The previous titles I have looked at in the Armour in Theatre titles have covered a specific area and short period of time, this title covers the years over which tracked armour made an appearance during World War One and so covers a number of years. The books own introduction also refers to this fact. Due to this I was unsure of what I expected to be offered as I had become familiar with a model used by the company. So let’s dig in and see what is on offer here from Scale Armour Modelling.
This offering from Scale Armour Modelling is printed and presented in a portrait layout of A4 size. The titles author is Mark Healy and Mark’s work is accompanied with illustrations by Mark Rolfe. The book is a soft cover of heavy paper and I would have preferred card due to the better protection it offers or perhaps offer binders to better protect these publications. Inside are 66 pages if you count the inside of the cover that have been utilised in this publication.
There are eleven chapters in this offering but no index has been provided, that is first disappointment I have encountered here. The breakdown is as follows:
1. The Origins of the Tank – A Difficult Gestation
2. “Mother” goes into Production
3. The German Reaction
4. French Armour
5. The Artillerie Speciale goes to War
6. Cambrai – Armoured Dawn?
7. 1918 – The Light Tanks
8. The Battle of Amiens
9. Camouflage Colours of First World War Armour
10. Had the War Continued
11. How Decisive was the role of the Tank in the Great War
The first two chapters in this title are very informative; I picked up a lot of information that I had not known before. Information such as Haig being a supporter of the tank rather than against it was new to me. The reaction of German infantry confronted with tanks is an aspect of which I was aware, but I was not aware that the issue of tank fear continued to wars end.
The Germans attempt at tank production was limited despite the desire for such machines. Many of their designs turned into unproductive dead ends with the exception of the A7V of which only 20 were built/completed. The Germans did make good use of British tanks they managed to capture/recover primarily at Cambrai of which there were more than their own A7V offerings. Of interest to me was that we always associate monster tanks with World War Two Germany, but two 125 ton tanks were in production at the end of the war.
The French were behind the British when it came to tank design despite both countries starting at the same time. The French suffering from internal squabbles due to the Schneider design having not gone through the chain of command and the St Chamond running as a competing armoured vehicle may have resulted in less than stellar vehicles. Looking at this from outside shows how pointless it was as they were surpassed by the Renault FT17. As German artillery was taught to deal with tanks advancing on their positions the task of the tankers took on new terrors. The Germans being taught to try and hit the fuel storage areas resulted in many French crews being roasted alive due to small escape hatches.
The information on the battle of Cambrai shows what can be achieved via the use of combined arms and let down by failing to exploit what is achieved. The artillery shelling in front of the advancing armour, the infantry following the armour and supporting them and finally the Royal Flying Corps preventing the preventing the enemy from seeing the preparations and flying interference during the operation. Cambrai turned from a great success into a failure in so much as all of the territory captured was lost again, but it showed how the tank when used properly could do remarkable things.
The section covering the light tanks is where the Renault FT and Whippet are looked at in more detail. This area also covers a tank on tank exchange, a very rare occurrence during the Great War.
The Battle of Amiens also gets attention in this title and looks at what happens when things go wrong. The mission started out completely as expected with everything going to plan, but as the mission progressed the German forces caught the armour in the open and artillery tore the armoured units apart on the flanks. The mission did result in a success with the Australians and Canadians in the centre capturing huge numbers of enemy. With the ultimate success of the mission despite the setbacks, the Germans knew the end was coming and 3 months later war came to an end.
The remaining three sections of the book are very short, for me the section on camouflage colours is the most interesting of the three due to providing concise information on the subject. This covers Great Britain, France and Germany. Future tank development looks at those tank designs in the works. What I find most pleasing about this section is that it covers tank designs that were built even if they did not go into production. Finally the author looks at the subjective matter of how decisive the tank was during the Great War. The author feels that the tank made breaching the Hindenburg line possible my opinion agrees with the author to some extent.
The photographs in this title are ones that I cannot recall having seen before and some do show aspects of war which are usually glossed over, areas such as just how gruesome death can be. The illustrations are well done and one I particularly like features a Mk V with a grass camouflage application.
Mark Healy has done a very good job of covering quite an intense area of armoured history in very few pages. I will admit that I would have liked to see an index in a book covering such a broad section of history, but that does not detract from the enjoyment of reading this offering
Highs: a very well written book that is an enjoyable read.Lows: I would have liked to have an index.Verdict: A very good effort at covering a subject over a long period of time in a restricted number of pages.
About Darren Baker (CMOT) FROM: ENGLAND - SOUTH WEST, UNITED KINGDOM
I have been building model kits since the early 70’s starting with Airfix kits of mostly aircraft, then progressing to the point I am at now building predominantly armour kits from all countries and time periods. Living in the middle of Salisbury plain since the 70’s, I have had lots of opportunitie...