SS Das Reich at War 1939-1945...


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


Title: SS Das Reich at War 1939-1945

Author: Ian Baxter

Publisher: Pen and Sword Books

ISBN: 978-1-47389-089-3

Just mention of the term SS can conjure up different thoughts to many people.  This new title from Ian Baxter in Pen and Sword's Images of War series tells the story of Das Reich, an SS armoured division that grew out of the original SS-VT units established in the 1930's.  After the invasions of Poland and France, with an expansion in the number of troops in an army war, it was in 1940 that the new Das Reich division was created.  The division went on to fight on both Eastern and Western fronts, suffered major losses and had to be reformed, but continued to fight on to the end of the war.

There are five chapters, and these cover Training, essentially the pre-war period;  Baptism of Fire (1939-41) in Holland and France; Victories on the Eastern Front 1941-42 which saw more success and some significant successes.  After some Russian recovery, the division then suffered significant casualties and needed to be withdrawn for rest and replacements to be absorbed.  Then they go back to the Eastern Front and to help blunt the Soviet offensive by retaking Kharkov and Beyond 1943-1944 and then the losses at Kursk and significant casualties once more as they helped open the Korsun Pocket to allow large number of Wehrmacht troops to escape.  This led to the division being withdrawn to Southern France once more to be reformed.

That in turn leads to the events of Summer 1944, when the division was directed north to counter the Normandy landings.  As they travelled north through France they were beset by delaying attacks from the Resistance and their response was one of the most infamous atrocities of the war, the destruction of the French town of Oradour-sur-Glane before they reached the battlefront.  Finally defeated in Normandy, the remains of the division managed to retreat East over the Seine.  At the end of the year the division took part in the Ardennes offensive but finally retreated to take part in actions in Hungary and Austria before the end of the war.

The photos support each of the chapter topics and provide some interesting historical images, while for the modeller there are plenty of useful references in terms of uniforms and equipment as well as some inspiration that could lead to a diorama or two. This doesn't attempt to excuse the atrocities amidst their battle field history and makes a good job of presenting a photo history of this German division from beginning to end of WW2.