Not sure how applicable is the word “elegant” to tanks, but in my opinion one can say that about German Panzer III design. Versatile, elegant and reliable – Panzer III have seen all theatres of war and have been the base for an excellent self-propelled gun- StuG III. Of course I am not alone in that opinion and there are plenty of modellers that like Panzer III all around the world. It is the “golden median” – not the weak Panzer I/II and not the large Tigers. Plenty of variants mean plenty of options to choose from and plenty of references to supply that choice. The volume 2 of the PeKo’s “Pz.Kpfw.III on the battlefield” is the newest example of such reference and inspiration.
Authored by Tom Cockle (consultant of Dragon Models when it comes to Panzer III and IV chassis) this volume is a logic continuation of their own Volume 1 which has been already featured on Armorama. It is done is a similar fashion to all other photobooks – hardcover, landscape layout, excellent image quality. The photographs come from private collections and most of them I have never seen before. The narration points out important features of the vehicle seen on the photograph; the image itself occupies nearly all space on the page.
The introduction of this volume focuses on various designs based on Panzer III for the specific roles – mainly command tanks with additional radio equipment but not limited to them. It also provides information about Tauchpanzer (tanks prepared for submerged travelling at the time of invasion of England), artillery observation vehicles (beobachtungswagen) and flamethrower equipped Flamm Pz.
Initially I expected that all photographs would belong to those variants, but the book actually starts with standard serial produced Panzer III of different versions. First, there are Ausf B, then D, E, F, G, H, J, L, M and N. One can imagine that it starts with early war vehicles in Poland, Czechoslovakia, France and then moves to the Eastern Front and North Afrika. Most interesting examples are the ones that have mixed features of different modifications due to upgrades done in workshops or gradually in the factories. Different road wheel styles seem to be a common issue seen on many photographs. Many of those tanks are on the move but some are also shown as knocked out examples. Nevertheless, the wrecks also exhibit interesting features that can be shown on a model. Another aspect that deserves spending a lot of time and that would give inspiration is the stowage deployed by the crews, including relocation of on vehicle maintenance tools, additional protection by wheels, tracks and diverse items like boxes, jerry cans, tarps, personal belongings. For most of the subjects the markings and unit ID are given, making it easier if you would like to show a particular example on your kit.
Standard tanks are followed by specific variants. There are nine photographs of tauchpanzers, both Ausf G and Ausf H, all from Eastern Front; seven photographs of PzBefWg III Ausf D; four of PzBefWg III Ausf E; nine PzBefWg III Ausf H (none of them with deployed telescopic antenna) ; five PzBefWg III Ausf J (including well known photograph of tank #556 from LAH). Finally, there are three photographs of PzBeobWg III, including one from collection of Mirko Bayerl with a fake wooden gun barrel dummy to mimic Panzer IV; and two photograms of Flammpanzer. I have seen those two before as they come from Russian military archive, but not at that size. Importantly, the photographs show that both flammpanzers have been converted from a Stug B chassis with addition of Pz. III Ausf. M superstructure.
In conclusion I think that this is a great title that would be a source of inspiration for any modeller interested in Panzer III, both standard and specialized modifications. Personally, I am mostly impressed by examples with unique paint jobs or weathering features, for instance remains of white wash, barrels painted in different colour or thick dust, like on the tank (Tauchpanzer) featured on the cover (I had an impression that it is also white wash left overs until I read the caption and studied it a bit longer).
Highs: Rare images, very good coverage of various Panzer III variants.Lows: No "unknown" photographs of Pz III Flamm.Verdict: Highly recommended.