Chieftain, Britain’s Flawed Masterpiece, FV4201 Chieftain Main Battle Tank

The publisher has developed from a background of publishing fine books for model engineers and model makers, and books with a specific Polish background. This new title is one of their very fine Green Series histories with a high image content, detailed text and some specially commissioned full colour sketches, of special interest to modellers and armour enthusiasts – Very Highly Recommended

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NAME: Chieftain, Britain's Flawed Masterpiece, FV4201 Chieftain Main Battle Tank
FILE: R2905
AUTHOR: Richard Kent
PUBLISHER: MMPBooks
BINDING: soft back
PAGES: 184
PRICE: £29.00
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: Main Battle Tank, armoured fighting vehicle, gun tank, British Army, 
Cold War, Rhine Army, Middle East, Arab Israeli Wars, Arab Arab Wars, desert 
warfare, technology, heritage

ISBN: 978-83-65958-29-7

IMAGE: B2906.jpg
BUYNOW: tinyurl.com/y2734kba
LINKS:  
DESCRIPTION: The publisher has developed from a background of publishing fine 
books for model engineers and model makers, and books with a specific Polish 
background. This new title is one of their very fine Green Series histories with a 
high image content, detailed text and some specially commissioned full colour 
sketches, of special interest to modellers and armour enthusiasts –   Very Highly 
Recommended

It is interesting to compare this book with a new book on the Chieftain from the Pen 
and Sword Tank Craft Series. Model and armour enthusiasts will undoubtedly wish 
to purchase both books because they compliment each other. It is interesting because 
MMPBooks come from a modelling background and Pen and Sword comes from a 
solid military history background. In their coverage of this subject they have almost 
crossed over.

Britain has had a somewhat chequered history in the design and development of 
armour. Britain pioneered the use of infantry tanks during WWI. Their code name 
for their first armoured vehicles became the internationally popular name for all 
armoured fighting vehicles. The British perspective was ironically based in Royal 
Navy perspectives and the tank was seen as a way of neutralizing the trenches of a 
stagnated war of attrition, with a capability to take on any enemy copies in much the 
same way as warship engagement. As a result, the classic early British tank with its 
lozenge shape, tracks running around on each side, armour plate, semaphore 
signalling and sponson mounted armament had more connection with naval practice 
than Army preferences. However, the British rapidly learned to deploy tanks in 
large formations. The French took a different approach with their smaller, faster, 
machine gun armed Renault tanks.

After WWI, many countries began looking at the tank as an important part of any 
modern army and some very diverse ideas were followed, including tanks with 
several turrets, various forms of track and suspension and many attempts to develop 
new tactics. Ironically British and French soldiers proposed the use of armour in a 
fast moving mechanized all-arms formation, but failed to convince their masters of 
their ideas which were picked up by the Germans and used to revolutionize land 
warfare.

The British continued their preoccupation with infantry tanks, but also developed 
faster 'cruiser' tanks and light tanks/tankettes. By the start of WWII, the British Army 
was equipped with cruiser tanks in very small numbers, excellent infantry tanks, the 
Matilda, and very useful light armoured vehicles in the form of the Universal Carrier 
or Brengun Carrier, in slightly better numbers. Overall, the BEF went to France with 
inadequate numbers of armoured vehicles and the only occasion when they assembled 
enough tanks at Arras they seriously worried the Germans and caused them severe 
damage and delay, buying time for the Dunkirk Evacuation. The Matilda tanks proved 
more than a match for the German tanks and, on this occasion, were used with tactics 
similar to the German tactics.

As WWII progressed, the British continued to produce their own tank designs and 
excelled in special tanks, or 'funnies', that were designed to undertake engineering 
tasks and to swim ashore. However, the bombing of British factories, and the need 
to bring materials in by sea, meant that it was preferable to buy large numbers of US 
tank designs that were technically less effective than the German armour of the 
period, but won on numbers. The British also enhanced US tanks by equipping them 
with swimming capabilities and fitting more powerful guns that could take on the 
best German tanks. The British also developed tanks that could carry bridging 
equipment, destroy minefields and take on concrete bunkers, recover damaged tanks 
for repair and return to battle and a growing range of other tasks. This was done 
with British designs and by modifying US tanks. In general, Britain kept up with the 
pace of technology even though they could not produce the numbers of tanks required.

Too late for action in WWII, the Centurion proved to be a very advanced and 
effective design that played an important part in the various hot actions of the Cold 
War. The Centurion was soon up-gunned from 75mm to 105mm and this new 
armament, together with its fire control equipment, proved highly successful, was 
the backbone of British armoured formations and served on both sides in the various 
Arab-Israeli and Arab-Iranian conflicts. Its main weakness was in combating the 
heaviest Soviet tanks, for which a 120mm gun was required. Initially, the British 
Army received a relatively small number of Conqueror tanks that were scattered 
amongst Centurion formations, with a 120mm gun to take out heavier Soviet armour 
but, unlike the Centurion, the Conqueror was ponderous and lacked the mobility 
really required. The Chieftain was developed to take the place of both types, with 
an advanced 120mm gun and fire control and a number of other pieces of advanced 
technology.

The author has provided a detailed history of the development work that resulted in 
the Chieftain. It was a design masterpiece although not without flaws, in part 
because it combined a number of advanced components increasing the potential for 
teething problems and delays. The text is supported by a large number of fine full 
colour images that also show some of the related equipment, for example a Stalwart 
amphibious truck simultaneously refuelling two Chieftain MBTs, and the various 
special role adaptations of the Chieftain, such as the AVRE. There are also some 
excellent line drawing and an Appendix for modellers of camouflage patterns with 
some specially commissioned coloured sketches.