Panther Tanks – German Army & Waffen-SS, Normandy Campaign 1944 – Review

I recently purchased a model kit of a Panther tank. Actually, I purchased a lot of model kits of tanks, one of which was a Panther. Looking around for some information on the tank, I came across Dennis Oliver’s “Panther Tanks, German Army and Waffen SS, Normandy Campaign 1944.”

Well armoured and with a powerful 75mm gun, the Panther was a shock to Allied tank crews, surviving many hits whilst dealing out  destruction to all the Allied AFVs. The German Army and Waffen-SS deployed around 300 Panthers in the west prior to the Allied invasion. There were more powerful German tanks in the west (the Panzer VI – Tiger for example) but only in small numbers, and more numerous (Panzer IVs) but it was the Panzer V, the Panther, that caused the greatest grief to the Allied tank crews.

Design of these tanks was commenced in 1941 with prototype vehicles being demonstrated to Hitler in May 1942. With haphazard design changes, the first tanks off the production lines suffered from a number of issues including engine fires, and whilst these were to some degree addressed during the production of the model D, a number of the faults still plagued the vehicles in service.

The book itself is shirt, some 64 pages only but contains a background to the Panther, details of its use operationally, some great photographs and best of all for the modeller, models! The book contains the following chapters:

  1. Introduction
  2. The Normandy Battlefield
  3. The 1944 Panzer-Regiment
  4. The Army Panther Battalions
  5. Camouflage and Markings
  6. Model Showcase
  7. Modelling Products
  8. The Waffen-SS Panther Battalions
  9. Technical Details and Modifications
  10. Product Contact List

This book is primarily written for the modeller and is part of Pen & Sword Books, Tank Craft Range and as such the modelling, detailing and camouflage information is extensive. Oliver presents 12 pages of colour and markings information of 24 tanks. He then illustrates with colour photographs builds of 1/35 scale vehicles from different modellers and manufacturers,  Dragon and ROCHM Model (conversion kits). The modellers are from different countries and some are simply models, others part of dioramas.

Oliver then goes on the survey the model kits available and lists in:

  • 1/35 scale – Dragon Models,Tamiya, Italeri
  • 1/56 – Italeri
  • 2/48 – Tamiya
  • 1/76 1/72 – Arifix, Italeri, Revell, Zvezda
  • 1/100 – Zvezda

HE then goes on to list some of the aftermarket suppliers as well supplying etched brass additions such as zimmerit, straps, radiators and fans,periscopes and the like. Also listed are replacement items such as aluminium gin barrels. Replacement tracks are also listed.

For the modeller or the wargamer, this is a worthwhile addition to the bookshelf. Colour details are excellent and accurate as are the marking details. I am looking now for both my glue for the model sitting on my workbench as well as hunting around for the wargame vehicles for my late German Army. Highly recommended and best of all, on sale currently.

Panther Tanks (Paperback), German Army and Waffen SS, Normandy Campaign 1944
By Dennis Oliver
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Series: Tank Craft
Pages: 64
ISBN: 9781526710932
Published: 4th September 2017
URL: https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Panther-Tanks-Paperback/p/13698

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A Wargamer’s Guide to the Early Roman Empire – Review

I recently had a look at and reviewed Daniel Mersey’s Wargamer’s Guide to the Desert War. I am fortunate to have received a copy of Mersey’s Wargamer’s Guide to the Early Roman Empire to have a look at.

The book is paperback of 126 pages so slightly longer than the Desert War, was published by Pen & Sword Military on 4 July 2017, ISBN: 9781473849556. It is one of the range of wargame books being published by Pen & Sword. Best of all, it is on sale currently.

