Monday, March 8

Read n' reviewed: Panzerwrecks 23: Italy 3 from Panzerwrecks Publishing

The latest edition of the highly respected "Panzerwrecks" series lands on our desk with issue 23 - the third volume that features Italy as the source of the images, information and abundance of wartime tanks & vehicles on the menu. We have read the new, 128-page book, and thought it only pertinent to give you our thoughts in a window to the contents in our review...

Read n' reviewed: Panzerwrecks 23: Italy 3
From Panzerwrecks Publishing
Author: Lee Archer
Artist: Felipe Rodna / Map Artist: Simon Vosters
Language: English
Photos: 165 / Artworks: 9 / Maps: 1 & 30 QR codes with map positions
Pages: 128
Format: Softcover, 280x210mm, landscape
ISBN: 9781908032225
Price: £24.99
It is always interesting to see the development of a well-known book series. A healthy following of a series means high expectations every time a new issue is released, and how the new editions shape up in comparison to its sister volumes is always intriguing to see. It is with this high expectation that we approach the latest in this series that covers the vehicles and scenes from WWII Italy - Panzerwrecks #23 Italy Vol.3...

The book's physical form:
Physically this book follows on from the previous volumes in most respects; large-format landscape images, most of them formerly unpublished and unseen (and when seen before they are in full size here), informative captions that explain the detail in the photos and set the scene of the narrative, maps of the terrain and of recent times new additions like illustrations that capture some of the tanks in full colour and QR codes that match the scenes to a modern-day reference on google maps  - well how do you continue to top yourself?
For a start this volume clocks in at a larger 128 pages, this is the second volume that is of this larger volume (the books in this series are normally 96 pages or about that). The book features several chapters of subjects - as usual, there will always be Tigers and Panthers in a Panzerwrecks title, but this one has many o the very Italian-centric vehicles that were either captured from Germany's former allies or "absorbed" into the German's ranks in one way or another. A very diverse bunch of machinery is included in this volume which I am very thankful for. 

The book itself is broken up into six parts, with other pictures intermingled between these "chapters" if you can call them that.

Chapters in this book:
Tigers in Italy
Cassino Sturmgeschütze
Preserving the Panzers
Polish War Booty
Wrecks on Via Prenestina
Wrecks at Esperia

Page by Page...
We will go through the book now - and point out some of the unique features of this book within this series as we go...

Chapter or section 1 - in "Tigers in Italy", we start off looking at some wrecked Tiger I's from the Cisterna area in a series of five photos. I like how the author collected not only the shots from this tank on the road (in this case attempting to rescue an Elefant) but aerial and subsequent shots of the tank at the railyard after removal. The author's concise and revealing text accompanying the images enlightens the reader to many points one would have missed about the tank otherwise. 
In total we have fifteen pages of several Tiger I's in various dispositions and condition. Some disabled by their crew and others from enemy fire. Moved and left in place, there is even a converted Befehlswagen in the first of the illustrations that compare the drawing to a real tank. The destroyed and later tipped over Tiger being a notable photo if not only because of the stripped vehicle's angle when sitting beside the road.
Next up, in the "Cassino Sturmgeschütze" section, we see the beaten remnants of the defences around Cassino in twelve pages with the Sturmgeschütze as the main subject. Several disabled and completely threadbare vehicles are shown after the fighting and even a small colour image during the war that has an interesting snippet attached to it. We move on from Cassion to another location but the same subjects, showing Sturmgeschütze's being examined by Canadian troops and a series of photos showing the demise and final resting place of one of these guns and her crew. The second of Mr Rodna's illustrations is featured here to give colour to this unfortunate tank.
Next up, "Preserving the Panzers" in which we see several images of the weapons collection point at Villa Vincentina, another collection point at Modena, Casarsa. most of these vehicles were to be relocated after the war at a museum at Trieste. In this section, among the Italian and German second line Marders, field guns, wooden mock-up training tanks, Italian M15's,  and half-tracks we see another of Felipe Rodna's artworks, there are nine in total in this book, and they really do give life to the subjects we are looking at. 

No doubt of value to the armchair historian and casual reader, it is modellers that especially really appreciate these illustrations as the illustrator obviously takes so much time to look at each and every detail  - that combined with input from he author (one would assume) brings to light the colours, unit insignias and other details previously obscured, hidden, or otherwise missed by the casual observer because of their previously black and white nature. Other books attempt to do this with profiles - but none are more effective than this combination of art, colour and knowledge combined to make these vehicles so much more lifelike.
Another unique feature of this book (I should ay this publisher) are the thirty QR codes on the pages, these attach through Google maps to their actual locations that have been sourced by the author and his team of researchers and location experts. These bar codes can be scanned by most android and apple phones, I know that in my android phone the Google assistant or photo "lense" app simply scans it for me (a quick search on google will tell you more about your own phone). Simply click on the link provided on your phone after scanning the picture...
The link opens up Google maps, where you can see the view on your phone as it looks now in the current day. Several of the places in the thirty locations throughout the book are still recognizable to this day. This feature also draws the reader into the locales in "Sunny Italy" and gives the reader a better understanding of what the ground/ flora is like and what has changed since the photos were shot.
Several soft-skinned vehicles, half-tracks of different types, some with soldier sin them taking a joyride, others scattered along the road after being wrecked whilst towing guns and always something interesting to me, Skoda RSO's (which I love the look of) not only on the Appian way but in other parts of the peninsula in three photos in varying conditions of repair and completely differently marked and camouflaged... 
Several pictures of Panthers are next, with illustrations to match. Some of these photographs are so clean they look like they could have been taken yesterday. A heavily camouflaged panther in an ambush position in a house, a destroyed Panther in a shell hole, an interesting account of the Qualitative superiority of the Panthers versus Allied armour, and as ever great illustrations (two in this section) of Panthers brought to life in colour again by Felipe Rodna.
Official photographs from a Polish War photographer are next in a section that spans over six pages in "Polish War Booty". Several pages of a tank park if you will, full of StuGs and Sturmhaubitze & Nashorn with soldiers clambering all over the Nashorn which is shown from many directions. An account next by a New Zealand it of actions in a small town called Celle with accompanying photos of a knocked out Pz. IV and another of the same type at Brolo, another with an accompanying artwork captured at Coriano -  the red and white markings of the British tank corps applied to this tank would have been lost to my eyes if not brought up in the text and the excellent illustration that accompanies it. 

