Sunday, November 14

Read n reviewed: Sturmtiger: The Combat History of Sturmmörser Kompanies 1000-1002 by Lee Archer and Timm Haasler from Panzerwrecks Publishing

Lee Archer and Timm Haasler's "Sturmtiger: The Combat History of Sturmmörser Kompanies 1000-1002" from Panzerwrecks Publishing is on our bookshelf today. This large book offers a definitive history of the tank and the units which operated it in photos, artwork and excellent research. See what we thought about the package in our review...

Read n' reviewed: Sturmtiger The Combat History of Sturmmörser Kompanies 1000-1002
by Lee Archer and Timm Haasler
From Panzerwrecks Publishing
Artworks: 13 - Artist: Felipe Rodna
A separate map included - Map Artist: Simon Vosters
Physical: Hardcover, 277 x 214mm, landscape. 
Photos: 130 (129 b/w, 1 colour)
Language: English
Pages: 176
ISBN: 9781908032232
The newest book from the team at Panzerwrecks, called "Sturmtiger: The Combat History of Sturmmörser Kompanies 1000-1002" is now available. This new title documents the Sturmtiger in-depth throughout its short service life from inception in 1943, to its first use in Warsaw and the battles in Germany during 1945.

Written by the team of Lee Archer and Timm Haasler (with a lot of assistance from a broad community chipping in photos), plus artworks from Filipe Rodna and a separate map from Simon Vosters. This book sets out to finally provide the reader with a definitive history of the vehicle and its service during World War Two.

A bookmark is also very handy when reading this!
The book in its physical form:
A thick, hardcover book with a glossy cover in (just over at 277mm x 214mm) A4 size in landscape format, the weight and feel of this book will be familiar to the readers of Panzerwrecks' other special book releases. The smart, white cover with illustration from Felipe Rodna and simple lettering is very "schmick" and fits in with others in the publishers stable.
Inside the book, the 176-pages are of thick stock, with no real bleed-through of images when turning the pages. Each of these pages is packed with English text and illustrated with 130 large-format black and white photographs. These are mostly not before seen photos, with some you may well known in there also, and I had not ever seen a colour photo of the Sturmtiger, which is also included.

A handy map...
Included inside the book's cover is this neatly folded map from Simon Vosters. It is a large fold-out map that shows the combat areas the units & their vehicles and men served in during their service in World War Two. This is a very helpful item to have, one that be stowed neatly out of the way or left to the side whilst you are reading the book. It is good that this is a separate piece for ease of access and less turning pages back and forth. The three units are easily identified by colour-coded map points.
Page by page:
Now you know what the book looks and feels like, let's take a look at the contents in more detail. We will go from chapter to chapter looking at the contents of each (briefly I promise) to give you a better appreciation of the book than just a summary of contents can give.

Contents of The Combat History of Sturmmörser Kompanies 1000-1002
Development and Production
Technical Features
Combat History
August 1944
September 1944
October 1944
November 1944
December 1944
January 1945
February 1945
The Oberembt Sturm-Mörser
March 1945
April/May 1945. The Hützemert Sturm-Mörser
The Brumby Sturm-Mörser
The Ebendorf Sturm-Mörser
The Menden Sturm-Mörser
The Rogäsen Sturm-Mörser
The Frontenhausen Sturm-Mörser
The Lichtentanne Sturm-Mörser
Command and Leadership
Order of Battle
ETO Technical Intelligence Report No. 184
ETO Technical Intelligence Report No. 184a
ETO Technical Intelligence Report No. 192
After a brief and smart introduction, we first look at the development and production of the Sturmtiger. Mostly in a block text with some photos interspersed, we see many factory fresh prototypes and read about the development through the initial concept of a naval gun, to assessing the one hull that could carry the tank and the path forward from there. A table showing production of the eighteen produced variants is included which from the start sets the small scope of the subject we are looking at compared to its notoriety.
In the second chapter "Technical Features", we look at the whole system, its weaponry and ammunition. Technical data of the tank, and individual aspects like the fighting compartment, the mighty 38 cm Raketenwerfer 61 and its ammunition are described in a simple and easy to follow manner for the reader. As you can see by the second of Filipe Rodna's artworks in this book, the internals of the ammunition shown like this and in photos explains a lot more about the way the weapons and ammunition works. This is a great way to explain the working of this integral part of the weapon design.
Photos from sources like NARA and the actual instruction manual (marked Geheim - or secret) show you a lot about the tank in its initial form, with no modifications or damage, dirt or mud to get in the way of describing it and showing the vehicle. 

