Monday, May 28

Haynes Publishing:Tiger Tank Manual Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger I Ausf. E (SdKfz 181) Book Review

Haynes have made quite an interesting series of manuals for enthusiasts of vehicles – but now they have used this series to branch out into the more mainstream ( and sometimes the more niche) interests of regular day folk, not just people who want to fix their car. We have reviewed the P-51D Mustang manual and found it to be pretty much a one stop shop for all you would ever need to know – will this title match its brethren in scope and depth? Let’s have a look…

Haynes Publishing
Tiger Tank Manual - Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger I Ausf. E (SdKfz 181) Model

160 pages
Hardback, 270 x 210mm,  
175 colour & 50 b&w illustrations
ISBN:  9781844259311
Book No: H4931
Web price: £21.99
Available from: Haynes Webstore online.

Haynes of the UK has a long and proud publishing history and is probably most famous for their car and bike manuals, especially in the 60’s thru till the early nineties and still even now. They have however like many publishers had to broaden their audiences to compete in modern times – books on all aspects of life are now their fare - Books on History, both civilian and military, computers, kids titles, home and leisure books and even some books are planned on the Queen’s Jubilee! Haynes have however stayed true to their roots and opened up all vehicles – real and celluloid - to their famous manuals, from the Thunderbirds to the Bf 109, from the starship enterprise to the Jeep – just about every famous vehicle is or is going to be represented. We have a few of their titles and I have to say I am really impressed with their RML Routemaster and P-51D Mustang books – we thought we’d sit down to read and tell you what we thought about this one on the Tiger I tank.
Filling a much needed gap in the Haynes “enthusiasts” series; this one covers arguably the tank with the biggest reputation for being king of the tanks in WWII – the Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger I Ausf. E (SdKfz 181) – better known as the Tiger tank.

This book comes in a glossy hardcover (270 x 210mm) portrait layout, and is packed with some one hundred and sixty pages packed with text and colour + black and white period photos of the vehicle plus many coloured illustrations.
These manuals follow the pattern of their brethren you may know from the glove box of your car. The tank is first given an introduction, variant history, types and sub-variants, nomenclature and how to run and repair the vehicle, which was always the most useful part of the manual. For these special manuals though the focus is usually on one or two examples, as it was with the P-51D book – this book features extensively the knowledge gleaned from the capture of a Tiger I in the Tunisian desert in 1943 – known as “Tiger 131” this vehicle was taken back to the UK after capture – examined, filmed, exhibited and in some parts cut up, then restored to its current running condition. It is with the help of some of these people from Bovington Tank Museum that this book was written. Their help and exclusive access to this historical vehicle can be seen in the publication from start to finish – and the manual is much healthier for their contributions.

Written by a team of people lead by David Fletcher, who is the Bovington Tank Museum librarian, and also an author and a leading expert on tanks as well as the Curator at the Tank Museum David Willey plus  Mike Hayton the Tank museum’s Workshop Manager; and a long-standing museum volunteer Stevan Vase. The foreword of the book is written by a man who was in actual combat in his Churchill tank against the Tiger 131, Peter Gudgin. The wealth of knowledge on the subject is second to none and is a great starting point.
The book consists of thirteen main parts from the foreword to the appendix we will take you through them individually and point out the more noteworthy parts

From the Foreword of the veteran Peter Gudgin to the introduction by David Willey you can see that this tank   is a big deal in their lives – there are nice pictures of Mr Willey as a child near the tank and Mr Gudgin facing off with his old nemesis as an old man. This is a subject that evokes a lot of emotion and although there ARE other tanks – this is probably one of the most famous.
In a passage of eighteen pages we next learn of “The Tiger Story” This explains the birth of the Tiger I from its inspiration as an answer to the French tank, the Char FM 2C in the mid-thirties, this tank was an evolutionary product rather than a revolutionary vehicle.

Prototypes, right and wrong turns and the various people associated with the design and construction as well as the factories who provided them are listed, as are the wrong turns and the influence of British tank designs which also lead to the whole “story” of the vehicle are described. Vehicle nomenclature is described in one of the several cut out boxes which are all the way through this title
Tiger 131 and its entry into the battle in Tunis which saw its capture due to a barb in the turret is described as is the repair in the field and use of the vehicle in several roles throughout the war from recognition films to training of crews to public exhibit. This was indeed an important catch for the allies.

The next chapter “The Travels of Tiger 131” covers this important vehicle’s “journey” more in depth. From the sands of Tunisia to its eventual home in Bovington Museum in England, the repair, transportation and condition of the vehicle at the time of capture make you better understand the Tiger I and do not take away from the fact that this is a manual form more than just one singular tank.
Indeed the importance of the tank led to many different interests from many different sources showing their influence and the people who were directly responsible for the safe return of this war prize to its eventual home are mentioned here along with a detailed damage report of the vehicle in its original state from forensic expert David Schofield is most interesting. You can still see some of this damage to the present day.

