The First World War was a subject neglected by most modellers until recently this could have been justified by lack of quality model kits; however there were enthusiasts interested in that topic and a lot of research was done by historians. Models of WWI vehicles got their second birth last year and now we have a range of good kits to choose from.
The current book from AK-interactive is one of the first if not the very first book that appeals directly to scale modellers and not only enthusiasts of history and technology. “The first mechanized war” aims high and has some very good offerings under the cover, although not without omissions as any other publication or products.
The content is structured into several chapters and after an introduction that contains both history and philosophy of mechanized warfare the parts on specialized subjects begin.
The first section contains information about German tanks and it is mostly dedicated to A7V, the only German manufactured tank. Notes on design and performance of the tank are given, together with operational history. 2 pages contain colour profiles of tank named Wotan, plus there are also two profiles of “Beute” tanks – Whippet and Mark IV together with Austin armoured car. Unfortunately there is no information on captured tanks in that chapter (I could forward modellers to excellent series of books from Tankograd publishing on that subject). Original photographs for that chapter contain A7V, Beute Mark IV, Beute Whippet and Daimler truck with anti-aircraft gun on the truck bed.
The next chapter is dedicated to British tanks and here we have all “rhomboid” variants - Mark I-IX. Some of these got more text then others, depending on what is known or on the importance of the modification. Here you can also find information regarding armoured cars and medium tanks – Whippet and others. Colour profiles contain “Little Willie”, Whippets, Medium tank Mark C, Mk.I, Mk.IV Female and Male (Female tank is called Male on the profile and top view of Mk.IV male has wrong position of rear lookout hatch and poor detail on the roof overall!), Rolls-Royce, Austin and Lanchester armoured cars.
French tanks come right after British and here there is information dedicated to Schneider, St.Chamond and Renault FT-17. This section has the largest amount of profiles and reference photographs (among the three chapters dedicated to tanks and armoured cars). Subjects depicted as profiles include the above mentioned French tanks, including different variants of FT-17’s and vehicles on that base.
After that there is a small 2-page section dedicated to motorcycles and 2 page section dedicated to trucks. The motorcycle section has text and colour profiles while truck section has reference images of trucks in France with short text on how the motorization of transportation influenced warfare.
The Belgian, Italian, Russian Imperial and American army are covered in a combined chapter – “Other armies”. The Austro-Hungarian or Ottoman Empires did not get any attention here and somehow only Russian Imperial army got a “conclusions” remark. In that remark the author’s state that the Russian Empire got decisive outcome because it was dependent on the Allies. The authors “forgot” about the Bolshevik Revolution that led to that “decisive outcome”. The colour profiles in that section show a Whippet from the Russian Imperial Army and then a Whippet from the Bolsheviks Red Army, armoured cars from Italy, Austo-Hungarian Empire (keep in mind that the army itself has no chapter) and 2 US tanks. Reference photographs include Russian and American subjects.
Finally there is a section dedicated to aircraft and here there is a short general description followed by 8 pages with colour profiles for different armies (Russian Imperial, French, German, Italian, British, Austro-Hungarian, American). Each profile has detailed legend regarding aircraft type and unit (where possible).
The above mentioned chapters were focused on the vehicles themselves and after them there are 2 pages dedicated to the paints used during WWI. Here some of the descriptions are rather vague. When it comes to German Beute tanks the text is not referring to Tankograd publications (again!) and the colours mentioned are inappropriate. The colour patches in this section have AK-interactive product codes where available. Uniform colours have only 1 page and here the German, French and British armies are mentioned together with colour patches and AK-interactive product codes. Overall this is not a very good reference for figure painting and I would rather forward readers to Osprey books dedicated to WWI uniforms.
Finally, there is a concluding chapter dedicated to the personal story how a private collection of photographs from a French officer was discovered. These photographs are printed on 50 pages of the book and these are very interesting to investigate in detail.
This book was written by Carlos Fresno who also did all illustrations. The text appears to be in Spanish originally and was translated into English. Therefore some of the phrases sound a bit off and are difficult to understand, but overall text quality is rather good with interesting thoughts and observations. However I was missing a common thought or joining between the chapters that would lead me through the reading process.
The quality of paper is very good and it has nice glossy finish. In total there are 168 pages plus a thicker backer. The quality of graphic work and photographs is of a high level with many of the images reproduced in full page size. A few of these were taken from NARA, IWM or other known sources, while most of them are from either author’s collection or Casa de la Imagen Collection. These are previously unpublished. However, I would be careful with colour profiles as reference for building models as small details are not always drawn on these or profiles contain errors (like with Mark IV Male – exhaust exists the hull roof too close to center, the location of rear look out hatch is mirrored and the hatch itself has no details depicted).
Overall, this book could be a good start if you have zero experience with WWI subjects and would like to get a good overview about vehicles that were used at the battlefield. The authors provide solid historical background and share many interesting photographs, including lots of unpublished images found by the author in private collection; however when it comes to modelling I would take it very carefully as there are inaccuracies in tank profiles (Mark IV tank) and information regarding camouflage on German tanks can be further discussed.
Highs: High quality black and white photographs, many of them unseen before, good attempt on giving tactical and historical background behind the machines used during WWI.Lows: Inaccuracies with tank profile drawing, questionable information regarding German tanks camouflage, some language issues, inappropriate conclusions when it comes to the Russian Empire.Verdict: Recommended for those who would like to get a broad introduction into WWI vehicles.