Churchill Tanks – British Army North-West Europe 1944-1945 – Review

When I received a copy of Panther Tanks to look at, I also ask for a copy of a similar publication on Churchill tanks, partly because I had little knowledge of them and partly because I think I will be modelling some in 1/300 scale later this year. I was sent a copy of Dennis Oliver’s “Churchill Tanks – British Army North-West Europe 1944-1945.”

The Churchill was beset with many mechanical problems, brought about by being rushed into production. It was a difficult tank to maintain but its strength was its versatility. The technical section of the book discusses this versatility well outlining the different marks and usage of the vehicle. Not as effective in tank-on-tank combat as the SHerman, it was the versatility of the vehicle that was its greatest strength.

Design of these tanks was commenced in 1939 with the vehicle originally designated the A20, becoming the Churchill as it entered production. Following from the A11, the Matilda and the Valentine, the Churchill was the 4th of the Infantry Tanks developed by the British to fit within the initial British belief in the way war would run (tanks support infantry and breakthroughs exploited by cavalry).

The book itself is short, some 64 pages only but contains a background of the Churchill tank, details of its use operationally, some great photographs and best of all for the modeller, models! The book contains the following chapters:

  1. Introduction
  2. The Army Tank Brigades
  3. Camouflage and Markings
  4. Model Showcase
  5. Modelling Products
  6. 1st Assault Brigade, Royal Engineers
  7. Technical Details and Modifications
  8. Appendix
  9. Product Contact List

This book is primarily written for the modeller and is part of Pen & Sword Books, Tank Craft Range and as such the modelling, detailing and camouflage information is extensive. Oliver presents 12 pages of colour and markings and information of 10 tanks. He then illustrates with colour photographs, builds of 1/35 scale vehicles from different modellers and manufacturers, some from the box others with conversion kits added. The modellers are from different countries and the models are superb.

Oliver then goes on the survey the model kits available and lists in:

  • 1/35 scale – Dragon Models,Tamiya, Italeri
  • 1/56 – Italeri
  • 2/48 – Tamiya
  • 1/76 1/72 – Arifix, Italeri, Revell, Zvezda
  • 1/100 – Zvezda

For the modeller or the wargamer, this is a worthwhile addition to the bookshelf. Colour details are excellent and accurate as are the marking details. I am looking now for both my glue for the model sitting on my workbench as well as hunting around for the wargame vehicles for my late British Army – at least to be targets for the previously mentioned Panthers. Highly recommended and best of all, on sale currently.

Churchill Tanks – British Army, North-west Europe 1944-45
By Dennis Oliver
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Series: Tank Craft
Pages: 64
ISBN: 9781526710888
Published: 4th September 2017

URL: https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Churchill-Tanks-Paperback/p/13919

Recommended for the modeller and the wargamer and best of all, this publication is currently on sale at Pen and Sword Books (January 2017).

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Treaty Cruisers – the First International Warship Building Competition – Review

The 10,000 ton cruiser, a product of the attempt to restrict the uncontrolled growth of Post World War 1 naval building, was also a significant contributor to the Second World War naval actions. Leo Marriot discusses the genesis of the 8″, 10,000 ton Treaty Cruisers.

I’ve had this book on my bookshelf for a few years now and grabbed it to read on this trip back to Oz as it was light enough to not be a nuisance carrying on and off aircraft.

The Washington Treaty was an attempt to limit the number and size of warships being built post World War 1. It was originally signed in 1922. There was later a Geneva Conference in 1927 and two London treaties, one in 1930 and the second in 1935-36. The original treaty was principally drafted to limit capital ships but cruisers also came under the spotlight and after much discussion, 8″ gun armed cruisers of 10,000 tons maximum weight were the result (the 8″ gun limit was to permit the British to keep their 7.5″ armed cruisers – no other navy had 8″ guns at the time).

The later treaties were to control the tonnage of vessels built by nation.

So, one the the unexpected consequences of the ratification of the Washington Naval Treaty was that the five treaty nations very quickly ended up building cruisers. These were built to the limits of the treaty and over the period from 1022 to 1939 the following were built:

Country Ordered Completed
Britain and Commonwealth 17 15
France 7 7
Germany* 5 3
Italy 7 7
Japan 20 18
USA 18 18

Germany is included above as not one of the 5 signatories to the treaty, there was a later British-Germany agreement.

