The awe inspiring Tiger tank...Hitler’s super weapon of the WW2 battlefield. So superior to all other tanks of the enemy that the Battle of Kursk was delayed to allow the Tiger 1 to spearhead the attack that would drive the Russians back and bring victory back to the Germans on the eastern front…or so they hoped. “The Last Citadel” by David L Robbins is a fictional novel based on this premise and this is my review.
The Last Citadel by David L Robbins, is a fictional book based on historical events surrounding the epic tank battle at Kursk Russia in 1943 during WW2. The German forces were bogged down by the Russian winter, the Russian victory at Stalingrad and then the subsequent spring rain and mud. In the summer of 1943 the Germans had amassed a huge force to attack Russia and regain lost ground. This would lead to the largest tank battle in history and also lends a dynamic backdrop to this book.
There are 4 main characters that drive this story. The first is a Spanish officer Captain Luis Ruiz de Vega serving with the SS Liebstandarte Panzer Division. He was wounded in the Battle of Leningrad and is but a shell of his former greatness. The next 3 are all from the same Russian Cossack family. Dimitri Berko, a private driving the T-34 in the Soviet 3rd Mechanized Division. He is commanded by Sergeant Valentin Berko, Dimitri’s son, and Katya Berkovna, Dimitri’s daughter, a night bomber with the famous all-female bomber squadrons of the Red Air Force, so-called the Night Witches by the Germans that they bomb. The 3 main story lines follow de Vega being assigned to escort the new super panzer of the German Army, the Tiger 1 Panzerkampfwagen VI, via train to the front and assure that the Tigers are delivered intact. He then starts itching for action to command one of the Tigers at the Battle of Kursk. He soon realizes how the Tiger is most effective in battle. With Demitri and son Valentin in the same T-34 there is much of the father/son tension along with the tank battles that ensue.
The author keeps all entities separate into what seems like 3 different stories revolving around the build up to the tank battle at Kursk. Each character has there own well detailed back stories that are fleshed out through memories, flashbacks and boastful story telling during the breaks in the battles. The best aspect of this book is the historical accuracy and detail of the Tiger tank and the Battle of Kursk. This book was very close to being non-fiction in the level of detail, but also very engrossing character development. After reading about David L Robbins amount of research that was conducted, I knew just how realistic this book was. He had spent 3 weeks on the battlefields of Kursk in the middle of summer getting a feel for the heat and sun of the Russian steppes. He also trained in how to derail a train using explosives as the Partisan Russian
fighters attempted in stopping the shipment of the Tiger tanks in the story. Time was also spent in pouring over accounts from German and Russian tankers’ first hand battle accounts. “Hands on” equipment training was given to him ranging from small arms to the tanks at the Aberdeen Ordinance Museum in Maryland and being driven around in a restored Russian T-34 in Virginia.
David L Robbins certainly did his homework for this book and you will feel it when you read it. This is a must read for any Tiger 1 fan and any WW2 fan in general.