Sunday, July 23

Read n' Reviewed: Panzer Tracts No.16-1: Bergepanther from Panzerwrecks Publishing

We continue our look a the reprinted/revised Panzer Tracts series with "No.16-1: Bergepanther" from Panzerwrecks Publishing. Having read the book by Hilary Doyle, Lukas Friedli & Thomas Jentz, we give our opinion of the contents our review...

Read n' Reviewed: Panzer Tracts No.16-1: Bergepanther
From Panzerwrecks Publishing
By: Hilary Doyle, Lukas Friedli & Thomas Jentz
78 Pages
Perfect bound softcover, portrait format : (280mm x215mm)
80 period photos
21 pages of 1/35th scale drawings
Price: £19.99
We are reviewing today a book from one of the most highly regarded sources of knowledge on World War II era German vehicles nd tanks. It is the Panzer Tracts series, and we have our second copy to review for you after looking at the Sturmpanzer book a while ago. I loved that one (spoilers) so I was keen to look at this one on the Bergepanther and it's variants.

The three updated/reprinted books we are reviewing in this series...(with another three more  already announced on the way by Panzerwrecks).
This copy of Panzer Tracts is a reprinted and updated version of the book. Lee Archer and the team at Panzer Wrecks are taking messrs Hilary Doyle, Lukas Friedli & Thomas Jentz work and adding their own subtle but valuable improvements. I do not onw the original, but I have found some of these improvements on the Panzerwrecks website to let those of you already with the book understand what has been changed.

What has changed in this updated version from the Panzerwrecks Website:
  • Reworked images for clarity and tonal quality
  • Two extra images
  • A refined layout
  • Table of Contents
  • Vertical title block on the covers
  • Perfect bound cover for durability
The book in its physical form
This book, like the series it is derived from and all of the others from this set are of the same layout, look and feel. This is a think book, with a perfect bound cover (The perfect bound technique uses glues to hold the pages to the spine. with the spine as part of the front cover). The book is a softcover, in portrait format with dimensions of 280mm x215mm, that weighs in at only seventy eight pages. These relatively small page count is packed full of English text, black and white period photos (80) and 1/35th scale plans (about 21 pages of several types).
Inside the book you find large format photos of an excellent nature. clear and detailed that assist the reader in their search for details. More detail is given in the general story of block text, and additional knowledge, context and details on the photos are given in the excellent captions that go along with the photos. A great set of building blocks to start then!

The contents of "Panzer Tracts No.8-1: Sturmpanzer":
  1. Introduction
  2. Development
  3. Final Assembly
  4. Significant Changes during Production
  5. Organisation
  6. Experience Reports
  7. Production and Development Recap
OK, so not that we have a background and structure, let's look inside the book, so see what awaits the reader.

Page by page...
The book starts in a a conventional way with the contents and an introduction from the authors. Some background on the book and the team's insistence on Primary sources is always a great thing. We all know how facts about these can be bent over time and by the recorders of who won the war. This approach is how you really want to get your research from.  The supporting characters who gave their photos is impressive, and access to the Bergepanther from Museums & restorations around the world speaks already of the work that went into these books. The Authors speak about the nomenclature of the Bergepanther through its existence,  and we get a table showing production numbers, from the factories including the rebuild Panthers used as donors.
We learn of the  development history of the Bergepanther next. With the predecessor in the form of the V.Kz.3501 briefly discussed before the development of the books subject is discussed. The factories that made the tanks, their involvement with the different additions in parts like the shielded 2cm gun, sponson fuel tanks and the complicated winch are discussed with the other developments that make these tanks more than just a turretless panther. Several good photographs of Panthers around the time of 1943 are shown, two around broken down Ferdinand dates them pretty easily.

