A good read

I had enjoyed T-34 In Action by Artem Drabkin so much, that his name on this title made it a 'must buy'. Basically the books are formed from interviews of veterans and give a real insight into the reality of battle, the soldiers lives and the effectiveness of the equipment that they had to work with.

The opening pages give a brief history of the development of anti-tank capacity both in terms of the equipment and the organisation of units. The chapter also includes aspects of armour penetration and how various shell types work. It is informative in its own right, but looks like it was included to set the scene for the personal accounts that follow.

As you go through the accounts, you get fantastic insight in to the nature of the real world of the Soviet soldier and every page has something new that 'puts you there'. The interviews feel like the soldiers have been allowed to tell the story in their own words and the style carries a sort of 'we fight as comrades and will die for the Motherland' heroic type tone, but the accounts themselves feel realistic and honest.

There are just so many things covered that a few paragraphs here does not do the book justice, but personal experiences such as when  a gun shield on the front of a 45mm anti-tank gun was raised to aid movement in the snow  allowing enemy bullets to get under the anti-tank gun and wound the crew in their feet, gives insight into equipment working in action - I had often wondered how effective the shield was and it seems it was proof against bullets. 

There is an account of a pinned SU 152 using bore sighting to calculate a shot at a mostly hidden Tiger tank. The commander had aimed at the crown of a tree under which he believed the Tiger to be situated. Then using experience and good judgement he adjusted the gun for trajectory and took the turret off the tiger tank with his first shot. For anyone writing WWII rules or just wanting to inject some realism into their games, the book is crammed with fascinating personal accounts like this and throw away incidental one liner comments that will be picked up by the wargamer.

It is also interesting to see harsh Soviet discipline inter-woven with moments of defiance from the ranks and leniency from understanding officers. The scale of death and the ease at which it can select even the unsuspecting, leaves one wondering how anyone could have hoped to survive in continuous service from the start to end of this conflict.

Overall the book is a gem. I'm not really sure where else one would go to get so much of this type of information and story for this theatre of war in one place. Taken together with the T-34 book, these have been good buys for me.