I once again find myself reviewing another book in the excellent Pen and Sword Images of War series. I have to say I've so far enjoyed every book that I've had to review and this one doesn't disappoint.
- Anthony Tucker - Jones with Illustrations by Brian Delf.
Author Anthony Tucker-Jones we are informed by the rear of the book is a prolific writer on the history of fighting vehicles and armoured warfare.
He has also written extensively on military affairs and terrorism and is a freelance defence writer and military historian this comes after a career in the intelligence community. He clearly knows his stuff an writes in a factual no nonsense way and examines and approaches the subject with a great deal of knowledge.
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 Tiger 2 with a selection of other marks surrounding it. The jacket design is credited to Jon Wilkinson
An introduction section lays out in uncompromising language the truth about the Tiger ! & Tiger 2.
Ask anyone to name a tank the author states and invariably they will say Tiger.
He then goes on to say that frankly they were overrated, over engineered, time consuming to build, required raw materials that were in short supply, and difficult to recover from the battlefield.
That's not to say that this is some sort of hatchet job on the tanks or the men who served in them. It's a straight forward and honest look at both marks of the vehicle plus the various variants.
The author admits that when he was approached to write this book he was hesitant as he felt there was not much more that could be said about the most famous or infamous tank of World War 2. However the does recognise is was a tank killer par excellence it has been calculated that 1800 Tigers accounted for 9000 enemy tanks.
The book opens with a prologue subtitled Peashooters against Behemoths. It takes us to Bizerte, Tunisia where the first German Tiger tank are being unloaded at the docks.
Once on the quay the mechanics prepare her for a road move and the crew climb aboard.
The symbol of Nazi engineering sets off before promptly breaking down, a theme we will see recurring time and time again as we read on.
We read on page 150 that Otto Carius was given command of the 10 Jagdtigers that formed second company 501 Heavy Panzerjager Battalion 512.
Of the ten, one was lost to enemy fire, one was lost to friendly fire,eight were destroyed by their own crews after breaking down, they only achieved one kill an American tank.
However after this start we soon learn that the Tiger was placed up against some American Stuarts with their 37mm guns.
There is no doubting the bravery of the Americans who relate who the boom of their guns was soon replaced with a loud clang as the shell bounced off the Tiger.
The 88mm's of the Tiger soon answered back and the Stuarts were torn apart, a fate that soon befell their colleagues in Shermans and a Legend was born.
We then proceed through early development to the various marks and variants on the battlefields where the legend was born.
Using the photographic record you can almost see how the campaign is being fought.
Early on we see German crews in their vehicles but I would suggest that the majority of the photo's have allied soldiers on the vehicles as they have been abandoned due to mechanical failure or ran out of fuel.
There perhaps lies the theme of not only this book but the story of the Tiger.
The tide of war was begining to turn when it was introduced and ultimately Hitler and Germany lost the logistics war. Despite it's reputation only 1354 Tiger 1's and 500 Tiger 2's were ever built compare that to the thousands of Panzer IV's Shermans and T 34's.
We get to read about some of the astonishing scores credited to the Tiger aces such as Wittman, Blake, Carius, Knispel and others often with reports of the actions they took part in.
However as the author rightly notes the fame of the Tiger will live on in such films as Kelly's Heroes and Saving Private Ryan.
The book itself is 176 pages long with most pages containing two sometimes three photo's, combined with Tucker-Jones' clear concise writing takes us from “Henschel or Porsche“ in Chapter One to Chapter Ten, “Tiger stalking “ which is an in-depth look at how the allies learned to counter it using speed and also shows a nice look at the British 17 Pounder in anti tank form and how it was mounted on armoured vehicles.
There is also an epilogue which briefly explores the proposed big brother of the Tiger the “Maus“ which weighed almost 200 tons.
There are two other things I did enjoy about this latest book,
Responding to customer feedback the publishers have included far more text than usual in order to study the subject more in depth.
While this means there are less than the usual number of photo's it in no way reduces the enjoyment of the book.
The second item is an in-depth set of 14 illustrations showing the vehicles from early Tiger 1 through to Jagdtiger.
Each colour plate contains a brief explanation about the vehicle and shows the camouflage scheme used.
I hope it's a style that Pen and Sword will commit to in some of their future commissions.
I recommend this book to anyone in the Arrse community with an interest in the vehicles or wishing to learn about them.
5 stars from me