The book follows a now familiar format, although in this case, it contains seven chapters:

  1. The Roman Empire 27BC t0 AD284 – an overview of the history of Rome and its wars over the period of the Early Roman Empire
  2. Armies, Organization, and Equipment – covering, well, the armies, their organisation and equipment. A generalised discussion of the organisation covering the Romans; Britons; Caledonians; Dacians; Germans; Palmyrans; Parthians; and Sassanids
  3. The Key Battles – covering (briefly) the battles of Teutoburg Forest; Idistavisus; Medway River; Cremona (Bedriacum); Mons Graupius; Tapae; Issus; Lugdunum; Nisibis; and Emesa. These sections within this chapter briefly describe the battles then provide suggestions for wargaming the battle
  4. Wargaming the Battles of Rome – covering Facing the Might of Rome; Command Structures; Missile Fire; Legion versus Warbands (and Cavalry); the Role of Auxiliary Infantry; and Getting the Right Look
  5. Choosing Your Rules – a summary of a number of rules, including: Armati II; Aurelian; Commands & Colours: Ancients; De Bellis Antiquitatis; Hail Caesar; Kings of War Historical; Legio VI; To The Strongest; War & Conquest; War Games Rules 3000BC to 1485AD; Brink of Battle; Broken Legions; De Bellis Velitum; FUBAR Medieval; Lord of the Rings Battle Game; Of Gods and Mortals; Open Combat; and Song of Blades and Heroes
  6. Choosing Your Models – a look at some of the main manufacturers in various scales including manufacturers of 28mm, 20mm, 15mm, 10/12mm and 6mm. This chapter also discusses scale for each of those figure sizes. There is also a handy table of manufacturers and the ranges they cover (refer point 2 above for the ranges)
  7. Scenarios – presents the setting up of some scenario based battles to provide some variety in the games we play

There is also an index and a list of titles for further reading.

This book has found a welcome place on my bookshelf (actually, coffee table as it has become the favourite for flicking through with a cup of coffee this week). Mersey has set a standard for his Wargamer’s Guides and continues to deliver to that standard. Whilst much of the historical content is familiar to me it is good to be able to read that from another gamer’s perspective. There are 8-pages of eye candy in the middle of the book with painted figures from Simon Miller, Daniel Mersey, Barry Lee and Wargames Illustrated to encourage the reader to whip out the paintbrushes and finish off those Early Imperial Romans.

Mersey discusses the troop types against the very familiar descriptions of troops found in the old Wargames Research Group Series of rules, particularly the 6th edition. He discusses their use in battle, their formation, speed and armament.

I am now torn between completing my Desert War Armies or dragging out the Early Imperial Romans, getting them sorted then building some Britons, Germans, Dacians or Palmyrans for opponents. Hmm, now that I think about it I have some Sassanians tucked away here somewhere as well.

Well recommended for its general nature but also for the inspiration it provides.

World War 2 Belgians – Another BKC Army

The full Belgian force

Earlier this year I was looking for something a little different and as Blitzkreig Commander III had been released I flicked through the rules and lists and decided that I would start building some another early World War 2 army or two. I have Western Desert Italians (built for BKC – see this blog post and then this one for colour) back in Australia and had acquired some Early War Germans from Douglas as he sold off figures before his move to Scotland. I had also already built an early war Soviet Army (built for BKC II) and thought to myself, “English, French or something else?” Something else won and I started looking for figures for a Belgian army, circa 1940.

Now I know there have been issues with BKC III resulting in that being pulled but fortunately the only differences in the BKC II and BKC III lists was effectively the removal of the 47mm Anti-Tank Guns. So my army is missing those at the moment but I will add them next time I can afford a figure order.

The models eventually selected to use were the Belgians from Scotia Grendel. I must admit that I am somewhat disappointed with the infantry figures as they suffer from thin legs and poor casting as well as a rather static pose. Having said that, the motorcycles and vehicles are lovely. I selected from the Belgian range, the French range and the Neutral Equipment range.

Overall now, it is a nicely fragile force of early war equipment. The figures have been based ready for sand to be added and painting to commence.

I will update Thomo’s Hole later with painting details as the point goes on.

For the future? I think the next early war forces will be the French, followed by the British prior to Dunkirk then more early Germans. To oppose the Soviets will be slightly later early war Germans and I also have the Japanese. Somewhere along the line I will add so Poles as well.

