on 10 July 2005
Cross' book about the 1943 Kursk battle, the biggest ever clash between tanks, starts with a long introduction occupying the main part of the book. It's like a movie when one's waiting for the action to begin, but this waiting even continues after the break.
It's interesting to read about the build-up, but this means the actual battle is considered less. And when it all starts, many troop movements are described. But I would have liked to have seen more personal comments of soldiers involved. It contains some, most of them from the German perspective, and they make the book come to life.
Furthermore, sometimes Cross gives hints about the brutality involved but doesn't go into it. For example, in just one sentence he talks about soldiers of the Totenkopf division certainly facing death when captured. It's one of those subjects one would like to read more about, because it added to the harshness of this clash.
Overall, this book is a good read about a decisive battle on the Eastfront. No more, no less.
on 26 December 2003
This book was first published in hardback in 1993, at a time when the 'Ostfront' was rather less well known in the West.
This is the first book to be written on what was probably one of the decisive battles of the war. Had Hitler won, the war might well have continued for much longer, with uncertain consequences; eg time for further development of the V weapons, and jet aircraft.
Like Napoleon, Hitler only understood offensive warfare, and Operation Citadel was a huge gamble, coming so soon after the defeat at Stalingrad.
Of special interest is the chronical of the repeated delays in getting the offensive started - the order was signed by Hitler on 15 April 1943, but, despite Manstein's pleas, it did not start until 4 July.
By this time, however, Bletchley Park had been tracking German plans since April, and passing its findings to Stalin via the Lucy network in Switzerland.
This chimed in with the plan which Zhukov had been working on since March.
All this is described in great detail by Robin Cross, such that we do not get to the actual battle until Chapter 7.
The climactic of the battle, around the village of Prokhorovka, gets a full chapter in itself. On 12 July 1943, in a "colossal melee, fought at practically point blank range" the German Tiger tanks lost the advantage of range over the T34s. The thoroughness of the Russians prepared defences had paid off.
They expected the German attack to resume on 13 July, but the advantage had now swung to the Russians. On 17 July the Russian counter-offensive began. As Cross records, the Russian defences had been so effective as to sap moral "to the point where the will to press home attacks ... was ebbing away."
The war in the east was lost.
on 9 April 2008
The Battle of Kursk is in many ways the defining battle of the war on the Eastern Front in the Second World War. It marked the last great German offensive and the largest tank battle in history but in the West it has been almost totally forgotten by the general public. This book though is a must if you want to know about this battle. It is fast-paced and quite detailed and explains why things worked out as they did. However, it does perhaps lack that certain spark of inspiration that marks some works out, also it does not really deal with the events after the battle in an adequate way.