The motorised reconnaissance forces were a key part of the German Panzer divisions and were equipped with some of the most iconic German vehicles of the Second World War, including the angular multi-wheeled armoured cars and the famous half-tracks. This book combines a history of those vehicles with an examination of the development of the reconnaissance units themselves, looking at how they were organised and equipped, their official tables of equipment, and how they performed in combat.
One interesting theme is that the earlier four wheeled armoured cars were often seen as being more effective than the heavier six and eight wheeled vehicles, combining similar performance with a smaller profile, making them less visible and thus more survivable. This rather differs from books that focus purely on the vehicles, which tend to describe them as lacking the off road capabilities needed on the Eastern Front.
Another key theme was the tension between those who wanted to keep the reconnaissance units free to carry out their main role, and those who wanted to use their mobility to deal with sudden problems. This became an especially intense debate after the tide turned against the Germans and they found themselves on the defensive on all fronts – these lightly armoured but very mobile units were often thrown into combat to counter Soviet breakthroughs, and were also used as the rearguard for retreating units.
The official orders of battle give a very neat, organised impression of what was going on, with exact numbers and types of vehicles given. However it turns out these were somewhat misleading, as it was possible to substitute vehicles with similar capabilities for the ones lists in the tables of equipment – this included foreign built vehicles that had been taken into German hands.
The after action reports are a useful addition to the book, giving us a clearer idea of how the men operating these vehicles saw them (although they do share the common tendency amongst German wartime reports of portraying just about every action as a triumphant success!).
This is an excellent history of the reconnaissance forces available to the Panzer divisions, looking at how they played a part in the early German successes, and then played a key part in the long period of defeat and retreat.
1 – Motor Reconnaissance
2 – Armoured Cars
3 – Motorized Battalion
4 – 1939 – Poland
5 – 1940 – France
6 – North Africa
7 – Soviet Union
8 – 1943 – The Force Grows
9 – Modern Reconnaissance
10 – Captured Vehicles
Author: Thomas Anderson