group were not included in the decal sheet, and I had to construct the correct markings out of my decal spare box.
The Diorama base for the QP 17 attack and the merchant ship
Both the He 115 and the merchant ship was rather large models and consequently, I needed a large base to display the models.
I used a 70 x 80 cm OSB-board on which I placed a thin layer of paper Mache, sculped as waves and painted dark grey/black because I wanted a gloomy and bleak atmosphere of the diorama. It was after all an enormous disaster for all ships involved.
The torpedo-hit was made very simple by using a 12V LED lamp, some yellow cellophane and some white cotton.
The electrical wires went to the underside through a hole in the base.
Holes were also drilled at the end of the base to fit the clear plastic rod keeping the Heinkel in place above the sea.
I used a 1/350 Liberty Ship from Trumpeter as the merchant ship which was torpedoed by the He 115
The ship was painted in different dark and light grey pattern to make it difficult to spot by enemy U-boats.
The kit was easy to build and look awesome with all the masts and defence guns fore and aft.
On the pictures to the left, you can see the placing of the LED lamp (with and without light).
Besides the 12V lamp is the cellophane and cotton which was placed on the LED to illustrate the detonation of the torpedo.
An acrylic rod holds the aircraft in the air
To place the He 115 above the ocean, a hole was drilled on the underside of the fuselage, and a clear acrylic rod was inserted.
Corresponding holes were drilled at the end of the base so the aircraft could be placed at the right position, both for the attack and for the getaway.
The rod was later removed, and the
He 115 was placed in another diorama to be painted in winter camouflage (see below)
Here is the diorama where the He 115 attacks one
of the convoy
QP 17 ships
The He 115 on the bomb run, approaching the Liberty ship
- and pulling away to safety
The He 115 in winter camouflages
The He 115 was operating along the long Norwegian coast without any hangars or covers and was easy to spot from enemy reconnaissance aircraft.
During the winter, they needed extra protection, and white camouflage was added.
This was applied by the ground crew who often used what white paint they could get hold of.
This is the second He 115 diorama and shows the plane beached and the crew working on the winter camouflage.
The base is a 60 x 70 cm OBS board where the “beach” was made of paper Mache.
Fine sand was glued on the Mache to make the sandy beach.
The shallow “water” near the beach was painted light blue, and the deeper water was painted darker blue and black.
The water surface was given a wet look with a layer of Realistic Water.
The figures were some old which I found in my spare box. You can always use figures over and over again in different settings.
The only figures which needed to be altered (bending arms and legs) were the two painters.
Then we have to see the He 115 in the air, dressed in winter camouflage.
In these pictures, the aircraft is pasted into different backgrounds with the help of a photo editing program.
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