Tuesday, September 4

Read n’ Reviewed: Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. B – Construction & development, from Peko Publishing.

Herbert Ackermans is in our books a bit of an expert on the subject of the Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. B - so much so he doesn't even call it a King Tiger! We let him loose on the latest tell-all book on the subject & after reading it he shows us what he saw and relates the content of the book in his extensive review...

Read n’ Reviewed: Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. B – Construction and development
Written by Alexander Volgin
Published by Peko Publishing
English language book
236 pages
Hardcover format
Released: June 2018
Dimensions: 297 mm x 210 mm x 12 mm/ Weight 1130 gr
Price: € 34,95 from this link at the Peko Publishing Website

1997 - That’s the year Germany’s Tiger Tanks: VK 45.02 to Tiger II - Design, Production and Modifications was published and for decades it was THE book on the Tiger Ausf. B. It was the bible on the King Tiger as the tank in question is popularly called.

Meanwhile, several of the other German tanks got new books were written and published on them, with new details, for instance, the Panzer Tracts series or recently Panther External Appearance and Design Changes. 

So when word came out a new book on the Tiger Ausf. B was to be published, it got my immediate attention. The Tiger Ausf. B has been my favourite tank since I was a little kid, when I had a toy Matchbox one.

The book
When it arrived it was packed in a sturdy FedEx box so no worries about any dings on the book. First impression? It smelled like tropical fruit. Seriously, it really for days kept smelling like that. Second impression? OMG OMG OMG it’s here!!

As I said, I’ve been interested in the Tiger Ausf. B since I was a little kid, I expanded my understanding of the tank via Tamiya kit manuals, Squadron Signal Tiger in Action, Verlinden’s Tiger book and arrived at the pinnacle at that time, Walter Spielberger’s Tiger und seine Abarten, the latter is quite a challenge to read as non-German speaker as there’s numerous technical German used. Suffice to say, I would like to think that I know my Tiger Ausf. B almost down to the individual tank, so that made me so eager to read the new book by Alexander Volgin.
First action? Flick through it from front to back, looking at all fo the pictures an illustration - and boy, does it have pictures! 324 illustrations, both period photographs and later ones taken of museum pieces, as well as an enormous amount of period drawings, so that’s the actual design drawings of components and those are one of the key reasons to also get this book.

Here is also a point of criticism, there are a lot of period design drawings in the book, but there are so many, it means they are not all in a large size. Which means text becomes nigh impossible to read without a magnifying glass. It does not affect all of these drawings, but in those it does, it’s a shame the drawing wasn’t printed in a larger size. Also, I must also say, drawings are of a much larger size themselves and would otherwise not fit on the page.

That aside, the sheer number of these drawings is, and I repeat myself, a major selling point for the book. 

Now, if you are a person who is interested in the Tiger Ausf. B, and who has access to the internet, you can find a lot of photographs of the tank online. This can put a dent in the excitement of viewing the photographs in the book as, in my case, only 1 was included I had not seen before. But your own results may vary.

The book is split up into 5 chapters:

Let us delve in with Chapter 1: History of development 
One cannot discuss the history of the development of the Tiger Ausf. B without including that other design, the VK 45.02 (P), the rejected design from Dr. Ferdinand Porsche KG. On the first 8 pages of the chapter, the genesis of the long barreled (88 mm L/71) tank is detailed and how this was tackled by Porsche, ending it with the cancellation of the contracts. This history is accompanied by design drawings of Porsche’s Typ 180 design as well as their engine designs, which are great to see published in print.
Transitioning into the development history of the Tiger Ausf. B as undertaken by Henschel, it follows the same pattern as with Porsche, from the earliest beginnings to, in this case, culminating in the end result of a production vehicle. 12 Pages are dedicated to this and again, a lot of drawings, including many not seen by me before so that is always a good thing! In fact, this includes only 1 photograph at all, that of Tiger Ausf. B Fgst Nr. V1.
Next up, the chapter on Manufacturing 
How to build a Tiger Ausf. B is what this chapter is all about. And it starts where it should, at the point of creating the plates. For those who have read the British Intelligence Objectives Sub-Committee report on Welding Design & Fabrication of German Tank Hulls & Turrets, the first 14 pages will sound very familiar, as it details with forging and welding of the Wanne (hulls) and Turmgehäuse (Turret bodies) at Friedrich Krupp and D.H.H.V., Dortmund Hörder Hütten Verein. A lot of very technical details are given about how the plates were forged, treated, cut and welded. The book genuinely gets into a very exhaustive detailed description, including for instance which electrode rods were used.

