Combat History of Sturmpanzer-Abteilung 217
by Timm Haasler & Simon Vosters
Published by Panzerwrecks
Format - hardcover, landscape format
Page Count - heavyweight, glossy paper, 284 pages
Size - 8.5" x 11"
Photos - 183 mostly black and white, including a handful of color photos.
Maps and 7 colour artworks drawn from photos.
Tables - many tables of technical / performance specifications and lists of equipment and manpower.
All text and photo captions are in English
1 Activation of Sturmpanzer-Abteilung 217
2 Sturmpanzer-Abteilung 217 in Normandy
3 Withdrawal from Normandy and engagements in the Aachen area
4 Rest and refitting
5 Between Aachen and the Ardennes
6 The Ardennes offensive
7 Last traces
8 The Sturmpanzer IV
As the title suggests, this book concentrates in the exploits of one battalion, the Sturmpanzer Abteilung 217, equipped with the Sturmpanzer IV (‘Stupa’), also known as Sturmpanzer 43 or Sd. Kfz. 166, and called Brummbär (Growling Bear or Grouch) by the Allies. This was a 15cm howitzer mounted in a massive armoured box on an overloaded Panzer IV chassis.
The abteilung was activated in April 1944, and it was combat-ready towards the end of June, ready to take on the Allies in Normandy. The unit was active against the British and Commonwealth troops around Caen, before being almost destroyed at Falaise and withdrawing to Aachen to refit. The vast bulk of the book then gives a full explanation of the battles against the American units on the axis from Aachen through Geilenkirchen, Hürtgen Forest, and the Ardennes. The combat is described in minute detail, and the actions of Stu-Abt 217 are mentioned when they arise, but the majority of the text seems to relate to other units. My personal impression is that this is less related to the Sturmpanzers than I expected, but nevertheless this is a fascinating insight into the US advance and the desperate German defence against overwhelming forces.
The book then turns to look at the ‘Brummbär‘ itself, considering the features of the different types (Ausf.I to IV) with the special features of the vehicles in this unit. The battle reports give a lot of information about how the vehicles performed and how the howitzers were used in action. After this, there is a large section of photos showing vehicles in detail, including some excellent interior shots.
This book contains a fabulous amount of detailed research, supported by references, and the sheer quality of this work is exceptional. The photos throughout the book are linked to the text, and provide a huge amount of information that will help the modeller create an accurate representation of a vehicle from this unit.
The book has a number of photos of museum vehicles (above) and factory shots (below).
Below is an example of an interior shot, which is really valuable for anyone detailing an interior for their kit.
Several photos have QR codes in the corner, and with a suitable app on your phone, the reader can call up a photo from Google Earth to show the location where the photo was taken. I haven't explored this, but I would also want to see a map of the location.
This book has a lot to offer for anyone interested in the Stupa and wants to make a unit-specific accurate model. It also provides an incredibly detailed account of the battles as the US army swept over the border around Aachen, and fought in dreadful winter conditions to push the German army out of villages in the area. There is much to gain from this book, and if you like this period of the last year of the war, then this volume is just what you need!
Highly Recommended for Beginner to Advanced builders.
Thanks goes out to Panzerwrecks for this review book.
Reviewed by Chris Lloyd-Staples, 2VP (International)
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