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Ghosts of the Third Reich Volume III

Ghosts of the Third Reich Volume III: German Tracked and Semi-Tracked Vehicles First Look

By Cookie Sewell

Date of Review December 2006 Title Ghosts of the Third Reich Volume III: German Tracked and Semi-Tracked Vehicles
Publisher Published 2006
Format DVD MSRP (USD) $20 + postage

First Look

I've known Rich Isner for a number of years now, both professionally and socially, and while Rich pleads guilty to being an SGF – "Slobbering German Freak" – I don't hold him to that for a number of reasons. First off, no SGF would be caught dead wearing a full German tanker's black wool uniform actually operating an armored vehicle in 95 F heat (Rich is the re-enactor Hetzer commander at the Virginia Museum of Military Vehicles). Secondly, no SGF I know takes the time, care or consideration of his chosen subject to literally get down to the level of skinned knuckles and "sweat equity" in getting restored vehicles to operate. And third, nobody else I know takes the care to provide excellent digital video of restored vehicles of all sorts in action as Rich does.

This is the latest in a series of high-quality videos from Rich, and it covers the Bovington open day in the early fall of 2006. The Tank Museum is legendary for its collection of armored vehicles, and the Open Days are also a magnet for British restorers and re-enactors to show their stuff on the demonstration paddock at the Tank Museum. This video shows the action over the course of two days, and covers both the Tank Museum's vehicles as well as some very nicely done preserved armor.

First up is a privately preserved Sd.Kfz.7 8 ton halftrack which is about 90% restored, only missing items such as its windshield and folding top. The restorer comments on the vehicle and what he has done to it – as it was a "basket case" the answer is quite a bit! – and his hope of finding a demilled 8.8 cm gun to tow behind it.

Second is a late model Pzkw.III with the long 5 cm gun and applique armor that belongs to the Tank Museum. I was impressed at the quiet but commanding growl this beastie makes during its run-pasts.

Two different Hetzers are next to perform, and from what I recall Rich saying one is real and the other is the more prosaic Swiss G.13 version. They are also quiet as well.

A pair of the light halftracks follow, the Sd.Kfz.250 (alte) and an Sd.Kfz.250 (neue). Both are put through their paces by their owners.

A privately restored Jagdpanther is next, and a beast it is! Modelers really need to concentrate on the tracks and wheels of this vehicle, as the loose fitting tracks do quite a bit of gyrating when the vehicle is running and act nothing like most modelers would expect them to.

Lastly, and somewhat sulkily and reluctantly, Bovington's Tiger I made its formal debut as a "runner" for the first time since the late 1940s (from what I was told its original engine was "sectioned" for engineering students and thus finding a new engine was a real problem.) It apparently barely rolled out of the shops on the first day, sounding very ragged, and went back for some TLC. On the second day, it was running in fine form around the paddock, and while it is obvious that there was a steady rain falling the crowd seemed delighted to see the big beast rolling along with a suitable growl.

The video does concentrate on the external bits of the vehicles, but it is the running which is fun to watch and the sounds as they roll by. Modelers will note that armored vehicles clatter more than one would expect but rarely squeal as they do in movies and TV.

Overall this should be a winner as I know many people want to see – and hear! – a running Tiger I.

Many thanks to Rich for the review copy of the video.