A great sequence early in this book from the manual is the unpacking, loading of the massive ammunition, through to a test firing sequence of the weapon by German crewmen in almost a "safe work method" that any crewmember could then follow. It does the same for the reader and affords you a much better understanding of just how the tank works. A great groundwork for the reader in a show and tell style format.
The next chapter features the combat history of Sturmmörser Kompanies 1000-1002, starting (with two vehicles) in August in 1944 in what has been called the Warsaw uprising. We read over eight pages of block text the rest of the story of the units and their vehicles until February 1945 in the first part of their journey. Of interest throughout these insightful pages was the overview of the tank's use, with strengths and weaknesses highlighted in a revealing fashion for this reader. 
Operations to clean the pockets of resistance on the Vistula river in September 1944, through to the short move to Budapest in October (to thwart the Hungarian uprising that never occurred) then to return to Warsaw. November 1944 saw the Kompanies move towards the West to Sennelager assist with the Ardennes counter-offensive in December 1944. By this time, all three Kompanies were outfitted with four vehicles each. You are given a record of the vehicles in each unit at the end of every section that describes the month's activities. We roll into January 1945 next, with the (reported) actions on the "West Wall" from a member of Stum-Mörser-Kompanie 1001 reports of attacks on the American positions in bunkers and a village, then the reaction from the Americans to the destruction caused, to the transfer of the unit to the Artillery branch of the OKW near the end of the month and through February 1945. The unit now being re-assigned as Sturm-Mörser-Battariern (R.W.61). More stories of captured Germans giving information to the Americans about the Sturmtigers, of actions at the front and capture of one of the weapons and its crew and the aftermath of their surrender from a few sources in Oberembt. 

It is by this part of the book that we pause in the play by play of the combat history in block text and we start looking at large-format photographs of the captured Oberembt vehicle from US photos of the disabled tank. We have already seen three of his illustrations at this point, but it seems only fair to point out the excellent additions of Felipe Rodna. He has fourteen specially commissioned diptych illustrations (two images side by side) showing the real thing and then a coloured drawing that brings so much life to the vehicle captured. A great help for those wanting to look deeper into the images and especially to modellers looking for inspiration and understanding.
In one of the best non-german sources on the one vehicle, we see forty-four pages of large-format photos of the Oberembt Sturmtiger in place on its capture, then repaired and returned to rolling condition and then further examination and evaluation by the American in the rear. These forty-four pages are an excellent reference for the modeller on the tank. We look at the tank from all angles and internally, even a photo of the tank with the casemate superstructure removed. An amazing reference!
Through February 1945 we learn of the actions in the Weeze area against the British, how some had to be destroyed because of muddy ground and their heavyweight, and the lessening of their effectiveness due to losing vehicles in already small Kompanies.
Into March 1945 we read of the Kompanies, with limited ammunition for their vehicles and losses mounting and the ferrying across the Rhine back into Germany and merging with companion batteries of Sturmtigers. These shortages did not affect the power of the four Sturmtigers when fired in one salvo at a US transport section stopped at a road junction before scurrying to safety. When used effectively these weapons proved to be devastating. April/ May in 1945 is covered in two pages of block text, and it describes the story of one Sturmtiger crew ordered to fire on a dubious target and their resulting refusal to obey the order and the outcome of the decision. American reports of surrendered crews and disabled or captured Sturtigers before five Sturmtigers were able to escape from the Ruhr pocket, and the book explains what happened in the final phase of the Kompanies operations in the war after that.

