While the Ordnance Museum's Tiger I was located at the Wheatcroft collection, The Research Squad was allowed to photograph the tank. Considering that the number of books written about the Tiger I could fill a small library combined with online access to a plethora of museum photographs, one can be forgiven for thinking that another book on the Tiger I might not be what the world needs. This book isn't a simple walk-around, however; having had unrestricted access, The Research Squad has thoroughly documented every corner of this vehicle.
A review copy of this book, as well as access to the digital version, was provided free of charge by Brian Balkwill of The Research Squad, who is a friend of mine, for the purpose of writing this review.
The main portion of this book is made up of a total of 622 photographs, 53 isometric drawings, and seven scans from original, German drawings. It is divided into an external section with about one-third of the illustrations, and an internal section with the other two-thirds.
The photographs are sharp, the drawings are easy to decode, and the print and paper quality is good. There are about six illustrations on most of the A4-sized pages, which seems like a reasonable compromise between the level of detail discernable and the number of pages in the book.
All the illustrations have captions pointing out what the reader is looking at, as well as any particular points of interest. There are also helpful cross-references between some of the photographs and drawings, which improves the understanding of what the reader is looking at. I am not sufficiently knowledgeable about the Tiger I's measurements to be qualified to comment on the accuracy of the isometric drawings, but they are a good aid in understanding how the parts fit together.
It should be remembered that while Fgst. Nr. 250031 is not a wreck, it is not in perfect condition either. Some of the areas, especially the engine compartment, are quite rusted, certain items are missing or have been added after capture, and in line with Ordnance Museum policy sections from the side of the fighting compartment and turret have been cut out to give museum guests an easy view of the interior. These factors sets some natural limitations, which necessitates supplementary sources in some areas.
One point of contention is that not all of the German words have been translated into English, which, given their technical nature, can be frustrating even for those who are fairly proficient in German. Modellers may also find it annoying that a scale isn't included in the isometric drawings. These are only minor grievances, but something that I encourage The Research Squad to include in their future publications.
In addition to the photographs and drawings, there are several small extras in the book:
- A brief overview of the travels of Fgst. Nr. 250031, from its capture in North Africa, to the US, to Europe, and back to the US again.
- An interview with a Tiger crewman who served in North Africa (although not in Fgst. Nr. 250031).
- Scans from the gearbox manual, showing layered cut-aways as used by the tank crewmen.
- Photographic documentation of the Maybach HL 210 P 45 engine, used in early Tiger I's.
- A discussion on the frontal armored shield intended to be installed on early Tiger I's.
Some of the black-and-white photographs are quite blurry, which detracts a bit from the overall impression. It is also unfortunate that the service history of Fgst. Nr. 250031 is not included, as this is really all that is missing in completing the story of this particular tank. Despite these shortcomings, the extras are still nice additions to the book.
Particularly helpful to modellers, this book is recommended for anyone who wish to have a detailed look inside a Tiger I. The combination of photographs and isometric drawings gives an intuitive understanding of the layout and workings that can be difficult to gain from two-dimensional drawings.
Be sure to check out The Research Squads' website as well, which has a section dedicated to this book including more extras and an errata.
This review above is based on the paperback book. A digital version is also available; the digital version is cheaper than the physical one, which may appeal to the more casual reader. The quality of the photographs in the digital version is comparable to that of the physical book, and reading on my PC is fairly straight-forward. Reading on a smartphone is somewhat fiddly, however, and it is not possible to download the book for offline reading so you will have to rely on the digital publisher's website or app.
While the reduced price is nice, my personal preference, especially for reference books, is strong enough that I would suggest paying the extra to buy the physical version.