Most modellers have some German armour from World War 2 in their collection of models, and some of us go onto to wanting to learn a bit about how these vehicles were used and where. My interests lay in the Battle of the Bulge with the tank battles at Kursk coming a close second. Mark Healy a local author in the Southern Counties of England has produced a great number of books covering everything from specific vehicles to the battles they took part in. Mark Healy’s latest offering looks at the tanks battles fought on the Kursk Salient during World War 2 and saw Germany’s last assaulting fight, after which the war turned for them and became a long list of retreats.
This latest offering from Mark Healy is a meaty tome that should provide many hours of reading material and provide plenty of information on the Kursk tank battles. This offering is a paperback and I hope that it becomes available as a hard backed offering as it is very much worthy of that addition. This offering has 399 pages and I struggle to understand how Mark managed to get so much into that number of pages. Despite this being a paper backed book offering I was very pleased to see that this offering has the pages stitched in place rather than glued. The book is laid out as follows:
Maps Part One: Why Kursk
1. The Fuhrer and the Field Marshall
2. What is to be done?
3. The case for a mobile strategy-Manstein’s backhand option
4. The Fuhrer’s agenda
5. Enter Zeitzler
6. Operational orders numbers 5 and 6
7. The view from the Kremlin
8. The role of Enigma and Lucy
9. The decision and the plan
10. The ‘Citadel’
11. Air power and the role of the partisans
12. Know thine enemy
13. Delay after delay.....
14. ...... After delay
15. The German plan
16. The role of the Luftwaffe
Part Two-The Armies
17. A ‘NEW’ Red Arm
18. Soviet industry and lend lease
19. The Ostheer on the eve of Zitadelle
20. The Waffen SS at Kursk
Part Three: Chariots of Fire – The Tanks at Kursk
21. A neglected and much abused instrument
22. December 1942 – the state of Panzer and AFV production
23. I need you – the return of Guderian
24. The ‘Wonder Weapons’
25. The workhorses
26. Armour and fire power
27. Tank design, crew efficiency and training
28. Tactics, terrain and weather
Part Four: the Battle of Kursk: 4 July – 11 July 1943
29. The overture: Thursday 1 – Sunday 4 July 1943
30. The offensive begins: Monday 5 July – Army Group South
31. Monday 5 July – Army Group Centre, Ninth Army
32. Tuesday 6 July – Army Group South
33. Wednesday 7 July
34. Thursday 8 July – 4th Panzer Army
35. Thursday 8, Friday 9 and Saturday 10 July – Ninth Army
36. Friday 9 and Saturday 10 July – 4th Panzer Army
37. Why Prokhorovka? A misinterpretation
38. 10 July – SS Panzer Corps and III Panzer Corps
39. Sunday 11 July – Headquarters: Army Detachment Kempf
40. Sunday 11 July – 4th Panzer Army, Voronezh Front and 48th Panzer Corps
Part Five: the Battle for Prokhorovka 12-17 July: Spectacle without Profit
41. Monday 12 July – The tank battle at Prokhorovka
42. Monday 12 July – From the railway embankment southward through to Belenikhino
43. Monday 12 July – north of the Psel and East of the Donets
44. The real tank losses
45. Tuesday 13 July – 5th Guards Tank Army, SS Panzer Corps and III Panzer Corps
46. 10-14 July – the view from Rastenburg
47. 14-17 July – ‘Operation Roland’
Part Six: Conclusion
48. Costs and consequences
Appendix 1 German Army order of battle
Appendix 2 Soviet Army order of battle
Appendix 3 German and Soviet aircraft
Appendix 4 German and Soviet tank types
Appendix 5 other weaponry
As you can see from the sections and chapters listed above the author has really dug into the topic and endeavoured to provide the reader with a broad understanding of the subject matter from inception to termination and everything in between. Due to the subject matter this is not one of those books that bounces along as it provides a great deal of information and in many cases going into the minutia of detail covering very specific detail on the aspects of this area of battle. I will admit here and now that I have not been able to read this book page by page and get a review out in a reasonable time period, but I have learnt a great deal of information from the difficulty the Germans had in finding mines that had been placed in wooden caskets to the effective ranges that German guns engaged and penetrated the Soviet armour in the field and of course the Soviet defences that were in place.
The author has approached this subject in a very neutral manner and that can in some cases make the text very dry to read, but in support of this approach I found it provided a very high level of information by being approached in this manner by the author it enabled the information provided to be taken in and stored by the reader. Something this book makes clear is that the Tiger 1 tank had the same psychological effect on the Soviets as it did with Allied troops in the west, its appearance in front of the enemy created a wave of fear in those tasked with holding the line. Another aspect of the Tiger 1 is that the Soviets claimed 250 Tigers burnt out in the first day. It is stated that between the 5th and the 17th July only 13 of the Tiger 1 tanks were lost, this number being far lower than even I believed had been destroyed. The author puts forward a possible explanation for this highly exaggerated number in that the Panzer IV’s with the large Schürzen plates could have been mistaken for the tiger 1.
The author has presented the book in a very pleasing style to me; this offering is very much a book to read but Mark Healy has added a good number of period black & white photographs with good captions to add visual reference as well. My biggest appreciation of these photographs is that many appear to have been taken in the field by the men there to fight rather than propaganda images which by their very nature are designed to present a false presentation of the situation. Also provided are a good number of full colour artworks and while most of these are the standard side on view I am very pleased to see some of these presented more as a print style being from visually pleasing angles and for that matter a style I would happily hang in a frame on the wall.
This offering from Mark Healy is a book I recommend to anyone with an interest in the battles that took place in July 1943 and known by most as the Kursk tank battle. This offering goes into great depth on all aspects of the battles that took place during that dark period of World War 2 looking at the build up through to the consequences of the operation. I can only make two complaints about this offering and one of them is that I wish this had been a hard backed offering as it is more than worthy of being such; the other is that as someone who wears glasses I would have liked a larger font as it restricted how long I could sit and read for, however this is no weekend light reading material and so I appreciate that the demands of the content must have had a lot to do with the font size used. So as can be seen by my conclusion the only negatives are related to wishes on my part to do with getting older and what I feel the book is worthy of; the contents on the other hand are first rate being exceptionally well written and presented and that is before you consider the very good value at £18.99.
Darren Baker gets a chance to look at the latest offering from Mark Healey titled 'Zitadelle the German Offensive against the Kursk Salient 4-17 July 1943'.
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About Darren Baker (CMOT) FROM: ENGLAND - SOUTH WEST, UNITED KINGDOM
I have been building model kits since the early 70’s starting with Airfix kits of mostly aircraft, then progressing to the point I am at now building predominantly armour kits from all countries and time periods. Living in the middle of Salisbury plain since the 70’s, I have had lots of opportunitie...