“Anatomy of a Tiger” pretty much does what it says on the tin – we investigate the layout and insides of this armoured beast. An excellent wartime cutaway compliments the contemporary floor plan of the tank which shows you exactly where everything fits in. This demystifies the rather cluttered confines of this vehicle quite well.
The major and minor internal hatches, visors, commander’s cupola and major internal and external fittings and fixtures are described in some detail – never in a boring technical way but short and precisely. Period pictures, drawings and modern diagrams further illustrate the points made in the text.

The full suspension, road wheels and different tracks are illustrated here along with some interesting shots of the tanks being ferried to Tunisia and a section on the armour there are also short illustrated boxes describing the application of Zimmerit ( and the potential hazards of the magnetic paste which I had no idea of until reading this book) and the deep wading abilities and Schnörkel of the Tiger. This chapter matches period and present diagrams with photos from the past and present very well.

“Restore to Running Order” Describes in some twenty three pages the restoration of a tiger. Again using Tiger 131 as a test case the book David Wiley takes us through why the people at Bovington restored the vehicle in the way they did, what you have to take into account when restoring a vehicle of such historical importance and the reaction of others to your restoration. The views from the workshop and also from the people working on it are documented as well.
Two very interesting parts of this chapter are the photo essays in boxes showing (with text of course) the restoration steps from start to finish. Also of great interest to modellers especially is the explanation of how the museum came to work out the original paint scheme of this tiger – a massive “hornet’s nest” of discussion amongst the forums - this is explained very well in this book, you read it and feel like these restorers have recognized past faults and methodically put them to rights here..
“Running the Tiger” is documented in this next section and the book goes on to give you the impression of what it is like to run and more interestingly for most people to actually operate and drive this beast.
Procedures for start-up and driving the vehicle are documented in picture boxes again and the amount of reference from these pictures makes this section a great addition for modellers.

“The Maybach Engine” in this vehicle was originally the HL210 -  but replaced by the later HL230 for parts availability and reliability issues the powerplant is explained here in text and pretty every mechanical plan and diagram you needed to have at your disposal – technical drawings help you understand the eclectics and pictures sow you the finished article.
-Now we are talking! The next chapter sets its sights on the armament – the Centrepiece of the vehicle the 88cm kwk56 gun, or simply the “88”

This chapter not only discusses not only the 88 gun but also the secondary armament of the tiger - the MG 34 machine gun. In this chapter are the procedures for loading, maintaining and operating the armament are discussed. Special attention is taken to show the aiming and firing of the main gun in a box out section again.
Not only the basics of the main weapon, but the reasons behind the choice of the gun, the structure and mounting of the weapon and the ammunition and loading of the gun is discussed. The excellent detail pictures of this section showing not just the guns but their surrounding structure keep up the high standard of visual reference this book provides.

Twenty pages of the book are devoted to the “Fighting the Tiger” section, in which the allocation, use and tactics of the Tiger during the war is discussed.
The common conception of the Tiger’s lack of reliability and manoeuvrability are discussed, as is the recovery of the vehicle and maintenance of the vehicle and the method of track repair and removal. This is an eye opening read as many conceptions that are commonly adhered to without question are indeed questioned here.

“Last of the Tigers” talks of the mystery of what happened to nearly all but six of the 1354 examples made by the Germans. The fate of these is discussed as is the “discovery “of long lost vehicles and what people are using to make their own versions of this tank for movie recreations etc. A very interesting section describes “con jobs” people try to pull to get money from people or museums after their own tiger – the model kit picture story made me laugh very much!!
In the appendix the book examines the remaining vehicles in some state of repair. After reading this section you understand why it is such a good inclusion basing a lot of the knowledge in this publication on the Bovington example. There is also a useful Bibliography included here for more inspirational reading.

Of the six surviving tigers the book shows pictures and a short report on each vehicle’s condition – all are pretty well kept but the Russian museum’s example almost makes you want to cry compared to the Bovington Tiger’s standard of reconditioning!
To be honest this manual for the Tiger I is again a one-stop-shop. The bibliography is almost not useful to you because this book – like the others I have read in this series – pretty much sums it all up in the one volume. Unless you want reams of profiles and pictures which are available pretty much anywhere this book should be at your side while modelling a tiger. It really is an invaluable book to have when you want to be either an armchair historian or a master modeller of the Tiger.

Great work to the people at Hayes Publishing on this book I recommend it.

Adam Norenberg

Thanks to Haynes for this manual – it was a great read! Check out their site for nearly every different manual you could think of.