Tanks – 100 Years of Armoured Warfare
By Robin Cross and David Willy
Foreword by Dan Snow
Andre Deutsch – £40.00

On the outside of the box of this exemplary collection, Dan Snow writes: ”The word ‘tank’ is almost synonymous with military strength, the outline has become its symbol. Few weapon systems have had as big an impact as the tank in the first 100 years of its life.”

In more ways than one, it would be pretty argue with such an assessment – dour and somewhat depressing as it is. There again, for tank enthusiasts – and I’m sure the world must be riddled with quite a few – Andre Deutsch’s Tanks – 100 Years of Armoured Warfare  is a comprehensive collection that is sure to please anyone who subscribes to the killing capability of such a frightening invention.

It also sheds an abundance of facts and light on many a tank related issue that I really didn’t know (but then would I?).

For instance, did you know that the largest tank museum in the world is in Dorset, England?

To be sure, Tanks showcases dramatic images from the archives of the Tank Museum in Dorset and includes an assortment of painstakingly researched, removable documents such as: the first message ever sent from infantry to a tank on September 15th 1916, a blueprint of the British Mark V, pages from a British tank booklet from the first Gulf War, American tank identification cards from the Cold War, and last but by no nationalistic means least, extracts from the German Tiger manual and the French Somua handbook.

But it is surely the thirty-six chapters of the altogether magnificently packaged book itself, which accounts for its 129 pages of impressive investigation.

From such early chapters as ‘The Origins of the Tank’ and ‘The Battles of Passchendaele and Cambrai,’ through to ‘The Eve of the Second World War,’ ‘El Alamein,’ ‘Enter The Tiger’ and ‘Hobart’s Funnies,’ each and every one is riddled with (predominantly) black and white photographs – many of which actually bequeath the reader with a subliminal feeling of dread: ”The First World War had seen an acceptance that technology could be applied to the solution of pressing military problems. The war in the air emphasized the importance of reconnaissance, which in turn accelerated the development of fighter aircraft, and ultimately the bomber.”

It is just such pointless perpetuation that brought the entire technological advancement and reasoning behind the tank to bear -to begin with. Much of which, I have to say, is mightily well captured herein: ”There is an apocryphal story that Adolf Hitler, while watching an exercise involving Mark I tanks at Kummersdorf, declared, ”That’s what I need. That’s what I want to have!” It is aptly symbolic of the Fuhrer’s achievements after he gained power in 1933, which came at the expense of exacerbating a deep rift within the German Army.”

His nigh obsession with tanks may well have exacerbated ”a deep rift within the Germany Army,” but it did very little to stop them murdering millions of people throughout mainland Europe.”

From a historical perspective alone, Tanks – 100 Years of Armoured Warfare is a more than impressive visual account of what was (unfortunately) the tank’s first century. From the early attempts at developing an all-terrain armoured vehicle to the lethal killing machines of the twenty-first century, this superlative collection covers almost every aspect.

As such, a terrific addition to any World War II enthusiast’s library.

David Marx


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