This tome appears to be Piotr Witkowski’s first book in English. I’ve found two prior books in Polish: Polskie jednostki powietrzno-desantowe na zachodzie (Bellona, 2009) and a second edition of this book titled: Spadochroniarze Sosabowskiego : Dzieje polskich jednostekpowietrznodesantowych 1939-1945 (Bellona, 2012). Volume 2 has already been scheduled for a 2017 release by Piotr Witkowski that will focus on armament and equipment used in Operation Market Garden.
This book focuses on the uniforms and accessories used by 1st Independent Parachute Brigade. Created in September 1941 under the command of Major General Stanislaw Sosabowski, their original mission was to parachute into Poland to liberate their home country. The British had other ideas and persuaded them to be a unit under Allied (British) command. After many military snafus, they were finally sent into action as part of Operation Market Garden in September of 1944. Casualties in the first few days were high, but their presence helped divert some 2,500 German troops from annihilating the British 1st Airborne Division.
I counted 59 black and white photographs and an additional 417 color pics. You also get 43 color drawings and 23 black and white drawings. The black and white photos are WWII era pictures while most of the color photos. Interestingly, the product details on many of the online sites selling this book list 200 pages. Mushroom Model Publications’ has provided a page by page preview at: http://mmpbooks.biz/ksiazki/330
The Table of Contents includes the following sections:
- Chapter I: 1st Independent Parachute Brigade Timeline 1940-1947 [Page 6]
- Chapter II: Other Rank’s Field Uniform [Pages 18 and 36]
- Chapter III: Paratrooper’s Equipment [Page 63]
- Chapter IV: Officer’s Uniform [Page 73]
- Chapter V: Signs, Badges, Insignia [Pages 93 and 105]
- Chapter VI: Parachutist Uniform and Its Evolution [Page 125]
Piotr Witkowski provides a short development and operational timeline for the 1st Independent Parachute Brigade and then dives into the details. We are talking uniforms and any variations in their totality. This means pants, shirts, sweaters, caps, helmets, underwear, socks, neckties, buttons, insignias, etc. for every member of the Brigade, from the officers, on down the line. Additionally, accessory equipment, outside of weapons, are covered in detail. This includes gas masks, flashlights, canteens, all sorts of pouches, wire cutters, etc. I found the section on body armor interesting. Using 1 mm steel plates encased in canvas, this ‘flexible’ body armor was then adjusted with a multitude of straps and buckles. Chapter five focuses on insignia, badges and banners. The Polish combat banner was supported by a history of over a thousand years and was deeply entrenched in the emotional commitment of the unit.
Piotr Witkowski notes that the research in this area is still not complete and is apparently hotly contested on internet forums, much like the Airfix 1/48 P-40B. Still, the information presented here surely stands beret and boots ahead of any published to date. I had not been a connoisseur of military uniforms before, although I am aware of this area being a passion for many. Still I was quite impressed with the detail and descriptions presented by Piotr Witkowski and I do look forward to Volume 2. If you are into military uniforms and need color references to Operation Market Garden, this is an excellent book.
My thanks to Mushroom Model Publications and IPMS/USA for the chance to review this great book.