Marriot briefly discusses the history of the cruiser, then starts a description of the political and technical aspects of the period that influenced the major powers to try and limit warship construction. He then goes on to describe how each power approached the building and modification of cruisers.

The book is broken up into parts, with part 1 discussing the rules of the treaties, part 2 the various powers (contestants in the race), part 3 looks at the cruisers at war by theatre. There are then 4 appendices covering technical data, construction programmes, eight-inch guns and aircraft deployed aboard heavy cruisers.

The book is published by Pen & Sword Maritime, with 185 pages, ISBN: 9781844151882 and was published on 30th September 2005.

Marriot’s style is easy to read and he provides a good survey of the Treaty Cruisers, covering the treaties, the building programmes and the performance in combat. This is a book I am happy to have on my bookshelf.

Panther Tanks – German Army & Waffen-SS, Normandy Campaign 1944 – Review

I recently purchased a model kit of a Panther tank. Actually, I purchased a lot of model kits of tanks, one of which was a Panther. Looking around for some information on the tank, I came across Dennis Oliver’s “Panther Tanks, German Army and Waffen SS, Normandy Campaign 1944.”

Well armoured and with a powerful 75mm gun, the Panther was a shock to Allied tank crews, surviving many hits whilst dealing out  destruction to all the Allied AFVs. The German Army and Waffen-SS deployed around 300 Panthers in the west prior to the Allied invasion. There were more powerful German tanks in the west (the Panzer VI – Tiger for example) but only in small numbers, and more numerous (Panzer IVs) but it was the Panzer V, the Panther, that caused the greatest grief to the Allied tank crews.

Design of these tanks was commenced in 1941 with prototype vehicles being demonstrated to Hitler in May 1942. With haphazard design changes, the first tanks off the production lines suffered from a number of issues including engine fires, and whilst these were to some degree addressed during the production of the model D, a number of the faults still plagued the vehicles in service.

The book itself is shirt, some 64 pages only but contains a background to the Panther, details of its use operationally, some great photographs and best of all for the modeller, models! The book contains the following chapters:

  1. Introduction
  2. The Normandy Battlefield
  3. The 1944 Panzer-Regiment
  4. The Army Panther Battalions
  5. Camouflage and Markings
  6. Model Showcase
  7. Modelling Products
  8. The Waffen-SS Panther Battalions
  9. Technical Details and Modifications
  10. Product Contact List

This book is primarily written for the modeller and is part of Pen & Sword Books, Tank Craft Range and as such the modelling, detailing and camouflage information is extensive. Oliver presents 12 pages of colour and markings information of 24 tanks. He then illustrates with colour photographs builds of 1/35 scale vehicles from different modellers and manufacturers,  Dragon and ROCHM Model (conversion kits). The modellers are from different countries and some are simply models, others part of dioramas.

Oliver then goes on the survey the model kits available and lists in:

  • 1/35 scale – Dragon Models,Tamiya, Italeri
  • 1/56 – Italeri
  • 2/48 – Tamiya
  • 1/76 1/72 – Arifix, Italeri, Revell, Zvezda
  • 1/100 – Zvezda

HE then goes on to list some of the aftermarket suppliers as well supplying etched brass additions such as zimmerit, straps, radiators and fans,periscopes and the like. Also listed are replacement items such as aluminium gin barrels. Replacement tracks are also listed.

For the modeller or the wargamer, this is a worthwhile addition to the bookshelf. Colour details are excellent and accurate as are the marking details. I am looking now for both my glue for the model sitting on my workbench as well as hunting around for the wargame vehicles for my late German Army. Highly recommended and best of all, on sale currently.

