The mere mention of the infamous Panther- and/or Tiger tank and you risk igniting a heated debate. Yet Kegresse, Holt, Vollmer and K-Wagen bring not the slightest glimmer of recognition to even some of the most hardened WW2 Panzer devotees. All information to the above has ‘gone astray’ in the seemingly lack-lustre annuals that make up ‘The Great War’. Steven Zaloga addresses some of these knowledge imbalances in his new “German Panzers 1914-18”.
Right from the outset it is clear that the author has done his homework, as this book neither regurgitates nor précis’s other WW1 works, and that original research has been done into the subject. There are times when the author cuts through some of WW1’s debated issues (e.g. use of captured light tanks by German forces), that will most certainly spark more than a slight reaction from a few of the more learned amongst the WW1-literate folks. Even with these few ‘poetic licence’ incidents, there exists (that I’m aware of) no evidence either written or photographic that can contradict his conclusions on these issues.
With the introduction you are already drawn to the contrasts in thinking (with respect to a tank force) between the Allied British and French forces and opposing Central powers, the different mental attitudes are clearly defined in the lop-sided production figures. The journey continues on to the various theories, proposals, and prototypes up to the formation of the infant German tank force. Here the different projects, submitted ideas, prototypes and variants are touched upon, as well as the key players. An insight into the complicated German weapons procurement system, the occasionally short sightedness of its- and the military leaders regarding armour is given.
The newly formed German tank force’s training, baptism of fire and operational use forms the basis of the next chapters. Herein the first tank versus tank action, plus the German’s first victorious tank versus tank engagement is briefly described. Additionally the greatest contributor to the German tank program is unveiled to the reader, namely the British Army with the Mark IV tank. At this time the recovery operations, refurbishment and composition of the Beutepanzer (Captured tank) force is explained.
The last few chapters contain the rebuilding and inevitable demise of the small tank force. Besides this, there is a very short chapter on armoured car usage, in the German Army. Whilst the inclusion of the K-Wagen at an initially estimated 150 tons and armed with four 77mm guns, shows the deep-rooted desire for ‘super’ Heavy tanks so clearly demonstrated by the Germans in WW2. In ‘Plan 1919’ the proposed future of the German Armoured forces are laid out. This chapter also incorporates a few future events and the author imparts some thoughts on a few issues. Next a commentary on the colour plates is given. This commentary is invaluable to WW1license model builders as the “heavy ordinance” markings and different paint schemes are clarified.
As with some of his other books the author includes a piece on ‘further reading’, this concise list most certainly contains some of the best literal works on German tanks of WW1.
Comments by the reviewer
This book does cover multiple aspects of German armour and armoured forces during WW1, but let there be no doubt that the A7V Sturmpanzer takes centre stage. The A7V’s history is traced, from humble origins, through its development phase, including the multiple variants it spawned, culminating in the combat history and final demise of the type (post WW1).
One thing Steven Zaloga does not do is to clearly differentiate between A7V-U ‘Hedi’ and the better-known and much-photographed post-WW1 “A7V” ‘Hedi’, an A7V Geländewagen chassis converted to an improvised, although non-armoured, ‘tank’.
The Photographs and Brian Delf’s illustrations superbly demonstrate the diversity of both the vehicles and colour schemes that made up the German Armoured forces of WW1. Thankfully with the colour plates, the usual concentration on one specific type or vehicle is avoided. This results in a very nice balance of diverse vehicles in both early and late, camouflaged and non-camouflaged, paint schemes.
It is difficult to remain neutral when you enjoy the contents of the item to be reviewed. “German Panzers 1914-18” although not aimed at model builders per se, this book is for everyone, right from the armchair historian’s requirements of a lesser amount of information/data, up to the more serious historical types looking for a good grounding on the subject. WW1 model builders will find the background information useful and Steven Zaloga gets the information (and more than an opinion or two) across without the reader becoming bogged down in the quagmire that is symptomatic with WW1 reading.
Despite a difference of opinion, with the author on one or two minor points, I would strongly recommend this book as a good starting point on German Armour of WW1, an all too often neglected field.
The layout of the book is typical of the New Vanguard Series, consisting of 48 pages, 8 of which contain the colour plates including the cross-sectional/cutaway of the main subject. Also included are 43 Black and white photographs of some of the subjects covered. Over the 14 chapters (including introduction and an index), spanning anything from a paragraph to several pages, Steven Zaloga in this publication, briefly examines the origins, construction, operational use, demise and proposed future of the German Armour of World War One.
This book, although limited in size, manages to convey a large quantity of information and yet does not bore you with constant facts and figures.
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About Eric Bass (Savage) FROM: ENGLAND - EAST ANGLIA, UNITED KINGDOM
Took an 18 year absence from scale modelling, quite a bit has changed (for the better, that is).
I enjoy building Armoured vehicles, gee what a surprise? As I always support the underdog in business, I am hoping that the ‘new comers’ to scale modelling production, Trumpeter, Ace, Maquette, Mirage...