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Book Review
Panzer Gunner
Panzer Gunner From my Native Canada to the German Ostfront and Back
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by: Darren Baker [ CMOT ]


This offering from Helion Company covers the story of a Canadian of German ancestry who was taken back to Germany by his father who believed it would result in a better education. With Adolf Hitler in charge war was around the corner and resulted in a young Canadian fighting in the German Army. This book leads you through the days of Bruno Friesen taken to Germany by his father and enlistment in 1943 after being called up. What follows is a story of a man fighting in the German army as part of the 25th Panzer Regiment, 7th panzer division 1944 - 45.


This book is a hard backed offering authored by Bruno Friesen. The hard cover protects 220 pages of text and has a nicely printed frontage. The book is laid out chronologically as a story rather than a diary entry format. This approach has enabled the story of Bruno Friesen to flow rather than stop and start and it makes reading the book a more pleasing pastime and I found myself reading far more at a stretch than I had intended.

The contents of this offering are laid out as follows:
1. Shipped out to Germany
2. A stranger in Deutschland
3. My first six months of military service
4. 1943 A year of panzer barracks and intermittent absences
5. Becoming and being a panzer gunner
6. Encounters: Travels with and without a Panzer IV
7. Panzer battle at Suceava in Northern Romania early in April 1944
8. Tank warfare in Southern Lithuania in July of 1944
9. In the land of the Lithuanians: Panzer men away from the front
10. Commentary on the battle line Avowal of the soldiers of the 7th panzer division
11. Narrations associated with panzer men in East Prussia
12. Reminiscences regarding soldiers’ songs, marching songs and decorations day
13. The Jagdpanzer IV
14. Driving the Jagdpanzer IV: avoiding transmission abuse
15. The Jagdpanzer IV in winter warfare in West Prussia
16. Some historical details about the 7th panzer division and wounded
17. Making do in post war Germany
18. Back in Canada
19. Married in the absence of close relatives
20. Acquiring a formal education and teaching English at college
21. My retirement and volunteer with the Canadian War Museum

The book begins by covering the events as remembered by a young Bruno, his father taking all the children down to New York and travelling on the Europa to Bremerhaven leaving New York on March 22nd 1939. His life is then covered as his family is brought back together and doing an apprenticeship as an electrician prior to being called up to serve. I found this section a very well thought out inclusion in the book as it shows the mind set at that time. This section also provides an insight into a man ripped from the home he knew and taken to what he considered a foreign land.

The book for the most part covers his life in a training camp and has its hard and funny aspects told before moving onto armour. I am sure that most of you are looking forward to this section the most and while I found it an interesting read covering quite a few aspects of panzer operations I feel the story as a whole has equal appeal; think of it as picking one strawberry from a punnet when you can have them all. It is interesting reading about how panzer grenadiers are used in conjunction with tanks, and how those combined arms achieve what individually could not be done. I will admit that that the highs and lows of battle as told by Bruno Friesen are enlightening in many respects, but I particularly enjoyed reading about his interactions with crew members and the people around them.

His efforts in getting back home after the war to Canada is an interesting aspect of the book that I cannot recall having read about previously in this format. Taking into account that he considered Canada to be his home and then fighting with the German army against Canadian troops and their Allies results in my having mixed emotions, I can understand his desire to return home but the opinions of him especially amongst those who lost family and friends would make this a difficult proposition in all regards. He was lucky as the Canadians considered him a native Canadian and he returned in 1950 to mixed emotions. He did get a job in a tyre factory; he was lucky as he did not have a General Service War Service Badge given to all returning Canadian troops and that forced employers to give them preferential consideration, Bruno not having this and due to his age faced hard questions that resulted in no offers. When retired a talk at the Canadian War Museum resulted in Bruno being asked to became a volunteer with the Canadian War Museum.


Anybody that knows me knows I like reading about those that served in World War 2 preferably in their own words, this book hits all of the marks for me. I like the presentation style where the book is written in the style of the man’s story rather than a list of dates as it add a great flow to the book that found me reading far more than intended at each sitting. The old saying states that German WW2 sells and for those whose interest runs a little deeper than just the model will have to buy this book.
Darren Baker looks at a book release from Helion and Company titled 'Panzer Gunner From my Native Canada to the German Ostfront and Back' that tells the life story of Bruno Friesen, a Canadian who ended up in the German army of WW2 as a Panzer gunner.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: ISBN 9781912866045
  Suggested Retail: £25.00
  PUBLISHED: Aug 01, 2019

Our Thanks to Casemate Publishing!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Darren Baker (CMOT)

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...

Copyright ©2020 text by Darren Baker [ CMOT ]. All rights reserved.


Darren, thanks a lot for the review - this sounds fascinating on all kinds of levels, not just concerning the employment of armor. I‘ll certainly be picking up a copy. Jerry
AUG 01, 2019 - 06:02 PM
Thanks for your review Darren. I read the paperback from Stackpole a few years ago and thereby learned a bit about tank gunnery! The bits that were the most interesting to me: playing cat and mouse with T-34s in a Panzer IV, and using the Jagdpanzer IV in an ambush situation, taking full advantage of the L/70 against a JS-2. What made me wonder, though, was how quick they were to abandon a tank and blow it up with a demolition charge, even after suffering only minor damage. In contrast to their Soviet counterparts, German tanks were few and precious. Yet, in one instance, the main gun having been damaged, the tank commander ordered the tank to be abandoned. Apparently he thought their chance of survival higher on foot than in a defenseless tank?
AUG 01, 2019 - 06:45 PM
I also wondered about tank destruction especially as it meant most of the rounds for the MG34 had to be left in the destroyed tank.
AUG 01, 2019 - 08:18 PM
Fascinating story here with a local twist: first came across the story several years back when this was a featured Military Book Club offering. Really need to track down a copy and finally read the whole thing.
AUG 02, 2019 - 09:14 AM

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