Tanks of the Second World War

The tank dominated land warfare during WWII and the author has provided not only a very able and well-illustrated account of this, but also provided an excellent genesis of the tanks and a description of how WWII tank technology and tactics have influenced post WWII tank warfare. The clear and impressive text is fully supported by lavish illustration with contemporary photographs, most highly recommended.


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NAME: Tanks of the Second World War
FILE: R2469
AUTHOR: Thomas Anderson
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: hard back 
PAGES:  219
PRICE: £25.00
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: World War 2, WWII, World War II, Second World War, armour,  
technology, tanks, armoured fighting vehicles, AFV, early tanks, 
development of armour after WWII

ISBN: 1-47385-932-8

IMAGE: B2469.jpg
BUYNOW: http://tinyurl.com/ktldbhw
LINKS:  
DESCRIPTION: The tank dominated land warfare during WWII and the 
author has provided not only a very able and well-illustrated 
account of this, but also provided an excellent genesis of the tanks 
and a description of how WWII tank technology and tactics have 
influenced post WWII tank warfare.  The clear and impressive text is 
fully supported by lavish illustration with contemporary photographs, 
most highly recommended. 

The tank was not new at the start of WWII, but the mechanised armoured 
vehicle was relatively recent. Armoured vehicles were known in ancient 
history but were heavily limited by the choices of power and mobility, 
and by the available weapons. To power the earliest armoured fighting 
vehicles there was a choice of man power or draft animals. To 
adequately protect the vehicle and its power system required armour 
that was heavy, required more power and became inordinately long to 
protect men, horses, or oxen. This represented a heavy investment for 
the time and still produced very little offensive capability because 
the available arms were insignificant. When the steam engine came 
into being there was a potential power source that could support a 
very heavy vehicle and its gun armament, but it was still a largely 
impractical weapon system, its fuel requiring valuable space and the 
heat generated in an enclosed space affected the endurance of the 
crew.

By WWI, the internal combustion engine was making many new weapon 
systems practical. It powered lighter-than-air and heavier-than-air 
craft that could attack ground and sea targets most effectively. It 
allowed troops to be carried by bus from their homes to the distant 
front line. It provided power for fast small warships that could 
threaten the most powerful battleship. It enabled heavy artillery to 
be moved close to the front line and to relocate the guns before 
counter-battery shelling could take them out. It completely 
revolutionized land, air, and sea warfare. It was matched by ever 
more powerful guns and ever more effective armour. Those developments 
alone ensured that someone would create a new armoured fighting 
vehicle and there was certainly a need for a new weapon to break the 
bloody stalemate of trench warfare. To make such a weapon truly 
effective, it required new running gear that could work as well on 
metalled roads as on muddy terrain and large gradients.

The Royal Navy was keen at an early stage to develop armoured vehicles, 
based on their extensive experience of armoured ships and naval guns. 
Most of the tanks to serve during WWI were British tanks based on the 
Royal Navy's initiatives, but the Germans and French were soon 
developing their own attempts at a solution that were both similar and 
different from the earliest British tanks. The classic British tank 
shape was produced in large numbers and was also deployed in large 
formations. However, tactics were relatively simple. Tanks, in small 
numbers and large numbers, were used as mobile fortresses that moved 
directly against enemy trenches and provided a convenient moving 
rampart that the infantry could advance behind. The general reliability 
of early tanks prevented real opportunity to move on into a war of 
movement, fanning out behind the enemy trenches to create a fluid front 
marching on towards the enemy homeland.

After WWI there was diverse development that saw the smallest light 
tanks to the largest multi-turreted monsters. Many designs were not 
very practical. Some soon proved to be a dead end and, by 1939, all 
nations building tanks were building to  a generally similar design 
and considering how to introduce the tactics that would prevent a 
repeat of the WWI trench warfare.

The Germans were the first to consider using an all-arms mechanized 
force that was provided with close support from aircraft to produce 
a lightning war with speed and fluid movement. Very soon, all the 
opposing forces were using broadly similar tactics and technology, 
with tanks dominating almost every battlefield in the war. In North 
Africa and in Russia, huge numbers of tanks were employed and fought 
battles of movement that had many similarities to war at sea.

New diversity was introduced and tanks became heavy and more heavily 
gunned. This presented many new challenges. The author has described 
this process of development during WWII and the debt it owed to 
earlier developments before 1939. He has then concluded by showing 
how the WWII experience directed much of the AFV development after 1945.

It is a very interesting story of how designers and manufacturers faced 
their challenges and delivered armour to the troops, who then had to 
devise the best ways to employ the new technology.