The versatile Panzer III was first used in action in 1939 and quickly established itself as the main gun tank of Hitler’s Panzer divisions; and 78 years on, publisher Haynes has added the vehicle to its line-up of military-focused Owners’ Workshop Manuals.
In combat almost continuously from 1939 until at least 1944, the Panzer III saw limited use in Poland in 1939 and again during the Battle of France in 1940. However the North African campaigns of 1941–43 and the hard-fought war on the Eastern Front from 1941 saw the Panzer III in constant action.
The Haynes Panzer III Manual, which is published in association with the Tank Museum, provides fascinating insights into the design, construction and maintenance of the vehicle from author and former Chieftain and Challenger tank commander, Lieutenant Colonel Dick Taylor RTR. He also examines the combat career of the Panzer III, giving a balanced view of the tank that was associated with the initial years of German success in the Second World War.
Originally intended to be armed with a 50mm gun, the Panzer III went into service with below-par 37mm main armament. Subsequent up-gunning programmes twice extended its life, as did ammunition improvements, but its performance in Russia and North Africa showed that it was being outclassed by more modern designs and from 1942 the end of the road was in sight for this tank.
Author Dick Taylor tells how British forces captured a number of different models of the Panzer III in North Africa from 1941 onwards and subjected them to detailed examination. The centrepiece of this manual is one-such acquisition, the Tank Museum’s early production Panzer III Ausf L, which fell into Allied hands in North Africa in 1942.
The manual is supported by more than 300 photographs and illustrations, many of which are rare or previously unpublished.
Talking about the tank, Dick Taylor commented: "The Panzer III became a symbol of German success in the early war years, but its development and production was far from simple. Germany had to build up the skills and capacity for tank production in a country that had been banned from producing tanks by the Versailles Peace Treaty and whose automobile industry lagged far behind in scale when compared to Britain and France.
Dick added: "Having spent many years on tanks myself, it’s been an honour to give unique insights into the Panzer III, examining in detail the development and service history of this important military vehicle, including its flaws and failings. It has also been great to work once again with the Tank Museum."
David Willey, Curator of The Tank Museum, said: "It has been a pleasure to work together again with both Haynes and Dick to provide them with full access to our extensive archive and library. We hope that military enthusiasts, modellers, re-enactors and modern military historians alike will find this a fascinating and balanced read on a tank at the centre of Germanys Panzer forces during their years of victory."
About the author
Lieutenant Colonel Dick Taylor RTR joined the British Army as a Junior Leader aged 16 and served for over 20 years on Chieftain and Challenger tanks as a tank crewman, commander and gunnery instructor. Still on active duty and in his fortieth year of service in 2017, he is also a military historian with an established reputation as an authority on British armour. He has also written a number of books on armoured warfare, including the Haynes Challenger 1 Main Battle Tank Manual and the Haynes Chieftain Main Battle Tank Manual. He lives in Dorset.
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