Wednesday, August 16

Read n' Reviewed: WWII photobook Vol. 24 - Sturmgeschütz-Abt.226 - On the Battlefield from PeKo Publishing

PeKo Publishing's "On the Battlefield" volume #24 featuring the men & machines of Sturmgeschütz-Abt.226 during WWII in our review today. See what we thought after reading it in our story...
Read n' Reviewed: WWII photobook series Vol. 24 – Sturmgeschütz-Abt.226 on the battlefield
Author: Tom Cockle
From PeKo Publishing
Hardcover Binding
140 Pages
130 large format photographs
Hungarian-English language
ISBN: 9786155583971
Price €24.60
Product Link on the PeKo Publishing Website
PeKo Publishing's 24th book of their "On the Battlefield series of books is with us. "Sturmgeschütz-Abt.226 - On the Battlefield WWII photobook Vol. 24" is penned by Tom Cockle, and packed with dual Hungarian/English text and one hundred and thirty not before published photos.

We have looked at most of the series so far, today we get to give you our thoughts about their latest title. 

First, the book in its physical form:   
Roughly A4 (295mm x 210mm) in its dimensions, this hardcover book is covered with a glossy finish with the usual black and white motif colours of this series. Inside the covers you will find one hundred and forty pages in thick white stock, each page, for the main count - with a large format photo and text in captions (dual Hungarian & English). The captions neatly describe what you see in each of the photos, with Mr. Cockle's insight a key companion to these one hundred and thirty mostly previously unpublished photos.
"Sturmgeschütz-Abt.226 - On the Battlefield" from PeKo Publishing follows the story of this famous Sturmgeschütz-Abt.226 from the unit's early training days at the old camp at the Jüterbog Truppenübungsplatz (Eastern Germany) from the spring of 1941 through to their combat operations during the winter and spring of early 1943.
Page by page.
We will now take you through the book and sum up it's parts page by page. Dual Hungarian and English text from the author gives you a history of the unit, some of its actions and the places and conditions the men fought in. This short but concise commentary goes from spring 1941 until the end of the photographs that we have in the book in 1943. Although the unit fought on until 1944 when renamed to Sturmgeschütz-brigade 226. 
We start the journey that progresses in a almost chronological path from the training in the large field range in north-eastern Germany in Jüterbog. We see the largest collection of StuG III Ausf.B's I have ever seen in one place. The men that crew them are often shown, and the soft-skinned vehicles & motorcycles  that make up the unit are also documented along the way.
We go from the training grounds to the dust advance into the east with Operation Barbarossa in 1941. All sorts of vehicles are seen in these photos , but for the most part they feature StuG III Ausf.B's on the road, in the dust and in the mud. Several shots of these vehicles on bridges being recovered on trailers on which the bridge had given out make for interesting diorama food. Their markings on the front of the glacis showing enemy bunkers destroyed. Points like this brought up by the author I would not have noticed otherwise.
We tour through the pages, looking at StuG III Ausf.B's one after another. The different uses and types of stowage are another boon for modellers, as some are seen close up, especially from the rear of the tanks. We see a lot of people, military and some civilians, in conversation or in the same frame as these assault gun crews.
From the dust and mud of summer in 1941, we see the winter snows (and some mud always) of the start of 1942 ensnare and coat these vehicles. Suddenly, from all over dust almost changing the colour of these tanks we see them blanketed in white. We also see several shots of motorcycles and tanks being worked on and repaired behind the front. Oddly some from before "Barbarossa" so I am not sure why they ended up in the middle of the book. Still, great shots showing the human side of the work that went into keeping these vehicles running.
Indeed, it is an interesting study to see the clothing of the soldiers and the wear and tear on these tanks change as the seasons and the miles wear on them. We see more Ausf.E Assault guns in this 3/4 mark of the book, stowage however, hasn't changed, and it seems piled on some of these guns.
Although most of the StuGs in these pages are now Ausf.E's, we still se a lot of the soft skins, half-track ammunition carriers & trucks that support them on the road. The Author spares us no details in helpful text describing their points of interest just as much as the assault guns. He is an insightful host!
Indeed, through out about twenty pages or so in this section we seem to get a great deal of time to study the support vehicles and their human masters more thoroughly. Mechanics fixing and working on the tanks, pushing trucks out of bogs, on the road and even a soldier sewing on a sewing machine. A great study of the men that were part of this unit. Around page 112 we start to see the first of the longer barrelled L/43 & L/48 guns on the StuG Ausf.F models in the Eastern theatre.
The winter of 1942/43 show more white washed StuG Ausf.F & Ausf.G's are now being seen on the front in the east, as our author describes not only what is going on in the photos, but the differences in the vehicles to the earlier variants of assault guns. 
You can almost feel the chill as you see the in these photos the snow thickening and the clothing on the soldiers also getting heavier. As the unit's actions go north to near Leningrad  throughout the winter, and in to spring, where the snows start to thaw, and some of the assault guns revert back to their original role with shorter-barrelled L28 assault guns.
All of a sudden that is the end of this book. As I mentioned, the unit fought on until 1944 when renamed to Sturmgeschütz-brigade 226.

...and that was all he wrote - What did I think?

This book is an odd inclusion to the series, in that it follows just one unit instead of following lots of different random vehicles. It does not suffer for this however, and there is kind of a bonus in seeing this large unit's whole spectrum of vehicles (including some captured along the way) in such great photos, and yes the photos are great. 

Not only are the photos top quality, but the author's history text and then his captions to each photo really make this a great book on its own. It is a worthy addition to this now well respected and long running series.

Adam Norenberg

Thanks to PeKo for sending me this book to read and review. You can find out more about this, and PeKo's other publications on their website...