by: Bill Plunk [ ]
Originally published on:
IntroductionThe Panzerwaffe series by Ian Allan Publishing is a planned 10 volume set with each volume focusing on a specific area in the history and development of the German Panzerwaffe. The Series Editor is John Prigent and Volume Two: Campaigns in the West 1940 is written by Mark Healy, an accomplished academic and author of previous books on Kursk and Midway among other topics. According to the inside cover information, Mark is also a modeler as well as an author/academic.
The BookVolume Two measures 9” x 12” and consists of 96 pages printed on high quality glossy paper containing over 130 b/w and color photos as well as color plates, maps, and diagrams to support the text and has a sturdy scanner-friendly binding. The original photos are credited as being provided by John Prigent and in many cases are previously unpublished photos that have recently become available, including some photos of a Flak 18 in the pre-war 3-tone scheme that were acquired too late for inclusion in Volume One. The color plates are based on 1/35 scale drawings by Hillary Louis Doyle and Thomas Jentz and the maps included are from an original 1940 publication on the Battle of France titled “Uber Schlachtfelder vorwarts!” (Forward Over the Battlefield!) with full credits listed on page 2 as a Publisher’s Note.
This Volume, as with Volume One, does not have a Table of Contents or Index and is organized into several different section dealing with the 1940 Campaigns. Unlike Volume One, Volume Two’s sections are all authored by a single author, Mark Healy, vs. multiple authors and this produces a flow/consistency to the different sections that was missing in Volume One.
Introduction consists of 28 pages and contains 41 photos of various vehicles and equipment and 1 color plate on the Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf F. Picking up from where Volume One left off with The Polish Campaign, this section describes the evolution and development of Fall Gelb as battle plan against the West and the influence of von Manstein relative to the deployment of Panzer forces and their use. It also discusses the corresponding Allied strategy laid out prior to and executed in May 1940 to set the stage for the Battle of France. This section also includes a brief section on the invasion of Norway, an operation in which the Panzerwaffe had very little participation, and is most notable for its inclusion of 2 photos of the Neubaufahrzeug, something that was missing from Volume One when its development was talked about. The section also includes a detailed description of the state of the Panzerwaffe from October 1939-May 1940 including the conversion of Light Divisions into Panzer Divisions and the introduction of new types of equipment such as the Sdkfz 251 and StuG III. It also discusses in great detail the differences between German armor and French armor, comparing and evaluating things such as overall numbers and types, firepower, armor, mobility, and tactics and their resulting influences on the battles to come.
Sieg im Westen consists of 12 pages and contains 15 photos plus 1 color plate of a Panzerfampfwagen IV Ausf D and 1 color plate of a Kfz. 13. It describes the opening stages and execution of Fall Gelb beginning on May 10, 1940 and focuses in particular on the Battle of Hannut on May 12 and concludes with the events leading up to the Dutch surrender on May 15.
The Advance Through the Ardennes consists of 8 pages and contains 10 photos and 4 color plate views of a Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf B, the only vehicle so treated in this Volume. The text in this section is limited to just 2 pages and focuses on the success of the German deception in convincing the Allies that the main thrust would come elsewhere and the end result of setting the stage for the German victory at Sedan.
The Breakthrough at Sedan consists of 15 pages with 22 photos and 1 color plate of a Bruckenleger IVb. As the title suggests, the focus of this section is on the Battle of Sedan and the impact it had on the overall campaign. It includes a discussion on the failure of the French forces to deny the Germans crossings over the Meuse as well as the importance of the tank battle at Bulson in demonstrating the weaknesses of the French armor tactics and deployment vs. their superior vehicle armor and firepower in comparison to the German panzers.
Guderian Unleashed (Or Victory Through Insubordination) consists of 18 pages and 30 photos plus 1 color plate of a sIG33 (Sf) auf PzKpfw. I Ausf B (Bison I). This section focuses on the accomplishments of Guderian, highlighting them being achieved often in spite of limitations placed on him by superiors including Hitler himself, in relation to the famous Battle of Stonne and the drive for the Channel and the infamous “halt order” and delays before reaching the Channel coast. The section also includes a brief description of the 7. Panzer Division’s accomplishments under Rommel and the British counter-attack and resulting tank battle at Arras prior to the evacuation at Dunkirk ending this phase of the campaign.
Denouement-Fall Rot consists of 8 pages and 12 photos with 1 color plate of a Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf C. The text in this section is relatively brief, covering essentially a full page worth over 2 actual pages, and describes the final drives towards Paris to force the capitulation of France. It includes an interesting table of losses by Panzer type for the May-June 1940 period, a total of 795 written-off as total losses, in the short 6 weeks of the total campaign.
Panzers for Seelowe is the final section of 5 pages and 5 photos with no color plates. The section title here is a bit misleading as it spends only a very short amount of time on the Tauchpanzers and the formation of 4 tank battalions that would've been used in a potential invasion of England. It then moves on to discuss the reorganization of the Panzerwaffe after the fall of France to comply with the order to double the number of Panzer Divisions in preparation for an eventual Russian campaign in the East. It details how this was done by stripping away the second Panzer Regiment in each of the existing 6 Panzer Divisions (out of 10 total) that had 2 and using them to create new units while the remaining 4 were created as new Divisions from the ground up. A bulleted list details how the 11th-20th Panzer Divisions came to be and which Regiments came from where to make it possible. The section concludes with a discussion on the planned improvements to the Panzers including the up-gunning of the Pzkpfw III with the 5.0 cm gun and ends by highlighting how much of a gamble the campaign in the West really was and comparing it to the June 1941 Barbarossa campaign in terms of risk and "one-shot" effort instead of it being a repeatable recipe for military success.
ConclusionVolume Two continues the narrative of the Panzerwaffe begun in Volume One and provides a good balance between text and supporting photographs and color plates to make it valuable as both a written and visual reference and will likely be the model for future Volumes to come in terms of scope and focus. All of the sections are authored by a single writer, giving it a consistent feel throughout. The photos included cover a wide range of various vehicles, both German and Allied, and in many cases are also the support for the color plates included. Lack of a Table of Contents or Index means you have to thumb through the volume if looking for photos of a specific vehicle or equipment type. Given that the set is planned at 10 volumes, hopefully an Index or photo reference guide will also be provided at a later date. Volume Two is capable of standing on its own as a reference as well as a continuing part of the overall series.