Pen & Sword- The Dark Age of Tanks: Britain's Lost Armor 1945-1970
Author: David Lister
194 pages, with 50 photographs and drawings
NOTE: Due to COVID-19 quarantine restrictions, this review was done with a PDF copy of the book sent by Casemate Publishing.
British armor has always been of great interest to me-- from the dawn of the tank and some of the very first ones in existence onwards through time to the present MBTs. For as long as I have been interested in such things, I was not aware that there was such a disarray following the war in development of new armor to face the new foe that was growing in strength behind the Iron Curtain and the more domestic struggles of funding cuts for military armor spending. Despite the thirty year window the book focuses on, it is apparent that much of the documentation of development was lost for some reason, thus the name of the book.
The book is split into 4 main parts-- Armour of the Line, Light Armour, Infantry Armour, and War Rocket. Each of these are split into further chapters. The first section focuses on various designs that were created and later binned as they proved challenging in various ways. The book identifies most of the designs throughout the book by their series numbers, which can quickly get a bit confusing to a layman such as myself. I found myself constantly going back to try to figure out which design they were referring to. Apparently the original A.45 became the FV200 series and there were twelve vehicles in the series planned...but the book quickly moves on to the FV300 and FV400 series and beyond. It would be extremely helpful if there were a chart of some kind to follow along with. This section is probably the most difficult to follow- but mainly because there's just so much to cover. Tanks with heavy armor, universal tanks, flamethrower tanks, and various attempts at larger and more potent main guns.
The second part, Light Armour, has some very interesting subjects described within. Many paper projects that never were past that stage are spotlighted. Project Contentious was fascinating in that it had mock-ups built to test air drops, and had a unique posture when achieving maximum elevation for firing. The P.35 was another odd design and was known as the "Jumping Jeep" which one can imply by it's name why.
The third part, Infantry Armour, provides an in-depth look at carriers and the various designs from this era, including the Oxford and Cambridge carriers, as well as the FV432. One fascinating photo was of the tight quarters of fitting an Oxford in a Hamilcar glider. Most of the images in this section are computer rendered and drawings from I am assuming the design stage.
The last part, War Rocket, contains photos of rocket bearing vehicles and the rocket designs. There is an in-depth look at the larger rockets, like Malkara and Orange William and eventually, the focus narrows on to the Swingfire. There are plentiful photos that inspire some out of the ordinary ideas for model builds. One of the images not in this review shows a scale model of the placement of missiles in the fighting compartment of the FV4010. This chapter had me looking for Ferret and Hornet armoured car kits when I was done.
All in all, anyone interested in British armor from post war through the Cold War would be interested in this book. Despite the rather confusing use of the series numbers, it is still quite a read in how some unique designs ended up stymied by lack of funds in a time when one war had ended and thoughts of another one were not at the front of people's minds. I found the book to be easy to read and so, it is Highly Recommended if you want an idea of how we got from the post-war Centurion to the MBTs of the modern age.
Thanks goes out to Pen & Sword and Casemate Publishing for this review sample.
Reviewed by Michael Reeves, AMPS Albany
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