Friday, July 15

Read n’ reviewed: “AFV Photo Album 2 Armoured Fighting Vehicles on Czechoslovakian territory 1945”

Canfora Press have brought us some of the most beautiful books on modelling today. We loved their recent “Rare Wheels” & “Wingspan” books as well as their other modelling books on varied subjects. A book that many modellers and AFV fans hold close is their “AFV Photo Album.” Now there is a second volume out we were keen to see what Canfora Press has in store after we got to read it and share our impressions in today’s review…

Read n’ reviewed: “AFV Photo Album 2 Armoured Fighting Vehicles on Czechoslovakian territory 1945”
By: Marek Solar, Petr Dolezal and Vladimir Kos
Published by: Canfora Press
176 pages in Hardback
200+ photos + Colour profiles
Price: 37€
You can order this book from Canfora Press at their website

This, the second in this series of photo – essay covers the wrecks of German, Russian, Hungarian and other nation’s armoured vehicles that were either left behind by their owners in a wrecked state or disabled, recovered and brought to mustering points to be sent to the scrap yard. Written and researched by the team of Marek Solar, Petr Dolezal and Vladimir Kos, this book is pitched as a journey through the Czech lands, in which many of the final battles were fought in the last months of the war. Having travelled through a lot of Czech Republic and Slovakia I can imagine some of these places nowadays and the change in between the time these pictures were taken and the present day. Not a lot has changed with many of these locations, but the people and tanks are no longer there.

Like its volume I companion, this is a large A4 size hardcover book whose layout is also similar, the photography is in large format with both Czech and English captions to explain what is going on in the scenes captured in front of you. The thickness of the glossy hard cover and the pages inside is of a quality feel. The pages are not see through and this book has been to Japan and back with me and it still looks alright.

The layout of the pages is generous and never feels cramped, while some of the pages are turned sideways to capture the wide nature of the often beforehand unpublished pictures captured here. On the photography, there are some great shots here and many of them are taken after the war so the nature of their taking is relaxed so you see some good images in focus and of a good image quality.

Most of this book is captured at a variety of locations with several pages more than often showing the one location. Several of the pictures are of the same vehicle from different angles and each vehicle seems to have a story to tell. Sometimes however the author can only guess at where the vehicle has come from although the team behind this book are of the elite and seem to know most of the locations and the vehicles stories or at least what unit and how their demise was met.

Now this is a bit of a hard book to review in a way. The narrative is kind of a flow rather than a succinctly broken up series of stories. Some of these locations almost drift into each other and more often than not the pictures kind of tell most of the story for us. So we will look at each of these fifteen locations that the book visits with a general round up of the locale and what is there at each scene. There are a few extras in this book that we will also discuss that are to me a kind of added extra to the photo journal and I will cover those as well.

After we are introduced to the story of these collections and how these “graveyards” were made, our first stop off is the King Tiger that had been left after the war in the Slovakian town of Tristin after a breakdown and another KT captured un the village of Lanžhot in Southern Moravia. This short section showed this KT with several locals “riding” it which is a common theme in this book.

We then go to a major part of the book in the collection of several AFV’s in the railway yards of Znojmo in Southern Moravia. There are about thirty pages here full of all sorts of abandoned tanks and AVFs brought to these yards for either repair and latter scrapping.

Several pictures of not only German vehicles like a Möbelwagen, Panthers, Kettenkrads, two RSO’s, a Jagdpanther and Panzer IV L/70 with a few Hetzers, a Hanomag, Bergepanther, a Stug III and a couple of Marders. There are also several captured and Russian tanks including the T-34-85, T-34-76 & OT-34-76, Su-85, Su-76, IS-2 and even a lend-lease Sherman! There is also a tiny Romanian R-35-45 that is dwarfed by one of the King Tigers left at this sprawling station.
The expanse of vehicles here is also shown on a handy little map that shows the position and inclination of the vehicles as shot here.

The other place in the same town of Znojmo at the roundabout of the station where there was a gathering of tanks.  There have been some movements on here which are documented by the authors, and some different tanks like the Turan I & II as well as several Panzer IV’s. Several T-34’s Panthers, Bergepanthers, Is-2 & an ISU-152 along with half-tracks, the Su-76, a Stug III & a Pz III amongst many others. The sheer volume of vehicles here would fill many of the best museums in the world right now and the pictures of these now priceless tanks are just great. The text helps explain the possible circumstances and fates of these vehicles.

I love the fully loaded specimen here – she looks like she has seen some action and her racks look to have blown up. (the captured T-34 guys) Again the map of all of the vehicles in this collection by Simon Vosters (with another on the next page) really show off the sheer number and variation of AFVs here.

Next, we stop for a few pages looking at a two disabled King Tigers from Abt.503 on the road near Vranovská Ves. Three great pictures with again, some civilians riding them. We also see a Königstiger next to the railroad in Třebelovice, from the same unit, shot after the war.

