Osprey- 88mm VS Allied Armor: North Africa 1941-43
The famed 88mm is one of the most iconic weapons to be fielded in all of the Second World War. It's employment in nearly every front of the German military's actions throughout the war earned reverence from those who wielded it in combat as well as by those who were on the receiving end of its devastating and effective firepower. In the open expanses of the North African desert, the Allied armies of the Anglo-American allies faced off in deadly duels between their armor and the Afrika Korps significant uses of the 88 against aircraft, armor and infantry.
David Greentree and David Campbell collaborated to bring Osprey's latest addition to it's "VS" series. Both Campbell and Greentree have authored previous works for Osprey and in this work they are joined by illustrator Ian Palmer who is a experienced digital artist. Between the covers are a brief introduction and chronology, followed by six chapters of historical information and images which bring the stories of the North African duels between Allied armor and 88's to life. The book also has an aftermath conclusion followed by a helpful bibliography for further reading and an index.
The introduction appropriately sets the stage for the topic of the duels between 88mm guns and Allied armor. The introduction is adjoined to a map presenting the macro view of combat in the North African theater from 1941-1943. As the 88 was initially designed to be employed as an anti-aircraft gun, naturally one of it's first primary adversaries is pictured, the British Hawker Hurricane Mk. I. A Chronology of events follows spanning events beginning with the Italians advance to Sidi Barrani in September 1940 through the conclusion of major combat operations in North Africa with the surrender of 250,000 Axis prisoners captured in Tunis and Bizerta.
The Design & Development chapter starts with coverage of the contributiing factors and schools of thought behind British armor and anti-tank weaponry. This includes not only homegrown British designs, but also American designs included in Lend Lease aid and subsequent fielding by British and Commonwealth armored formations. German design and development information follows. In this chapter the first of several excellent digitally generated illistrations showcases the details of the well known A 12 Infantry Tank Mark II (Matilda), circa June '41.
An illustration of the 8.8cm Flak 18 in its firing position of similar formatting to the Matilda's digital illistration is also included and as a nice touch, images of the Flak 18 in tow behind an SDKFZ 7 prime mover.
The Technical Specifications chapter is packed full of useful information. Illustrations and information are provided on the Allied ammunition from the 37mm AT gun up to the US 75mm ammunition. Furthermore, main armament of the Allied weapons is presented in a chart, as is Allied tank armor, British and American tank designations, and the FlaK L/56 and FlaK L74 shell penetration capabilities. An excellent 3d rendering of the 8.8CM Flak 18 L/56 sights is also included.
The Combatants chapter focuses on soldiers of the British and Commonwealth forces as well as the soldiers of the Afrika Korps. Storied actions of Sergeant Bill Close of the British 3rd Royal Tank Regiment of the 4th Armoured Brigade as well as DAK Gefreiter Arnold Hubner of the Luftwaffe-Bau Kompanie 13/1 who would earn the Knight's Cross for his actions in combat are covered. Tactical deployments of armored units in attack formation are explained and illustrated in this chapter as well with special focus of the 88's defensive deployments being detailed.
The Combat chapter chronicles the events leading up to the battle for Gazala as well as the battle itself. The brutal fighting of this campaign saw many British armored units falling victim to the abilities of the 88mm gun. While the heavy Flak units were able to destroy many Matildas, Grants, Valentines, and Crusaders, the artillery tractor and ammunition vehicles also paid a price, with several lost. As fierce as the British defenses of the Gazala line were, they were forced to withdraw from it as defense of the line was no longer possible. This chapter is packed with several high quality photographs of equipment from both sides.
The Royal Army bore much of the brunt of actions against the Afrika Korps. Greentree and Campbell did not forget the American Army efforts in Tunisia, where the battle for Sidi Bou Zid with the M3 Stuart light tank, M3 Lee medium tank and the M4 Sherman medium tanks were dealt major setbacks. As crushing of an impact as this was, within a month the US forces reversed roles and were back on the offensive, often decimating heavy Flak units in defensive positions. With as much back and forth of initiative that the US forces saw during this period, valuble experience was gained from the hard learned lessons. This section of the chapter highlights and details these events with clarity and thoughtful insights.
In the analysis chapter the early stages and success of British armor against weaker Italian foes is contrasted by the shift in equipment, firepower and tactics of later events as the North African campaign unfolded. The different major thrusts of the campaign are further analyzed with their outcomes. All in all this was a quick read with several details which I found helpful not only from a historical insight, but also as a modeler in gaining another great historical reference for the armor and anti-tank guns of the North African Campaign of 1941-43.
I enjoyed this latest addition to the Osprey Publishing Duel series of books. The information and images in this volume ties the situation, technical developments, personal stories, combat events, and strategies together quite well. The image quality was crisp and the text of the book was thoughtfully written and arranged. From cover to cover, numerous angles of unpacking the combat between the formidable 88mm gun and Allied armor. I look forward to more of these Duel series publications from Osprey in the future. It would make a great addition to any modeler's reference library.
Highly Recommended for Beginner to Advanced builders.
Thanks goes out to OspreyPublishing for this review sample.
Reviewed by Ben Brandes
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