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Allied Tanks of the Second World War

Michael Green
This book, part of the Images of War series, does pretty much what it says on the cover – always a good thing. It comprises pictures, many in colour, of French, British, Russian and American tanks of World War Two, each of which gets a pretty formulaic paragraph.

And that is it. There is little wider discussion of the various design philosophies and compromises involved. Nor the constraints imposed by industrialised warfare, although it hints at them occasionally. The brutal truth behind the Sherman was that it was an adequate tank which could be produced in sufficient numbers that the (generally superior) German armour would be overwhelmed no matter how many allied tanks they knocked out. While this was good news for the allied countries, it was of course not quite the same for the tank crews. The failure of the US to deploy an equivalent of the Sherman Firefly remains one of the most callous decisions made in military procurement.

The other fact that gets driven home is quite how awful British tank design and procurement was. It took almost the entire war for the UK to produce a half-decent tank, the Comet. Given that we invented the tank this remains shameful, and an interesting contrast to the aircraft manufacturing industry, which of course produced the Rolls Royce Merlin engine and the Spitfire before the war had even started. Plus ca change, as they say.

Still, this book does what it says on the tin; nothing more and nothing less. At £16.99 its pricey and a search of Google images would probably yield at least as many useful images, and probably some better ones as many of those used are from museums and re-enactors, rather than contemporaneous ones.

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