As to the quality of the figures, see for yourself and make up your own mind.

The Forgotten War Against Napoleon – Review

Gareth Glover’s The Forgotten War Against Napoleon – Conflict in the Mediterranean, published on 26 June 2017 by Pen & Sword Military, ISBN 9781473833951, 265 pages is a survey of the Napoleonic Wars in the Mediterranean over the period 1793 to 1815.

The Mediterranean theatre is one familiar to Napoleonic warfare buffs that but for a few engagements is generally is overlooked.

This book does not have a great deal of detail on any one engagement but rather provides a brief look at 55 or so engagements around the Mediterranean.

I’ll come out of the closet. I am a wargamer and the Napoleonic Wars are a period I keep looking at but never really get a head of steam up on a project – much as I have a deep interest in the uniforms, the ships, the battles, and the campaigns.

Glover has surveyed action around the Mediterranean and he provides between 2 and 7 pages per chapter discussing the various actions of the time. This includes both naval and land actions. Egypt is covered as is Corsica, Naples, Malta, Sicily and such. Each of the chapters provides a reasonable overview of the action and sufficient information to persuade the reader to look deeper.

For example, one action I had not heard about (or at least cannot remember reading about) is Algeciras in 1801. This was an action between the British, lead by Sir James Saumarez (the next book on my reading stack being his biography) and a Franco/Spanish fleet. The British 74s engaged a fleet consisting of 74s and Spanish 112s, capturing or sinking a couple. The following morning the French Formidable beat off the attacks of two British ships of the line and a frigate, so a mixed result for the British.

The book is full of short descriptions (the one above lasting just two pages) but will provide plenty of inspiration for either further reading or, in the case of wargamers, scenarios for future games.

The book finishes with the elimination of the Barbary pirates, using that as the conclusion of the war in the Mediterranean.

For the wargamer, a useful source for information for scenarios in the Napoleonic period. For the general reader of history, a useful summary of what went on in the Mediterranean during the Napoleonic Wars.

Images of War – Axis Tanks of the Second World War – Review

Written by Michael Green and published by Pen & Sword Military on 7th August 2017, 216 pages, ISBN 9781473887008, this publication contains a number of rare photographs from wartime archives, as well as photos of tanks still existing.

The book is split into fours chapters of Light Tanks; Early-War Medium Tanks; Late-War Medium Tanks; And Heavy Tanks.

Each chapter then looks at some of the background to the type of tanks and the various countries constructing them. For the German section of Light Tanks chapter for example, the Panzer I and Panzer II are naturally covered. Then the Czech light tanks and their variants in German use, Panzer 38(t), are discussed.

The chapter then moves on to the Italian Light Tanks, the various Carro Veloce marks followed by the Hungarian Toldi and Nimrod tanks. Japanese light tanks are then round out the narrative.

The 10 pages of narrative on the Light Tanks does not give more than superficial information but that is not the main purpose of this book – it is for photographs. 36 pages of photographs, most contemporary to the tanks along with some colour photos, generally of tanks in museums  and private collections.

The same format is followed for the remaining three chapters.

This book is full of interesting photographs and should be on the bookshelf of any AFV petrol or diesel heads. Best of all, it is currently on sale (October 2017).

Images of War – Axis Tanks of the Second World War

A Wargamer’s Guide to the Desert War 1940-1943 – Review

Daniel Mersey, a wargame author with an increasing number of publications, has written a few “Wargamer’s Guides”. Previous volumes have covered the Anglo Zulu Wars and the 1066 Norman Conquest. This volume covers North Africa and the Desert War between 1940 and 1943.

The book is paperback of 118 pages, published by Pen & Sword Military on 12 June 2017, ISBN: 9781473851085. It is one of the range of wargame books being published by Pen & Sword.

In many respects, I found this book a better “beginning wargames” book than Iain Dickie’s Wargaming on a Budget as it covers pretty much everything from figure size and model scale, through rules, and figures, and playing the game and setting scenarios.

