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A Tankie's Travels Paperback – 19 Jan 2007

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Product details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Woodfield Publishing; Third edition. Paperback. edition (19 Jan 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846830214
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846830211
  • Product Dimensions: 20.4 x 13.8 x 1.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 131,436 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Born and raised in a small fishing port in the north of Scotland, Robert Watt enjoyed an idyllic childhood, but by the age of 18 he was keen to get away and see more of the world. Little did he realise, however, when he left home in 1937 to enlist in the British Army, just how extraordinary, frightening and life-changing his forthcoming travels would be...An interest in engineering led him to join the Royal Tank Corps (RTC), soon to be renamed the Royal Tank Regiment (RTR) and on completion of his training he was posted to the regiment's third battalion (3 RTR), just in time to hear Neville Chamberlain utter those fateful words: "...we are at war with Germany." In the years that followed, Jock (as he was known to his colleagues) would prove his worth to his Regiment time and again, rapidly rising through the ranks to RSM and later being commissioned as an officer. In the war's early stages, he had two narrow escapes from the enemy's clutches. Sent to France with the British Expeditionary Force in 1940, he managed to catch the last boat out of Calais before it fell to the Germans.

Next, he was sent to Greece, as part of an ill-fated force tasked with defending its northern border with Yugoslavia against far superior enemy forces. After a harrowing three-week rearguard action, being pummelled by German aircraft and artillery all the way, he and a handful of other stragglers found themselves stranded on the Mediterranean shore and had to steal a small motor boat and make their own way to safety. After an amazing series of adventures and near disasters, he rejoined his Regiment in Egypt, where, as a tank commander, he went on to take part in some of the toughest battles of the Desert War, including the most famous of them all, El Alamein, the turning point that marked the beginning of the end for Rommel's Afrika Korps. But for 3RTR there would be many more months of gruelling encounters with the enemy before the fall of Tunis signalled the end of the war in Africa. Somehow, Jock survived them all and his eyewitness account of the Desert War, as seen from the turret of his tank, has been hailed as one of the finest ever put on record.

Without exaggeration and with remarkable candour, he conveys the physical and mental strain this type of warfare placed upon its participants, fleshing out his narrative with a great deal of interesting and unusual detail. The result is a unique insight into the life of a World War II 'tankie'.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By John Lovegrove on 7 Jun 2009
Format: Paperback
This book is absoluty brilliant!!
A tankies travels is the authors account of his own experiences during WW2.
starting at the defeat at Dunkirk and finishing up in the heart of Germany with El Alamain thrown in between for good measure.
the author details every day experiences of tank warfare from making tea to taking shellfire and being straffed by the luftwaffe.
My personal faverate chapter is about his heroic escape from greece and crete. it is a book you really cant put down storys this good are usually only fictional but this one is true i never thought one man could go through so much jock watt is a true hero
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. Deane on 16 Mar 2010
Format: Paperback
This excellent account of Jock Watts experiences in France, Greece, Crete and the Western Desert is one of the best soldiers memoirs that I have read, comparable in many ways to the classic "with machine gun to Cambrai" from the first world war.

The author manages to convey both the hardships and the comradeship of the royal tank regiment at war, with many a revealing anecdote. The highlights the rearguard action in Greece, and his escape to Crete, but the desert fighting is also very well covered.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Brian Connolly on 13 July 2010
Format: Paperback
Jock Watt was just an ordinary man, who got caught up in the War. His travels range from France, to Dunkirk, to Greece, then Crete and back to England via North Africa, and finally back to Europe at the end.

His is an inspiring story, told in a matter of fact style, without heroics, but in such a way that you are almost in the tank with him every mile of the journey. And what a journey it was.

I heard about this book almost by accident, and I am glad I did. If you only buy one book on WW2 this year, make it this one.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A beautifully written account that really puts you in the middle of the action, encapsulating many different theatres of war that the author fought in. One of the best books (of many) I have read on the subject. An honest, sometimes brutal, heartwarming read. Highly recommended.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 1 review
Extensive travels indeed. 9 Dec 2013
By John E. Larsen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Jock grew up in a small Scottish beach-side town. He left home to pursue his interest in mechanics and on his 18th Birthday in 1937 joined the 3rd Battalion, Royal Tank Regiment. When war came he served with his regiment at the disasters in Calais in 1940 and Greece in 1941, before taking part in the see-sawing African battles against Rommel.

Watt's entry into the army was fascinating. There is quite a bit on the ways of the professional army, the training and the relationships between ranks. By the time war came he had progressed to corporal and the CO's driver. Their shift to France came only after the German breakthrough and the regiment's deployment is quite confused. Watt doesn't see much apart from Calais and German bombers. He is very lucky to get a ship away.

Following the rebuilding of the unit, they are sent to Africa. They are then part of the token force sent to Greece. The disorganization is colossal. Their new and familiar A13 Cruisers are exchanged for worn out A10s and the Greek roads and conditions are diabolical. Once the Germans attack it is pretty much one long retreat. Incredibly, the tank replacement parts they are issued are all for their former A13s and more tanks are lost to breakdown than enemy action. Watt finds himself virtually alone conducting a rearguard. He sees plenty of action. At one point he has Bob Crisp (of `Brazen Chariots' and `The God's were Neutral' his own account of the Greek campaign) alongside and it is interesting to read his brief, mixed, appraisal of him. This is a very underreported campaign and there is much that is informative. Watt is particularly impressed with the MPs who stolidly kept their posts, giving directions and trying to keep order in the chaos. Watt is then even luckier than previously in getting to Crete, and then Egypt by sea. It is an extraordinary adventure by itself.

In Egypt the regiment rebuilds for the second time. This time Watt is commanding a Stuart tank and he writes quite a bit on operating these machines. They are now part of 4th Armd Bde and he is in many actions; the relief of Tobruk, Sidi Rezegh airfield, Gazala Line, the Cauldron, Alamein and the pursuit across Libya. He has many near misses. The scale of the fighting is sometimes incredible, with vehicles as far as the eye can see. There are constant casualties. German tanks are superior but there seems a surprising amount of success against them. There is the occasional break in Cairo and at the end in Tunis before they are shipped home for Normandy. Watt is by now an officer and commands the regt's Sherman Firefly troop. Fortunately he suffers a severe illness and then receives a training post and ends up missing combat altogether in the European campaign. Frankly, he'd done his share by then.

There is a real charm to Watt's account. The breadth of his experience is amazing, as is his survival. There is plenty of combat and it is quite detailed at times, though it is less visceral than some of the British tanker others. It is always informative, about excellent commanders like Pip Roberts and others not so talented, as well as the machinations of the army. Watt sees a lot in his journey from Trooper to RSM, to officer of the Queen. It was quite sad to see the camaraderie of the battlefield fade as the professionals retook control of it all. At the end though, you are left with a clear picture of the relentless nature of the war. The regiment was constantly re-equipping and absorbing replacements. Watt writes openly of his struggles to maintain his courage, especially after a near miss. Mistakes were made and death or terrible wounds were sometimes just an unlucky step away. It is an astonishing story and I highly recommend it.
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