Craig Ellis is a well-known researcher for anyone who is interested in the Panzer IV and has been very busy during the last ten years. Craig collected an enormous amount of original photographs from Ebay and other auctions to be able to identify and categorize the features and changes of different units and tank modifications.
Eleven books have been released so far and hopefully there will be more in the future, thanks to new photographs being discovered all the time. If you are into the Panzer IV and are looking for well researched publications that illustrate the things that you would like to model – books from Craig Ellis are indispensable tool.
The currently reviewed volume was obtained in order to clarify factory features and unit specific alterations for my Ausf. G from Kharkov that I am building now. While there are a number of discussions online I could not find a well-structured resource to ease my search. So here comes that book.
This is a 20x25cm photobook printed on high quality photo paper by Blurb (you can preview quite a number of pages online). The copies can be ordered from that website as photobooks with soft cover, hard cover and even as an e-book if you would like to save some money or prefer to view photographs on portable devices or computer. In total there are 102 pages divided into several chapters and appendices including a section dedicated to modelling.
The introduction outlines the idea behind this book which is basically to cover and identify the differences of Panzer IV Ausf. G made by three German plants – Krupp, Vomag and Nibelungenwerke. It might be that the issues are not interesting for some modellers while I am sure it is a very important aspect for quite many people passionate about Panzer IV. Here the author discusses the obstacles on the identification and problem solving approaches. The table depicting the number of tanks produced by each factory is given as well as chassis numbers used by them.
The early Ausf. G or Ausf. F2(G) section focuses on several features, such as cleaning rods variants, fire extinguishers, rear smoke dischargers, recuperator and aerial deflector styles. After a general note on these aspects the author guides through his collection of images and under each image a list of noteworthy features of particular tank belonging to particular unit is given. It is amazing to see how many different variants were present at the same time, all the stowage and camouflages. Altogether the “early” section occupies 25 pages and each page has one or sometimes two photographs. Some of the photographs are not super sharp, but that is due to them being made on moving tanks.
The “mid Ausf. G” section has 31 pages and is done in a similar manner to “early”. First comes a general note with chassis numbers mentioned, then a list of features specific during that period, followed by illustrated study with detailed descriptions. Among the features in focus are the aerial deflectors, the spare tracks, the rear light and Bosch lights, not to forget a number of factory specific features. This section contains quite many tanks from winter battles on the Eastern Front, including LAH panzers. At the end of the “mid chapter” there are a number of mid Ausf. G with turret skirts as well as hull skirts. Quite rare combination!
Finally, late Ausf. G and early Ausf H. chapters have 24 and 4 pages respectively. As you might guess the layout is similar to the previous sections with an overall note and specific features followed by photographs that support the observations. Here one of the pages is dedicated to changes in turret skirts focusing on their brackets and fixing bolts. It contains drawings and detailed explanations.
At the end of the book the reverse face of the photographs are given (although not for all photographs) together with an errata for previous volumes. Here the author goes back and revises the identification for some of the vehicles due to new features found.
Finally, there is a very useful three-page note about modelling, focusing on the Dragon kits ref# 6363 and 6594. The author points out what should be adjusted depending on the factory and time of production. It can be used blindly to build a model, however, it is best to pick a particular vehicle from the book and make a replica.
In conclusion I think it is a very impressive title with lots of information collected to solve the puzzle of Panzer IV Ausf G. production. The identified features were mostly new to me and I don’t think that one could pick them up without knowing where to look for. While the book is called an “update” I believe it is rather a careful “guide”. A truly impressive one!
Highs: Carefully researched book with lots of photographs and explanations.Lows: none to me.Verdict: Highly recommended.