bookDuel in the Mist
Published by AFV Modeller Ltd.
ISBN 0955541301
Hardback 295mm x 210mm 300 pages 127 photos, 9 maps with 8 colour profiles not including the front cover by Ron Volstad

Review by Jon Bailey

The book format is A4 landscape which means all the photographs are presented as normal and the reader is spared having to constantly turn the book on edge to view a large AFV shot.

The story describes the furthest western penetration of KG Piper on December 19th, 1944, as such this is the battle for Stoumont, Stoumont Station and the hidden American fuel supplies in the vicinity. The story is very well presented with a situation report at the start of most chapters with maps showing the vehicle positions and call signs as the battle progressed. The maps need a scale to be more useful and the use of modern NATO tactical map symbols is a little annoying more so because there is no key explaining them but this is of little concern.

Immediately the story starts with a little known aspect of the battle in which the Americans deployed 90mm anti aircraft guns are used as anti tank weapons and there are some rather nice photos supporting this. The desperate exploits of the 743rd Tank Battalion and the 119th Infantry Regiment are well captured.

It has become an accepted practice now to include veteran’s interviews in the text mostly as a form of authenticity to the work. This can benefit the story immensely but can also over state the reminiscences of failing memories the worst extreme being a book of nothing but veteran’s memories with little attempt to bind the stories with an editorial narration.
Duel in the Mist has not overdone this aspect and the story as told by the veterans and survivors adds interest and depth to the story as told.

There are some great photographs presented in the book although on the whole the modeller may be disappointed there weren’t more, and more showing details modellers love to see. Many of the shots are too generalised and distant to be anything but ‘scene setters’. Having said that, there are definite gems, in particular the rear end of Tiger II 113 showing that little downward facing arrow on the rear plate which I believe indicates the ‘winterisation’ of the vehicle (previously seen on another TII in Hungary and numerous trucks). And Panther 232 has some fascinating details and of course those 90mm guns.

Photographs aside the story itself is a fascinating look at small unit actions set within the desperate gamble of the great Ardennes offensive and is presented in an authorative well researched and readable manner. I particularly like the inclusion of ‘footnotes’ within the text to explain or expand on parts of the story.
Not since Roland Gaul’s two volume set on the Battle of the Bulge in Luxembourg (1995), specifically Diekirch, have we seen such detailed treatment of a battle.

The appendices are thoughtful additions to the overall story and include the refitting of the 1st SS prior to the battle. This could arguably have been included in the preface to set the scene but at least its there and adds to the readers understanding of the difficulties faced by the Germans at this stage of the war. Equally the inclusion of the war crimes trial has interesting aspects (both military and social) which should not be ignored and is part of the overall story.  The lack of an index is missed and I hope this is rectified with future volumes.

The markings and camouflage section has some interesting colour plates that will help the modeller immensely regarding late war camouflage practices. There is another attempt to link the location of the national marking (Balkan cross) to the manufacturer which to my knowledge is incorrect as national markings were applied after issue from the factory (not that this discounts manufactures vehicles from being identified by the consistency of the markings just that they weren’t applied at the factory).  The reasoned conclusion to the rest of the factory applied camouflage is quite extensive and valuable to the model maker and researcher alike. Interestingly in the research there is discussion of Panthers being constructed with zimmerited turrets on non zimmerited hulls due to the stop order issued on 7th September but unfortunately there are no photographs showing this feature.

As the book was compiled by a ‘team’ it does have the feeling of a book made by a soviet of like minded people with no firm leader, there are for example some very silly typos.
However Stefen De Meyer, Timm Haasler, Roddy MacDougall, Simon Vosters and Hans Weber have done a magnificent job the story is clear, accurate and evocative and we can only await the next book (chapter) in the series which will presumably continue the story in La Gleize?

This is an expensive book which will probably limit who will buy one which is a great pity. I would confidently recommend this book regardless of the cost IF this battle and time period is your interest.

Page created December 3, 2007