Thursday, November 13

Review: Andrea Press’ latest tittle – “Sturmtruppen”

To break the deadlock of the trenches in the Great War the Germans devised a group of Elite soldiers, brought from Sapper, volunteer and even penal units these soldiers were called “Sturmtruppen”, and Andrea Press has their story in their latest lavish publication.

from Andrea Press.
Ricardo Recio Cardona
(English & Spanish)
216 Pages
Over 200 pictures
8.2”x11.6” (210x297mm) (A4)

It seems poignant that I have been reading this book on remberence day – 100 years after the First World War started. This book from Andrea Press deals with the elite of Germany’s fighters in The Great War.

Like it’s sister titles we have reviewed on the artefacts of the Luftwaffe and “Inside the Allgemeine SS 1925-1945” and  the Vietnam opus “Grunt”, this book is a large and heavy hardback A4 tome with a comprehensive history on a subject all designed to go under one set of covers. However this book is a little different to the comprehensive catalogue of items that we have seen in these volumes. It is a history of the raison d'être of the first special attack units of the German Army in WWI – the Sturmtruppen, their weapons, tactics and equipment. All in a lavish pictorial style that has the looks and feel like a very high quality book.

The dust jacket is removed to see a lovely thickly bound black binding with silver lettering. 
OK - you all know the story of the Great War and it is played out in the introduction of the book for us just in case. The early war of movement turned into a static trench war scenario with two opposing forces from the French coat to the Swiss Alps. Technology in the forms of new artillery and more so the machine gun has made the cavalry charges of the 19th century obsolete and the infantry tactics and the gear they used were as well in need of radical change.
From studies showing how the current tactics were failing, the German command devised units that could circumvent the static defences and infiltrate the lines of the enemy. The history of how these men were trained and the miss steps in weapons and tactics are discussed in this first part of the book.
There are charts of organization right through this book showing the organization of the units and how they were denominated. This helps you to freely understand the size and scope of the operation.

"Mustaches abound!" in these 100 year old photographs that look like the hipsters have been reading up on!
The Assault troops are discussed. These were the elite of the German army and their equipment was changed to reflect their new mission of infiltration and heavy assault. “Sturmcannone” and grenades, the use of shields for infantry to carry for personal protection like the Roman “Tortise” were called “Sturmabbteilung Rohr” And the use of improved helmets – the “Stirnschild” were both ill-fated but it is great to see the discussed here, along with training methods and the growth of assault units right across the German army.
Another part of the operations of the Sturmtruppen were the Flamethrower units. Often formed from groups of ex firemen, volunteers and even punishment battalion soldiers it reflects just how dangerous these men’s jobs were. The “Skull sappers” are discussed in this chapter. Their main weapon of attack – the flamethrower, was not considered a potential success early on, but the development of these weapons are discussed here in detail and the success that came from their use eventually cannot be denied.
Not only are the weapons and tactics of these soldiers discussed but also there are several pages of the men themselves. All posing in that quaint way people did 100 years ago. In fact there are many pictures of these otherwise very tough men posing for the camera in gentile poses, and some in mock menace almost.
“The New Infantry” as it was called is discussed in this next chapter. New offense is discussed and the new way the attacks would be carried out as well as the tactic of “Defence in Depth” in the German line, which relied on strongpoints behind forward outposts and machine gun emplacements.
Ludendorf’s attack in 19118 is discussed as well as the integration of the artillery, tanks and hunting and infiltration tactics are talked about. The long build up to attacks being hidden from the enemy with the aim of opening up the front waiting for something to happen.
In a picture just like this one you can see the amazing detail in which a face 100 years ago was captured in film and which still exists today. Amazing shots like this are a common theme in this book. They are mostly from the author’s collection and most of them previously unpublished. 
Throughout the book there are also several artist’s impressions of soldiers, tanks and details of uniform in colour. These drawings are similar to the photographs in composure and detail and ones like this talk about the detail on each of the soldiers and his uniform and equipment peculiarities and they are a great addition of the book.
We look in intense detail at the tools of the trade for the Sturmtruppen. The grenades which were their number on go-to weapon for clearing obstacles and trenches, the knives, Mauser rifles and pistols. Picture of the real thing and their ammunition in real size is eye opening.
The first real sub-machine gun is shown as well as the Luger which we all identify so much with the German troops. As well as the grenade launchers, artillery and other weapons are shown in contemporary pictures as well as archive shots of the larger weapons. 
Lastly the book looks at the uniforms and insignia of these soldiers in a gallery of photographs of these soldiers posing as well as a grouping of artefacts like their shoulder boards as seen here.
This is not really like the previous books released by Andrea Press in this style. It is much more of a story that a museum in a book and I think anyone not knowing about the Sturmtruppen before looking at this book would welcome the story of their history included here. The book is very well written and credit must go to the author for not only the writing but also the pictures from his article that have illustrated these soldier’s story so well.

The publisher as well should be congratulated on yet another great book from their stable.

Adam Norenberg

Thanks to Andrea Press for sending this book to us to read - you can get it directlyfrom the Andrea Press Webstore.

I should let you know as well that this book was brought out in close co-operation with the sculptor who created "Stormtrooper 1917" in 1/18th scale or 90mm