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Pe-2 Guards Units of World War 2


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Pe-2 Guards Units of World War 2

Dimitriy Khazanov and Aleksander Medved
Osprey Combat Aircraft #96
Available from Osprey for £13.99




That this is number 96 in this Osprey series shows just how successful these books have been - one simply cannot argue with approaching the century mark! For many modellers and casual military historians they are an excellent starting point, and at a basic level, sometimes a 'one stop shop'. Where they fall down in my view is a lack of technical detail and accuracy, especially once you know what to look for in some of the more common subjects. The Pe-2 - or indeed any VVS subjects - does not fall into the category of common, however, at least not in the West.








For those not familiar with this airframe, this is not because only a handful were built (over 10,000) or that it hardly saw action (1940 to 1945 any good?), but rather because the Western world has rather chosen to forget the Eastern Front ever existed, let alone actually mattered. I won't get into the whys and wherefores of this, but needless to say for our Russian friends, the Great Patriotic War (they don't call it WWII) is viewed rather differently... Anyway, back to the book and the Pe-2: because this aircraft has been neglected - compare to say the Me110 or Ju88 - this is exactly where these volumes have a chance to shine.






The format will be familiar to anyone who has seen this series before: overview of the aircraft; mini histories and combat accounts of the various formations awarded the Guards moniker; colour profiles; descriptions of profiles; and finally scale plans. The book runs to just under 100 pages, and contains 30 profiles colour profiles, and a couple of 1/72 scale plans. In terms of what you get for the price, I think it's pretty reasonable value for money. There a lots of (b&w) photos that pepper the text, many with suitably stern-looking VVS aircrew, or those quite obviously posed for propaganda purposes. They are all rather small though, and perhaps not that useful as a modelling reference, unless you want details of the crew's uniforms.







Chapter One provides a brief overview of the background to and development of the Pe-2, including accounts of how the original designers were political prisoners for a considerable period of time - at least the secret police kept good on their promise that "if the aircraft flies, you go free" (this would be funny if it wasn't so serious I suppose). There is nothing too technical here, and the various changes in production are not necessarily backed up by photographic evidence, but the authors do convey a sense of knowing what they are about - I wonder whether this is because I know they are Russian?







The next four chapters are the real core of the book, and cover Guards Bomber Air Regiments; Bomber Air Divisions; Bomber Air Corps and Air Reconnaissance Regiments. There is a final shorter chapter on Guards Bomber Air Regiments of Naval Air Forces, followed by the notes to accompany the colour profiles. The latter look nice, as they invariably do, but my usual caveat applies: check primary sources before basing any work or research on a profile in a book. Each of the above chapters are unit histories in miniature, and include origins, formation, battle honours and veterans' accounts of particular actions. I should also mention that at the beginning of Chapter Two there is a short explanation of how and why the "Guards" designation originally came about: I am happy to confess I did not know the particulars.


So all in all I quite like this book. I have given some of the Osprey books some (deserved) stick in the past, but credit where credit is due. If you have any interest in either the VVS of the Great Patriotic War, or this pretty impressive yet unsung aircraft, this will be a worthwhile read. Now if only someone will take the plunge and give us a decent offering of this or maybe its Tupolev sibling in 1/32 scale - sadly I think that could be a while.




With thanks to Osprey for the book. To purchase directly, click THIS link.


Nicholas Mayhew

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