We are back after an extended break with yet another outing from Haynes Publishing. This time round we get a detailed look at a true workhorse of the Second World War that has been eclipsed by its by bigger and sexier relations. But this is an intelligent choice by Haynes, because the Panzer III is immensely important to the story of German armor from the conflict.
Authors Dick Taylor and Mike Hayton approach the beast from different angles. The former gives us a genuinely superior history of the development of tanks and other armored vehicles from the Reichswehr to the rise of the Panzerwaffe under Hitler. He does this to set the tank in context rather than treat it in isolation. The effect is to raise the text way above the trivia of what some folks call tank porn into something much more meaningful. The Panzer III is a very important machine and although it was eventually outgunned and outrun by its closest cousin, the Panzer IV; it is pivotal to the story of the first half of the war – east and west and further south in North Africa.
Mr Taylor gets under the skin of the tank and I think all armor lovers will appreciate the clear and concise way he takes us through the development, service and variations of the machine. He stops short of looking at the Sturmgeschutz, because that is being covered separately, but there is a great deal to enjoy otherwise.
For a wholly technical inspection the book is passed on to Mike Hayton, a gentleman with much experience of the Panzer III in the care of the Tank Museum at Bovington. We get a look at the tank in detail thanks to the meticulous recording of the restoration project that has made this vehicle a regular favourite on Tiger Day and Tankfest. I only saw it run for the first time a couple of years ago and have to say it looks stunning. The Panzer III is actually quite pretty in the flesh, especially painted all over in Afrika Korps yellow.
This book fits well within an incredibly varied series of subject matter. While it stays close to a tried and tested formula, the book manages to add something a little extra thanks to the intelligence of the writing and the care taken to set the Panzer III in its proper place in tank history. The attention to detail will attract armor buffs while it also offers much for model makers and anyone out there who might just have one of these tanks in their workshop. The book encouraged me to revise my appreciation of the tank and I have to say I will look upon it with much more admiration as a result.
Like the Valentine and the KV1, it was an everyman of a time and place in tank development that had its hit and miss elements, but the part it played outstrips criticism and shrugs off the shadow made by bigger and supposedly better machines it shared the battlefield with. 5,775 gun tanks were built across a range of eight models, or ausfuhrung. Given that the tank fought on all the major fronts of the war in some form or another, it is surely just as important as the Panzer IV.
I really like this book. The authors manage to separate the wholly technical from the historical in a way that makes it easy to follow and never dull. The use of images is handled with care. The detailed look at the tank at Bovington Tank Museum is really useful and I have high hopes for the StuG edition to come. This book is essential to tank lovers everywhere and I recommend you get a copy as soon as you can.
Reviewed by Mark Barnes for War History Online
Owners Workshop Manual
By Dick Taylor and Mike Hayton
ISBN: 978 085733 827 3