I’m sure William Blake’s immortal lines have been attached to the Tiger tank before. It was published in 1794 and knowing his revulsion of the Industrial Revolution, as per the dark satanic mills of Jerusalem, he would have found the vista of armoured warfare chilling in the extreme.
Tiger, tiger burning bright
In the forests of the night.
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
Burning Tigers are, literally, the theme of this excellent book by Wolfgang Schneider.
He sets out to trace the fate of every Tiger I and II which took part in the Normandy campaign and gives detailed accounts of their deployment from their first engagement at Villers-Bocage to the inferno of Falaise.
From the outset the author is critical of the aura attached to the tank, particularly in respect to the fabled Michael Wittman, for whom he is no great champion. Colonel Schneider, a serving Bundeswehr officer, has written several books on Tiger tactics and operations and seeks to illustrate how the legend far outstrips the reality of their impact. He is clearly steeped in the history of the tank and I like the little touches, such as his dislike for the colour scheme on the Tiger at Vimoutiers, which he describes as “ghastly”. Like a lot of people I have climbed up on the old beast and thought it a very special moment, giving no thought to the paintwork.
This is an immensely studious work which has been translated with a good deal of skill from the German original. The photographs are many and varied and the book will prove of great interest to anyone with a serious interest in Tiger tanks, whether it is for historical or model making purposes. You might also be a re-enactor seeking inspiration for panzer crew uniforms and equipment. The author is quick to point out that finding contemporary images is not the easiest task. Be that as it may, while he asserted that the number of images available is small and well known, I was happy to see many which are new to a general reader like me.
I would imagine this volume is just about as comprehensive as it can be. Image captions are excellent and really add to the mix making this a book you can dip in to from time to time if you prefer not to read it all in one go. In some respects it is not dissimilar to one of the Then and Now books we know so well, with modern comparison shots used to identify locations. Whether this works entirely well, I am not so sure.
If I have one criticism it is for the fluctuating quality of image reproduction, which, for such a high quality product, is often a bit tardy. There can be many reasons for this, so I wouldn’t let my background in photographic archives impeach what is, overall, a really fascinating and very worthy book I will happily return to again and again.
TIGERS IN NORMANDY
By Wolfgang Schneider.
ISBN: 978 1 84884 802 3