A recent addition to my Panther library is this book by Thomas Anderson. Anderson is not new to the subject and has already published a book on the Panther for Concord’s ‘Armor at war’ series (no. 7006). In this post I’ll do a quick review of the book so that you know if you should buy it or not 😉
There is something that got me excited about this book right from the get-go: the author decided not to draw from secondary literature, but instead put a heavy focus on original war-time literature and archived documents. As I expected, throughout the book statements are backed up or made clear using excerpts from official documents. Here and there you will also find data tables drawn directly from the archives. When I first considered picking up this book I realised there were two copies around, a German and an English version. Since the English version has more pages I was convinced it was an updated copy (and otherwise a better bang for the buck) so I decided in favour of this version.
As I already mentioned, the author is not new to the subject of the Panther (or tanks for that matter) and has a preference for good research and original sources. That is also why it struck me that the text is riddled with errors. These errors are not limited to simple typos such as “Durbruchswagen” – which should obviously read Durchbruchswagen -, but there are more fundamental errors as well.
Long story short: I stopped reading after three chapters and decided to pick up the German copy to see if this was any better. Turns out that most (if not all) errors can be attributed to the sloppy translation job done by Osprey! In general I think that the translation doesn’t quite carry over the slight nuances from the original. Moreover, in some places the translator has misinterpreted some statements leading to weird or incorrect translations. Lack of knowledge of technical jargon on the translator’s side is also evident: translating “Verzahnung der Panzerung” to “Cast type armour” is just plain wrong. Verzahnung is the German application of dovetail interlocks in armour plates and does not have anything to do with casting.
Here is a short passage from the English version to illustrate why I dislike it so much:
“The engine block for the HL 210 had been cast aluminium, that for the P30 was made from more robust cast iron. (…) The PzKpfw VI Tiger was to be fitted with the more powerful HL 230 P45. (sic)”
The problem here is twofold. First, the P30 is assumed to be fundamentally different from the HL 210 and additionally there is the assumption that the P45 is more powerful than the P30. In reality the P30 and P45 are different configurations for either the Panther or Tiger which existed for both the HL 210 as well as the HL 230. Unsurprisingly, the German version does get all of this right. For the English version the translator fails to grasp the nuance and completely misses the point time and time again.
After comparing the English and German versions with each other I can confirm that the content is 99% the same. The English version certainly has more – and in many cases also larger – images. This is also why the German version only counts 160 pages whereas its counterpart has a whopping 224 pages. The difference in page count is mainly due to the fact the English book uses a large font and the lay-out is messier – thanks to the larger images. The amount of images in the book is good and they are chosen well to depict the topic at hand. Many of the images are well known and have been published before – especially readers of Nürnberg’s Panzer Factory will recognise a good amount of images. It should be noted that the German edition is more polished in its lay-out overall.
Now, back to the content of the book itself: the book has a clear and well thought out structure, beginning at operation Barbarossa, the invasion of Russia, all the way through to the battle of Kursk where the Panther was first deployed. The problems with the existing tank types and how they needed to cope with new Soviet tanks are discussed after which the requirements for a new tank are clearly laid out. Additionally, a technical description of the Panther is given and its variants are discussed. In the following chapters the organisation of Panthers units is also treated using many diagrams and imagery of KStN (Kriegsstärkenachweisungen; unit organisation diagrams). Finally, the last chapters deal with combat performance of the Panther and gives comparisons of the Panther’s performance to that of its contemporaries (Sherman, T-34, IS-2 and the lot). Especially the included combat reports are a very nice addition.
It is a shame that the reference list is lacking information for the archival records that have been consulted. I find it disappointing that only the names of the visited archives (NARA and BIWA) have been listed while any additional information has been omitted. On the other hand, some highly regarded works on tanks completely lack references and still are regarded as authoritative (how can that be?). If sources do not bother you, the book is still great and packed with wonderful information.
In conclusion I think this book is definitely worth the read. It is nice to see an author who not solely relies on secondary literature, but instead takes his time to dig through archives and tries to add something new to the existing scope of literature. My final recommendation would be to buy the English version if you like to browse through the book and look at some images of the Panther. If you are very picky – like me – and like to own a copy of the book which is also more or less technically correct you should really go and get the German version. An added requirement in the last case is, however, that you’ll need to be able to read German 😛
Panzer V Panther by Thomas Anderson (German)
Publisher: GeraMond Verlag, München
Published: November 2016
Panther by Thomas Anderson (English)
Publisher: Osprey Publishing, Oxford
Published: September 2017
Price: €22, UK £20, US $30, CAN $40,