Messerschmitt Bf 109E-l (initially registered as 5+88, later as C4K-65), is being restored to flyable condition by MeierMotors in Bremgarten, Germany. This extremely rare machine is a survivor of the 1938-39 Spanish Civil War at which time it was flown by Ober-Lieutenant Siebelt Reents with the German Condor Legion’s Jagdgruppe 88. The Condor Legion was an expeditionary force of soldiers and airmen sent to aid the Spanish Nationalists in their fight against the Soviet-backed Spanish Republicans, though in retrospect the Germans used the Spanish Civil War as a pretext to evaluate new equipment, guns, vehicles and aircraft and to develop tactical techniques which were later used to great effect during the Second World War. Reents took command of the unit on September 2, 1938, and his Bf 109 was painted in medium-grey with a distinctive “Holzauge” (wooden eye) emblem emblazoned its left side. MeierMotors plans to finish the fighter with this color and marking scheme.
After the Spanish Civil War ended, the machine continued to fly with the Spanish Air Force and remained in military service until 1957, making it perhaps the longest-serving Bf 109 in the world. Starting in the early 1960s, the Messerschmitt was used for training of fire crews at León Airport in Spain. During the 1980s, with the remains of the aircraft scheduled to be scrapped, it was rescued by Jan Luetjens, a Swiss citizen living in Spain. He subsequently sold the plane to UK warbird enthusiast Robs Lamplough, who had it brought to the UK. After a long period in storage, the plane is now in Bremgarten and about to begin the long painstaking process of restoration to flying condition.