by Lee Archer and William Auerbach
Panzerwrecks, 2005. www.panzerwrecks.com ISBN: 0-9754183-0-0, 96 pages,
over 100 B&W photos, Price $29.95 USD
One of my favourite books in my reference library is a twenty year old,
slightly battered paperback from the Arms and Armour Press Tanks Illustrated
series. William Auerbach’s Last of the Panzers, with its superb
collection of photos showing destroyed, abandoned or captured German armour
from the final year of World War II, showed me just how complex and interesting
a subject these vehicles were. I’d be hard-pressed to find a more
inspirational title on my shelf.
Sadly, the Tanks Illustrated series went out of print by around 1990
and have become very hard to find since. While many of the titles have
been essentially revisited and updated as part of Concord’s Armor
at War series (Steve Zaloga’s titles on US half-tracks and tank
destroyers in particular come to mind here), Last of the Panzers never
received that treatment.
I waited over the last 20 years for a sequel to Last of the Panzers,
but it’s finally arrived. It’s been worth the wait. Unlike
the old Arms and Armour Press book, which had some rather small photos
in its 7 _ x 9 _ format, Panzerwrecks 1 is in full 8 _ x 11 landscape
format, very similar in appearance to Allied-Axis journal. There are a
few photos in this book which have been previously published, but the
vast majority of them are new to this reader. Even those we’ve seen
before are reproduced in a large, clear format, so many details (such
as casting numbers on components) not previously evident can be discerned.
While some of the photos are of relatively poor quality, the rarity of
their subjects more than makes up for it.
A full list of the vehicles featured in this book can be found on the
Panzerwrecks website, so I won’t repeat it here. Instead, I’ll
point out a few of rarities that were personal highlights. I love the
final Panthers with the steel roadwheel on the final station, so I was
thrilled to see two examples in this book (I was also surprised to find
out that only 28 of these vehicles were built). There is also a fascinating
captured Firefly featured in several photos, complete with extended end
connectors on the tracks, spare track links welded to the hull front,
side, and turret, and a German muzzle brake on the 17 pdr. gun. The short-barreled
Sturmgeschütz III Ausf. E in overall dark yellow with large numbers
on the superstructure side and the pair of Schienenpanzerspähwagen
(the strange armoured powered trolley with a Pz.Kpfw. III Ausf. N turret
on top kitted by Dragon a number of years ago) also stand out.
Of note is the extended coverage given to a few subjects in the book.
There are eleven pages of photos of the Panthers of I./Pz.Rgt.26 in Italy
that fought against the 20th New Zealand Armoured Regiment in April 1945,
which are noteworthy for being fitted with extra armour on the turret
roof and engine deck, five pages covering Jagdtiger 323 of 3.Kp/s.Pz.Jg.Abt.653
which provide excellent coverage of the camouflage, markings, and damage
on this vehicle, and eight pages of photos of Panzer IV/70As on both the
Eastern and Western fronts.
The captions are, as with Last of the Panzers, clear and informative,
offering as much information as possible about the vehicle, and also very
perceptive, drawing attention to details that might get overlooked. The
Vorsatz P fitting (MP44 in a rooftop mount with 90° curved barrel)
on a destroyed Panzer IV/70 (A), for instance, could have been easily
overlooked. Likewise, I would not have identified the halftrack on p.
69 as an Italian-built version of the Sd.Kfz. 7 prime mover, but could
see the differences once pointed out.
The book also provides graphic evidence of what happens to vehicles when
they are hit by enemy fire, and so should prove extremely useful for diorama
builders. The thoroughly perforated RSO on p. 72 and the Pz.Kpfw. IV Ausf.
J on p. 17 that has been hit by small arms fire and AP shot both show
interesting effects that would be a challenge to replicate in scale.
Rare photos of fascinating vehicles in a high-quality package backed
by excellent writing – what more could one ask? Highly recommended
- if you are a German armour modeller, this book is a must-have. I can
hardly wait to see what gems are going to be in Panzerwrecks 2!