by: Tom Cromwell [ ]
For the first book in their new World War One series the folks at Tankograd asked Rainer Strasheim and Max Hundleby to write the definitive volume on the A7V, and I for one am delighted! Both authors are well known for their work on this, Germany’s first foray into tank production, and in this book they take the opportunity to update and correct information that has come to light since the first major tranche of A7V publications started to arrive in the late 1980s.
As background to the subject, readers should know that Germany only produced and fielded one model of tank (the A7V) in only one official version, and even then made only 20 of them. And yet they managed to use two different manufacturers for the armoured hulls at the same time, and then broke down the order into two production lots that somehow incorporated changes, so the amount of detail variation is astounding. This has led to confusion in earlier publications.
The book is 104 pages long, containing a mix of English text (no German translation here, curiously) and illustrations in 16 chapters. There are 134 photos (124 in monochrome, plus another 10 colour shots of replicas and the sole museum example), 12 unscaled detail drawings, and two suites of 1:35 scale drawings that cover all four sides and roof of the two main body variants.
Chapter headings are:
01. The Birth of the Tank
02. A7V – Variations of the Armoured Hulls
03. Abteilung 1 – the Combat Veterans
04. Abteilung 2 – the Tank Busters
05. Abteilung 3 – the Poor Relation
06. A7V Deployments and Engagements
07. A7V Tank – Technology and Combat
08. Technical Data
09. A7V – Individual Data Sheets
10. A7V Scale Drawings
11. The A7V Überlandwagen Tracked Lorry
12. The A7V in Freikorps Service
13. The Trench Digger
14. A7V Crew Uniforms
15. Preserved A7Vs, Dummies, and Replicas
16. The A7V in Contemporary Newspapers
The scale and scope of these headings gives some idea of how thorough this book is – it took me ages to say anything more coherent than “Wow!” as I turned the pages. The history is extremely thorough as befits the track records of the authors, and the only fault here is that they don’t have the room to delve into tangential subjects like the development of British tanks or the use of captured tanks in anything but a cursory manner.
The photos themselves are extremely well reproduced (within the limits of the original image quality) and are placed at a mix of one, two, or three to a page. Many of them are posed “crew” shots, as is to be expected of WWI. All of the photo captions attempt to place the image in context of date, location, unit, and vehicle, but there are still a few where these remain “unknown” – not unexpected considering the archives have had to survive 90 years, a post-war revolution, and another World War to reach us today.
The data sheets for each tank not only list the basics of body style etc, but also known in-service modifications and name changes so even the most AMS-afflicted modeller can create a truly authentic model of a particular tank at a particular time in their very short service careers. The interior detail shots will help fill the space inside my cavernous 1:35 scale Tauro kit. And the section on uniforms should come in handy for sculpting crew figures.
The colour pictures are limited to the preserved tank “Mephisto” in Brisbane, the recent replica in Munster, and Bob Grundy’s replica that appeared at the Tank Museum’s open day last year. This leads to the only real gap in the book, because although the authors talk about various camouflage patterns they make no attempt to present us with reconstruction drawings.
This is a must-have reference for anyone interested in tanks of the Great War, especially those of us with Tauro kits to build. It easily outreaches much of what I have seen published before, especially Schneider & Strasheim’s earlier Schiffer book of 1990. As a single point of reference on the subject it is more than worth the 25 Euros asked.