Images of War – the Armour of Rommel’s Afrika Korps – Book Review

Another volume in the Images of War series landed on my desk a few months back. This one covers the Armour of Rommel’s Afrika Korps by Ian Baxter. It is published by Pen & Sword Military in the Images of War series with 128 pages of rare photographs from Wartime Archives (ISBN: 9781526722393, published on 8 January 2019).

The Deutsche Afrikakorps (DAK, known simply as the Afrika Korps) was a Corp that was welded into an effective fighting machine by its general, Erwin Rommel. German troops were sent to North Africa to support, or rather prop-up, the Italian forces present in North Africa, the forces which had been bloodied to the turn of nearly 400 tanks destroyed and 130,000 troops casualties or captured by the British and Commonwealth Forces under General Richard O’Connor.

The Second World War in North Africa was a war of movement, of forces pushing forward and stretching their supply lines to the limits only to be followed by a strong counter-attack and retreat where the counter attackers move forward and stretch their supply lines. The oscillations repeated.

Rommel melded the Italian forces with the German reinforcements into an effective fighting Corps and then applied the blitzkrieg tactics that had worked so well in France to the deserts and wadis of North Africa. This continued until the eventual arrival of American forces pinned the Germans and Italians between two larger armies.

Baxter’s book covers the full range of German armoured vehicles that saw action in North Africa over the period 1941 to 1943 covering not just the panzers, and there was the full range from the Panzer I through VI, but also the Sturmartillerie equipment along with half-tracks, armoured cars, motorcycles and so on.

The book’s contents are:

  • Introduction
  • Desert Blitzkrieg, 1941
  • Attack and Retreat, 1942
  • Destruction in Tunisia, 1943
  • Appendix I – Order of Battle
  • Appendix II – Panzers Operational in Africa, 1941-1943
  • Appendix III – Heavy and Light Armoured Vehicles in North Africa, 1941-43
  • Appendix IV – Halftracks Operational in North Africa, 1941-43

The illustrations throughout the book commence with photographs of Panzerkampfwagen II (Pz.Kpfw.II) and Pz.Kpfw.III being unloaded from ships on the docks in North Africa. The background of some of these photos is also interesting, sometimes more so than the foreground for the hint of life in the German Army at the time,

The book then goes on to illustrate Pz.Kpfw.I; Pz.Kpfw.II; Pz.Kpfw.III; Pz.Kpfw.IV; Pz.Kpfw.V (Panther); and Pz.Kpfw.VI (Tiger) in service in North Africa, along with photographs of some of the personalities. What is also apparent in many of these photographs is the quantity of extra paraphernalia carried by these vehicles in the desert, strapped to the sides of vehicles. Photographs also shw vehicles that have been knocked out or are being repaired or repainted.

As well as the panzers, there are many photographs of the armoursed card, half-tracks, prime-movers and the like with the Schwerer Panzerspähwagen (Sd.Kfz.231, 232, 233, 234, 234/1, 234/2, 234/3, 263); Leichter Panzerspähwagen (Sd.Kfz.221, 222, 223, 260/261); and the many variants of the halftracks, the ubiquitous Schützenpanzerwagen (Sd.Kfz.251 and 250) being illustrated. Also included are some of the artillery tractors, the Horch, Marders, motorcycles, self-propelled guns and the like.

I will admit finding the way the Order of Battle section was laid out somewhat confusing but this is a small gripe as there are many more authoritative sources of this information available to the researcher, historian, military enthusiast, wargamer or modeller.

This book would certainly be on interest to a wide spectrum of readers interested in the Second World War in North Africa and the Deutsche Afrikakorps in particular. It will certainly remain within easy reach on my bookshelves. Recommended.

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