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The Messerschmitt Bf 109 series of fighter aircraft have to be regarded as some of the most famous aircraft ever to take to the skies. This diminutive and highly capable fighter was in constant production throughout the Second World War, as the basic Messerschmitt airframe proved to be highly adaptable and capable of significant modification. Making its combat debut during the Spanish Civil War, the Bf 109 was one of the first truly modern fighter aircraft, making its first flight before either the Supermarine Spitfire or the Hawker Hurricane - it could be argued that modern monoplane fighter design began with the Messerschmitt Bf 109.
During the Second World War, the Bf 109 earned a fearsome reputation with its adversaries and was synonymous with the ruthless effectiveness of the Wehrmacht, particularly during the early years of the conflict. It was also the mount of many of the worlds most accomplished air ‘aces’ and proved to be one of the most reliable and hard-hitting fighter aircraft ever produced. Significantly, the Messerschmitt Bf 109 was the most heavily produced fighter aircraft in history, with no fewer than 33,984 machines being built – undoubtedly one of the most important aircraft in the history of powered flight.
Already a Luftwaffe fighter ace by the start of the Battle of Britain, Josef ‘Pips’ Priller and the pilots of JG51 would be heavily involved in the fighting against the RAF over the summer of 1940, with many of his comrades falling to the guns of the British airmen. Priller and his Bf 109 were to score at least 14 victories during the Battle of Britain and was to eventually end the war with an astonishing 101 victories from 307 combat missions flown. Within this number, Priller claimed at least 68 Spitfires destroyed, which was the highest Luftwaffe ace tally against Britain’s most famous fighter. He was also one of only a small number of Luftwaffe aces to fight solely in the skies above Western Europe, against the best aircraft available to the Allies.
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