Tuesday 12 January 2021

Book Review: Strabokran, Volker Ruff

Got myself this for Xmas, 2020. I have a yen to scratch-build one or two of these cranes, in 1/72. The few kits of the Strabokran I found in 1/72 seem to be about £30-40+. I managed to get my copy of this book for a little over £20. That seemed, to me, better use of my limited funds; this way I can build my own models, for the cost of a few bits of plastic profile, plus I get this plush reference work, for about the same cost, or poss’ even less, as buying an off the shelf kit.

Of the several similar format books I've bought in the last few years, this isn't the best, or my favourite. The minimal bi-lingual text (in English and German) isn't terrific, and the quality of the images is quite patchy. But, nevertheless, overall it's still excellent reference, gathering together plentiful contemporary photographic imagery - albeit of very mixed quality - and supplemented by numerous line diagrams. 

The latter include 1/35 scale plans, which will be very useful for me, once all the dimensions are halved. Another of my minor gripes, however, relates to the overall clarity of all the info', both textual and graphic. I'm well past my third, fourth and now even fifth perusal of the book, and I still find it all very confusing, what with all the differing variants, and issues around the quality of the translation from German, and clarity of images, etc.


Still, despite these several caveats, I'd like to add my 'amen' to the 'hallelujah chorus' of approval that this book has received elsewhere online. 

Momentarily returning to the translation from the author's German into English, it almost feels like it’s been arrived at by simply running the German text through Google Translate, or something of that ilk. The resulting combo of strangely Germanic lumpen prose and editorial slips make the text heavier going than I'd like.  

And, despite the huge number of illustrations, which are - unusually for books in this line on similar subjects - split between mostly WWII archival photographs, and more recent line diagrams, I don't feel that there's as great a degree of visual clarity here as one might wish for. 

I bought this book partly simply because I'm a WWII/Panzer nut, and partly because, following on from the former, I wish to build models of these cranes. Repeated intensive perusal of the masses of material presented here still leaves me uncertain on several details of these fascinating machines.

However, having returned throughout this review to certain critical points, I'll end by conceding that it'd be pretty churlish to score this much less than five kreuz stars. As, after all, it does indeed gather together an immense amount of reference on its subject. 

The following short recitation of certain section headings (and contents) gives an idea of the level of detail:

After a brief intro, there's a potted history of the company that made the cranes.

Then we have info on the 15t, 16t, 20t variants, plus other stuff (inc. postwar production).

Parts of an Allied report, Operation Backfire, are reproduced, which includes illustrated descriptions of deployment.

'Strabokran in Action' shows them in use with Tigers, Panthers, Elefant and V2 rockets.

Further sections on rarities (other cranes used when Strabokran weren't available), survivors, patent applications (!), and unit formations/allocations add detail.

But best of all, for the modeller like me, there’s both a detailed photographic 'walk around’, and lots of 1/35 scale drawings.

And, whilst not perfectly rendered, nearly all the textual content is presented in both English and German. 

All in all, then, whilst admittedly not perfect, this certainly is a fascinatingly interesting and very useful resource, if - like me - you're a dedicated 'beyond hope' Panzer nut.


Volker Ruff's strabokran website