Operation, Training, Tactics.
Wolfgang Schneider, Helion, www, casematepublishers.co.uk, ISBN: 978-1-910777-97-8, Hardback, pp520, 305 x 222mm, RRP: £69.95.
This massive tome is designed to fill the void between the unit histories contained in volumes 1 and 2, and the technical descriptions found in the Jentz and Speilberger books.
The author was a career panzer officer of the Bundeswehr so has an excellent feel for the subject which is delivered in sizeable ‘chunks’. In the preface he states that he has avoided repeating material found in existing publications, but has reverted to the wartime official documents and first-hand experiences of former servicemen so as to avoid repeating errors.
The book starts with the establishment and structure of the units detailing to individual posts and their transport, establishment dates for Tiger units, organigrams reminiscent of those we used to see in AFV-G2 and older German unit histories, and listings of staffing and vehicle numbers. As with all the chapters, this one is profusely illustrated with photographs of the vehicles, and I am pleased to say most are ‘new to me’. Quite a few pages are dedicated to the actual production of the Tiger with plenty of photos of the manufacturing machinery, factory layout and even details of the air raids on the factories. Information on testing, delivery and training along with photographic coverage appear. A map of the military training area at Sennelager from 1938 will be of interest to BAOR veterans.
Of interest is a series of photos of the visit of a Japanese delegation, range practice of Tigers running on bottled gas, Italian troops training alongside Tigers in Germany, wading trials, and post VE day trials by the British which include comparisons with a Valentine and Archer from 20 A/T Regiment.
There is also an interesting section detailing the Tigers and other AFVs supplied to the Hungarian army.
The next chapter deals with operating the Tiger with numerous extracts from the ‘Tigerfibel’ handbook, some fascinating photos and very useful drawings of the internal layout. The sections cover driving, firing, radio, command and engine maintenance tasks. Drills for recovery, re-loading, re-fuelling and fitting of the narrower transport tracks are covered, as are replacing worn or damaged components of the running gear and tracks. All the activities of the crew with their tank are covered with excellent photographs which will allow the armchair historian to better understand how these behemoths were used, and for the model maker to more accurately portray the Tiger in miniature form.
Chapter 5 is titled ‘Tactics’ and covers the use of Tigers in operations ‘as it should be done’ with comments of problems encountered by commanders who failed to follow the guidelines. Again the text is amply supported by photos of the Tigers and support vehicles. Camouflage, concealment and disposition are all discussed, along with co-operation with other arms and the need to check escape routes due to the weight of the tanks.
There are good photos of command half-tracks including the interior of an SdKfz 250 artillery observation vehicle and a Luftwaffe manned ‘Flivo’ SdKfz 251/3 variant which has been featured in other publications, but I notice that in this photo the second man has the twin-barrelled flare pistol.
The so-called Berge-Tiger is covered and a new-to-me photo presented with a decent explanation of the device.
Also illustrated are Soviet manuals on how to ‘kill’ a Tiger and comparisons of the effects of different allied weapons on German tanks, supported by photos of the damage inflicted on Tigers. This is naturally followed by the repair chain and some wonderful photos of the workshop lorries, Bilstein cranes and recovery trailers, including captured equipment.
The Tiger was also used for its propaganda value, and examples of Signal and other documents are shown, along with a batch of colour images, although it seems a bit of a waste that some of these colour images also appear elsewhere in monochrome.
In the annex of the book the author takes the opportunity to add corrections or further information for volumes I & II and allows the inclusion of further photos.
This is an excellent book for those with a passion for the Tiger Tank, although the hefty price tag will put many off. However, you do get your money’s worth from the sheer volume of photographs. I recall that on Radio Cambridgeshire a good few years back, the book reviewer would indicate the amount of book you got by dropping it on the floor. The thump if you drop this one will wake the neighbours! Recommended. Paul Middleton 24/12/2016
Operation, Training, Tactics.