Wednesday, June 28

Read n' Reviewed: Panzer Tracts No.8-1: Sturmpanzer from Panzerwrecks Publishing

Not having the chance to read one of the Panzer Tracts books before - what better time to start than the reprinting & updating of this series by the people art Panzerwrecks? We review Panzer Tracts No.8-1: Sturmpanzer from Panzerwrecks Publishing today to see what these highly regarded books are really all about.

Read n' Reviewed: Panzer Tracts No.8-1: Sturmpanzer
From Panzerwrecks Publishing
By: Hilary Doyle, Lukas Friedli & Thomas Jentz
76 Pages
Perfect bound softcover, portrait format : (280mm x215mm) 
83 period photos
19 pages of 1/35th scale drawings
Price: £19.99
Product Link on the Panzerwrecks Website
Approach: How to judge the impossible?
It is always very much more difficult to review a book that is an updated or improved upon version of an already legendary book or in a series of industry standard tomes. So when it came time to review this book - "Panzer Tracts No.8-1: Sturmpanzer" recently updated & reprinted by Panzerwrecks Publishing and written by such respected authors Hilary Doyle, Lukas Friedli & Thomas Jentz, I took pause, and had to think about my approach before clatting away at the keyboard. 

I decided that I would stick to what I can see in front of me, and not to compare it to a previously printed edition that I didn't own. I took it upon myself to let the reader know what I knew was changed in this version from the original, then give you my account of what I had in front of me. 

For those unfamiliar with the Panzer Tracts series of books, well, they are almost legendary. So much of what is said in public about Panzers & German vehicles stems directly from the books in these series. Often when erroneous claims are being made, this is the source that is referred to that has the correct answer to those incorrect claims. Put it simply, they are the scripture, verse and bible for modellers and military historians alike. These books take the records of the original vehicles from German primary sources and add accurate 1/35th scale drawings of the types showing model types & variances. These are then added to by a layer of excellent photographs from again, primary sources from the time of their creation and use.

The previous version of this title has been updated & refined... 
A reprint or an update (or both)?
Seeing that Panzerwrecks were taking on the reprinting & updating of these series, I was surely interested. I had read many of them before, but never owned a few of these books. They are hard to get and people tended to hang on to them. Of course - I was interested to know more. I did a little digging on the previous incarnation of this book and came up with this...

What has changed in this updated version from the Panzerwrecks Website:
  • Reworked images for clarity and tonal quality
  • A refined layout
  • Table of Contents
  • Vertical title block on the covers
  • Perfect bound cover for durability
  • Clear photos that give an insight into the Munitionspanzer
  • A number of brand-new photos taken during the production of the Sturmpanzer assault tank at the Wien Arsenal in Austria. 
  • An original photo album from Deutsche Edelstahlwerke of the Sturmpanzer production at Duisburg. 
…So now I knew a little of what was changed. I can see that this book has been approached from the ground up. Now I could look at the book as it is before me to relay it on to you.

The book in its physical form
A think book, perfectly bound (The perfect bound technique uses glues to hold the pages to the spine. Importantly, the spine is part of the front cover). The book is a softcover, in portrait format with dimensions of 280mm x215mm, that weighs in at only seventy six pages. These relatively small page count is packed full of English text, black and white period photos (83) and 1/35th scale plans (about 19 pages thereof).
The contents of this book are:

