Title: The First T-34
Author: Christian Mulsow with Jochen Vollert Archives
Reviewed by Tankette editor, Robin Buckland
“The early T-34 forms the topic for this first class new hardback book from Tankograd. There have been a lot of books about the T-34 but this is the first I can recall seeing which devotes itself to these very first models of this famous tank. In over 200 pages, with over 300 archive photos (most not published before) we can now share in the results of the author’s years of research into this important part of the T-34 development story.
At the outset we see how the designers looked at moving on with the old BT-7 design, and added sloped armour to create the A20 prototype. Apparently it took some inspiration from the angled armour design of the French FCM tank. At this stage though, it had only 4 roadwheels each side. The A20G saw the introduction of a larger, 76mm gun and the addition of a 5th roadwheel, a designation of A32, and something that looked like the T-34 that was to come. As we get to the first A34 prototype it also gained a prominent searchlight mounted above the main gun. It goes on to cover all the development changes, as elements were ‘tweaked’ as test results indicates potential for improvement, elements such as track, front and rear mudguards and much more.
This just gives a flavour of the level of detail you will find in this book, and it goes on to include the details of how the prototypes were moved into serial production and the variations even among these early variants. Then we get to the first deployment to units and how they got on when faced with the German army with Operation Barbarossa. That is followed by the German Perspective as they faced the T-34 for the first time and their assessments examples had been captured and tested at Kummersdorf. The final sections then explain the details to look out for on both the hull and turret to help identify an early variant in photos. Lastly, a piece on Colours and Markings, which also includes some helpful colour artwork to illustrate the text.
Throughout the book the host of archive photos show us all the detail, inside and out, the various changes made to the turret and the main armament. There are also various graphics from original handbooks a 6 sets of 1/35 scale drawings, plus some maps as well. A marvellous reference for anyone interested in the history of WW2 tanks and the T-34 in particular, while the scale drawings, variant details and plenty of diorama ideas in the photos make this ideal for modellers. One final point to bear in mind, just 999 copies have been printed so you might want to grab one of these before they are all gone”.
Thanks to UK stockists Bookworld for my example.