The author provides a rare and informative account of his experiences as an armoured car commander in the closing stages of WWII. Most personal German accounts of land warfare in this period cover tank and infantry warfare as memoirs of senior officers. Here, we have the rare account of an NCO.
NAME: Panzer Leader, The Memoirs of an Armoured Car Commander, 1944-1945
CATEGORY: Book Reviews
AUTHOR: Otto Henning
PUBLISHER: Frontline Books, Pen & Sword
BINDING: hard back
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: Panzers, armoured cars, tanks, Allied Invasion, D-Day, retreat, invasion of the Reich, reconnaissance, POW, escape
DESCRIPTION: The author provides a rare and informative account of his experiences as an armoured car commander in the closing stages of WWII. Most personal German accounts of land warfare in this period cover tank and infantry warfare as memoirs of senior officers. Here, we have the rare account of an NCO.
The author joined the Panzers in 1941 and fought in North Africa. He has chosen to concentrate on his period as an reconnaissance armoured car commander in France and Germany from the Allied landings in Normandy. This is a fascinating and harrowing account of the final days of the Third Reich, as German forces were driven back into Germany and surrendered. This is a very valuable book that is one of those written late in life under the encouragement of family and friends.
As with Baron von Luck’s recollections of his experiences as a Panzer commander, and final capture by the Soviets, the author has provided a rare account of his personal experiences in French prison camps and eventual escape to the Russian zone of Germany in 1947. For Allied nations, accounts of the Second Word War usually end with the German surrender and perhaps with some accounts of War Crimes Trials, but remarkably little has been written of the very bad conditions that German POWs experienced for several years after the surrender. The level of hardship in Germany and other European countries after WWII is rarely covered. The chaos and hardship was extreme and even in Britain, under the Atlee Government, rationing was more severe than during the worse times of the War. The level of destruction by bombing was extreme across Europe and those who ended up in the Russian Zone of Germany continued to suffer to some degree until the ending of the Cold War and the purchase of East Germany by West Germany to reunite the country and exert new pressures on the future of the European Union.
Most of the book is devoted to the period from 1944 to 1945 and provides a very absorbing account of the challenges in operating armoured cars in the closed countryside of Normandy and the growing difficulties as German forces were driven back into Germany, fighting a vigorous rearguard action that could only postpone the inevitable defeat.
In all aspects, this is a valuable first hand account of the closing stages of WWII, but it is also rare in that it covers Panzer activities that are frequently overlooked. The German Army made extensive use of armoured cars, particularly in the reconnaissance role. This importance has been overlooked because of the visual impact of tanks. The assumption often made is that tanks are uniquely cross-country vehicles, able to withstand enemy fire and equipped with large guns. The reality is that wheeled armoured vehicles are often more nimble and able to operate on ground that will not reliably support a tracked vehicle that is very heavy and reduces the theoretical benefits of the potentially low ground pressure of tracks. The author has included his observation of Tiger tanks in his account and the place of the armoured car within the mixture of tracked, half-tracked and wheeled vehicles that made up the Panzer Divisions.
The engaging text is accompanied by a photo plate section with personal photographs from the authors collection.