"Wrecks on Via Prenestina" is the next featured series of photographs, starting off with a re-enactment of the taking of the town by Shermans, then following up with several pictures of an unusual Tiger I, then Panzer IV, then a Panzer III - each with odd points illuminated by the author throughout in his accompanying captions to the excellent images.
The next series of photographs show two different Italian developed "Semeovente" or in this case the German designation Sturmgeschutz M40 mit75/18 850 (i) and a similar M42 mit75/34 851 (i) model. The different guns on each of the tanks helps identify the difference to this novice reader, but the author gives us a much deeper understanding of the vehicles and their circumstances, small details and concealment. Polish troops taking this second "232" tank out for a drive through the forest and again a just great illustration by Mr Rodna (he even included the shadows of the big bolts on the front of the tank😲) make this section a highlight to anyone wanting to model the new Italeri Semovente  - indeed pictures of this tank and the illustration are being used by a companion to model his own version of "232" coming up on the Modelling News very soon! Pictures of the interior large hatch in the same exterior camouflage have already saved him an embarrassing furphy in his own model. That is what good reference does for the reader.
From this capture Italian tank we move through six pages of A StuG, a Marder II and even a wrecked Elefant (in communist markings nonetheless?) to the last section of photos in this book is called "Wrecks at Esperia" and it features the remains of an attack on a German column travelling to Monticello through the hillside passage where fifty vehicles were destroyed and then bulldozed off the side of the pass. Several shoots of a Marder like a prehistoric animal or insect reared on it's back end with gun barrel reaching out to the road in these motion picture stills. the strewn vehicles, upside down, tipped over and smashed further by the tipping from the road into the valley below leave a hellish backdrop to the Allied vehicles heading down the pass.
The last of Mr Rodna's illustrations of the pushed off Marder and a Sd.Kfz 215 finish off and complement the last series of images of wrecks on this fateful road. Also of note is an insightful map by Simon Vosters of the locations of the guns, tanks and vehicles strewn off this pass, it shows a little more the scope of the damage and variety of machines wasted in war, not to mention the human cost.
It is here we finish up with Panzerwrecks 23: Italy 3 - but what did we think?

The setting is an evergreen one, lovely coasts, little villages, mountainous hillside roads with the addition of ersatz German vehicles like the M15, the Semovente and even a wrecked Motoguzzi to add to the normal slew of Tigers, Panthers, StuGs and Marders are added to the many nations that captured these vehicles and their accounts. The images by Felipe Rodna and useful map by Mr Vosters the location fixes from Q-codes is the ideal complement to the thorough research undertaken by Mr Archer and his team of researchers. the book is authoritative in it's knowledge, insightful in the way that it opens up the subject to the reader.

To answer my question at the start of this review as to what you can do to keep advancing a series like this? Well, the answer is more of the same and even better in detail and additional methods of gaining insight into the stories of these pictures. That is exactly what volume 23 offers the reader.

It's a great book

Adam Norenberg

Thanks to the team at Panzerwrecks for sending me this book to read and to review. You can purchase this book from the Panzerwrecks Website directly...


Vehicles covered in this book:
Tiger I & Tiger ‘Demolition Charge Layer’
Panther Ausf.G (up-armoured), Panther Ausf.A
Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.J, Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.G
Sturmgeschütz IV
Pz.Kpfw.III Ausf.N
Sturmgeschütz III Ausf.G
Sturmhaubitze 42
Marder III
Pz.Kpfw. M15/42 738 (i)
StuG M42 mit 75/34 851 (I), StuG M42 mit 75/18 850 (I) 
Sd.Kfz.222, Sd.Kfz.251/3, Sd.Kfz.251, Sd.Kfz.253
Sd.Kfz.9/2, Sd.Kfz.8, Sd.Kfz.7/1, Sd.Kfz.7, Sd.Kfz.11
Artillerie-Schlepper VA 601 (b)
Gp-Mg-Träger Renault UE (f)
Pz.Sp.Wg. AB43 203 (i)

Identified German Unit's vehicles:
I./Pz.Rgt.26 (ex Pz.Rgt.4)
Pz.Abt.190 71.Infanterie-Division
StuG. Brig.242
StuG. Brig.907