by Volker Ruff
With the arrival of 1/35 kits of the Strabokran last year, from Takom and from Amusing Hobby, it is worthwhile to have a review of this excellent book which appeared back in 2011, and which may be unfamiliar to anyone who bought the new kits. The Strabokran, Strassen-bock-kran, or road gantry crane, was also called the Frieskran, after the manufacturer JS Fries. It was built in several types, and this book looks at the 15 and 16 ton versions, this being the lifting capacity. The cranes took the form of an overhead gantry from which the lifting tackle was suspended, and this crane was an essential part of the equipment of Tiger I and II, Panther, Elefant and V2 rocket units. The crane was essential for jobs such as removing turrets, lifting guns and engines, and raising the V2. The crane could be collapsed for transport on its wheels, and was typically pulled by a heavy halftrack or Hanomag SS100. For the workshop units, these cranes were an essential part of their equipment, and the combat loss of their crane was a major disaster for the mechanics.
About the book
This is a big book! The size is larger than A4, landscape format, with 250 pages. Being hardback, this makes for a substantial volume, full of detailed information, printed crisply on high quality paper. There are 240+ photos, plus numerous tables, charts, and line drawings. The text is in English and German.
The contents are shown here:
The author, Volker Ruff, has written several books on the German heavy battalions, and is a real expert on Tigers and associated equipment.
The book is an absolute masterpiece by Volker, who has gathered an incredible amount of detail about the cranes, and has assembled it into a format that anyone can understand. In particular, after explaining the development of the Strabokran, the cranes are then described and copiously illustrated in use with each of the four tank types and the V2. The first half of the 250 page book is full of photographs and explanations, with the second half of the book being mainly detail photographs and a mass of superb scale drawings in 1/35 scale. Every configuration and variation of the cranes is shown in accurate multi-view drawings. For anyone interested in these cranes, or who is making one of the new kits, this book is an absolute goldmine of information. There is no comparable source, and this book is quite unique. It was a 'labour of love' for the author.
The picture above shows the crane in the folded configuration, towed by a Hanomag SS100. This is the arrangement shown in Chuck Aleshire's review of the Takom kit. This tractor would not usually be seen in army units, but was used with the V2 rocket troops.
Above we see the erected crane with one of the wheel combinations, in this case with the pneumatic road tyres removed, and allowing the crane to move back and forth on solid wheels.
Moving the folded crane by manpower alone was possible......... just.
Raising the crane was achieved by winding cranks that pulled cables. Hard work!
Above, we see the crane being used for its typical job, namely removing turrets from heavy tanks. Personally, it amazes me that the turrets - weighing many tons - could then be rested on several oil drums without them collapsing!
Of course, the Ferdinand/Elefant did not have a turret, but the whole superstructure needed to be removed to access the motors. Above we see them stacked up while the chassis are being serviced.
Panther units needed the cranes for turret removal. A special gadget could be used by the crane for lifting the turret.
The second half of the book is full of superb drawings to illustrate the crane parts in more detail.
And one last photo:
Wow! Look at how big the Panther is, compared to the Tiger! They are about the same distance from the camera, and the Tiger looks tiny!
OK, so Panzerwrecks kindly provided this book, published back in 2011, because the new release of Strabokran kits has suddenly made this book much more relevant than when it was first published. I have to say that this book is a total revelation, with masses of really useful information for anyone wanting to make the kits. But in addition, this book is a fascinating read for anyone interested in military hardware or the history of German tank units.
Highly Recommended for Beginner to Advanced builders, researchers, and historians.
Thanks goes out to Panzerwrecks Publishing for this review book.
Reviewed by Chris Lloyd-Staples, 2VP (International)
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