Hitler versus Stalin, The Eastern Front 1943-44.

Kursk to Bagration

 

...a new Images of War title from Pen and Sword

 

Title: Hitler versus Stalin, The Eastern Front 1943-1944: Kursk to Bagration

Author: Nik Cornish

Publisher: Pen and Sword Books

ISBN: 978-1-47386-170-1

This is the third of the 'Hitler versus Stalin' titles in the Images of War series of books by author Nik Cornish, as he takes us through the story of the war on the Eastern Front.  The photographic history, coupled with background text provides an excellent visual record of the huge conflict that was WW2 on the Eastern Front.  It illustrates the huge scale of events and the forces involved with losses of people and equipment in quantities that even today are hard to comprehend.

This particular volume in the series covers the period from the huge battle at Kursk and the subsequent series of Soviet offensives which pushed the German armies back to the borders of the Soviet Union.  As well as the victory at Kursk, it goes on to cover the continued liberation of Soviet territory along with so many major cities.  Orel, Kharkov, Kiev The pictures tell the story, and include a wide variety of aspects of the war.  Of course there are soldiers, their uniforms and equipment from all sides, the weather changes from summer to the deep snow and mud of winter, equipment of both sides, as well as the civilians, the partisans and the countryside they all operated in.  Destruction is a common feature to all, and includes a photo of a German operated train with a huge hooked 'track ripper', which was used to destroy the rail lines as they retreated, along with burning crops, villages and anything else which might have helped the advancing Soviets.  For historians it does a fine job of telling the story of this stage in the war, while there is a host of useful reference material for the modeller.

Nine chapters follow the opening introduction and these cover Kursk, the Northern Flank: Kursk, the Southern Flank: Operation Kutuzov (tackling the Orel Salient): Operation Rumiantsev (a major offensive that followed up the Kursk victory while the German army was still reeling): West to Smolensk: West from Leningrad: Kiev, Back in the USSR: Across Ukraine: and finally, Out of the USSR.

This book reminded me of a lecture I attended one evening while still at school, and I went to attend a talk on WW2 from the famous historian, A.J.P. Taylor.  He talked for three hours or so, no notes, and was fascinating to listen to.  At the end it was opened up to questions and a certain 18 year old raised his hand and challenged one of his remarks, that Stalingrad was the turning point of the war on the Eastern Front but rather was a 'stopping point' whereas Kursk was the 'Turning Point' as the German army at that point lost the large panzer force which had remained a potent offensive force.  With that gone, the writing was on the wall.  A rather nervous young man (having questioned such an eminent historian) sat down and waited as he clearly paused to give it thought and gave an answer I can remember to this day, 'on balance young man, I think you are right'.  The nerves relaxed and the evening remains etched in my memory, sitting in the hall at Tonbridge School in Kent.

This book tells the story of that Kursk battle, illustrates the material cost of that battle, and then the start of the Russian counter offensives back to the Soviet borders, and the fight that would eventually culminate in the Battle for Berlin.

Robin