So, where to start?
This is the first in a series of books called ‘Photographs by Soldiers’. Each will be based on photographs taken by individual participants in the war, accompanied as required by more or less extensive text. The photos, along with surviving diary entries or letters, will be set against the overall framework of events. The series is intended to allow the reader to understand the war from the subjective point of view of the individual soldier.
The book has 248 glossy pages and contains 13 maps and 258 images of which 56 are in colour. The text is in both English and German and the translation to English is excellent. The format of the book is 25cm x 28cm, that’s 28cm wide and 25cm tall. For those of you not familiar with the metric system that’s about 11 inches wide and 10 inches tall.
The photographs, all previously unpublished, come from Hans Becker, who was attached to the headquarters staff of the 8th Panzer Regiment in Africa in 1942-43, and after recovering from his wounds, he joined the 508th Heavy Panzer Battalion during its formation and also photographed the Tiger unit’s actions in Italy in 1944-45, both in black-and-white and color. His diaries and letters home form the excellent narrative of the book that turns the photographs into the story of Hans’ war.
His story starts in the prewar years with air sports and then the Reich Labour Service and then civilian employment. He completed compulsory military service in 1936 to 1938 and then back to civilian employment, but not for long. On Aug 30, 1939 he was recalled to service and served in various HQ units in Germany and France until summer 1942. In July 1942 he flew to Tobruk in a BV222 and it is here that the story really starts. About half the book covers his time in North Africa from photos inside the BV222 to his flight in a Ju52 back to hospital in January 1943. He was attached to the HQ of Panzer Regt 8, so he was not on the front line, but close enough to see those who were and take good quality photos of them. Hans was a gifted photographer so these are more than just random snaps, he knew what he was doing and even won an award in pre-war Germany for his photography.
After Hans recovered fro his injuries incurred in the retreat from El Alamein, eventually in August 1943 he joined the Tiger I equipped Heavy Panzer-Abt 508, which was then forming; again he was a clerk in the HQ company. This time he was given a certificate from the commanding officer that authorized him to take photographs for the unit war diary. The second half of the book is mostly of his time with this Regt. His photographs cover the time in training in France, the journey to Rome and then the slow fighting withdrawal up Italy to 1945.
The photographs in this book cover a variety of subjects. The ones from North Africa cover mostly many different armour and soft skin types along with other interesting photos. The time with Heavy Panzer-Abt 508 has many photos of Tigers, but also, as you would expect many other interesting photos. From a modelling perspective there are more ideas for dioramas than you can imagine.
The book is not cheap, but then again, it is an excellent book with original materiel and an original perspective that stands out from the crowd and is therefore highly recommended.
Thanks to my pocket for the review book.
Paul Tosney – Model Builder International – www.modelbuilderinternational.com