DotR on YouTube – Aim to Kill-Warsaw Pact Equipment Recognition Booklet

A brief video looking over this recognition booklet produced for American, British and Canadian forces based in West Germany in 1986 during the height of the Cold War. I found this at a charity shop for 50p but when I got home I discovered these go for around £25 on Ebay as they are becoming something of a collector’s item for those interested in the Cold War.

I will be uploading stills in the future should anyone want to look at it in more depth.

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Royal Tank Regiment: A Pictorial History (George Forty)

a pictorial history of the tank regimentIt’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.

SITREP – March 2015

sitrepWelcome to Defence of the Realm’s SITREP for March 2015. For those of you who are new followers and have never seen one of these posts before I would like to welcome you and thank you for giving the site a look. Basically, this is my opportunity to let you you know the site is doing and the direction it will be taking over the next month. It is also your opportunity to let me know your thoughts on the site in general as well as to offer your own suggestions/input in to any of the projects that are on the horizon.

So, as always I like to begin by thanking everyone who has taken the time to read the most recent posts. In the past two months alone the site’s hit rate has already surpassed all of 2014 and thats down to you guys. I know some of them can be quite long winded at times but when the spirit grabs me and I throw myself in to a topic I like to run with it for all its worth. An interesting comment was posted by one of the site’s long time supporters, Pierre Lagacé on the article Britain’s Forgotten Tank War regarding British tanks fighting in the Russian Civil War in 1919. He asked me where do I find such practically unheard of stories and so I thought I would take some time in this SITREP to explain just how I do my research.

In very simple terms; I read a hell of a lot of books. The 21st Century has been called the Information Age and thanks to the internet this is certainly true. We now have a vast wealth of digital knowledge available to us via an online search engine but there are limitations to this method of research the biggest one being you have to already know something about what you want to look for. Sadly we can’t yet Google “show me something I don’t know.” This is where books have something of an advantage. With a book there is a wealth of information at your fingertips covering a general topic that you can flip through and stumble across a hidden gem of a story that you can work on and that’s exactly how I stumbled across the story of British tanks in the Russian Civil War.

a pictorial history of the tank regimentI take a trip in to Caldicot town centre, near where I live, at least once a week and whenever I do I invariably find myself wandering in to the two charity shops they have there. Charity shops are a goldmine for military books and not only are they cheap but you are helping a good cause in buying them; I almost always make a little donation to the cashier even if its just letting them keep the change. One day I picked up a book called A Pictorial History of the Royal Tank Regiment by George Forty for just 75p! Admittedly this book was somewhat out of date (I am really excited about seeing those new Challenger 1 tanks that are coming in to service 😀 ) but did that make any of its details about the formation of the Tank Regiments of the British Army any less relevant? Certainly not! And tucked away within its pages was a few brief paragraphs that mentioned British tanks being sent to Russia to fight the Bolsheviks. I was intrigued.

Thus because I knew what I was looking for I then turned to the world wide web to build on what was published in the book and thus a new article began. Now I am no technophobe by any stretch of the imagination but for me there’s nothing better than simply picking up a book and reading it. I am just old fashioned in that way but at the same time my research would be painstakingly slow if I used books alone. I guess what I am trying to say is if you are taking to the internet to advance the cause of preserving and promoting history, wander in to a charity shop every now and again. You may find something completely new to you in the old books and telling forgotten stories of Britain’s military successes and failures is really what Defence of the Realm is all about.


So with the preaching over let me highlight a few things I have planned on the horizon. Remember if you have any suggestions on any of these topics or have one you would like me to address just put it in the comments section below.

  • Last month I specified that future aircraft comparisons would be made between British and other western aircraft not just from an opposing side. Plans I have at the moment include De Havilland Sea Venom FAW.22 vs Douglas F3D Skyknight in a comparison of first generation naval nightfighters of the 50s. I am also planning to compare the Gloster Meteor F.8 against the Dassault Ouragon as requested by Gareth Wood of Fighter Jet News.
  • I have decided to make more of an effort to cover topics and events before the 20th century. The First and Second World Wars seem to have cast quite a shadow over the 19th century especially and I want to bring more of this era to light. The article on the Bombardment of Alexandria 1882 is the first in this new series of articles.
  • Currently working on an article about an aborted Pearl Harbour style attack on the German High Seas fleet while they were in port during World War I. The attack was days away from being carried out by the Royal Navy before the signing of the armistice brought an end to hostilities. I should hopefully have it posted by Sunday.
  • I have talked a lot about the machines of war but this is not doing the men and women behind them justice and therefore starting this month I am going to be introducing “Personnel Files” which will chronicle the service careers of men and women of the British armed forces many of whom have had little acknowledgement for their contributions.
  • After speaking at such length about the importance of books I should therefore make more of an effort to do book reviews – I have just one at the moment.
  • Finally, I am considering starting a podcast. This is just a pipe dream at the moment until I can iron out some of the bugs and find knowledgeable people willing to participate. I have no more details other than that at the moment but it is something I have been thinking of for some time. Watch this space.

Thank you again for your time.

– Tony Wilkins

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A Rolls-Royce Spey turbofan makes an excellent head buffer

“The Illustrated Directory of Tanks of the World” by David Miller

TOFW

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.

Conclusion…

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.