ME109, copyright RAF Museum Archive, Hendon

Designed by Willy Messerschmitt, this was the aircraft which more than any other carried the colours of the Luftwaffe. The ME109 had entered service in the Spanish Civil War in 1937 and became the basic fighter of the German Air Force. It was fast, with a top speed of 357 mph, well armed with two cannons. The ME109 wasn’t so much a beautiful aircraft as a very effective one. Powered by a Daimler Benz engine it had the advantage of direct fuel injection rather than a carburettor, which meant that in aerobatics the engine didn’t cut out. The Spitfire, with its Merlin engine, suffered from the engine cutting out in certain aerobatics, meaning that the Me109 could out dive it. The Me109 had come into frontline service more than a year before the Spitfire and so had given German pilots the advantage of longer experience with this type of fighter. It was also hugely popular with pilots.