- Published on Friday, 09 December 2011 00:01 Nick Mayhew
Armoured Fighting Vehicles on Czechoslovakian Territory 1938-1968
By Marek Solar, Petr Dolezal and Vladimir Kos
Hardback, 224 pages
RRP €39.50 from Canfora Publishing
The final months of the war in Austria, Hungary and Czechoslovakia have often been ignored by military historians. As Roddy MacDougall notes in the Foreword, "photographic histories of this conflict are almost non-existent, and tend to have the same photos with the same inaccurate captions, along with photographs from other European battles and time frames". Up until now, that is.
This book provides many previously unseen photographs of military vehicles in Czechoslovakia from 1938 to 1968, with an understandable concentration on 1945. The locations, exact date and vehicle specifics such as variant and unit have all been researched, often by interviews with the original photographer.
I usually review books on a chapter by chapter basis, but this book (hardback, 224 pages) with some 20 chapters and literally hundreds of photographs does not readily lend itself to that sort of analysis. Although there are some eight pages of description to start the book, covering the strength and make-up of 6. Panzer Division and 17. Panzer Division, for the most part each chapter is more a collection of pictures supported by sometimes very detailed captions, rather text supported by photographs.
The one real exception to this the largest chapter of the book (pp146-169), which focusses on the exploits of s.Pz.Abt.503 and their King Tigers: although there are plenty of pictures here, this is very much a mini unit history looking at the last days of 'Feldhernhalle'.
Anyway, I think the best way to showcase this book is to provide a selection of the material, to give you a flavour for what subjects are covered, and the quality of the photos used. As mentioned above, the majority of material centres on the last few months of WWII, but there are also chapters devoted to the pre-war period, post-war exercises with Cromwell tanks, and of course the Russian invasion in 1968.
Stug IV near Bratislava, shown in the Summer of 1945: interesting because it has the distinctive Ostketten tracks fitted.
Sd.Kfz.251/22 knocked out near Ostrava, April 1945 - this is one of three shots of this vehicle, which has a PzJgr38(t) 'Marder' lying next to it.
Panzer IV/70(A) at Hnojice, April 1945 - one of three photos of the same vehicle; all crew killed by direct hit.
Panzer IV J - a great photo study of this 6th Pz.Div. tank, with six pictures in all; note brake access hatches with handles instead of more usual cowlings. One of the best modelling reference picture sets I have seen of this variant.
One of four pics of this Panther G; same vehicle as shown on front cover; note black "G" on glacis plate.
IS-2m "I-43" shown at Tyniste nad Orlic in May 1945; this tank is also shown on the previous page; front, back and both sides all shown clearly making it another excellent modelling reference.
A real rarity: a Hummel-Wespe hybrid - one of only 11 completed at the D.E.W. factory at Teplitz-Schonau in the last weeks of the war.
The unicorn! This is the only known picture of a Tiger I in Czechoslovakia territory in the war; note early turret on later hull.
Nice close-up of ISU-152 with slogan saying "Forwards to Berlin!" on the barrel.
T-34/85 in Prague, May 1945 - one of three very atmospheric shots of this tank and its crew at rest.
Another hybrid rarity: a BergePanther Ausf.D with a 3.7cm Flak mounted.
One of three very clear shots of King Tiger #213.
M4A3 (105mm) HVSS "Bangor II" seen at Klatovy, May 1945.
Plzen victory parade, 15th June 1945 - M26 Pershing and M4A3 (75mm) VVSS.
Another Plzen victory parade shot, this time a M4A3E8 with numerous markings on hull and also barrel.
M4A3E8 (75mm) - the first picture I have seen in print of this extremely rare Sherman variant.
LT vz.35 tanks prior to confiscation by the Wehrmacht.
Russian T-55 in 1968 - the second time the Russians 'liberated' Czechoslovakia; note swastika graffiti.
At the end of the book is a section of colour profiles, with 30 vehicles covered in total, all with fairly detailed captions denoting location, unit and so on.
I should point out that the pictures shown here probably represent less than half of the vehicle types shown in the book. There is pretty much the full complement of Russian tank destroyers, various assault guns mounted on the Pz38(t) chassis, sWs halftrack with Flak...I could go on! It is fair to say that there will almost certainly be something that 'grabs you' in here, whatever your favourite afv.
So What Do We Think?
This is an excellent book, and one that should really appeal to the modeller who likes to know the background and history of his subjects. Of course, whilst it will be of particular interest to those wishing to focus on the war in Czechoslovakia, I also think it can be a source of inspiration for any armour modeller just looking for ideas for his next project. In addition to that, the unit information and biography also provides a useful historical context.
"The events during the final stages of the conflict in central Europe during the spring of 1945 are little known to the majority of the West. They are shrouded in mystery with very little information available to the majority of the English speaking world. This book is designed to remedy that." Having read the book I can definitely say that the authors' aims have been achieved, in a highly interesting book for both modeller and historian.
With thanks to Toni Canfora for the review sample.