Wiking, Vol 3...
...Mai 1943 - Mai 1945 from Heimdal, via Casemate Books
Title: Wiking Vol.3
Author: Charles Trang
This is the third volume in the series of French language publications from Heimdal covering SS Division Wiking from author Charles Trang. While my French skills are not brilliant, I manage better with reading it than trying to speak it. Volumes 1 and 2 were both excellent and this third one completes the wartime story of Wiking. The level of detail within the books continues into this final book and I have to salute the author for the incredible level of detail he has managed to assemble and then put into order for these books. This one, another hardback by the way, contains 567 pages packed with information and many hundreds of archive photos, which with only one or two exceptions, I don't remember having seen before.
So, this volume starts with chapter 12 and the change to a Panzer Division and Recovery on the West of the Donets, including the detailed structure of the division. Chapter 13 looks at the Defensive Battle of the Spring of 1943 and the retreat towards the Dneipr. Fighting at the Dneipr between September 1943 and January 1944 makes the content for chapter 14, including fighting with Russian Paratroops. In chapter 15 Wiking is caught up in the Cauldron of Tscherkassy, closing with assessment of the balance sheet of the breakthrough. Chapter 16 covers the fighting of the battle of Kovel, in the Ukraine, from March through to May 1944. The following chapter looks at the state of the division after the Kovel battle was over. In chapter 18 there were various defensive battles during the Summer of 1944. The fighting moved to Poland and in chapter 19 it looks at the general situation in August 1944 and the 3 battles around Warsaw. The year closes with a little calm. Chapter 20 deals with the final months of fighting in 1945, with combat in Hungary before getting to the final weeks in Austria. The conclusion to round things off comes in chapter 21, whether Wiking was a truly European division or if that was illusory and considers if it was an elite unit and what place Wiking holds in history.
In all the chapters it has detailed text, and detailing combat operations on pretty much a day by day account of events. Throughout all the chapters there are maps showing the changing unit positions, personal account from veterans of what they experienced. Equally frequent throughout the book are regular tables showing the state of personnel and equipment, usually with both their theoretical establishment as well as the actual numbers on record at different times. These include tanks and AFVs, trucks and other vehicles, small arms and of course the number of troops in various units as well as list of the senior officers and structure for those units. Add to this, portrait photos of many of the personnel featured in the narrative.
Every chapter also features a large section of archive photos, all with yet more information held in the captions. Even if you are not a French reader, the sheer number of original photos, mostly acquired from veterans of the division, will be the attraction for figure and AFV modellers as well as re-enactors and historians. Covering the period from 1943 through to 1945 there is an interesting variation on equipment seen among the pictures. From Pz III's at the beginning, there are Panthers in the later stages, along with many Sdkfz 251 Ausf D's and Stug's. The varying weather conditions from hot summers and grasslands to the snow and deep mud of winter are all well illustrated. As well as many excellent pictures showing fine details of uniforms, badges and personal equipment, such as the appearance of the MP44. Too many to pick out, but a couple which really caught my attention were a captured SU-76 that was captured intact, repainted in German colours and used by the anti-tank unit. The other was one that showed a huge number of horse-drawn wagons all together which is a useful reminder of how dependent the German army was on the use of horses right through to the end of the war.
Even as a book taken by itself this one is amazing, though not cheap, while coupled with the two previous volumes it makes for what is I think the most detailed history of an individual unit that I can remember reading while the huge number of associated archive photos across all three books is equally stunning.
Distributed by Casemate Books, who kindly provided my review copy.