Reviews: Book Review21 August 2014

German Army Handbook 1939-1945 by James Lucas

Reviewed by Ian Baxter, author of Into the Abyss: The Last Years of the Waffen-SS.

Written by James Lucas, author of many books on the German armed forces of World War II, this book is a readable and superbly organized study of the German Army and is a great introduction for all those interested in German military history during World War II. The book takes an overall look at the German Army as it evolved and presents a detailed study of its training and organisation. It also describes the various infantry weapons, armoured fighting vehicles, panzer weapons, artillery, uniforms, ranks and insignia, medals and decorations used before and during the war. Lucas also includes the Waffen-SS and the airborne arm of the Wehrmacht, the Fallschirmjäger. Although technically neither force was part of the army, both fought under army commanders during the war.

Illustrative content

Each chapter contains good descriptions, accompanied by informative drawings (there are almost 200 photographs and line drawings in the book). In particular, the chapter on infantry weapons features excellent photographs combined with some cutaway drawings and technical information relating to the small arms that were used on the battlefields of Europe and North Africa. Throughout most of the other chapters the information is equally as valuable. The subject of the German Army is vast, but James Lucas has managed to incorporate this large topic into just 216 pages, making it a well-balanced introduction to the topic. The volume provides a good, if brief, summary of the various components that went into making the German Army such an effective and well-trained force. Thus there are brief descriptions of the cavalry, the Cossack cavalry corps, medical services, signals, veterinary services, military police and even the transport arm and its vehicles. In the chapter describing flags and colours, it gives another informative, albeit brief, insight into the various regimental flags and colours adopted by the German Army (being a black-and-white book is somewhat of a drawback in this instance). The chapter on uniforms is also of value, especially for those readers wanting a basic description of the various items of clothing worn by the army’s soldiers. It describes the footwear, trousers, tunics, greatcoats, headdress, and has an informative drawing of the various types of clothing and equipment, along with very good illustrations of trade badges, ranks and insignia.

Overall, this book will be of use to anyone interested in the German Army.

Sutton Publishing, 216 pages, approx 200 b/w illustrations, ISBN: 0750916222.