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“GHOST DIVISION”

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The 11th “Gespenster” Panzer Division and the German Armoured Force in World War II
A. Harding Ganz, 400pp, 254 x 203mm, hardback, Stackpole, ISBN: 978-0-8117-1659-8,
RRP £29.99  www.casematepublishers.co.uk
This heavy-duty tomeis full of interesting details of the 11th “Ghost” Panzer Division which built up a deserved reputation for fast moving aggressive tactics.  The author started his interest in the unit whilst serving in the US 4th Armoured Division in the 1960’s, stationed in Germany.  He had the opportunity to visit some of the battlefields and meet former Panzer soldiers, this gaining first-hand information.
The book starts with the history of German armed forces, the results of the Versailles Treaty, then moves on to the origins of the Panzerwaffe. The equipment & vehicles are described to give the feel of the subject, a quick look at the panzer experience in the Spanish Civil War, then into WW2.
The section on the French campaign gives lots of action details, and illustrates that the Blitzkrieg was occasionally blunted when encountering the better Allied tanks. Interesting that Rommel appears to have courted the Propaganda Kompanie reporters, and his 7th Panzer Division was accorded the title of “Ghost Division”, prior to the formation of the 11th Panzer Division in August 1940.
A detailed explanation of the revised organisation allows the reader to understand how the new style Panzer division worked.
What follows is an in depth diary of the travels and battles of the Division through the war, balanced against the political situation. Campaigns in Serbia, Operation Barbarossa in Russia, , followed by Taifun, operations Blau & Wirbelwind,  the battles of the river Chir, Donets, Kharkov, Zitadelle, the defence of the Dnepr, the Cherkassy-Korsun cauldron before entraining for a complete refit in southern France in 1944.
The new vehicles and equipment is described as are the changes in leadership.  Then, on June 6th. The allies landed in Normandy and the war took a new direction.  When the allies also landed in the South, 11th Panzer was moved North, harried by Jabo’s all the way. By August they were at Montelimar fighting American forces, and as with the whole book, the story is full of personal accounts, individual actions and useful information.
The author not only covers the German units of the division, but also describes the opposition in great depth, frequently backing this information with more personal reminiscences.
Now in the Moselle, the !!th counterattacked the ‘Amis’ with variable results.
The Ghost division finished it’s war in Czechoslovakia, finally surrendering to the US forces.  A bizarre  tail note was a parade staged later by 2nd Constabulary Regiment in Munich for U.S. dignitaries, including Eisenhower.  Many of the troopers and half the band were in fact 11th Panzer Division veterans filling in!
Various appendices round off the book including comparisons of German Army, SS and US Army ranks, list of 11th Panzer unit commanders.
A fine read filled with information, a few maps and organisation charts, but not many maps.  However, good value for money in a hardback book.
Paul Middleton 18/05/2016

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