by: Bill Plunk [ ]
IntroductionIan Allan Publishing Ltd. has issued the first in their new series of reference books dealing with the German Panzer forces in World War Two. The first, and aptly named, Volume One: The Evolution of the Panzerwaffe to the Fall of Poland, begins the series which is edited by John Prigent with different sections in this Volume authored by him as well as Rainer Strasheim, Carlos Caballero Jurado, Lucas Molina Franco, and William Russ. The book consists of 96 pages printed on glossy paper slightly larger than 8.5” x 11” and has a sturdy binding that is scanner-friendly. Published in 2007, the back cover lists the price as ₤16.99 while Amazon.com lists the price as $29.95 (although discounted as common practice from list online), so prices will vary depending on the source and currency exchange rates.
Book Contents As the first Volume in a series, the book begins with a brief one-page introduction from John Prigent outlining the intent of the series which is to cover the development of the Panzerwaffe from its beginnings in World War I through the campaigns of World War II. The organization of the book and, by extension the series, has each period or campaign described/outlined by a commissioned author with expertise of that specific area. The result is that each chapter within the Volume has a different author, with their own style and approach, for the campaign/period in question. The intent of the series is also to go beyond focusing on just tanks and includes or will include text and photos on armored cars, self-propelled artillery, anti-tank guns mounted on tank chassis, and armored half-tracks where appropriate. As a whole, this Volume One contains 150 black-and-white photos of different sizes, many of which have not been previously published according to the Introduction, and 9 color plates which are based on the scale-drawings of Thomas Jentz and Hillary Louis Doyle spread across 5 different chapters/sections. This first Volume does not contain an Index or Table of Contents either for itself or for the Series.
“Beginnings-The First German Tanks” is authored by Rainer Strasheim and covers 20 pages containing 38 photographs and 2 color plates. 33 of the photos are credited to the Strasheim Collection with 5 coming from the Mario Doherr Collection. Color plates are provided for an A7V and a captured British Mk IV (Female) vehicle. The section text provides detailed accounts of the development, training, and deployment of the first German Panzer forces in World War I including how units were created, deployed, and used in combat. Detailed accounts, in some cases down to the vehicle level, are provided of the combat effectiveness of the different units as well as their experiences with captured British equipment. No sub-sections are provided but the narrative does go through the post-Armistice period up through the Freikorps period to 1920 and includes interesting information on the use of armored cars and the brief history of the Kokampf units before they were disbanded under the Treaty of Versailles restrictions.
“Between the Wars: Rebuilding, New Tactics and New Equipment” is authored by John Prigent and covers 24 pages featuring 31 photos from the Prigent Collection and 2 pages of color plates for the Pz.Kpfw. I showing the pre-war two-tone camouflage pattern. This chapter is broken down into multiple sub-sections dealing with a wide range of topics from the use of “Panzerattrappes” or mock-ups and training/development of tactics under the Versailles restrictions to individual sections dealing with different vehicles. Brief sections are provided for the early Pz.Kpfw I-IV designs as well as the Grosstraktor, Neubaufahrzeug, and Pz.Kpfw. 35(t) and 38(t). Other sections also deal with the development/use of Armored Cars and Armored Half-tracks, the employment of camouflage colors and details on the three-tone scheme of 1935 vs. the two-tone scheme of 1937, and sections on the use of national insignia and unit markings and tactical numbers during this period. The section ends with a brief description of the formation of the different Panzer Divisions that fought in Poland. The photographs in this chapter place special emphasis on the early variants of the Pz. II (Ausf A. and B.), Pz. III (Ausf A, B, D, D1), and Pz. IV (Ausf A, B, C) as well as photos of the early 6-rad Sd.Kfz. 231s and Kfz. 13 armored cars. There is one small error in the caption on the lower photo on page 33, it incorrectly identifies a Pz.Kpfw. II Ausf A or B as being in front of a Sd.Kfz. 250/8 Ausf B armored ambulance which is in fact an Sd.Kfz. 251/8 Ausf B.
“Austria and Czechoslovakia-1938” is the shortest of the chapters at just 5 pages and is authored by Carlos Caballero Jurado. The chapter contains 7 photos from the Prigent Collection and one color plate of a Pz.Kpfw. II in two-tone camouflage scheme. The text provided is essentially a high-level overview of the use of the Panzer forces in the take-over of Austria and Czechoslovakia and the creation of new units using the acquired stocks of Czech tanks and Austrian equipment. Of primary interest here are the photographs provided of the Austrian Sauer hybrid wheeled/half-track vehicles and the different Czech designs acquired by the German forces.
“The Spanish Civil War” covers 9 pages and is authored by Lucas Molina Franco with 15 photos credited to Molina via his own collection and various authors, 6 from the Prigent Collection, and 3 photos credited to Campesino via R. Arias. 1 color plate is provided showing the front view of a Pz.Kpfw I with markings for the Agrupacion de Carros de Combate de la Legion. The chapter text details the training, deployment, and combat use of the Pz.Kpfw I and the Panzerbefehlswagen I Ausf. B by the Spanish Nationalist forces.
“The Polish Campaign” is the longest chapter covering 36 pages and is authored by William Russ with 50 photos from the Prigent Collection and 3 color plates, 1 each for a Pz.Kpw. III Ausf B, Pz.Kpfw. IV Ausf C, Sd.Kfz. 263 (8-rad) Radio Car in two-tone camouflage scheme. Many of the pages are given over to full-size photographs and include multiple examples of the different marking schemes employed by the various units and vehicles during the campaign. The text provides an overview narrative of the employment of the different Panzer units and their role in the campaign as well as lessons learned that would be employed in follow-on campaigns regarding the organization of the Panzer Divisions and coordination with infantry and support units.
Conclusion As the introductory Volume One in a series, this book sets the stage for future Volumes and covers the early periods of Panzer development from World War I up through the Polish campaign well. While the different author approach to each chapter takes some getting used to vs. a more traditional single-author approach, the text supports the accompanying photos with just enough context and information to make it a valuable written as well as photographic resource and reference. The variety of photos and the number of different vehicle types covered, especially many of the pre-war/early war vehicles and prototypes, makes this an interesting first step for the series that can stand alone or with the yet-to-come Volumes as a set depending on your choice. This first Volume does rely heavily on photos from primarily one source, the Prigent Collection, for many of the chapters and it remains to be seen if the following Volumes will follow the same course or bring in other sources of rare/un-published photos.