We now look at the captured Sturmtigers in turn, with art, photographic collections from US sources and accompanying text to explain the vehicle's finer point along the way. The first is the Hützemert Sturm-Mörser captured in April 1945 in Germany. This tank is seen at the point of capture, on recovery and towing to the railyards along with some other captured tanks. A detailed description of text accompanies each of the eight photos of this tank.
The Brumby Sturm-Mörser is the next tank to feature. The illustrations by Felipe Rodna are as usual, helpful to the modeller and armchair historian, as we see the tank over ten pages. Interestingly this is the only Sturmtiger that I have ever seen in a wartime colour photograph. The story of how the tank was rendered inoperable, and why, and the story of the fate of the vehicle after capture is described in those ever-present captions that accompany the photos.
The Ebendorf Sturm-Mörser is next, with fourteen pages that show in those large form photos, artwork by Mr Rodna and text describing the tank's condition when captured and the voyage all the way back to the Aberdeen proving ground in Maryland USA, then back to the Panzermuseum in Munster - quite a trip! Several photos of the very new looking tank with excellent insight into its camouflage pattern and the details of the tank are provided in the book from its abandonment, through to the dockside transportation, always with plenty of GI's around it (or inside the barrel). The markings of the tank in transport to Aberdeen and then coming back to Munster would be a great choice for a diorama.

The Menden Sturm-Mörser is the next captured vehicle to feature, with ten pages of text and photos in various quality this time. Some of the photos from the time of capture are showing their age, while others of this tank here are excellent. The tank is seen at point of capture and the circumstances as to its disablement, with photo proof showing the result and many more things besides in text and illustrations again.
The Rogäsen Sturm-Mörser is the next vehicle to be shown, with five pages dedicated to the tank that now resides in Russia in the tank technology park in Kubinka. The differences to this prototype and the production vehicles is explained, as are some of the details of what the Russians did to the tank once it was captured. Three poor quality photos give way to some excellent shots in this small chapter. 
Moving on to the Frontenhausen Sturm-Mörser next. This tank is almost like the "Panzer of the lake" in the memes, with it fallen from a bridge into the river. The tank's crew and the vehicle's fate are described over five pages. great photos and illustrations of this tank are shown here.

The last tank shown is the Lichtentanne Sturm-Mörser. Over just two pages, one photo and an illustration showing the moody surrounds is on hand here. 
With this, we end the main part of the book, from now on, we have an Appendix, showing the combat readiness according to various sources, a command and leadership list, showing the officers of the unit, an order of battle that shows the men, their positions and weapons the unit carried, right down tot pistols, throughout the service of the units.
We also have three ETO Technical Intelligence Reports to add to the picture. No. 184 describes many of the same details as we saw in the development part of the book earlier. A thorough technical investigation of the vehicle. ETO Technical Intelligence Report No. 184a has supplemental details to that, while the last, ETO Technical Intelligence Report No. 192 has more detail about loading and firing the weapon.

The numbered endnotes that are scattered throughout the book are also here, as is the index, and that, my avid readers, is all they wrote!

So, what do we think? (TLDNR)
Wow, what a book! I have seen a lot of books about the Sturmtiger / Sturm-Mörser-Tiger in the past, but nothing at all with this sort of detail and photographic evidence to back up the obviously large amount of research needed to get a book like this to this stage. 

The photos, for the main part, are excellent, some showing their age, but most giving great detail to the enthusiast or modeller. The story of the units, although sketchy at times from lack of information, cannot be doubted in light of the numerous Axis and allied sources of information used to gather together this story. The artwork, insightful text that accompanies the images is the icing that makes this appealing cake so good.

This book is a must-have for anyone wanting to model this tank and for enthusiasts who want to connect the dots on the Kompanies service during the war. It is a great book.

Adam Norenberg

 Thanks to Panzerwrecks for sending this book to us to read and review. You can order it from Panzerwrecks directly or from their distributors worldwide.