German Tanks 1939-1945
Chris Ellis, Peter Chamberlain and John Batchelor (Illustrator)
64 pages
published in 1975

German Tanks 1939-1945 is part of the Purnell's History of the World War Special series, which was a series of magazine like books on the subject of warfare and warfare technology. It concentrated largely on World War II, though also had entries on more modern topics. As a series, it was squarely aimed at those 12 year old boys (rarely girls) who had models of Spitfires and Panzers in their bedroom. I loved them, in other words. Over the years I've collected quite a lot of them, both in Dutch translation as in the original English. I still find them to be worthwhile introductions to particular subjects, though these are somewhat obselete, all having come out in the mid to late seventies.

German Tanks 1939-1945, as it won't surprise you, takes as its subject the development of the infamous panzers of World War II. The other German armoured vehicles are described in a companion book: German Fighting vehicles 1939-1945.

All the major tank projects are described, from the early illegal experiments with "tractors" and cars dressed up as tanks during the Weimar republic to the monster tanks of the final days of the Reich, when there were plans in final stages of completion for tanks so heavily armed and armoured that they were mobile forts rather than real tanks.

This is not a book about how the tanks were handled in combat, but rather one that deals with the technical history and design of the German tanks. Each chapter looks at the history and design of one of the important tanks, with the emphasis on the design and how it came to be. This can be very dry at times, but fortunately each chapter is enlivened with a lot of artwork, done by the reputable John Batchelor, who has done a lot of these books. There are also a great many contemporary photos of the various tanks.

If you are interested in the technical side of German tank development, this is a good start, as it is written for the interested lay person, so neither too technical at first nor too popularly written. Good luck finding copies though; these are long out of print and secondhand copies can cost as much as twenty dollars (for something that sold for 70p!)

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Webpage created 05-12-2004, last updated 10-12-2004
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