The book contains six chapters:

  1. The Desert War – an overview of the war covering the early cumsy attempts of the Commonwealth and Italian forces, then the changes broiught about by the introduction of German firces and then lastly the American effect and concluding with Operation Torch and the collapse of the Afrika Korps
  2. Armies, Organization, and Equipment – covering, well, the armies, their organisation and equipment. A generalised discussion of the organisation of the four armies but with references to more detailed Order of Battle. A reasonable equipment list for wargamers is also supplied. There is also a general painting guide for figures and vehicles here
  3. Wargaming the Campaign – it is what is says
  4. Choosing Your Rules – a summary of a number of rules, including: Battlegroup; Blitzkrieg Commander; Bolt Action; Chain of Command; Crossfire; Desert Rats; Flames of War; Iron Cross; KISS Rommel; Operation Squad; Panzer Korps; and Rapid Fire
  5. Choosing Your Models – a look at some of the main manufacturers in various scales including manufacturers of 28mm, 20mm, 15mm, 10/12mm and 6mm. This chapter also discusses scale for each of those figure sizes
  6. Scenarios – setting up some battles to get a feel of the desert war

There is also an index and a list of titles for further reading.

Mersey relies on previous authors’ works as well, such as Don Featherstone, which is not a bad thing.

The book also has a number of colour plates illustrating the subject in the figure sizes of 28mm, 15mm and 6mm. Many of the colour plates are from the Perry Twins.

Being a wargamer and having grown up on stories of the Rats of Tobruk and el Alamein, I have always had an interest in the Desert War. That it was in the first half of the Second World War when the equipment was being developed that would later be used and characterise the late war was  a bonus. Who can not fail to admire the Italians in their tiny tanks or groan at the number of breakdowns of the early cruiser tanks and then marvel at the later Lee/Grant tanks.

This is a volume that should be on any wargamer’s bookshelf. Even now, I am about to post this review, make a coffee and sit in my favourite reading chair and flick through this book again, planning my next Desert War project. Will it be Chain of Command and 28mm or more 6mm and Blitzkrieg Commander? Perhaps even 2mm this time.

British Destroyers & Frigates, The Second World War and After – Review

It just so happened that I was reading Sixty Minutes for St George, a Nicholas Everard Thriller (Book 2) where Nick as stationed aboard HMS Mackerel, a fictional destroyer in World War I. I can recommend the Nicolas Everard series, ripping good yarns with a very accurate nautical theme. Anyway, while reading that, along came a copy of British Destroyers & Frigates, The Second World War and After by Norman Friedman. This edition is published on 17 May 2017 by Seaforth Publishing, has 352 pages and its ISBN is 9781526702821. There are also Kindle and ePub versions available.

Since the Second World War we have seen largely the disappearance of the old classes of cruisers and capital ships, with the obvious exception of aircraft and helicopter carriers. Over that same period destroyers and frigates have merged and whilst we still refer to FFGs and DDGs, these vessels have moved closer and closer, especially as Frigates have got larger. Friedman covers this transition within the British Navy well in this work, dealing with the political, strategic and tactical issues that have brought forward Royal Navy designs such as the Type 45 air defence escort.

The book itself is well illustrated with over 200 photographs (in black and white) of vessels as well as ship plans by A D Baker III and detail drawings from Alan Raven. The book not only covers the Royal Navy but also Commonwealth vessels from Australian and Canada, among others.

The book contains the following chapters:

  • Introduction
  • Beginning the Slide Towards War
  • What Sort of Destroyer
  • Defending Trade
  • The War Emergency Destroyers
  • New Destroyer Classes
  • Wartime Ocean Escorts
  • The Post-war Destroyer
  • The Missile Destroyer
  • The 1945 Frigate and Her Successors
  • The Search for Numbers
  • The General Purpose Frigate
  • The Second Post-war Generation
  • The Post-Carrier Generation
  • The Future

Friedman’s writing style is clear and easy to read and the man knows his subject. A lot of research has gone into this book and it shows from start to finish. This book is a must-have for anyone interested in the development of the Royal Navy through the second half of the 20th century.

