The German Panzer forces at the start of World War II were not especially impressive. Only 4% of the defence budget was spent on armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) production. Guderian had planned for two main tanks: the Panzer III and the Panzer IV, with production, starting in 1937 and 1936 respectively. The design work for the Panzer IV had begun in 1935 and trials of prototypes were undertaken in 1937, but by the time of the invasion of Poland, only a few hundred 'troop trial' models were available. The development work was then halted and limited production was begun by Krupp in Magdeburg (Grusonwerk AG), Essen and Bochum in October 1939 with 20 vehicles built. However, even that low number could not be sustained, with production dropping to ten in April 1940. Such low production numbers were due to tanks being given a low priority for steel relative to the more conventional needs of an army, such as artillery shells.
Nevertheless, the number of available Panzer IVs (211) was still larger than that of the Panzer III (98). There were also technical problems with the Panzer III: it was widely considered to be under-gunned with a 37 mm KwK L/45 and production of was split among four manufacturers (MAN, Daimler-Benz, Rheinmetall-Borsig, and Krupp) with little regard for each firm's expertise, and the rate of production was initially very low (40 in September 1939, 58 in June 1940) taking until December 1940 to reach 100 examples a month. The Panzer force for the early German victories was a mix of the Panzer I (machine-gun only), Panzer II (20mm gun) light tanks, and two models of Czech tanks (the Panzer 38(t) and the Panzer 35(t)). By May 1940 there were 349 Panzer III's available for the attacks on France and the Low Countries. Through superior command/control and tactics, the Germans were able to prevail in the Battle of France, despite the deficiencies of their Panzers.
The author of this book from Pen & Sword is Anthony Tucker-Jones (born 1964) who is a former defence intelligence officer and a widely published military expert on regional conflicts, counter-terrorism and armoured and aerial warfare. Tucker-Jones attended the University of Portsmouth (1982-1985) where he took a BA in Historical Studies before gaining an MA from Lancaster University (1987-1988) in International Relations and Strategic Studies.
From 1981 to 1988 he was a freelance defence journalist writing for, among others, Jane's Defence Weekly, Jane's Intelligence Review and Middle East Strategic Studies Quarterly. Tucker-Jones then embarked on a thirteen-year career in defence analysis during which period he was the UK Intelligence Liaison Officer United Nations Special Commission for Iraq (1994–1995) and Liaison Officer for NATO (1991–1994).
Tucker-Jones was the Counter-Terrorism Co-coordinator in charge of Defence Intelligence for the Ministry of Defence (2001–2002) since when he has been a freelance author, commentator and defence and military history author.
Tucker-Jones lives in Barnstaple in Devon.
Subject: Military History
Format: Hardback, glued spine
Region: Germany, rest of the World
Topic: Wars, tanks, history
Year of publication: 2020
lists of plates
Part 1: Designing Tractors
Chapter 1: Goodbye Versailles
Chapter 2: Going farming
Chapter 3: We Need a Tank Killer
Chapter 4: A Blind Alley
Chapter 5: A Tank Killer Par Excellence
Chapter 6: Bring Me a Tiger
Chapter 7: I Want a T-34
Part II: Off to War
Chapter 8: Blitzkrieg Babies
Chapter 9: Panzers in North Africa
Chapter 10: Panzers on the Steppe
Chapter 11: Failure at Kursk
Chapter 12: An Italian Sideshow
Chapter 13: Panzers in Normandy
Part III Sturmgeschutz Not Panzers
Chapter 14: Fiddling While Rome Burns
Chapter 15: Firmly on the Defensive
Part IV Wasted Opportunities
Chapter 16: The Last Hurrah
Chapter 17: To the Bitter End
Chapter 18: No Wonder Weapon
A. Panzer, Assault Gun and Tank Destroyer Production
B. Panzer and Panzergrenadier Divisions
C. Panzer I Variants
D. Panzer II Variants
E. Panzer III Variants
F. Panzer IV Variants
G. Tiger I and II Variants
H. Panther Variants
The book from Pen & Sword is about the history of the German panzer tanks, from the Panzer I & II right up to and including the Panther. The Panzer I & II were designed to get around the limitations of the Treaty of Versailles although in the background it was the bigger panzers, the III & IV that would not have passed the treaty. The British and French knew in the mid 1930's that Hitler's Germany had Panzers but chose to ignore the impending danger. After all, at the time there were much more impressing matters such as the Spanish Civil War and the Japanese invasion of China.