The included photographs are not of the highest quality but that is not a thing that can be attributed to the publisher, the source material photographs are just not that good to start with. However, they do provide a good idea of how a Tiger Ausf. B Wanne and Turmgehäuse are put together at either Krupp or D.H.H.V.

This chapter is also the first indication of what access to the Central Archive of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation means, as it ends the part on Wanne and Turmgehäuse manufacture with some detail on the activities of Skoda in this regard.

Now the book moves towards the companies of Henschel und Sohn and Wagonfabrik Wegmann, which is where the final assembly of chassis and turret was done. The level of detail in which assembly is described varies, for instance, the installation of the road wheel axles includes data on how the tension was attained as required, where other components, an engine for instance, as only said to be installed with no further information on how that was done. Good info is given on the various sub-contractors that completed components such as road wheels, accelerator and starter rods or hatch covers. This is split up in those for the chassis and those for the turret assembly.
Turret assembly includes a description of the installation of the Kw.K 43, which were delivered completely ready from D.H.H.V. or Franz Garny Beteiligungsgesellschaft GmbH. & Co. Machining of the turret ring, race and inner diameter is described including the tools used.
The chapter ends with an overview of the contracted Tiger Ausf. B, the actually delivered numbers, both for complete vehicles and the chassis and turrets. The impact of the bombings on Friedrich Krupp, Essen, Henschel und Sohn and the cities of Dortmund and Kassel is touched upon, though superficially.

The last part of the chapter gives data that the Red Army captured which is different from that published, in the west I assume, regarding the planned production up to August 1945.

A drawing of one of the first 12 produced Tiger Ausf. B is included in the chapter. 
The 3rd chapter deals with Tiger Ausf. B description. 
In 54 pages the Tiger Ausf. B is detailed. And detailed it is, the level to which it is described is nothing short of impressive.

The chapter starts out with the mundane data of external measurements, the weight of the tank and the various armour plate thicknesses and angles, and how these are joined together where they meet.

After this,  some more details about the forward driver’s and radio operator’s compartment follows, providing a good description of the basics there.
Then it gets really, really, really real. As Alexander Volgin moves to the Maybach OLVAR OG 40 12 16B gearbox, 4 and a half pages are dedicated to this component in a level of detail that I have not read before, truly impressive to read. Any questions one can have about the gearbox are well answered here, as it includes the component internal description as well as how it was used.
The L801 steering unit is next. Here Alexander used the same approach and it is a joy to read such an exhaustive description. As on the gearbox, here too numerous drawings are included. These also include conclusions from Russian field trials of the Tiger Ausf. B which is a great added insight. Apart from cold data, the opinion of an opponent examining the tank gives a nice alternate view.
Suffice to say the level of attention to a thorough description and detailing is continued throughout the chapter. Driver’s seat, instrument panel, other items in his workspace and next up the radio operator’s workplace is handled, in the same way.
The chapter takes a logic trip through the hull as the fighting compartment is next, arriving at the engine compartment as the last stop in the hull. Loads of details, really, loads, things you’d not even thought of that might be interesting are there and dazzle you with how much is included.

