Wednesday, August 9

Read n' Reviewed: Panzer Tracts No.4-3 Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.H & J from Panzerwrecks Publishing

We continue our look a the reprinted/revised Panzer Tracts series with "No.4-3 Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.H & J" from Panzerwrecks Publishing. Having read the book by Hilary Doyle, Lukas Friedli & Thomas Jentz, we give our opinion of the contents in our review...
Read n' Reviewed: Panzer Tracts No.4-3 Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.H and J
From Panzerwrecks Publishing
By: Hilary Doyle, Lukas Friedli & Thomas Jentz
84 Pages
Perfect bound softcover, portrait format : (280mm x215mm)
92 period photos
26 pages of 1/35th scale & 1/10th scale drawings
Price: £19.99
Product Link on the Panzerwrecks Website
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 as well as the Bergepanther title. I loved both of them (sorry, spoilers) so I was keen to look at this one on the Panzer IV Ausf.H & J.

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
  • Refined layout
  • Table of Contents
  • Vertical title block on the covers
  • Perfect bound for durability
  • Introduction with a few myths & errors in previously known facts examined.

The book in its physical form
This book follows the form of the other sin this series. In that it is a softcover book, with perfect bound cover, roughly A4 in portrait format. The page count comes in at eighty four, with the paper stock thick enough that you cant see through it (something I really dislike in some books like this). The book is image heavy, with some small sections of a few pages in several chapters with block text. However, for the most part the text is supplied mainly to support the photographs. These photographs are of an excellent quality, especially for their age, and enlightening when combined worth the insightful text by the authors.
A great feature of these books are the scale drawings, of which there are twenty six pages of these, in both 1/35th & 1/10th scale. More on these later.

The contents of "Panzer Tracts No.4-3 Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.H & J"
  1. Introduction
  2. Pz.Kpfw.IV (7,5cm) (Sd.Kfz.161/2), Ausführung H
  3. Pz.Kpfw.IV (7,5cm) (Sd.Kfz.161/2), Ausführung J
  4. Panzerbeobachtungswagen IV
  5. Panzerbefehlswagen IV
  6. Firepower and Survivability on the Battlefield
  7. Operational and Organizational History
  8. Export of Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.H and Ausf.J
That is the physical make up of the book. We can now look at the chapters to give you more of an in depth look inside the title...

Page by page...
This book starts with in interesting introduction. There seems to have been a bit of scuttlebutt about some of the Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.H & J's features. The author explains how this seemed to have come about, how the evidence for this was ignored & what these features were actually adopted for.
The changes from the Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.H & J from the Ausf.G are described, and why these changes were made. This is great to know. I would like to see perhaps some isolated drawings to add to this part, a little like (dare I say) the Squadron/ Signal "Walkaround" series do so well. It would be the one thing I might add to these books to help readers better understand. Some people learn more visually than from reading. In saying that, the changes to these models re explained in a simple manner that make them easy to understand. The changes not only in the factory, but in the field  after delivery (and the times when these alterations were brought into effect) are also noted.

The first series of photos are an excellent grouping of Vomag T-4's (Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.H) in service in Bulgaria during WWII. Something not often seen is a series of shots. These are followed with some just excellent period shot in close up of a few angles of the Ausf.H with and without Zimmerit, from top and sides also. Where these tanks were made (the factory) & the unit that were using them is more than often noted, as is the situation and scenes they were placed in. Insightful captions make this book more than just an examination of the type. Deep understanding is what the authors are thinking I can surmise from reading their additions.
The Ausf.H in use by the original operators, and under new management in evaluation photos like these below show us a lot. There are more, with a walk around in the snow, some training exercise photos, the well-known shot of the 100th vehicle, and some great photos with the tankers and their unit soldiers in close proximity to the tank which are a boon for modellers.
The next section of the book comprises of twenty six pages of line drawings, painstakingly researched and  drawing s in CAD of 1/35th and 1/10th scale renders of the Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.H May 43 (Vomag), Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.H Oct 43 (Krupp), Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.J Mar 44 (Nibelungen Werk), Befehlspanzer IV Ausf.J Sep 44, Beobachtungspanzer IV Jan 45 and the Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.J from April 45 all included.
These are very handy for scratch builders, and those checking the features and accuracy of their own kit against these drawings. I have read that the team took painstaking efforts to measure and then to convert these drawings to CAD to ensure that they were as accurate as possible. That is all anyone can ask really isn't it?
Not only the tanks, but close up drawings in 1/10th scale of parts of these Ausführungs that needed to get picked out are shown in line drawings. Schürzen, air cleaning systems, radio masts, telescopes, cupola types, periscopes, the mesh Drahtgeflecht-Schürzen (wire mesh skirts) and their brackets are all here. The drawings are often accompanied by the author's descriptive text highlighting points of interest and understanding about tank and factory types & improvements.

We progress to the Ausf.H & J model next. Again with the detailed explanation of how this version differed from the previous H model we have looked at. I like the didactic method of explanation and the methodical nature of breaking down the changes here before we start to look at the images of the tank, following a roughly historical and factory breakdown in the photos.
Interestingly we see more Hungarian, Romanian and even Finish Ausf.J's ae seen with supporting text, before a large section attributed to the images and description of the adoption of the Drahtgeflecht-Schürzen (& it's mounting system are examined. Photos of the testing, early adoption and the after-battle shots of how this adaptation faired are really helpful to readers & modellers. Especially those who want to understand how to apply these to their kits and then how to apply their own version of battle damage to the kits. 
The Panzerbeobachtungswagen IV (Pz. Beob. Wg. IV) the artillery observation vehicle is described in detail over page and a half and several large photos supported with text telling the what when and details wherein. 
Also described and shown in a small section is the Panzerbefehlswagen IV(Pz. Bef. Wg. IV) command tank. We see some photos of the external features and we read about the optics & communication changes to these tanks for performing the task. Another short section, but one important to modellers and tank enthusiasts to understand the marques a little better.
The last five pages of the book describe with block text, the firepower and survivability on the of the type on the battlefield, with penetration & armour notes, a short operational and organizational history, with a brief but informative run down of the type's performance in several theatre. LAstly, we get the details of who got the type in the "Export of Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.H and Ausf.J" page right at the rear. There is a summary of major and visible changes implemented during assembly of the Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.H & J on the rear book cover. This book really is packed full of information!
...and that, dear readers, is all they wrote. What do I think?

I can see the influence of this title all over the internet. This is the source where a lot of information (and some dis-information) comes from. One would think that by simply reading this book, you have all the information on hand to describe the features and the dimensions of these two Ausführungs. 

The book is well presented, the photo quality is excellent and the writing and captions that support the images are top notch. 

This is THE bible on these tow variants and a must have for modellers and enthusiasts.

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...