Saturday, August 5

Read n' Reviewed: Panzer III on the battlefield - World War Two Photobook Series (Vol.14)

Up until now, the Panzer III has been left out of PeKo's popular World War Two Photobook Series, but now in Volume fourteen, we have the first book on the workhorse of the German Army in WWII. How is it the book? Well, we have read it, and we thought we would take you through this latest issue so you can see what's inside.

Panzer III on the battlefield - World War Two Photobook Series (Vol.14)
Author: Tom Cockle
Dual Hungarian-English languages
Hardcover Landscape Format (300x215mm)
112 pages
Price: €28.95
ISBN: 9786155583063

PeKo Publishing has given us the first in what might just be a series of books covering the Panzer III in their World War Two Photobook Series. It has only taken them thirteen previous issues of this book series to get to one of the most produced vehicles of the Second World War. Do good things come to those who wait?

For those not in the know – PeKo's books in this series promise us full page, large format pictures from new or previously unpublished sources combined with text from the author to put you in the time, place and a description of the vehicle's particulars, version and where it was made.

This book is from the usual team at PeKo, though this time it is authored by Tom Cockle. I know of Tom through his reviews of often German armour on forums, and his knowledgeable accounts of these vehicles made me interested to see what his efforts would come up with here.

In its physical form, this book comes in the same format as the other thirteen in this series. It is bound in a hardcover with a glossy finish in an A4 (11.6 x 8.3 x 0.5 inches) landscape layout. Each page of this book is also of a familiar but welcomed format, the one-picture-to-a-page with a large photo format. The text at the bottom of these pictures is in English & Hungarian, and it is meant to help the reader find details about what they are looking at, the vehicle's manufacturer and where the vehicle was pictured.

The one really new feature of this book is the subject itself - the Panzer III – a tank that really I was not that interested in. But would this book be of interest to us? Let's look at this issue from front to back...

The author, well known in the business is Mr Tom Cockle, he has given us an introduction over two pages, in both English and Hungarian. A general history of the Panzer III is described, with the development, trials and various types of the vehicle laid out in some interesting detail/ What changed from marque to marque, and the mechanical, offence and defence of each of these tanks sets the table for the rest of the book to follow.
We get into the real meat of the book next, nearly whole page pictures of each of these vehicles, sometimes by themselves or other times in companies of other Panzer III's and other vehicles. Most of the pictures of the Panzer III's are seen from the German point of view in this book, especially in the first part, where the early development vehicles with their very thin armour are seen. The weakness of these early types in their proposed roles is highlighted by the cracks int he glacis plates of some of these tanks, the armour is cracked like eggshells on some of these tanks.
Early on I noticed a thing which struck me as a little weird. I am so used to the structure of these books showing the reader these tanks usually in variant and then chronological order. The placing of a Panzer IIIF int he early sections of the book was fine, but the setting of the timeframe of 1944 in Normandy just threw me for a second. Panzer IIIF's from 1940 were shown after this, maybe I just expect perfection? It did not hold me up for too long.

We have already seen the early types, the A, B, D, E & F, and already after about 25 or so pages, we are already showing the Panzer IIIG models. This tank is now starting to look a lot more like the Panzer III most are familiar with. Some of the pictures of these vehicles are in really very good condition. The two shots below from the Thomas Anderson Collection (all photos are credited on the top of the page so you can see the original sources, and how many there are) are just so clear it is like they are shot from a recreation group with decoloured photos. Others are in rough and often because of the conditions, a little blurry. I can say that I am glad to see the variety and scope of the pictures in this collection.
The variation of environments that these tanks are shot in should be commented on. From snow to dirt roads, shrubby ground to barren battlefields and sandy deserts, we see these Panzers in all types of terrains, and that is a great feature, especially for modellers who want something different in their dioramas.

Page 35 sees us already in Panzer III H territory. Some of these Mk.III's had the additional Zusatzpanzerung extra armoured plate synonymous with the Afrika Korps tanks that were bolted in front of the usual glacis. Details like this, the gun, extra tracks as armour, the rear deck plates and superstructure changes are all noted by the author on every one of these pictures right throughout the book.
By 43 pages into the book, we are examining the further changes and peculiarities added to the Panzer IIIJ. Starting with one of the best pictures I have seen of this tank (below on the right) the author describes how this marque was further up-armoured and improved. He also gives us, as he has right throughout the book, insights as to the reason of several markings, stencils, unit designations and turret numbers that you can see, and some that were all-but invisible to this reader until pointed out in the text. More precious knowledge from this book that is such a very good insight to the reader.
We see lots of pictures in this book of not only the environment, the markings and the additions to each variant, but we also see a lot of pictures of the crews of these tanks. Mostly in operation, at rest or driving through a village or town. The book's coverage of so many vehicles in so many pictures gives us an insight to how the tankers fought in, related to, lived around and maintained their tanks. It brings more interest through relating the human element of the scenes here.
Some pictures of IIIJ's with Schurtzen and a very interestingly white washed version caught my eye particularly as well....
Page 69, a little past half way in this book, we see the Panzer III Ausf.L's appearance. The Vorpanzer mantlet armour as well as extra tracks on the hull and extra steel from other sources that have been applied to these kits is a feature of many of these tanks and the pictures of them. A lot more pictures of knocked out tanks are starting to appear as the resources and tide of war turns against these tanks and their crews by this stage of the book.
By page 97 we are looking at the Panzer III M. These tanks are looking more and more beaten up in these shots, although the commentary still picks out every detail of interest and unique feature of each of these vehicles.
Panzer III N is next, with the rest of the book featuring this type in various different theatres and conditions. These mostly short barreled tanks have the turret shurtzen included in their design and we see lots of examples of that feature in close up. A fitting last image sees a bunch of very good looking Panzer III N's surrendered a the end of the war.
SO – there it is then. Fourteen issues in – has this book lost anything, gained, or stayed put?

The images are great – some so new looking that they looked like modern de-coloured shots. The text by the author pointed out all we needed to know, and some things we would not have even seen if not for this feature. The quality and feel of the book are exactly the same as the others in the series.

So has the stock of Peko gone up or down in this title?

If, after fourteen issues in I am still interested, and in a vehicle, I had no previous love for, well then the stock is definitely on the up for PeKo.

Adam Norenberg

Thanks to PeKo Publishing for sending this book out to us to read and review. You can now order these books directly from the PeKo website which is great – they have a cart system now so no need to email, just add what you like to your cart and off you go.