Poland, like Britain and France, had a proud cavalry tradition but was much slower in acknowledging that the day of the horse as a weapon of war was almost over. Polish intelligence knew the Germans had panzers but wrongly believed these were dummies made of wood and cardboard. The Poles had tanks but not enough of them so it was left to the dashing cavalry to try to stop Hitler's Blitzkrieg in September 1939.Their swords and lances had little impact on armour plate, they were massacred and Poland's armies were swiftly surrounded and overwhelmed.
Whilst the Panzer IV proved to be Hitler's rock throughout the Second World War, during opening stages of the conflict the more numerous Panzer III acted as his beast of burden. It was in the service of Rommel's tough Afrika Korps that the Panzer III is perhaps best remembered. For a time, it provided Rommel with a stand-off kill capability that the British could not match, although ultimately it was Rommel's towed anti-tank guns that proved the greatest threat to British armour.
The myth of the invincible Tiger was developed over time, with it being considered the deadliest tank of the Second World War, at the time British and American tankers developed 'Tiger anxiety'. The reality is somewhat different, with only 1,354 Tiger 1s and around 500 Tiger II's ever built they were never going to make anything more than a local impact on the conduct of the war. In contrast, the Panzer III/IV, M4 Sherman and T-34 were produced in the tens of thousands. Almost 6,000 Panzer V Panthers were manufactured and this was an immediate contemporary of the Tiger. Variants of the Tiger were built in even more limited numbers: there were only seventy-two Jagdtigers, eighteen Sturmpanzers and ninety Jagdpanzer Elefants. Recovery vehicles consisted of just three bergepanzer Tiger I and three Bergepanzer Elefant.
The German High Command, without doubt, squandered its opportunities with the Tigers. Rather than equip an entire Panzer division with it, the Tigers were dissipated into penny packets amongst the German Army and Waffen-SS. Because there were so few of them they were formed into independent tank battalions that gave a very powerful tactical blow but lacked a greater strategic punch.
The Tiger's role at Kursk: 'the spearhead of the wedge was formed by the heaviest tanks, and the Tigers proved their worth against the Russian anti-tank fronts organised in-depth' While the Tiger may have done sterling work, the reality was that it was unable to completely cut through the Soviet defences or help stave off Hitler's inevitable defeat at Kursk. Instead, it was compelled to cover the German retreat.
Ultimately it was a handful of extremely tough German tank aces such as Johannes Bolter, Otto Carius, Kurt Knispel, Martin Schroif and Michael Wittman who achieved incredible success with the Tiger against remarkable odds that sealed the tank's all-pervading reputation. It was the likes of Micheal Wittman who fearlessly knocked out enemy tank after enemy tank that erroneously convinced many Allied tankers that the Tiger was all but invincible. Wittmann's eventual death signalled that this was not the case.
The text flows well and has some pictures which I have not seen before, however, my thought was I wished there were a lot more pictures showing some of the subtle changes during the designing and testing phase. It is clear to me that the Tiger 1 if it had been moved forward in the planning and production phase thus producing many more and having full Panzer divisions of Tigers instead of smaller packets spread between some Panzer and Waffen-SS divisions the outcome of Operation Barbarossa may have been a win and not a loss. The whole outcome of the war could have been different.
Anthony Tucker-Jones has delivered a book that gives you a complete history of the German Panzer tanks from 1933 to 1945 each one giving plenty of detail about its design completion it's faults and good points, from the Panzer I, Panzer II, Panzer III, Panzer IV, Panzer V Panther, Tiger I and Tiger II.
This title from Pen & Sword is very well written by the author Anthony Tucker-Jones it was very easy to pick up and read and quite hard to put down. It is filled with fascinating details, some of them opened my eyes. I enjoyed this book from Pen & Sword I find military history very interesting and this fits this type of interests, there are some pictures and what there is, are very good some of them I have not seen personally before. Is it a book for modellers, depends on the individual though I am a modeller and love the history, if similar to me then you will enjoy this title. But it is a book that people interested in the German Panzers, military history are going to enjoy.
Highs: An easy read, fascinating details without out being overwhelming.Lows: Not enough pictures. Verdict: A great book that covers what its title says. recommended for all people with an interest in the German Panzer tanks.
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