Panther Tanks (Paperback), German Army and Waffen SS, Normandy Campaign 1944
By Dennis Oliver
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Series: Tank Craft
Pages: 64
ISBN: 9781526710932
Published: 4th September 2017
URL: https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Panther-Tanks-Paperback/p/13698

World War 2 Belgians – Another BKC Army

The full Belgian force

Earlier this year I was looking for something a little different and as Blitzkreig Commander III had been released I flicked through the rules and lists and decided that I would start building some another early World War 2 army or two. I have Western Desert Italians (built for BKC – see this blog post and then this one for colour) back in Australia and had acquired some Early War Germans from Douglas as he sold off figures before his move to Scotland. I had also already built an early war Soviet Army (built for BKC II) and thought to myself, “English, French or something else?” Something else won and I started looking for figures for a Belgian army, circa 1940.

Now I know there have been issues with BKC III resulting in that being pulled but fortunately the only differences in the BKC II and BKC III lists was effectively the removal of the 47mm Anti-Tank Guns. So my army is missing those at the moment but I will add them next time I can afford a figure order.

The models eventually selected to use were the Belgians from Scotia Grendel. I must admit that I am somewhat disappointed with the infantry figures as they suffer from thin legs and poor casting as well as a rather static pose. Having said that, the motorcycles and vehicles are lovely. I selected from the Belgian range, the French range and the Neutral Equipment range.

Overall now, it is a nicely fragile force of early war equipment. The figures have been based ready for sand to be added and painting to commence.

I will update Thomo’s Hole later with painting details as the point goes on.

For the future? I think the next early war forces will be the French, followed by the British prior to Dunkirk then more early Germans. To oppose the Soviets will be slightly later early war Germans and I also have the Japanese. Somewhere along the line I will add so Poles as well.

As to the quality of the figures, see for yourself and make up your own mind.

Images of War – Axis Tanks of the Second World War – Review

Written by Michael Green and published by Pen & Sword Military on 7th August 2017, 216 pages, ISBN 9781473887008, this publication contains a number of rare photographs from wartime archives, as well as photos of tanks still existing.

The book is split into fours chapters of Light Tanks; Early-War Medium Tanks; Late-War Medium Tanks; And Heavy Tanks.

Each chapter then looks at some of the background to the type of tanks and the various countries constructing them. For the German section of Light Tanks chapter for example, the Panzer I and Panzer II are naturally covered. Then the Czech light tanks and their variants in German use, Panzer 38(t), are discussed.

The chapter then moves on to the Italian Light Tanks, the various Carro Veloce marks followed by the Hungarian Toldi and Nimrod tanks. Japanese light tanks are then round out the narrative.

The 10 pages of narrative on the Light Tanks does not give more than superficial information but that is not the main purpose of this book – it is for photographs. 36 pages of photographs, most contemporary to the tanks along with some colour photos, generally of tanks in museums  and private collections.

The same format is followed for the remaining three chapters.

This book is full of interesting photographs and should be on the bookshelf of any AFV petrol or diesel heads. Best of all, it is currently on sale (October 2017).

Images of War – Axis Tanks of the Second World War

A Wargamer’s Guide to the Desert War 1940-1943 – Review

Daniel Mersey, a wargame author with an increasing number of publications, has written a few “Wargamer’s Guides”. Previous volumes have covered the Anglo Zulu Wars and the 1066 Norman Conquest. This volume covers North Africa and the Desert War between 1940 and 1943.

The book is paperback of 118 pages, published by Pen & Sword Military on 12 June 2017, ISBN: 9781473851085. It is one of the range of wargame books being published by Pen & Sword.

In many respects, I found this book a better “beginning wargames” book than Iain Dickie’s Wargaming on a Budget as it covers pretty much everything from figure size and model scale, through rules, and figures, and playing the game and setting scenarios.

The book contains six chapters:

  1. The Desert War – an overview of the war covering the early cumsy attempts of the Commonwealth and Italian forces, then the changes broiught about by the introduction of German firces and then lastly the American effect and concluding with Operation Torch and the collapse of the Afrika Korps
  2. Armies, Organization, and Equipment – covering, well, the armies, their organisation and equipment. A generalised discussion of the organisation of the four armies but with references to more detailed Order of Battle. A reasonable equipment list for wargamers is also supplied. There is also a general painting guide for figures and vehicles here
  3. Wargaming the Campaign – it is what is says
  4. Choosing Your Rules – a summary of a number of rules, including: Battlegroup; Blitzkrieg Commander; Bolt Action; Chain of Command; Crossfire; Desert Rats; Flames of War; Iron Cross; KISS Rommel; Operation Squad; Panzer Korps; and Rapid Fire
  5. Choosing Your Models – a look at some of the main manufacturers in various scales including manufacturers of 28mm, 20mm, 15mm, 10/12mm and 6mm. This chapter also discusses scale for each of those figure sizes
  6. Scenarios – setting up some battles to get a feel of the desert war

There is also an index and a list of titles for further reading.

