First just a little clarification for those of you who aren’t familiar with these books. This book is considered the first book in the “Firefly Collection”, a form of joint venture between Oliver Publishing Group and ADH Publishing. I’ve already reviewed several of the OPG titles but this is their first joint venture with OPG handling all the editorial side of things and ADH handling the physical printing, marketing and distribution. That should be a good thing as these are fantastic books and they’ve had a few hard years, starting as part of the Factory Publishing series then breaking away into Oliver Publishing. Here’s hoping this is the beginning of seeing more and more of these titles hitting the shelves.
As to this book itself, well the title pretty much sums it up, in a nut shell it’s a look at 5.SS.Pz.Div “Wiking” and their time in Poland in 1944. As with most of the OPG titles this mixes historical narrative with vehicle identification and artwork aimed at providing modellers with reference for builds. The strongest influence here is for the Pz.Kpfw.V Panther which is not surprising once you read the make-up of the division which at the time was well stocked with the Panther and a bit light on other armour.
The historical narrative fills out the first ten pages and covers the Division’s time in Poland with particular emphasis on the relief of Kovel and the defense of Warsaw. It is accompanied by diagramatic charts of the make-up of the two Abteilung, the first equipped (or rather underequipped) with Pz.Kpfw.IV and StuG.IV and the second with Panthers.
The text is excellent and the authors enthusiasm for the story he is retelling comes through clearly which makes for a far more enjoyable read than an impersonal account of dates and figures. I should also note that although the narrative may sound brief at only ten pages that the font is small and the borders at a minimum. Coming from a background in books I can say that I could easily have pushed this text out to fifteen or more pages simply by increasing the font size and adding more white space. It’s a good read and the accompanying map wit the section on Kovel tends to have you plotting their movements as the narrative progresses.
And so to the second section of the book, the colour plates. Here you get twelve pages plus the rear cover (inside and out) with colour plates of thirty eight individual vehicles depicted including Panthers, a Bergepanther, Pz.Kpfw.IVs, StuG IV, Hummel, Jagdpanzer IV L/48, Sd.Kfz.251/1, 251/7 and 251/9. As mentioned earlier these are dominated by Panthers so if the big cats take your fancy then this one is a must have. The illustrations are excellent with many referenced back to period photos also in the book. There’s also a photo on the rear cover of a 1/35 Panther representing one of the Kovel cats built by Glenn Bartolli.
The third section is nine pages containing eighteen period photos with accompanying text. For the most part these are two to a page with one having a single page to itself and one page having four photos of crewmen. These are all very good reference photos. (On a side note as ADH is the publisher of Military Modelling International magazine there will be linked articles running in MMI including the current one expanding on the Kovel story ).
The book gets rounded out with the mandatory Tank Strength chart outlining the principal tanks on strength with 5.SS.Pz.Div “Wiking” throughout 1944. It’s rather interesting to run through these numbers to see how they were regularly depleted and rebuilt throughout the year.
Conclusion. Simple, modeller or historian, get this book. These are simple yet entertaining reads and they go beyond the usual collection of photos of period vehicles to give you the story behind them. For those of us who like to place a build in a time and place then these are the sorts of references we need, and a quick read through the acknowledgement section at the front of this underlines the level of research that goes into these. I seriously see these books as being up there with the best.
On a personal note (meaning this is just my opinion of an area not directly related to this title but to WWII reference books in general) I love the vehicle histories of the Jentz and Doyle PT and Osprey books and the pictorial histories of the likes of Panzerwrecks. For me books like this one and it’s stablemates add the third part needed, the historical narrative that makes it all more “real”. I can’t really find the right word. When you build a diorama of a scene in time that scene is the photo in P-W, the technical accuracy maybe comes from P-T or similar good reference books. But the “story” to the diorama is what happened before that scene and what possibly happens after it. That’s the narrative and a good narrative isn’t just a reference for a build, it’s often the inspiration for the whole build in the first place. “First Blood” makes you want to build a 37mm M3 wreck, this one makes you want to build a Panther on a traintrack.
.Author & Illustrator : Dennis Oliver Publisher : ADH Publishing (www.adhpublishing.com)
Pages : 34 (Including covers) containing B&W Photos and colour artwork plates Binding : Softcover Size : 212mm x 297mm ISBN : 978-0-9806593-9-9