Book Review – Bruno Friesen, Panzer Gunner (Mechanicsburg, PA, USA: Stackpole, 2008)

Bruno Friesen’s memoir covers his time as a gunner in Wehrmacht during the Second World War. He saw action with the 8th Company of the 25th Panzer Regiment from July 1944 until he was wounded in March 1945. Throughout his time with the unit, he served as part of the 7th Panzer Division and saw action in Ukraine, Romania and Lithuania. He operated in both Panzer IV and Jagdpanzer IV tanks. 


Friesen’s background was unusual. He was born in Canada in 1925 to parents who were German-speaking Mennonites that originated from southern Ukraine. His parents had emigrated to Canada in 1925 but in 1939 his family moved back to Germany.[1] [2] Friesen started his career in 1940 as an apprentice electrician but was called up for military service in 1942. His technical background saw his drafted into the panzer arm where he trained as a driver and eventually became a tank gunner.


Jagdpanzer IV L/70, one of the tanks in which Frisen was a gunner.


The account has a number of elements not found atypical of many memoirs of German soldiers. In many parts, the account is very technical. For example, Friesen gives considerable detail on how to sight and range a 75mm gun in a Panzer IV.[3] He details the characteristics of both the Panzer IV and Jagdpanzer IV.[4] The narrative is also very frank about all elements of service life, for example, he describes in detail the brothels in Trieste, the city to which he was posted in late 1943.[5]


Panzer IV Ausf. H N°221 from Pz.Rgt. 35 (4. Pz.-Div.). Source: Panzertruppen’s photos on Flickr


Overall, this is an interesting publication if rather dry and mechanically focused at times. This is an ideal account for those with an interest in armoured warfare as Friesen gives a unique insight into how tanks operated and fought. However, the general reader may find this memoir arid and inaccessible as there is no annotation or background provided. 



[1] Bruno Friesen, Panzer Gunner (Mechanicsburg, PA, USA: Stackpole, 2008), p.1.

[2] Ibid., p.10.

[3] Ibid.,  pp.43-55.

[4] Ibid., pp.123-133.

[5] Ibid., pp.34-36.