- David Lister
- ARRSE Rating
- 4 Mushroom Heads
Compiled by David Lister, Edited by Paul Chapman.
ISBN 978 1 52671 453 4. First Published - 2018 by Pen & Sword Military.
The author, David Lister, is a renown military historian specialising in tanks and tracked vehicles. It was during his research into archived vehicles that he came across files that had not previously been viewed by historians or were too non-specific to fall into a particular category. Following a suggestion from a colleague, Lister compiled plans, drawings and photos into the book mentioned above. Measuring 9½" by 6½" and containing over 130 pages, this book covers some interesting facts.
During every period of world unrest, there emerges the brilliant inventors who produce the weapons that ultimately prove to sway the tide of war in their favour. Such brilliance is met with rewards in the shape of fame, knighthood or even money. Most only wish to be remembered for their brilliance and think nothing of the rewards. On the other side of the coin are the fantasists, the patent seekers and the downright deranged. Looking for the one design that will give them their big break. Many of the designs need a small adjustment to get that break, but others are dangerous. Indeed some of the designs by the latter category look as though they would deal far more damage to themselves than an enemy!
This book is about those people. Those who thought they had the ideal weapon to end the war or the tank that could fly! Most of these fantastic ideas never made it passed the prototype stage or were steered away from the Ministry of War Production, headed by Lord Beaverbrook, by an astute team of scientific officers. Strangely enough, the tank that could fly (chapter 2) was thought to be feasible and it was only lack of research into the wing mechanism and landing speeds which caused the project to be shelved until 1946 and then completely ignored.
A Mr Matthew Cargin of Leeds tried to go one better with his ideas of an underwater tank, weighing between 235 and 265 tons, carry eleven men as well as a crew of twelve and survive underwater for at least eight days. At 49 feet in length and 17 feet in width, the vehicle would not win any prizes for it's covert abilities! Although Lord Beaverbrook toyed with the idea, the Department of Naval Land Engineering (DNLE) and the Department for Scientific Research had their doubts due to less than glowing g references received about Cargin. In 1941 Vickers came up with a better idea for an amphibious tank based on the Tetrarch, however high costs and slow production eventually saw the idea peter out.
A number of guns make appearances in the book, including a method of moving anti-tank guns into range to fire upon enemy tanks without being fired on themselves. A useful idea, but a failure because the vehicle had no method of defending itself! There is a chapter devoted to the well-intentioned Mr Lewis Motley and his shoulder-launched rocket gun which held a magazine of five rockets. The problem was, if one rocket failed to ignite and the one above did, the person firing the gun would become extinct. Finally there was the Cambridge Camal, a weapon so well developed it run out of a war to fight in!
The book contains many references to these wonderful flights of fancy, and it wasn't just the British who came up these ideas, Germany had their fair share of inventing genius's. Prior to the start of WW2, the Germans were rumoured to have already built and tested a Scwimmpanzer. This appears to have stuck at the prototype stage until the Landwasserschlepper made it's appearance.
This book is invaluable to anyone interested in military vehicle history and contains some excellent black and white photos of the respective vehicles or guns, detailed line drawings and tables of information. Some of the vehicles displayed in the book are recognisable from posts on Army Rumour Service website, notably Martel's one man tank, The Crossley-Martel tankette and the Mechanical Coffin. I would recommend this book to all historians and model makers. Unusually for a compilation, this book makes interesting reading as a cover to cover story as well as a side history to pre and post World War Two.
I will give it Four mushroom heads