Nik Cornish
This is a very well-written book from the “Images of War” series by Pen and Sword. It covers the period 1941 to 1943 and describes the various manoeuvres and strategies of the Soviet Army and the Axis forces ranged against them.

The text accompanying every chapter is extremely enlightening about all the sometimes quite complicated moves and counter-moves involved and makes a fine job of bringing the whole theatre of war alive again. For those not familiar with the campaigns mentioned, I would recommend taking an atlas to hand (as I did) in order to be able to follow the numerous movements on what was an immense battlefield, since there is so much information given about towns and cities under siege, conquered, re-taken, etc that it can become a little confusing. One of the very positive aspects of the book is that the pictures accompanying each chapter correspond very closely to the narrative of the text. As such, they serve as a complementary element in visually explaining what exactly went on during that particular part of the campaign. In particular, I was very impressed with the way in which the weather was given front-ranking as an important constituent of the warfare being waged.

Many of the rare pictures in the book are of a quite brutal nature and show war as it really is, and not as Hollywood often likes to depict it in a romanticised way. In combination with the descriptions of the colossal loss of life on both sides, this serves to present the war on the eastern front in all its stark ferocity and ruthlessness.

In all, a very powerful book that adds further to the knowledge of what happened on the eastern front and how it wasn’t just a matter of the Axis forces simply advancing and then having to retreat, but rather a continual hither and yon, with the weather, bad/good luck and the inevitable mistakes of both high commands and their influence on events given their respective due, with copious explanations as to how such mistakes impacted on procedures on the ground.

The narrative is very clear and easy to follow at all times, but, as already stated, I would recommend consulting an atlas of the area so that the troop movements of both sides can be more easily followed and understood in the correct context. As with all (or most) books from the otherwise very fine “Images of War” series, this book too lacks any maps at all. Notwithstanding that, and even without the help of an atlas of the area, the book is outstanding, not only for the detailed explanations in the narrative, but also for the selection of pictures used to accompany it and the way in which they fit so seamlessly into the storyline of each chapter.

For those with a particular interest in “Operation Barbarossa” (the German invasion of the Soviet Union) this book has to be a “must”. I would therefore have no hesitation in recommending it, not only for those specialists, but also in general.

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