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Die Deutschen Panzer Video Series Overview

Peter Brown

Black and white, 60 minutes running time. Produced by Chronos UK, Studio J401, Tower Bridge Complex, 100 Clements Road, London, SE16 4DG, England, email chronos@callnetuk.com. UK VHS format, price 14.95 each plus postage as appropriate. NTSC format available from Squadron Mail Order, 1115 Crowley Drive, Carrollton, Texas 75011-5010 (phone (092) 242-8663, fax (972) 232-3775, email mailorder@squadron.com) at $29.98 plus postage $4.75. Ask after special deals for complete sets.

This series is not new, but Missing Links has not covered it so some idea of what the series is may be of interest. While WW2 German armour is not my main area of interest, I rate the series highly as it is very well done, as are its companion eight tape 'Die Deutschen Luftwaffe' series and the 'Grey Wolves' trio on U-Boats. The Panzer series covers between then all German AFVs in World War 2, these tapes use original newsreel film to describe and show their subjects in action. Not content with taking the vehicles on their own, the reasons why they were produced are covered, along with technical details, variants and the major battles in which they fought. Each video has gathered a lot of film of its subject, and includes some visual gems. While the original film was not taken to be used as a history of the Panzers, many good sequences are available. In some cases these were edited across different programs for cinema audiences, and have been reconstructed for this series. Every effort is made to identify equipment and where the film was taken.

The narration also points out many interesting points, so the result is not a one-sided praising of German AFVs. Their failings and mistakes made in design and production are included along with their good points. There is also footage showing other supporting vehicles. Allied tanks feature too, although many of them are shown knocked out, as would be expected from propaganda film! Allied tank development is also mentioned to show attempts to keep up with German designs, and the German response to these improvement.

CHR06 Panzer VI 'Tiger' and 'Kingtiger' covers both types as well as Sturmtiger, Jadgtiger, and Ferdinand/Elefant tank destroyers, and one sequence could be the only extant film of Sturmtiger in action. The development history tells us the first realisation of the need for heavier Panzers was after meeting British Matildas and French Char B's in 1940, while the resulting vehicle was very useful against Soviet KV and IS tanks.  While Tiger was well armoured, its high weight meant many vehicles which broke down had to be abandoned through lack of suitable recovery vehicles.  They also proved difficult to move by rail, one sequence shows the narrow transport tracks being changed.

Panzer V 'Panther ' CHR07 follows this answer to the T-34 from inception to the end of the war. Film includes Bergepanther towing a Jadgpanther along with some good 'in combat' footage. Panther had many mechanical problems, being rushed into action while many design faults were still being corrected. Many tanks were returned to the factories before Kursk, and early losses were often due as much to breakdowns as to enemy action. An unusual sequence shows a Panther being tested against other tanks including an M4 series Sherman.

CHR08 deals with the mainstay of German tank strength, the Panzer IV.  Planned as a supporting vehicle for the Panzer III, it ended up replacing them and was in service throughout the war. This was due to it being able to take a longer barrelled gun, so keeping up with opposing developments. At one time almost taken out of production, wiser councils meant it was retained as a tried and tested design to serve alongside the big cats. This important tank is shown in all theatres, with its use in all-arms teams in North Africa being covered. There is also some rare colour film of a vehicle being repaired and repainted in the field.

CHR09 tells the Panzer III story. These tanks formed the main fighting strength of the Panzerwaffe in the first half of the war, gradually replacing earlier vehicles. Found to be undergunned in 1940, orders to up-gun it were ignored, before improved short and then long 50mm guns were fitted along with thicker armour. While the battles around Kursk marked the high point of the design's career, some were still in service at the war's end in Norway. Included among a multitude of film there is even a sequence showing one tank towing a small boat.

CHR10 details the early years of Panzer development. Light Panzers I, II, 35(t) & 38(t) were the tanks used in great numbers in all campaigns up to the invasion of Russia. Panzers I and II were produced to give the Panzerwaffe tanks on which to trains and perfect their tactical plans, and were not intended as battle machines. In the end they saw a lot of action, although quickly outclassed and relegated to use as SP gun carriages. Below strength even at the start of the war, many Panzer units used the Czech LT35 and TNHP designs available after the invasion of Czechoslovakia which were in many ways as good as German ones of the period. These machines were the ones which contributed to the early successes of the Blitzkrieg and deserve good coverage.

CHR11 Assault Guns StuG III & StuG IV follows the Sturmgeschutz series, based mostly on the Pz III with a few late vehicles using available Pz IVchassis. The original pre-war intention was that these would be used purely as infantry support vehicles, using their low silhouette to get close enough to strongpoints to provide direct fire. Increasingly they were used against tanks, and ultimately became the most numerous armoured vehicle in the German inventory. By the war's end StuG units claimed 30,000 Red Army tanks destroyed despite the disadvantage of a limited traverse gun. Film here includes graphic footage of fire and movement tactics.

CHR12 on Self Propelled Weapons shows all the many types of these vehicles. Although it was planned to give the Panzer divisions their own tracked artillery as soon as possible, most guns were horse drawn in the early years. When tank chassis became available as they were made obsolete by better opposing designs, a range of self propelled guns for anti tank and gun support were produced. This often bewildering array is shown here, alongside equally numerous anti aircraft types on half tracks, tank chassis and even armoured lorries. The original towed guns are also shown, together with the huge Karlgerat mortars, the remote controlled Goliath demolition tank and even a short sequence of an armoured train making a very comprehensive coverage of all artillery types.

CHR13 Armoured Cars & Half Tracks covers all the many versions of these two classes of vehicles. Each series of armoured car, from pre-war 'Bathtubs' through the four wheel, six wheel and both eight wheeled versions, are shown on all fronts throughout the war years, and on pre-war exercises. Footage includes a 233 in action in Tunisia, a mixed unit in SS service in Greece, captured French Panhard AMD178 on rails in action against partisans and an Austrian ADGZ in action in the early hours of the war. Following this is coverage of half-track, or more correctly, semi-track vehicles. These include the basic gun tractors and the various armoured series, including the SdKfz 250 and 251 and the Maultier supply vehicles. Coverage includes Rommel's own vehicle in Africa and footage taken right at the war's end.

If you would like to see German tanks in action, some or all these videos will show you. Given the efforts to put the types in context, some film does appear in both tapes. This reservation apart, German AFV enthusiasts will find lots to enjoy in these films, as will anyone with an interest in WW2 history and armour generally, whether to see what was 'over the hill' in your day or as part of a study of history.

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