The PZL.23 Karas is one of those planes designed in the mid '30s that saw combat during WW2 because there was nothing better at hand. Polish author Tomasz J. Kopanski has written a book about this Polish reconnaissance-bomber and reconnaissance aircraft that is available in English by Mushroom Model Publications.
Published August 2004, the book has a softcover with profiles of two Karas on the front. It's format is 240X165 mm (B5) and it has 144 pages in total, mainly in black & white except for the profiles. The quality of the satin paper is good and I found no print issues.
The book is divided into three main parts:
1 - History
2 - Detail photos & plans
3 - Colour profiles
The historical part starts with the development of the aircraft and covers the design modifications from the first prototypes to the last version, the PZL.23B, which was the most produced. There are pictures and plans of the following versions:
- PZL.23/I (first prototype)
- PZL.23/II (second prototype)
- PZL.23/III (third prototype)
- PZL.23/IV (Karas prototype with twin fins)
- PZL.23B (early series)
- PZL.23B (late series)
A brief passage is devoted to the Bulgarian export version of the Karas as well.
The operational use of the PZL.23 is then related from the pre-war period until the Polish Campaign in 1939. In the pre-war part of the book, you can find many pictures of the medium bomber used in training conditions.
As soon a you reach the "German Invasion of Poland in 1939" chapter, you almost only see pictures of crashed and wrecked planes, often with German soldiers posing around! The Karas suffered from heavy losses in the early stages of the war and this is well depicted and narrated in the text. All units using the PZL attack-bomber have an individual chapter with detailed operations reports and crew member names in most cases. By reading these chapters, you can only be impressed by the courage of the Polish pilots!
The foreign service "career" of the plane ends the historical part of the book. The Karas was used by the Bulgarians (export version) and the Romanians (Polish planes that escaped in 1939). In all, the historical part makes half of the total pages of the book.
2 - Detailed photos & plans
This part of the book has 3-view drawings, cross sections plans, detail drawings and pictures for every variant of the plane. Unfortunately there is no scale mentioned. The plans are of good quality and well printed.
The detail photos are all black & white. The reason is they are excerpts of the technical, operating and maintenance manuals. The details photos cover the following areas of the plane: fuselage, engine, cockpit, instrument panel, bomb-aimer position, radio, tail & rudder, undercarriage, wings, armament etc...
There are no modern colour pictures of a preserved or restored plane.
3 - Colour profiles
At the end of the book you'll find the usual profiles. In this case there are profiles for 25 aircrafts, most of them showing all the sides of the plane. 13 Polish planes are represented, as well as 5 Romanian ones, 5 Bulgarian ones and one captured Karas in German markings. The profiles are computer generated and of good quality.
Some planes are attractive for WW2 modellers simply because they are so ugly and anachronistic. The PZL.23 Karas is one of them and the book published by Mushroom Model Publications is quite complete and detailed. The sum of pictures, plans and profiles makes it the perfect source of information for any modeler wanting to build a model of this aircraft. What? There's no kit available for the PZL.23? Well, not quite right! You have the Heller kit in 1/72 that Smer also reboxed... and... and... hopefully a 1/48 kit in the near future by Mirage Hobby! I'm already waiting for it!
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As I received the opportunity to choose a book from Mushroom Publications, I decided to go for the PZL.23 Karas. Despite the fact it is not a common subject for model builders (but this could change soon), the plane played an important and dramatic role in the early days of WW2, paying a heavy price to the Luftwaffe's air superiority during the Poland campaign.