Top critical review
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Thin for the money
on 19 August 2013
This is very much a fringe subject largely neglected by writers, so any book on the subject is welcome – especially by so esteemed an author as Steve Zagola.
That said; if you are looking for lots of new information this book is really not for you. It is literally thin on pages and thin on content. Given that the business of armoured vehicles centres on firepower and protection, I find data in this book on either aspect to be sadly lacking. We are after all discussing fighting vehicles; not racing cars. There is no real excuse for this lack of data, as the information is out there (as Steve’s bibliography makes plain). A more accurate title might have been ‘Armoured Forces of Hitler’s Eastern Allies’, as Steve dwells on the formations and their battles, rather than on the detailed technical aspects of the vehicles themselves. This is a great pity. Apart from a lack of technical data, nothing – for example – is said about the improvised HEAT projectile fired spigot-like from the gun of the Hungarian Nimrod AA tank, which required a crewman to climb out and place the thing on the end of the barrel! This would have been a good example of how inadequate the eastern allies were in fighting the Red Army.
There are additional criticisms worthy of note, which again illustrate the shoddy editing of Osprey’s publications (are there even any editors, and what do they do all day to earn their money?). Steve loves to use the word “Wehrmacht” without really knowing – it seems – what it means. Wehrmacht translates more or less as “armed forces”, comprising the army (das Heer), the air force (die Luftwaffe) and the navy (die Kriegsmarine) of the Third Reich, but not the Waffen SS. In various places Steve makes it plain that the words das Heer are known to him, but he insists on using “Wehrmacht” when he should have used “Germany”, “Hitler”, “the Heer”, “OKW [Oberkommando der Wehrmacht – the German High Command]” or “OKH [Oberkommando des Heeres – army high command]”.
On page 16 “schurzen [sic]” should read “Schürzen [literally, aprons]”, and the reference to the PzKfw IV Ausf F2 on pages 16 and 23 should read “Ausf G” as there was in reality no Ausf F2; this was merely a stores classification. Nor were PzKfw IV tanks by any stretch of the imagination “heavy” [sic] tanks. The illustration B refers to an heraldic “crest”; which is incorrect. A crest was worn on the head or helmet, as is obvious from “crest of a hill”, a “great crested grebe” or similar bird, or “the crest of a wave”. Steve should have said “coat of arms”; in the specific context of use, the “crest” is the steel helmet above the shield bearing the Hungarian coat of arms. Am I being pedantic? No, we don’t call a dog “a horse”. Page 20 should have the photo caption amended to “PzKfw IV F” as the “Ausf F1” is really a misnomer.
Steve also uses the word “decimated” on pages 22 and 26, when “devastated” is more appropriate. Decimation was a Roman Army punishment where (as the term suggests), every tenth man was executed if a unit displayed cowardice in battle. Eastern European armies that were only “decimated” by the Red Army could count themselves very fortunate! On page 24, the lower photo is incorrectly captioned as a PzKfw IV Ausf H when the absence of a turret traverse engine clearly identifies it as an Ausf J. On page 33, the word “crest” is again inappropriate; “symbol” or “motif” is applicable. On page 42, the photo caption incorrectly identifies the nearest tank as a PzKfw IV Ausf. H, even though it clearly has only 50mm driver’s plate armour, vision ports for the radio operator and a split cupola, all indicative of an Ausf G (along with the Ausf G type sprocket used on only a few Ausf H). Later PzKfw IVs are hard to differentiate (I have captioned photos in the past for the tank Museum at Bovington, so I should know), but this photo is an ‘easy’ one. The tank behind the PzKfw IV is not identified – it is a PzKfw III Ausf N.
Finally, I deplore the use of American 'Kindergarten' spelling in a book published in the UK; our children have enough problems speaking and writing decent English without this additional handicap. Let's clean up English and get rid of this bad habit on Osprey's part!
All in all, this is not a bad introduction for readers new to the subject, albeit a bit thin, but not worth buying if looking for more than the books that Steve’s bibliography lists.