Mersey relies on previous authors’ works as well, such as Don Featherstone, which is not a bad thing.

The book also has a number of colour plates illustrating the subject in the figure sizes of 28mm, 15mm and 6mm. Many of the colour plates are from the Perry Twins.

Being a wargamer and having grown up on stories of the Rats of Tobruk and el Alamein, I have always had an interest in the Desert War. That it was in the first half of the Second World War when the equipment was being developed that would later be used and characterise the late war was  a bonus. Who can not fail to admire the Italians in their tiny tanks or groan at the number of breakdowns of the early cruiser tanks and then marvel at the later Lee/Grant tanks.

This is a volume that should be on any wargamer’s bookshelf. Even now, I am about to post this review, make a coffee and sit in my favourite reading chair and flick through this book again, planning my next Desert War project. Will it be Chain of Command and 28mm or more 6mm and Blitzkrieg Commander? Perhaps even 2mm this time.

British Destroyers & Frigates, The Second World War and After – Review

It just so happened that I was reading Sixty Minutes for St George, a Nicholas Everard Thriller (Book 2) where Nick as stationed aboard HMS Mackerel, a fictional destroyer in World War I. I can recommend the Nicolas Everard series, ripping good yarns with a very accurate nautical theme. Anyway, while reading that, along came a copy of British Destroyers & Frigates, The Second World War and After by Norman Friedman. This edition is published on 17 May 2017 by Seaforth Publishing, has 352 pages and its ISBN is 9781526702821. There are also Kindle and ePub versions available.

Since the Second World War we have seen largely the disappearance of the old classes of cruisers and capital ships, with the obvious exception of aircraft and helicopter carriers. Over that same period destroyers and frigates have merged and whilst we still refer to FFGs and DDGs, these vessels have moved closer and closer, especially as Frigates have got larger. Friedman covers this transition within the British Navy well in this work, dealing with the political, strategic and tactical issues that have brought forward Royal Navy designs such as the Type 45 air defence escort.

The book itself is well illustrated with over 200 photographs (in black and white) of vessels as well as ship plans by A D Baker III and detail drawings from Alan Raven. The book not only covers the Royal Navy but also Commonwealth vessels from Australian and Canada, among others.

The book contains the following chapters:

  • Introduction
  • Beginning the Slide Towards War
  • What Sort of Destroyer
  • Defending Trade
  • The War Emergency Destroyers
  • New Destroyer Classes
  • Wartime Ocean Escorts
  • The Post-war Destroyer
  • The Missile Destroyer
  • The 1945 Frigate and Her Successors
  • The Search for Numbers
  • The General Purpose Frigate
  • The Second Post-war Generation
  • The Post-Carrier Generation
  • The Future

Friedman’s writing style is clear and easy to read and the man knows his subject. A lot of research has gone into this book and it shows from start to finish. This book is a must-have for anyone interested in the development of the Royal Navy through the second half of the 20th century.

I’m ready to start buying some more model vessels to paint after reading through this book.

The Broad Fourteens

So with the coastal forces wargame project this year (memo to self … get off a*** and get painting) I happened across an interesting piece on YouTube tonight. I came home exhausted and whilst waiting for the butter to thaw ready for dinner, I turned to YouTube and thought I would look at some others 1/1200 coastal forces painting. Well one thing led to another and before I knew it I was watching an English film from around the time of the Second World War, made with the crews from a couple of MBTs and/or MGBs that covered getting the boats ready, a little training then onto some missions in an area known as the Broad Fourteens.