I’m ready to start buying some more model vessels to paint after reading through this book.

The Broad Fourteens

So with the coastal forces wargame project this year (memo to self … get off a*** and get painting) I happened across an interesting piece on YouTube tonight. I came home exhausted and whilst waiting for the butter to thaw ready for dinner, I turned to YouTube and thought I would look at some others 1/1200 coastal forces painting. Well one thing led to another and before I knew it I was watching an English film from around the time of the Second World War, made with the crews from a couple of MBTs and/or MGBs that covered getting the boats ready, a little training then onto some missions in an area known as the Broad Fourteens.

The Broad Fourteens were an area of the North Sea just off the coast of Europe where the depth of water was 14 fathoms over a wide area and where a lot of these coastal actions took place.

The YouTub video is below:

And just to remind those folks who do not play with little toy soldiers and boats, here are some of my boat collection, waiting for paint (refer to the first paragraph).

The Coastal Fleets

New British Battleships – 1942 – HMS Anson and Howe

I ended up by accident looking at an old Pathe News clip today – the one where HMS Howe had completed her time in the graving dock and was being made ready for sea. The news report showed the final stages of preparation and the workers leaving the vessel, the provisioning of the ship and the HMS Howe sailing down to then under the Forth bridge.  Some great shots of her at sea and firing her 14″ broadside.

Well worth looking at for a blast from the past, not to mention the 1940s newsreader English, “the ship was got ready”.

French Battleships of World War One – John Jordan & Philippe Caresse – Review

French Battleships of World War One by John Jordan & Philippe Caresse, published by Seaforth Publishing, on 30 May 2017, ISBN: 9781848322547, 328 wonderful pages.

I know John Jordan works from the wonderful Warship series, Warship 2017 sits on my bookshelf waiting for me to get some spare reading time. Jordan has been the editor of that publication for a number of years. Recent books of his for Seaforth Press include French Battleships 1922-1956, followed up with French Cruisers 1922-1956 and lastly French Destroyers 1922-1956. This book then is a prequel to those.

It is, simply, wonderful. French World War One Battleships were perhaps the most stylish, certainly the most distinctive of the period. The large tumblehome, pronounced “ramming” bows and the eccentric grouping of funnels give French Battleships of the First World War such a unique look that it is impossible to mistake them for any other’s battleships.

Philippe Caresse co-authored this work and is himself a respected author of matters nautical, in particular the German Navy of both World Wars.

That Jordan has spent many years researching French warships, especially of this period and immediately before the war, is clear from reading the text. Caresse provided the historical background as well as many of the photos. This book is worth having for the photo collection alone. That is also has line drawings of the class leaders b Jordan, many in both elevation and plan as well as cross-sectional drawings, discussions of propulsion machinery, hull form and superstructure as well as technical tables of the vessels, and periodically comparisons between the main competitors from other navies makes this book an invaluable sourcebook for French Battleships of the period 1890-odd to the mid to late 1920s.

To the above, add 8 pages of watercolour paintings of various vessels from Jean Bladé and here is a book that I will happily sit and just flick through, looking at a picture here, reading some text there, but all the while admiring the style that was the French battleship of the time.

The book has chapeters on:

PART I TECHNICAL SECTION

  • Pre-History 1870-1890
  • The Flotte d’Echantillons
  • The Charlemagne Class
  • Iéna and Suffren
  • The Patrie Class
  • The Courbet Class
  • The Bretagne Class
  • The Normandie Class
  • The Projects of 1913

PART II HISTORICAL SECTION

  • The Fleet and its Ships 1900-1916
  • The Great War 1914-1918
  • The Interwar Period 1918-1939
  • The Second World War

The chapter on the Second World War is because many of the vessels from the First World War were still in service.

If I had to give this book a rating out of five stars, then I would not hesitate to give it 5-stars. Did I mention that it is wonderful?

Another book that I would recommend to anyone interested in the pre-Dreadnought and Dreadnought periods of battleships, a must have on the naval historian’s bookshelves and under the naval enthusiast’s coffee table.