Tuesday 10 March 2020

Book Review: German Army Regulation on the Medium Tank Company

Most of my readers are likely aware of the YouTube channel Military History Visualized (and its audio-only companion, Military History Not Visualized). Bernhard Kast, the man behind the scenes, teamed up with another prolific historian, Christoph Bergs, who runs Military Aviation History. Together, they broke into a new genre: print. Bernhard was kind enough to send me a copy of the book to review.

As the cover suggests, this is a translation of the German army manual on commanding a medium tank company. However, this is a much more interesting project than a mere translation. As the introduction states, German, especially military terms from the 1940s, do not neatly translate into the English language. Great effort is taken in order to both preserve the spirit of the original and deliver the intended meaning to the reader. Additions are clearly marked with square brackets and footnotes are extensively used. Formatting is preserved whenever possible (down to the pages left blank in the original), but full width print characters that were used for emphasis were replaced with italics. Footnotes are widely used to clear up potential misunderstandings. Footnotes from the original are also preserved. The German version (each German page and its English counterpart are presented side by side) is not as widely annotated, but referenced to the German language glossary is also provided. Diagrams included in the manual are translated as well: an original German diagram and one with all the labels translated into English are shown side by side, as with other pages. 

The format of the book should be familiar to anyone who has read a field manual. Descriptions begin from the individual and work their way to larger and larger groups: starting with the individual crewmen, their duties, required training, and even character traits that each should possess, up to the operation of an individual tank, then a tank platoon, then a tank company. Since this is a company manual, this section has the most content: nearly 20 pages compared to 5-6 for each other section. This section teaches you what the company did when attacking, defending, marching, undergoing repairs, and many other situations encountered in war.

The core of the manual is followed by appendices. These include explanations for symbols used in the text, tables of organization, flag signals, and an extensive guide to overcoming anti-tank obstacles.

The original manual ends here, but this book continues. Included is a full list of referenced regulations with explanations of what they are, a glossary, more tables of organization, a matrix of equivalent tanks for the US Army and Red Army at the time the manual was published, a brief description with tactical characteristics and line drawings of the tanks mentioned in the manual, and a list of primary and secondary sources used. This list is quite extensive: as mentioned before, this is not a mere translation of a German manual, but a painstakingly composed original work.

The book consists of a total of 132 pages (remember, each page is reproduced in English and German) of thick high quality paper, making for more than a pocket sized book. Each diagram and graphic is printed in high resolution. As with the original, there are no photos in this book, but I never found it to be lacking in the visualization department.

I can wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in armoured warfare in WWII. While it's unlikely to guide you to victory on a digital (I hope) battlefield, these kinds of manuals allow you to understand the spirit of the time and see WW2 era tank warfare from a fresh perspective. 

You can purchase a copy by following this link.

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