We look at some softer AFV’s that are seen at a devastated railway yard at Česká Třebová in the Pardubice Region of the east of the Czech Republic. Tossed aside flatbed wagons, over Hetzers, Panthers, a Nashorn and even an 88mm gun on the flatbed trucks. A Little way away from the railroad (not sure how far) is some soft skin AFV’s. Most of these Steyrs have AA FlaK guns on their destroyed hulls. We also see some German vehicles in the background on a road heading into captivity loaded with German troops.

Already over 50 pages in we travel to the railroad at Jindřichův Hradec with some shots of Half-tracks and then on to the heavily bogged Königstiger – yet again with heaps of civilians on it before it was taken away, possibly by the Soviets.

The same tank is seen after its recovery some distance away being towed a long way back through Veseli & Luznici on the way back for evaluation. Several details are pointed out about the tank in pictures from different angles and the theories by the authors on how and why it was being towed is interesting.

The Brummbär is next with some pictures of the self-propelled gun on the road near Chlum in three very good pictures before we see some more Königstiger pictures with some very interesting captured shots with the new owners – the engineers who were loading these giants onto trains at Tabor station. It almost makes you cry thinking that these now priceless tanks just being melted to make pots and pans. There is a record of King Tigers that were taken into captivity in Czech and Slovak territories in a table which shows the units, turret, markings and other notes about the tanks - very handy.

Some of the sharpest pictures of the Panther G in Pilsen is seen over the next four pages. These are seen from some different angles with lots of interesting features explored by the authors again.

Four pictures in Slavonice in the south-west of Moravia are next with another heavily up-armoured Panther and a recovery Panzer IV and then a snow covered King Tiger with again – people filling the frame riding the vehicle.  We then look at some pictures of a captured half-track recovery FAMO Schwerer Zugkraftwagen 18t with her new engineer masters on the job and posing in front of their vehicle.

Several American built trucks are next to be seen, with some snow-covered railway yards in Zima (Winter) before we change seasons to look at several wrecked half-tracks near Strakonice amongst a LOT of wreckage and several civilians and against the army engineers and their trucks.

We next see some engineers at work cannibalizing a Panther before several detailed shots of a recovery Bergepanther that was being used as a railway vehicle after the war along with another model (this time an Ausf.G) found near the picturesque town of Cesky Krumlov in southern Bohemia.

Six pages in a sequence of shots that capture the graveyard near the Štítina railway.  There is a lot of detailed text in this section of the book that makes some interesting reading. This review is already getting too long but the mixture of AFV’s (with just as many USSR machines as there are German tanks) and writing is here at its best.
The vehicles at the collection of Dolní Lhota, a village in the Zlín Region of the Czech Republic are next. There is again a very detailed list of how these vehicles met their end which is interesting, The ISU-122/ 152’s stands out to me, amongst the many (mostly Soviet) tanks here because of their size and brutal look.
Several great pictures of the StuG III are next. These are great serialized pictures in the area of Tisnov. The interest here is with concrete up-armoured StuG’s, a Bf 109 of all things (!) and an RSO being recovered after falling into a lake.

The German retreat through the last month of the war is seen in the series of pictures taken in Jevíčko in the Svitavy District of the Czech Republic. Several field guns, ruined staff cars and tracked vehicles and abandoned AFV’s with notably a few pics of a burnout and abandoned panther that broke down trying to avoid civilians on the road.

Svojanov’s scene of German troops surrendering is next – with several pages of mostly simpler looking StuGs (some with extra concrete armour) and even some early Pz-38’s here amongst the surrendered weapons and vehicles that are listed here in this section of the book.

More tanks and even aircraft are seen in the scrapyard of Havlíčkův Brod. This looks like a great place for this young kid to explore.

Prague’s scrapyards are seen in the next few pages with some really great pictures of smaller oddities, along with a good shot of Russian soldiers doing some sightseeing in the yard in Milovice after the war which is a good picture. We see several other smaller series of pictures in the next few pages which are just as interesting but again not as interesting to explain to you as it is for you to see them.

God know what happened to this lot of vehicles loaded and preserved still at the end of the war on flatbed cars in the railyard of Melnik from the Herman Goering division. These are clear pictures with the cover shot being just one of them. Lots of text info here but the pictures are pretty great.

Lastly, we have a small section of coloured plates along with pictures of the vehicles that are featured in the profiles. Felipe Rodriguez Nanez has done some great work here, the German and Soviet vehicles are captured and brought to life with these coloured illustrations. These are a round-up of the vehicles captured in this book – some of the more interesting ones are carefully chosen and I reckon this is almost a nice bonus to those looking at this book.
Having some idea of just how hard this type of venture is, and how well it is presented and researched I can only salute to authors and publisher for what they have turned out. I think if you have read this whole review you must know the variety of tanks on show – and the quality of the AFVs here in pictures and variety.

It’s a great achievement that the team should be proud of, and if you are interested from what you have heard it would be silly not to pick this up.

Adam Norenberg

You can order this book from Canfora Press at their website