A lot is detailed about the air filters on top of the carburettors of the Maybach HL 230 P 30 engine. 
Fuel tank system is treated equally. 
Automatic fire extinguishing system 
And the book arrives at the turret. It should be noted that in this section the book details the Serienturm, so turret number 51 and later. There is a short bit about the Initial Turm, pages 110 to 112, dealing mostly with remarks on the ergonomics.
Here too, the description of the various components is combined with relevant remarks from Russian trial reports. This includes, for instance, a good bit about the dead zones of the cupola periscopes. Also, it includes data on the ammunition fired by the Kw.K 43 L/71 88 mm gun with period drawings on these rounds.
The last sections of the Tiger Ausf. B detailed are the running gear, wheels, torsion bars and the covers, while also detailing the installations used for the 2 variants of Panzerbefehlswagen Tiger Ausf. B, the Sd.Kfz. 267 and 268 and the chapter closes with the external equipment stowage.
Chapter 4. Adjustments during the production
This chapter deals with the various design modifications during the production of the Tiger Ausf. B. Starting with the very first one, Fgst. Nr. V1 that text sums up the changes introduced during the time the tank was being assembled.
The chapter runs through the various modifications in a chronological manner. It finishes off with several planned but not implemented changes, mainly due to the war ending, or them being trials or ideas to be used, for instance, other types of engines. The Entwicklung Series is also tapped into, by including the text from CIOS report “Development of new series of German tanks up to end of March 1945, pages 2-5.
Throughout the chapter, the same build up is used as in the previous, many period drawings that are referred to in the text are included, which is an extremely nice bonus. 
In this chapter, internal and external painting of the Tiger Ausf. B is also subject matter, exemplified with four colour drawings of two different Tiger Ausf. B's
Later in the chapter, planned, but not implemented design changes are also described: 
Rather surprising photograph included of the installation of the Pauker-Simmering-Graz Sla 16 diesel engine in a Jagdtiger. I had read about this in Spielberger’s Panzerkampfwagen Tiger und seine Abarten for over 20 years ago, but this is the first confirmation this actually had been done! 
The inclusion of some details regarding the planned E 50 and E 75: 

The book’s last chapter is on Field Trials. 
This is a very interesting take on how to discuss a tank in a book. Instead of just the dry facts of construction, design, manufacture and production modifications, this chapter tells about what the other side thought of the Tiger Ausf. B.

It starts out where it would in a wartime situation, with the notion that something new has appeared on the battlefields, but it is not clear exactly what. It starts out with communication between the British Military Mission in the USSR and the Main Directorate of Armoured Forces of the Red Army.

After the exchange of information detailing the first impressions and data learned from knocked out vehicles, the chapter goes into the reports on trialling working captured examples of Tiger Ausf. B in US markings.
The bulk of the chapter is however dedicated to firing trials. It is interesting to know how your enemy’s tank drives and functions, knowing how to put holes in it is even more interesting.
I could be wrong, but it would not surprise me if the book includes about the complete text of a Russian firing trial against a Tiger Ausf. B. It is an extensive detailed description of the firing trials and results on the bare Tiger Ausf. B, Turmnummer 102 from s.Pz.-Abt. 501.
As a twist straight out of an M. Night. Shyamalan movie, it also includes a firing trial conducted with the Tiger Ausf. B against an IS-2 hull as well as an IS-3 one. 
The last page in the book is used for listing the sourced references: 

Is this THE Tiger Ausf. B book? That kinda depends. If this will be your first purchase in this matter, 
then yes, it certainly is THE Tiger Ausf. B book. 

For those who have for instance either, or both, Spielberger’s Panzerkampfwagen Tiger und seine Abarten and Jentz and Doyle’s VK 45.02 to Tiger II, the book is an addition with updated and new information, but still, in my opinion, a must buy, to stay in the loop so to say.

There are some points of improvement I should add. 
One thing I have noticed in other current new publications is a lack of structuring. Loads and loads of information and details are poured out, but in the case of this book, the only structuring is in the chapters. Within each chapter, the text starts and goes on until the end. For quick referencing, that is not good, unless one inserts their own earmarks. In this matter, the Jentz book is vastly superior to it, in comparison to specifically the respective chapters on changes during production, is extremely well structured with a proper reference chart for the modifications. If you want to find a specific item in Alexander Volgin’s book, you will be flicking back and forth until you arrive at the page you were looking for. Which is a shame as there is a load of information, but it drowns in the sea of text.

As the book is a translation, some choices of wording are a bit different. For example, the word amortization is used to describe the use of inner rubber rings in the roadwheels of the Tiger Ausf. B. This is an extremely odd choice of word to use, as most if not all English speaking readers will know this word only from their mortgage or bank loans.

Also, as earlier mentioned, some of the included period drawings are scaled down so much the text becomes nigh impossible to read.

However, that is all offset by a book that delivers a wealth of information and is a very much needed update and refresher for what is known of the Tiger Ausf. B.

For newcomers and the seasoned interested into the Tiger Ausf. B, I cannot do otherwise than highly recommend this book!

Herbert Ackermans

Thanks to Peko Publishing for sending this book to Herbert to read, study and review. This book is now available from their website