The Broad Fourteens were an area of the North Sea just off the coast of Europe where the depth of water was 14 fathoms over a wide area and where a lot of these coastal actions took place.

The YouTub video is below:

And just to remind those folks who do not play with little toy soldiers and boats, here are some of my boat collection, waiting for paint (refer to the first paragraph).

The Coastal Fleets

New British Battleships – 1942 – HMS Anson and Howe

I ended up by accident looking at an old Pathe News clip today – the one where HMS Howe had completed her time in the graving dock and was being made ready for sea. The news report showed the final stages of preparation and the workers leaving the vessel, the provisioning of the ship and the HMS Howe sailing down to then under the Forth bridge.  Some great shots of her at sea and firing her 14″ broadside.

Well worth looking at for a blast from the past, not to mention the 1940s newsreader English, “the ship was got ready”.

Royal Navy in Eastern Waters – Linchpin of Victory 1935 – 1942 – Review

The Royal Navy in Eastern Waters – Linchpin of Victory 1935-1942 by Andrew Boyd, Foreword by N A M Rodger, published by Seaforth Publishing on 20th March 2017, ISBN: 9781473892484. This book contains 538 pages and is a heavy tome to read cover to cover. The book is well researched and is good value to the reader wanting to know some specific things from this era and area.

I must confess however that when I first saw the title, then the sub-title of “Linchpin of Victory, 1935-1943” I was ready to hold a negative opinion from the start – although perhaps that is not such a bad way to approach a book review. I felt that describing the Royal Navy in Easter Waters as the linchpin to victory was to downplay the considerably larger contribution to victory of the Atlantic and Arctic Convoys, not to mention the hard yards performed by the USA and Allies in the Pacific. Boyd’s book, however, lays out the strategy that saw the creation of the British Pacific Fleet in 1945 which was the most powerful British Fleet ever and capable of standing up to anything the IJN had left. Perhaps a more accurate title may have been Linchpin to the British Part of the Victory.

As I started to look through the book I was pleasantly surprised. It is not a book that is easy to sit down and read from cover to cover as it is written in an academic style. The amount of research in the book is simply outstanding, the notes alone stretch from pager 416 to page 500 with a further 27 pages of bibliography. The book is split into 4 parts contaning 8 chapters overall:

  • *Part I Prpararing for a Two-Hemispehere War
    • The Royal Navy 1935–1939: The Right Navy fir the Right War
    • Naval Defence of the Easter Empire 1935–40: Managing Competing Risks
  • *Part II Existential War in the West
    • Securing Eastern Empire War Potential after the Fall of France
    • The American Relationship, ABC-1 and the Resurrection of an Eastern Fleet
  • *Part III July 1941: The Road to Disaster in the East
    • Royal Navy Readiness for a War with Japan in Mid-1941: Intelligence and Capability
    • Summer and Autumn 1941: Reinforcement and deterrence
    • The Deployment of Force Z and its Consequences: Inevitable Disaster?
  • *Part IV An Inescapable Commitment: The Indian Ocean in 1942
    •  The Defence of the Indian Ocean in 1942
  • *Conclusion

In addition to the chapters, there are maps and tables as well as some illustrations. THe oreward is by noted naval historian N A M Rodger.

The book looks at the background of the fleet over the period, not the battles although some are mentioned such as the Force Z disaster. Rather this book concentrates on the politics, committees and people who effectively ensured that by 1945 the supply lines from Asia to the Mediterranean had been kept open across the Indian Ocean whilst at the same time building the most powerful British Fleet ever in time for the closing stages of the Pacific War.

There are some areas in the work that may raise eyebrows, like, for example, Boyd’s claims about what the Fleet Air Arm may have achieved should a carrier battle have occurred in the Indian Ocean. That said, the book is sitting at an easy to reach place on my bookshelf, where I can refer to its information as I read further about the British Pacific Fleet in particular.

Rodger notes that “this new account ought to startle the many comfortable ideas which have been doxing too long in the arm-chairs” and I would agree that Boyd’s work is a challenge to long held “truths”. It certainly achieved its aims with me in many areas and the prodigious amount of research present in the book does saves a lot of additional research for the reader while at the same time encouraging the reader to research more.

Well Recommended.