Friday 9 October 2020

Book Review: TankCraft Series Latest Releases - Tiger I and Tiger II, Jagdpanzer IV, Panzer III and Panther

 It has been a long time since I assembled a historical plastic model kit. However, the urge does occasionally take me, and then I have to try to decide what I am going to build. The last kit I worked on was to help my son assemble a Soviet WW2 Aerosan (Trumpeter 1:35 RF8). Which was probably 10 years ago and although fully assembled is still waiting for final touches to the paint job and a scenic base...

Anyway, it has always been at the back of my mind that I would like to tackle a German WW2 tank kit. I am not sure which one, but I suppose there is a good chance it would either be a Tiger 1 or a Pather. With that in mind, I have just picked up and read the four latest offerings from Pen and Sword's TankCraft series of books.

Now, due to the nature of these books, I don't see the point in reviewing them individually, they all share the same features, and are laid out exactly the same. So I will post plenty of photos from the different books and just give you a general impression of them all.

The first section of each book is given over to a reasonably detailed history of the units using these armoured vehicles over the periods defined in the subtitles of the books. For example, the Tiger 1 and Tiger 2 book looks exclusively at the Normandy Campaign of 1944, with no information about their use either before or after this period, or in other theatres (this information is to be found in other volumes of the TankCraft series of books).

As a modeller guide, this information is in great depth and should allow a modeller to thoroughly research which unit he wants to depict on his model, as well as going into considerable depth about manoeuvers and engagements that these tanks were involved in.

The second section is a very in-depth look at all of the developments and modifications that were carried out on these vehicles during the period covered in each book. Again an invaluable resource for modellers looking to accurately represent a specific tank or unit that interests them. One thing that I did notice that annoyed a little was the author did seem to assume that the reader would have a fairly good prior knowledge of these vehicles. For example, in the Panther book, it is mentioned that at a certain point in the war, most Panthers had had their Muzzle Brakes removed, or came without them. However, there was no explanation as to why this was. To be honest, I am still none the wiser about this...

The books are all illustrated with plenty of photos of the actual vehicles, and each photo is accompanied by as much information as possible relating to where and when it was taken, which unit the tank was with and details about the particular vehicle where possible. 

As well as the black and white photos the centre of the books feature several pages of side on illustrations of the various tanks showing, as close as possible, colour representations of the paint schemes and camouflage markings. This I found better than the colour descriptions within the text, as the author insists on using the Official German names for the paints (this is also reflected in other parts of the books where german terms are used without translation). I understand that the proper name should be featured and recorded, however, as this is a guide for model makers, it would be preferable if an English translation of the paint names was also included.

After the colour illustrations, there is a section showing examples of the models, as built and painted by some master model builders. These offer some good insight into what can be achieved.

This is followed by a look at the different kits available that can be used to build models of the vehicles featured in each book. It generally covers 1/72, 1/48 and 1/35, although does occasionally mention other scales where appropriate.

So that, more or less, sums up the contents of these books. As far as personal impressions go, I would say that these are books of two halves. The first half, being the history of the vehicle, is very detailed and a good resource for military historians and the second half is an excellent guide to modelling the vehicles. 

How much of the history part of these books will really appeal to the model makers will depend on the interests of the individuals, however, for someone who has both an interest in the history and the model making, they will be an invaluable addition to their bookshelves.

I must admit, I was not fully aware of the roles that some of these tanks played in the war, for some reason I was under the impression that the Panther was a replacement for the Tiger I. Still, I now understand the relative roles of these four vehicles. 

I am still leaning toward putting together a Tiger I. Now the search begins for a suitable 1/48 scale kit...

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