Osprey Campaign Series No 16:

Kursk by Mark Healy

reviewed by Neville Lord

 

Introduction

Kursk, the German Citadel offensive, was a pivotal event in the Second World War. This battle in July 1943 saw the initiative on the Eastern Front shift from the German Wehrmacht, who had experienced initial successes in the USSR, to the Soviet army who was to progressively regain lost territory. Kursk was also the largest land battle in history involving over two million combatants and the majority of both German and Russian frontline armor. In the end for Germany it represented a loss of men and machines from which she was unable to recover.

Contents

"Kursk 1943” by Mark Healy is a professionally presented 96 page account of this battle that addresses both the Russian and German perspectives. Overall this book provides a concise summary and assessment of existing research on the battle, rather than new insights. This title is well suited to those new to this area of history, as well as those who having read many accounts of elite units or the tanks involved in the battle wish a concise reference about Kursk.

In keeping with Osprey’s Campaign series the book has a mix of text, period black and white photos, artwork and multi-colour maps. The plates of soldiers, armor and aircraft are a mix of German and Soviet subjects and are reproduced from other Osprey publications. Maps and/or 3D schematics are provided for all major assaults, the battles at Prokhorovka and Orel and the Soviet ‘Rumantsyev’ counter-offensive. Although some of the illustrations were familiar, I found them well matched to the text and helped convey the course of the battle.

The text is clearly written and the chapters systematically discuss the battle from the planning stage through to when the end of the Germans ended their offensive after a week. Healy addresses the strategic aspects such as the need for the offensive, the major events during the battle, the rationale for key decisions and an assessment of the two armies. I particularly enjoyed his discussion of how the respective high commands sought to second guess each other prior to the battle and how political interference determined Germany’s fateful game play. This book has more discussion of the day to day fighting, than my other Osprey Campaign titles and includes detailed accounts of the major tank engagements. Ten tables are included summarising the order of battle and the relative strengths of the opposing forces. A timeline is also provided.

Summary

“Kursk 1943” is a well presented book that provided a concise account of the Citadel offensive. The combination of high stakes, careful planning, and political interference make for an intriguing backdrop to Healy's review of this decisive battle. I found this book both interesting and useful and definitely recommend it.

Editor's Note: One of our readers was kind enough to send us a link to the most comprehensive website on the internet relating to the Battle of Kursk. Thanks to Tim Spalding for sending us this link.

 


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