by: Bill Plunk [ ]
Introduction Osprey Publishing has been overhauling its original Vanguard series of subject-specific books and giving them upgrades such as updated material and text, including color cut-away diagrams in the middle, and reissuing them under the New Vanguard series. This particular book, New Vanguard #27 "Panzerkampfwagen III Medium Tank 1936-1944" by Bryan Perrett and illustrated by Mike Chappel, Mike Badrocke, and David E. Smith, was published in 1999 and is readily available from the usual sources. It represents a revised edition of the original Vanguard #16 "Panzkerkampfwagen III" first published in 1980 and now includes revised text, new black-and-white photos, and the inclusion of a 2-page color cutaway diagram in the center of the book. This book deals specifically with the Pz.Kpfw. III as a gun tank as well as different variants while a separate book, New Vanguard #19 "StuG III Assault Gun 1940-1942", deals with the assault gun variants.
Book ContentsThe book consists of 48 total pages measuring 7.25" x 9.75" on semi-gloss heavy paper stock as a paper-back edition. Inside the book contains 30 black-and-white photos of various Pz.Kpfw. III vehicles, including 4 of the turret interior of an Ausf J. The book also contains 12 color plates of various vehicles and paint/marking schemes covering the theaters that the Pz.Kpfw. III saw action in plus 4 color plates of representative crew uniforms in different theaters. Key to the New Vanguard format is a center 2-page color cutaway diagram of an Ausf J 5.0 cm L/42 with call-outs for various features and equipment both interior and exterior.The book is divided up into 7 main sections covering Development, Special-Purpose Vehicles, Panzerkampfwagen III Described, Organization and Tactics, Panzerkampfwagen III In Action, The Plates, and Index.
ReviewAt 48 pages, this book clearly is not intended to be an exhaustive reference resource but is rather more like an overview or general reference on the Pz.Kpfw. III. The Development section for example provides a high level overview of the development and design concepts that produced the Pz.Kpfw. III and then proceeds to briefly touch on the different features of the Ausf A through Ausf N over the course of 6 pages. Individual photos are provided of an Ausf A, an Ausf E, one unidentified Ausf, an Ausf M, and an Ausf N along with the interior photos of an Ausf J mentioned previously.
The Special-Purpose Vehicles section continues the theme from the previous section and provides brief descriptions of the Tauchpanzer, Pz.Kpfw. III (Flam), Panzerbefehlswagen, Panzerbeobachtungswagen, Sturm-Infanteriegeschutz 33, and the Bergepanzer III and Schlepper III. The section is brief at only 4 pages but does include individual photos of most of the variants discussed although some are too small to be of much use as a specific reference and serve just to illustrate the text.
In the Panzerkampfwagen III Described section, 4 pages are devoted to details on the Armor, Automotive, and Gunnery and Optical characteristics of the vehicle. This section provides the most insight into the vehicle itself with good information on the different aspects of the vehicle and its general capabilities presented. Specific details are provided on the different transmissions used for example as well as details on the workings of the gunnery optics, ammunition storage, etc.
The bulk of the book follows in the form of the Organization and Tactics and thePanzerkampfwagen III In Action sections. The first is somewhat short at only 3 pages but does provide some information on the organization and structure of Panzer Brigades and Divisions and includes an organization chart to help illustrate the text. An additional 16 pages are devoted to describing the combat experiences of the vehicle in Poland, France and the Low Countries, North Africa, The Balkans, and Russia. Each section includes brief overview descriptions of experiences of specific units as representative samples for their respective theaters and campaigns without diving too deep into the actual details of the battles in question. North Africa and Russia in particular receive the most attention as these are the theaters where the Pz.Kpfw. III saw the most combat and also had the greatest influence on its evolution through the different Ausf.
Rounding out the book is the Color Plates section which is divided up into 2 parts. The actual plates themselves are in the middle of the book between pp 23-30 with the text descriptions to support them found on pp. 45-47 with a combined letter-number reference code key to match them up. The color plates are well illustrated with multiple Ausf. and color/marking schemes represented for the different theaters and time periods discussed in the book's chapters. The cutaway diagram in the middle of the book is a nice reference to explain many of the interior and exterior features but suffers from the fact that it's spread across two pages and probably would've been better as a fold-out vs. a standard set of bound pages. Despite this, it will still be helpful in explaining the terms and equipment to those unfamiliar with the Pz.Kpfw. III family of vehicles.
ConclusionAs a general introductory reference on the Pz.Kpfw. III, this book provides a good start in terms of foundational information on the development and different variants as well as provides some useful information on when and where the vehicle was used. The format and length are not designed to be comprehensive in terms of technical detail or minute details of the different Ausf. and variants, so those looking for that type of detail will be disappointed. As a handy easy-to-use quick reference though it serves its purpose well and would make a good addition to anyone just starting to develop a reference library or just looking for some summary information on the Pz.Kpfw. III in general. In addition, while the book does contain photos and illustrations, most of these are single views meant to illustrate the different variants or vehicle types and ultimately there's more value to be had in the text vs. the photos given the overall size and content of the book.