Book Review
Battles Of Smolensk & Roslavl
Battles Of Smolensk & Roslavl 1941 (Warrior Series 6536)
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by: Chris Evans [ IRONELF ]


Concord Publications publish an extensive military history photo book series. They are typically short, in this case 52 pages, and as a result very light on narrative. They are to some degree a synopsis of the more narrative-driven Osprey titles. In the case of Battle of Smolensk & Roslavl, 1941 by Hans Seidler, you get a very short, general overview of the battles in the early stages of Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of Russia in the summer of 1941. Included are around 120 black and white photos and four color illustrations of German soldiers.


The planning and implementation of Operation Barbarossa was a mix of tactical genius and strategic folly, the latter prevalent on both sides of the battlefield. The wide dispersion of Germany's panzer forces as they fanned out on three main, separate thrusts into Russia made the task of Army Group Center significantly more difficult as it closed in on Smolensk, a key gateway toward Moscow.

If you're looking for a detailed account of the battle, the Russians first major counter-attack, and especially any first person accounts, this is not the book for you. To be fair, however, it's doubtful this book was intended to enlighten any of those areas.

I understand the difficulty in finding quality photos for books like these, especially ones that come with information on the unit, the place, the date etc. This challenge is due in large part to the often prohibitive copyright fees charged by certain archives making publication of a book using their photos very expensive. That said, the collection of photos gathered here are general in the extreme. The captions are equally broad. Weapon systems and uniforms are often given, but without an appendix listing weapons such as artillery etc. its technical jargon with little explanation. And there is no map. For a book purporting to be about a specific set of battles, the lack of at least one map is disappointing.

It's also worth noting that the book is German oriented in both text and photos. While the cover images do allude to this, something in the title would have been welcome.

Concord Publications have some association with Dragon, a plastic model manufacturer. It is unsurprising then that this series is aimed more at hobbyists than those interested in studying history. With that in mind, the book does offer some interesting diorama ideas and some clear shots of uniforms and weapons along with the four nice color illustrations.


Chris Evans
Full disclosure - I was the military history editor at Random House/Ballantine and then Stackpole Books for 14 years. I created the Stackpole Military History Series and the Stackpole Military Photos Series. Lest anyone think I'll be reviewing other authors and publishers with an eye to denigrating their efforts, future reviews in the works will feature books I truly admire. My aim is to review honestly and hopefully, intelligently. Should anyone take issue with anything I welcome feedback.

I now write fantasy and military history full time and lead WWI and WWII battlefield tours in Europe.

Highs: - Some nice diorama ideas. - Short, fast read. - Good color illustrations.
Lows: - No maps. - Generic photos. - Generic descriptions. - No bibliography.
Verdict: Without meaning to sound snarky, with an added map and the deletion of many of the generic and duplicative photos this would make a great magazine article.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: 6536
  Suggested Retail: $18.99
  Related Link: Battles Of Smolensk & Roslavl
  PUBLISHED: Jan 23, 2015

About Chris Evans (ironelf)

They tell me I was born in Canada. I do like hockey, and I am wary of polar bears so they're probably right. I now live in New York City. I'm an acquisitions editor for Pen & Sword Books and live in New York City. I'm also a fantasy author (the Iron Elves series and Of Bone And Thunder) and a mi...

Copyright 2021 text by Chris Evans [ IRONELF ]. All rights reserved.


Wow, that's a brutal review, Chris, but I can't say that at $20 I wouldn't want to know the bad news. Smolensk is an iconic battle in Barbarossa and should have a kick-ass book.
JAN 23, 2015 - 12:11 AM
This is how a review should be written and very useful.
JAN 23, 2015 - 01:43 PM
Concord do photo books, nothing more nothing less, isn't expecting real historical research from them a tad unrealistic? Mind you there is a public for that, I'll take a photobook with good, clean sharp photos and innacurate captions everytime over an authoritative history book with maps and a few small grainy pics. Cheers, Christophe
JAN 23, 2015 - 07:49 PM
Hi, Christophe: It's a photo book that purports to be about specific battles. I expect a degree of specificity as a result, especially with the photos and captions. Why title it about Smolensk if you are going to include photos from France, for example? And a map doesn't seem like too much to ask, again, for a book about specific battles. The book retails for a suggested price of $18.99 for 52 pages. Perhaps if it were $5.99 I'd have been more forgiving in my review. Cheers, Chris
JAN 23, 2015 - 11:58 PM

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