It’s amazing what little gems you can find dotted around the odd used book or charity shop. Take this book which I picked up for less than £1 in a charity shop in Caldicot (in researching the background of the book I stumbled across a used copy for sale on Amazon for £9.49). George Forty’s book documents the early experiments with armoured vehicles before moving on to discuss the formation of the first Royal Tank Regiments and then chronicling the maturation of British armoured units up to the 1980s (the date of publication).
What more could you want for less than a pound?
As the title implies this book is lavishly illustrated with many rare images from the early days of the regiment. This is perhaps one of the best books I have ever read when it comes to looking at this landmark period. The book takes an almost personal approach to describing what life was like in the early tank regiments and their experiences with taking the idea of armoured warfare and making it a reality.
What I will say however is that this depth isn’t maintained throughout the book and once the stories of the First World War are finished the chapters covering the inter-war years feel almost rushed by comparison. This is a shame as there were many interesting points which were brought up and then passed over such as British tanks in the Russian Civil War and the use of armoured cars by the Army during the general strikes of the 1920s. The depth returns during the Second World War chapters but teeters off once again in the post war years. I really would have liked more on the Korean War with the same quality as the earlier chapters.
Anyone looking for a technical book will be disappointed as this is a book about the people not the machines. This really is worth it just for the opening chapters about the birth of the tank.
This is a well illustrated reference book chronicling tank development in nearly every country in the world that has produced tanks at some point. I picked it up off Amazon for less than £5 including postage and packing several years ago and have read it right the way through probably several times now. I used to take it to work with me and read an entry or two during my lunch break which meant it lasted me a good few weeks.
What I liked…
This is rich in technical detail about the tanks. Miller is clear enough in his writing to help you build a good mental picture of the vehicle he is describing. If that’s not enough there is an abundance of photographs to feast upon and each entry has a detailed specification sheet before the text. There are a wealth of AFVs listed in here and there were a large number I had never heard of which is a positive. There is plenty of development history in most of the entries and the text is quite technical in places. The chronological layout of the entries for each nation help build up a good picture of the evolution of that country’s tank line.
What I didn’t like…
The value of a small number of the pictures are questionable. They either have limited recognition value or are reproduced quite poorly. Two whole pages are devoted to a single picture of several T-62 tanks but it is so grainy and abstract that when I first saw it I almost couldn’t make it out. Fortunately these are the exceptions. While the technical detail is rich the operational history and experience is quite limited. One thing I discovered and thought was unacceptable in a published book were a number of spelling and grammar mistakes. I am guilty of making mistakes too but I am not being paid to write nor do I have a publisher with a quality control department. I also noted that the font seemed to change in several entries which I think was done to squeeze more information on to two pages rather than have the entry spill over on to a third page. One final criticism that I am only including in the interest of fairness is that some entries seemed unnecessary. Four pages are devoted to the French AMX-32 even though it existed in prototype form only. The average number of pages for an operational tank is two to three.
This is a good book for people who are starting their interest in armored fighting vehicles and is well worth picking up. Despite one or two of its flaws I would recommend it. As I said I discovered a lot of new vehicles I never heard of before which is one of the advantages of a book over the internet. On the internet you have to look for new types but here they are all listed for you to browse.