A series of first hand accounts in the form of letters and orders to the factories making (and planned to but did not make) the Bergepanther is next in the chapter "Final Assembly". IT is quite heavy reading, but taking the time to ingest it you understand the difficulties in constructing these types and why so much confusion comes from each different variant from the different factories. On top of that you see examples like the LSSAH type (shown in the photo below) with their own armoured turret cover amongst other photos of different Bergepanther. 
There is a very helpful chart of the components fitted to each Bergepanther type in page long list is a great help for modellers. In this section there are a wealth of interiors photos of different vehicles, complete with that excellent informative text detailing the differences. The photos below are in a series taken at the M.A.N factory at Nürnberg, and they detail extremely well the complex Bergepanther Wanne mechanism and vehicle from all around and inside.
We also learn of Panthers sent back to be modified into Bergepanthers, and the future plans for a Bergepanther modelled on the Panther F hull. Through many series of photos like this below with supporting text, we see the operation of the winches, the spade and other features that modellers really need to see in action to create and readers to appreciate.
The exhaustive process of measuring these vehicles that exit or have been restored is reflected over the next twenty one pages. We see a series of accurate drawings that have to be your number one source of reference for any Bergepanther build now or in the future. There are plenty of books with drawings out there. But none that I would trust as much as the ones in this book. 

The various features of many different types of Bergepanther are covered in these drawings. Exhaustive in their scope, the types covered are the Bergepanther Ausf.D (Nr.210125- 210137) from M.A.N, Henschel's Bergepanther (Nr.212131-212160), the hull design and layout of the Bergepanther Ausf.A Wanne, Bergepanther Ausf.A (Nr.212161-212200) from Henschel, Bergepanther Ausf.A (Nr.175501-175540) from Daimler Benz, the winch or Seilwinde 40t, Bergepanther Ausf.A Demag from Mind 1944 (with it's original spade design drawing), the Bergepanther Ausf.A (September 1944) from Demag. 
There is an excellent comparison drawing of the Bergepanther Ausf.A to the Bergepanther Ausf.G (1945) showing the differences. Also here is the Bergepanther Ausf.G Demag & Bergepanther Ausf.D (Umbau Seibert - or modification from the Seibert company) in 1944 & 1945 drawings are all here over the twenty one pages. Mr Doyle gives us great insights with his accompanying text as to the sometimes hard to notice changes that pepper these vehicles from factory to factory and version to version. A must-have reference. 
We learn of the timeline and changes to the Bergepanther in the "Significant Changes during Production Organisation" section next. More block text accompanied by photos and captions that is followed up with the "Organization" where we read of the peculiarities of the use of, and where each individual tank was shopped off to. The list is again extensive, and the reading is hard, but taking time will help the reader understand the vehicle & the circumstances around its use more deeply.

The captions along with excellent photography add so much to this title
More fist hand accounts but of a different nature in "Experience Reports" where we read the report of an Unteroffizier who drove his Bergepanther 4200kms (1000kms of these while towing a Panther). He gives us a run down of all the major components and their condition and functionality during the test in May 1944. This fault finding exercise is really interesting to me, and a little less drier than some of the earlier sections of the book that did not show the human experience with the vehicle. 

There are some great photos of the final amendments to the Bergepanther, with most of the photos (which have been following a rough linear timeline throughout the book) coming into 1945. We get that famous photo of the Bergepanther transporting a 3.7cm FlaK 36 in Czechoslovakia, the apocalyptic shots of the bombed out Seibert factory full of Panthers and Bergepanthers, even the Ausf.F wannen (hulls) in late 1945.
A helpful "Production and Development" page helps the reader at a casual glance identify and understand the production of the Bergepanther line. When, where and how man at a glance.

And with that - we round out this volume. What do I think?

Well, this was a little heavier to read than the previous Sturmpanzer book I reviewed. This is mainly because there were so many variations and places of manufacturing & modification the authors really needed to cover that, and the primary sources were full of orders and letters. It comes with the territory. It is just a more intense read is all.

The quality of the the photography is excellent. I can say that they were all pretty clear (especially for their age) and the insightful text accompanying them is great.

This is the start of any book collection you need to either learn more about this machine or to build or modify your own kit. Modellers should not hesitate to grab this if they are serious about their kit or their knowledge base on the Bergepanther.

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...