Book Review Defeating the panzer Stuka Menace. David Lister.

Discussion in 'Books, Films, TV, Radio' started by von Poop, Feb 1, 2022.

  1. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Defeating the Panzer-Stuka Menace

    British Spigot Weapons of the Second World War


    By David Lister
    Pages: 264
    Illustrations: 60 black and white illustrations
    ISBN: 9781526787156
    Published: 23rd July 2021
    Defeating the Panzer-Stuka Menace

    Beginning with a caveat - David is a respected member around here. Not that that'd make any difference to a review, him being a big boy, and having taken/engaged with criticism of his books in the past in an entirely civilised manner, but seems worth mentioning.

    In short: The 'new' author's found his feet.
    Third (?) book. None of the slightly disjointed feel previously seen, just a tight well-told history of some fascinating weapons.

    The first thought, from me and a few passing house-guests: 'What a weird title', until you're told early on that it was Blacker's term for the Blitzkrieg.
    The genesis seems to have been some remarkable shots of the damage a bombard could do to an A13, and remarkable they are. You spend a lifetime thinking these spigot-y things are maybe a bit of a joke - well this redresses that balance somewhat.
    Interesting approach to IWM images, with 'extra' significant ones mentioned in addenda rather than included at doubtless great cost in the book. (Not that it's short of nice crisp images.). I applaud the idea as it's so easy to find the 'extra' images with the clear refs included.

    Had no idea Blacker was so 'dashing' in earlier conflicts. Not just the 'boffin' we might think of, but flying up mountains, India, Russian Civil War etc. all concisely covered. Though the EOD clearing of his home/lab post-mortem possibly fits the boffin image... or maybe Geoffrey Palmer in Reggie Perrin.

    I don't think it's easy to write 'technical history' that's also engaging & interesting. Avoiding going into the weeds of detail & statistic (anyone who's spent days dropping off while trying to read Spielberger on sprockets knows what I mean...), but he's definitely pulled it off. Absolutely not a dry book. Just the right balance between technology, anecdote, and a sense of narrative to join everything together.

    The one main thing I took away, was the staggering ingenuity of these people.
    Chipboard boxes within rounds to concentrate/control splintering, constant adjustments to form & filling by chaps that plainly knew their trade & were (eventually) encouraged to try things.

    You think of Bombards as a sort of 'light' secondary weapon. This rams home that; nope, it was an entirely serious piece of artillery, just 'different'.
    It then goes on to show how that 'different' approach was applied, through Hedgehog & PIAT to become a pretty mainstream style of weapon, despite its rather niche timescale. (Mmmm Intermediate technology. Yes please.)
    You will also come away knowing that pad that looks like your forehead should rest there... Don't put your forehead on it... 6 Tons of recoil. Just in case you ever need that knowledge.

    I'd heartily recommend it if you're interested in Second War weaponry, Tanks, or even the Bureaucratic nightmare that still lies beneath defence procurement. (The fiefdoms, personalities & organisations that battled for control of 'unusual' weapons well-covered).
    Too easy to make this sort of book dull, or just revolve around an author's very narrow field of view, but he manages to avoid all that & present an engaging, serious, entertaining, readable tome, packed with detail but also skipping along very well as an actual piece of literature.
    just get it. It's good.

    It's heavily illustrated with nice clear images (excepting a handful obviously taken by the apprentice on muddy ranges). Just overall what I'd hope for from a technical history. 'What does X mean?!' - 'Oh, there's a nice clear illustration explaining exactly what X is'.

    And it's got an Index!

    Nice one, David.
    Don't want to blow smoke, but in my view you can be proud of the thing.
    Shines through that you like these things. Possibly a bit too much, but hey - I enjoyed it, as would other nerds. :unsure: Enthusiasm for the subject so much better than some other box-ticking/rote techy works I could mention.
    Apologies to you for taking so sodding long to read/review it, & thanks to Frontline/P&S for the review copy.

  2. Orwell1984

    Orwell1984 Senior Member

    Excellent review. It's on my to be read pile but I'll move it up a couple of places now.
    Chris C likes this.
  3. Listy

    Listy Well-Known Member

    Thanks Von, and don't worry about the time it took, Life's been hectic for all of us of late.

    That wasn't a cost issue, more a 'Covid issue'. IWM stopped answering my emails when they sent everyone home, and so I couldn't get a quote, or high enough resolution images. But as it seems to have worked I might utilise it again for the images that didn't make it past the editing stage.

    I've spent about a decade in the shadow of Blacker and his inventions. Inventions, which as you say, are generally seen as silly ideas, not like proper German engineering. I fear I may have been on an 'Actually!' rant for 75,000 words.

    As I said, I've spent a decade with Blacker. I'm not entirely sure I'd like the guy (or him me) if we met today. His autobiography is available from Pen & Sword, and it's written by Blacker, to promote himself. However, despite that, even reading between the lines it's clear he was incredibly brave (Eg: leaving the RAF to help the Indians in the face of German gas attacks. Remember at this point there's no real defence against Gas and he's heading towards it!) and very very intelligent and great at designing weapons.

    If anyone has any questions feel free to fire them off.
    von Poop likes this.
  4. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    I'd love to see a list of what exactly was removed from his house... The impression is that Mrs Blacker contacted the authorities quite quickly.
    Once got to fondle his medals and a few PIAT bits & pieces courtesy of a mate that worked at Petersfield museum.

    Your 'Actually!' rant worked on me.
    I shall doubtless deploy the word when viewing spigoty things on future museum trips. :unsure:
    The PIAT's had something of a rehabilitation among people that want deeper understanding. Time for the Bombard etc. to receive similar.

    Those A13 shots... Blimey.
  5. Listy

    Listy Well-Known Member

    That was ground zero for me too. The file actually contains six (or was it eight?) pictures of them, such as an internal shot of the tank. Trouble is they're such poor quality it's almost entirely black. Thinking back to the last book and how badly the CGI images came out I had doubts if it'd be worth putting them in.

    I started the book as a work on the Bombard, to address it's common image. However, weirdly, I think the biggest find in that book is the Hedgehog scandal. I mean ending the Battle of the Atlantic in the first half of 1942 would have been colossal. Instead we had to slowly erode the Germans with incremental improvements to air power to finally seal the deal which took several more years.

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