Classic Armoured Warfare. Cassell & Co, 1998, 224p.
As the subtitle suggests in this book Perrett covers the history of armoured warfare from its beginnings in the Great War up to Operation Sabre during the first Gulf War.
In the beginning was the armoured car, whose first flourish in the British forces came in the form of a Royal Naval Air Service armoured car division. With the establishment of the Western Front’s trench system these quickly became unusable but squadrons of cars were subsequently sent to Libya, the Middle East and the Eastern Front and had notable success there.
The origins of the tank were less straightforward than just bolting armour to an existing chassis. An Australian, Mr Lancelot de Mole, in 1911 submitted to the War Office a design for an armed, tracked vehicle capable of crossing trenches. It was ignored; as it was by the Austro-Hungarian General Staff. Again it was the Navy, and the influence of Winston Churchill, a member of the Committee of Imperial Defence, which in 1915 set up a Landships Committee and the development of the tank began. (de Mole received recognition for his invention after the war in the form of an award.)
Perrett illustrates the development of armoured warfare by discussing representative engagements in the Great War, World War 2, the Arab-Israeli Wars, Vietnam and the liberation of Kuwait. He devotes a chapter to Hobo’s Funnies, the tanks adapted under the auspices of Major General P C S Hobart to “swim”, blow up mines, fill in anti-tank ditches etc, which contributed greatly to the success of the British and Canadian landings in Normandy and showed their worth as late as in the battles for Walcheren.
As well as Mr de Mole we find herein the fantastically named Count Hyazinth Strachwitz von Gross-Zauche und Camminetz who was a tactical genius with a seeming ability to read his Soviet enemies’ minds. Sometimes he had his tanks travel with their guns pointing backwards (traversed to the rear as the jargon has it) to fool the enemy into thinking they were friendly. In one such engagement he made his way behind Soviet lines with only four tanks. His tiny unit destroyed 105 Soviet tanks in one hour and made it back out intact.
For those, like myself, with a general interest in the military history of the twentieth century but perhaps lack in depth knowledge, the book illuminates some of its byways as well as giving an overview of its subject.
Pedant’s corner:- the latest generation were (was,) produced in (produced, or resulted in,) not prepared the maintain (to maintain,) handed them over the Senussi (to the Senussi,) Sirelius’ (Sirelius’s,) coped with the mud better the heavier cars (better than,) gild the lily somewhat that by (gild the lily somewhat by,) on 8th January the Soames (no “the”,) set too (set to,) of which were never enough to fill the gaps (there were never enough,) have been in dominant element (a dominant element,) nor aware of (nor was aware of,) the line of German tanks form (forms,) were several of new corps (no “of”,) Kirponos’ (Kirponos’s,) overlaying its rear areas (overlying makes more sense,) the minefields gaps (minefields’) the first of a succession that were to continue (that was to continue,) Volgagrad (Volgograd,) that tide of war had turned (that the tide,) was all but isolated with due course it had to evacuated by sea (all but isolated and in due course,) breath in (breathe in,) an Small Box Girder Bridge (a,) floatation screen (I prefer flotation,) infantry were pinned down (was,) a paragraph break in the middle of a sentence, referred to a Kangaroos (as Kangaroos,) who he invited to surrender (whom,) phosphorous (phosphorus,) the division … and were (and was,) on the eastern sector the British Eighth Army (of the British Eighth Army,) one the best (one of the best,) the cavalry… were (was,) his map told (indicated?) Hollands’ (Hollands’s,) Grossstein (I assume Grosstein,) a variety of ingenious techniques were developed (a variety was,) like that other conventional armies (like that of,) around a arc (an arc.) Perrett describes the Gulf of Tonkin incident as an attack on US warships by North Vietnamese torpedo boats. The USS Maddox fired first. The US authorities described these as warning shots.