PeKo publishing are keen on photobooks and this is already the second volume dedicated to the most produced tank of the Second World War – Soviet T-34. Similar to other volumes of the “On the battlefield” series it is a bilingual book (English and Hungarian) with a hardcover binding and excellent production quality. It has a landscape layout and contains around 100 photographs. The photographs take most of the page space and you can see all the details visible, there are no blurry or unclear images.
The narration and research for this volume have been done by Neil Strokes, well known specialist on Soviet vehicles and photographs come from private collections of Peter Kocsis, Thomas Anderson and various archive sources – Hungarian, German, American and Russian.
The introduction gives an overview of T-34 development and production history. Various aspects are discussed, including evacuation of factories from Eastern parts of USSR to Urals and Siberia. This way the USSR was able to rescue their industry from advancing Axis forces and later supply the front with tanks and ammunition. The production history of T-34 is very important for understanding of different features and variations as tanks were produced at several plants simultaneously and changes were introduced independently of other plants. Further, the tanks could have gone through repairs and upgrades at a different plant leading to quite common observations on reference images with hulls having mixed features and turret originating from a totally different plant. The author provides number of vehicles issued by each plant and gives information on the armament, turret and engine development. Further, organization structure of mechanized units is given with examples of how the changes were implemented during the course of the war. While it is clearly not possible to provide a complete overview of such tank as T-34 on four pages I believe that the main aspects are well covered and this would be rather sufficient to get acquainted with the topic.
When it comes to actual photographs there are plenty of ones I have never seen before. Not surprising, as thousands of T-34 were produced and one could never photograph or be familiar with all of them. The collection starts with the short barrelled variant – T-34 with L-11 gun and then moves to mod 1941 with F-34. As one might guess all those photographs were taken by German troops and feature either wrecks or captured examples with German markings. The single-hatch turret variants were produced by several factories, e.g. #183, #264 and STZ. Different features are clearly visible and pointed by the author – be it tracks, wheels, hull or turret. Attribution of original vehicles is difficult as often the tanks had no markings. However, in those that have clear markings the units are not provided in most of the cases (having done such identification myself in the past I can ensure you that it takes days of search to pin point one tank to particular unit and very often it is a hopeless process). Among the rarities with single hatch turret there is one tank with spaced armour welded to the fenders – interesting idea for modelling.
This is then followed by “mickey mouse” turreted (mod 1942) tanks. Many of those examples are with worn white wash or burned. Tanks in running conditions are mostly captured by Germans with a few exceptions of Soviet tanks (in that case photographs come from Russian archives). Finally there are 18 photographs of the final variant of T-34 – T-34-85 which came out as a result of substantial design upgrade in early 1944. The chassis received a larger turret and powerful 85mm gun. These photographs of T-34-85 were taken in Hungary and Germany closer to the end of the war - wrecks, captured tanks and a number of those in original ownership. All three factories that were producing T-34-85 (174, 183 and 112) are present. Hard to decide what is most interesting – the wrecks, or the examples of T-34-85 with large German markings, surely to be a good source of inspiration.
In conclusion, this is another great photobook from PeKo and if you would like widen your reference base for modelling T-34 - it is a good choice.
Highs: Nice collection of photographs that will provide inspiration to modellers. Good narration. Lows: A table that summarizes different features of the production factories could have been a good addition to the narrative part.Verdict: Highly recommended - can't have too many T-34s!