|CASEMATE - Panzergrenadier Divisions 1939-45|
Rob Matthews takes a look at this essential vehicle identification guide...
Panzergrenadier Divisions 1939-45
Publisher: Amber Books
Supplier: Casemate Publishing
Author: Chris Bishop
Hardback, 192 pages
Well as the old phrase goes – it does pretty much what it says on the tin. A hard-backed, slightly smaller than A4 sized book 192 pages long, that sets out to list and describe in reasonably full detail each of Germanys wartime army Panzergrenadier divisions.
The book is set out in 3 main chapters:
Early Motorized divisions
Wartime Motorized divisions
The book is attractively laid out in modular style that includes boxes indicating unit insignia, tables listing equipment and art illustrations depicting a very wide range of German military hardware including softskins, armoured vehicles, tanks and artillery. Alongside each vehicle there is a brief description of type and a separate specification listings box. The vehicles are particularly nicely represented in a variety of camouflage schemes spanning all points of the war from 1939-45. There are one or two schemes depicted that I personally haven’t come across before and might stretch historical accuracy (a 234/4 in Panzer grey with Rotbraun disruptive stripes?) but hey, were you there? There is certainly a lot here to inspire new modelling subjects and there is some particularly nice renditions of halftracks especially the (topical) SdKfz 10/5.
Interspersed with all of the above are photographs relevant to the text, two of which are colour.
The books introduction sets out the logical creation of motorized infantry divisions that came to be known as Panzergrenadier divisions that directly arose from Heinz Guderian’s concept of highly mobile warfare or Blitzkrieg. In 1940 despite the blistering success of motorized troops that successfully occupied much of western Europe the bulk of the German army was still largely horse-drawn. By Operation Barbarossa and the invasion of Russia the number of motorized units had expanded considerably. Subsequent defeats largely in Russia but also North Africa saw many of these motorized divisions destroyed.
Post Stalingrad a major reorganisation of the German army saw most of these motorized infantry divisions reformed and redesignated as Panzergrenadier, or armoured infantry formations .The original intention had been for these to be conveyed in armoured halftracks but due to wartime production attrition the majority remained truck borne. Panzer grenadier divisions typically comprised six battalions of infantry (one with halftracks), a battalion of tanks and supportive elements such as artillery, reconnaissance assets, combat engineers, anti-tank, anti aircraft and divisional support units. Towards war-end, StuG assault vehicles tended to replace tanks due to their ease and relative cheapness of construction
The book describes each named or numbered division and provides a history from inception to demise. Taking the 60th Infantry Division (mot) as a random example, its formation is covered in summary detail with its wartime deployment covered as separate sub-headings. For the 60th Infantry Division these included:
France & Yugoslavia, May 1940-April 194
Southern Russia, 1941-1942
Stalingrad, August 1942 – January 1943
After its near destruction at Stalingrad, the 60th was reformed as the Feldherrnhalle Division and Corps. This unit in turn was considerably weakened fighting in Hungary and its remnants became a Panzer Corps, Panzer-Division Feldherrnhalle 1 which by May 1945 disintegrated, its survivors surrendering to the Americans in southern Austria.
The history is interspersed with Divisional organisation details from different years that appear in text boxes as do unit insignia and vehicles numbers. Divisional vehicles pertinent to the campaigns are illustrated alongside.
The book is particularly useful in providing narratives such as that of the above, that chart the often bewildering changes of names and forms that units underwent during the chaos of the final months of the war as they reformed due to crushing defeats and depleted numbers.
Finally by way of appendices there is an extensive listing of Sd.Kfz., Sonderkraftfahrzeug or 'Special Purpose Motor Vehicle' definitions, Kfz., Kraftfahrzeug or 'Powered vehicle' definitions and a page depicting Motorized symbols.
This is not an obvious sit down and read cover to cover book. It is however a concise and easy to use reference book relating to the wartime histories of Germany’s army Panzergrenadier divisions. It details how they often mutated into different formations following defeat and decimation. It is logically laid out and information is well presented. The depiction of wartime vehicles is attractively done and the whole book is visually very pleasing. It lends itself to the needs of modellers in quickly detailing where specific Panzergrenadier Divisions fought and operated. I understand that there is a companion book by the same author that similarly presents Wehrmacht Panzer Divisions. I’ll be seeking it out. Recommended.
My thanks to CASEMATE PUBLISHING for the review sample.