"Panzer Tracts No.8-1: Sturmpanzer" Contents
  • Introduction
  • Predecessors of the Sturmpanzer
  • Sturminfanteriegeschütz 33
  • Sturmpanzer Production History
  • Sturmpanzer Production Numbers
  • Sturmpanzer Units & Organisation
  • Sturmpanzer Shipments
  • Sturmpanzer Deployment
  • Munitionspanzer IV
Page by page...
After a short introduction from the author and some explanation on some red-herrings and some blatant mistruths (including some notes on the name Brummbär). The interesting part for me was the focus on primary sources on being used in this book. Already we are on a good footing. This is what I am here for.
The predecessors of the Sturmpanzer, their design, build and testing are discussed in this first chapter of three pages. Block text and excellent quality photos with informative captions are the way this book starts and continues. We learn about the well regarded 15cm sIG 33 and the panzer I & II chassis they are mounted on. What worked and what did not in both north Africa. The blocky (and very popular with modellers) Sturminfanteriegeschütz 33 is also documented in a similar fashion over six pages. The authors explain how the casemate was mounted, detail the action in "testing" during the battle of Stalingrad, and we are given some excellent photos of the tank in action in snow and in the mud. The captions here and throughout the book are also insightful for the modeller. 
We talk next about the Sturmpanzer Production History in a chapter of eighteen pages. There is some far ranging text in here about the start to the finish of the details on how the gun, shells, & suspension was improved on the base Panzer IV chassis. We learn what Hitler thought of the vehicle, and the movement of production from factory to factory throughout its production life.
The quality of photographic evidence here is outstanding, with many an armchair historian, tank enthusiast or modeller being able to almost know the vehicle inside out from the range of photos provided. All of these in a very clear state too! These internal and external shots are a model detailer's dream. The fact that they were from the factory also ads weight to their authenticity. From the internal, walk around shots, factory construction (fresh Zimmerit can be seen) then on to the exterior with new vehicles lined up - the photo coverage of the Sturmpanzer production at Duisburg is an excellent addition to this book.
There are nineteen pages of line drawings in the next section of this book. From the Sturminfanteriegeschütz 33 (Nr 105003) but also the surviving Sturmpanzers around the world (plus some of their components). The publisher states that hundreds of hours were spent taking precise measurements of these vehicles, then using CAD to translate these measurements into the most precise drawings of this type. Indeed, we hear that several before held truths in drawing dimensions were corrected by these systems of measuring, translating and reproducing drawings in 1/35th scale. One can be assured that these plans are the scripture you must stick to when planning your own build or proving someone else wrong on the internet (if you are into that stuff).
The affore-mentioned Sturminfanteriegeschütz 33, the Sturmpanzer Ausf.I, Sturmpanzer Ausf.I Befehlspanzer, Munitionspanzer fur Sturmpanzer, Sturmpanzer Ausf.II, Sturmpanzer Ausf.III - 15cm Stu.H.43/1, Sturmpanzer Ausf.III als Befehlspanzer, Sturmpanzer Ausf.IV, Sturmpanzer Ausf.IV als Befehlspanzer, are all covered in drawings in this collection. The author has provided some text next to the variants to denote the changes to the vehicles which immediately draws the eye to the sometimes hard to find changes.
A small section on Sturmpanzer production numbers explains some background into the making of these vehicles and the places, a timeline and a chart showing production numbers. Between these and the next part showing the Sturmpanzer Units & Organisation, we see some pristine walk around photos of the Sturmpanzer Ausf.IV that make for great reference here also. It is in this section that we read details of the training, deployments to Sicily, Italy, France, along the Rhine, and in Hungary. Photos in this section range from "in use" shots of the different variants of Sturmpanzer in several theatres, several with close up details, to captured variants photographed for evaluation. The captions that accompany these photos are gold - they explain the finer points "hows" "whens" and "whys" of the pictures very well.

Sturmpanzer Shipments are described in a chart showing numbers of units, where and which units they were sent to. The photos throughout this book kind of follow a natural date timeline, showing earlier vehicles to the latest. So by this part of the book we see how the Sturmpanzers were starting to receive camouflage at the factory, and the absence of Zimmerit. 
More primary source material in the Sturmpanzer deployment section. We hear from a captured Sturmpanzer crewman in his questioning who gives us a lot of information about the operation, crew functions and finer points of the use of and the particulars of the vehicle. I love first hand accounts, so this brief part was just up my alley.

Not before covered in print, we lastly learn about the support vehicle for the Sturmpanzers, the Munitionspanzer IV, which was developed to supply the ammunition to the rest of the kompanie's vehicles. I had no idea about these types before reading this book. they look very much like a Panzer IV with a roof on the empty turret ring to extract the munitions through. There are several photos of this vehicle in the rear and front lines. 
It is here we finish up with Panzer Tracts No.8-1: Sturmpanzer from Panzerwrecks Publishing - but what did I think?

I had not really taken time to read one of these from front to back before. Now I know what I am missing out on. The quantity of, depth in subjects and the quality of images, the reliance on only primary source information, the knowledge delivered through both block text and helpful captions for every photo along with tables and other information. Ohh - don't forget the precise line drawings of every type of Sturmpanzer - this book really is the one you should be basing any work you do with the Brummb Sturmpanzer on in your future.

Great work by the authors, and Panzerwrecks for improving and updating this series with new material. It must be in your collection if you really want to know about this vehicle or are interested in German WWII military vehicles.

Adam Norenberg

Thanks to the team at Panzerwrecks for sending me this book to read and to review. You can purchase this book (along with others in this series getting the same updated & reprinted treatment) from the Panzerwrecks Website directly...