This is another book in the superb Pen and Sword collection Images of War. The author David MitchelHill Green has a masters degree in history and writes for a number of magazines and papers. He has searched the globe for lost military stories which has been the basis for photographic investigations on which some of his magazine work has been based.
- David MitchelHill - Green
The "star" of this book however is Walter Grimm a professional photographer who was conscripted into the German Army and served 1941 - 1943 in the Ukraine. We are told that Grimm's record of that period is presented here in it's entirety for the first time.
As often in this series the front cover sets a striking indicator of what we can expect inside the book.The main picture is a MG34 crew set up in what looks to be a defensive position with belt inserted and stick grenades to hand. A third man has his K98 in the shoulder and all three look ready for action.
The book itself is 175 pages long with most pages containing two sometimes three photo's. Walter Grimm's photography combined with MitchelHill's clear concise writing takes us from training in chapter one "Preparing for War" to Chapter nine "The dead and the decorated"
Using Grimm's photographic record you can almost see how the campaign is being fought from the looks on the faces of his fellow soldiers.
We open with smiling soldiers in training and preparing for war and close with stern faced soldiers celebrating Christmas knowing they are on the retreat.
Each page has simple but interesting and in some cases powerful facts from the author and he has clearly researched his work even down to the point of accompanying a picture of a 1932 Ford BB with the statement that the curved headlights were straightened out on the 1937 model. Each fact is concise; for instance Hitler's 1933 decision to motorize the army led to the deterioration of the railways which would prove costly when you've an extended supply chain.
Fascinating facts such as some of the German Army maps were poor quality with one officer complaining that his map dated from 1870 captured Russian maps were described as "toilet paper" having no markings and villages frequently shared the same name which meant units missed target or simply got lost.
The Ukrainians held a deep seated hatred of Stalin but the Germans failed to capitalise on this instead Hitler's hatred of the inferior Eastern People led to mass deportations and suffering unparalleled in any other European Country. Approximately 6.6 million Ukrainians or 30% of the population died of hunger and disease or killed by the Germans during the occupation with another 2.3 million deported to Germany as slave workers.
The Eastern front held a particular problem in that as fast as they advanced, not only did this stretch supply lines but weakened the Army by having more ground to defend. One senior Panzer officer stated the Army could be destroyed simply by winning.
By September 1941 almost 500,000 Germans soldiers and officers were officially listed as casualties.
Walter Grimm, without whom we would not have this book or these images, I'm glad to say made it from conscription in 1940 to the end of the war and died an old man in 2002 in Australia.
With current events in the Ukraine and Eastern States of Europe making news at the moment it might be worth £14:99 of your money just to remind yourself what that region has been through in the past. It's been said in order to view the future you must study the past; well I would suggest that this book is as good a place to start. Clear, concise, factual and easy to read it doesn't bog you down in technical jargon and chapters don't drag or lose content halfway through.
A highly recommended 5/5 from me and worthy of a slot on anyone's bookshelf.