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on 6 August 2009
This is a military history book written in the great modern tradition with sweeping general descriptions alternating with fascinating close-ups on individual experiences and destinies. The topic lacks no interest either, the pioneers in tanks in The Great War. The book is well written and the illustrations (photos) are fine.
Having said this, it must be mentioned that the book displays a curious imbalance. The first year of tank action (1916-17), which mainly consisted of fiascos, is described in great detail. Then the pace of the book picks up notably, and the events in 1918 are described on relatively few pages. You get the suspicion (warranted or not) that the author (or his publisher) some 250 pages into his book realised that it would become far too long, and then he raced through the rest of the story at double speed.
To illustrate this point the number of pages dedicated to each major engagement can be listed:
The Somme (1916): 29 pp.
Arras: 9 pp.
Flandern (1917): 9 pp.
Cambrai: 48 pp.
Le Hamel (1918): ½ p.
Amiens: 6 pp.
Cambrai of course was the most famous of them all, but very few details of the major successes scored at Le Hamel and Amiens are provided.
The same goes for the different technical versions of the lozenge-shaped tank. The later and more successful types are described in much less detail, the Mk VIII only mentioned in passing.
The author also seems to be biased towards the first "generation" of tank leaders, Swinton and his people. The successors, notably Elles & Fuller, are treated with much less sympathy and interest. J.F.C. Fuller especially is not credited with any positive contribution at all (apart from his Memoirs, which are characterized as entertaining).
Campbell does not seem to want to understand the position of men like Fuller & Basil Liddell Hart. They were genuinely appalled by the doctrines of Haig and his command. Haig believed that as long as one enemy soldier died whenever one of his did, then in the end the war would be won by the side who had the most soldiers to put in the field. This philosophy slaughtered a whole generation of young British (and French) men and more sensible officers of course looked for other solutions. Fuller and his peers were on the right track, and while their writings were largely ignored in Great Britain after the war, they had interested students in Germany, and the result was seem when France was overrun in 1940 at a fraction of the cost incurred by Haig on the Somme.
I can recommend Christy Campbell's book, but the interested reader should supplement with a wider reading. Why not the classics by Fuller & Liddell Hart?
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on 2 July 2014
This book is purely average. As a keen WW1 Historian (but not of tanks) I found it interesting at times and was fine for sitting by the pool on holiday. However, the journalistic style lets it down at times - the writer gives you a negative outcome of a battle but then proceeds to spend 50 pages telling you how well the battle went on the whole. Rather than build suspense, you're told the punchline and then the joke.

Also, this is quite a high-level book. As the main sources seem to be official histories and biohraphies of generals and leaders, the focus is often on HQ and Whitehall rather than the micro-level of the actual men in the tanks. I found the number of names mentioned confusing especially when coupled with the journalistic style and throwaway comments. Finally, a lot of military terms are left unexplained thus a lot of context is missed (I'm ex-military myself and I was stumped at times!).

Overall, it's ok but I wouldn't recommend.
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on 30 October 2008
A very authoritative and well researched work. Truly a must read for members of the Regiment, as it doesn't flinch away from some unpalatable truths. The various machinations and infighting of Whitehall are laid bare, in the development of the world's first true armoured fighting vehicle, including the impediment of and encouragement of the new Corps from the most surprising of Wartime celebrities. Most importantly, it lets us see the thoughts the staff of the new corps and the pioneering officers and men who crewed these first wagons. Most, if not all of the angles seem to be covered.

This book should sit proudly next to BH Liddel Hart's The Tanks, for although not as well written, time has undoubtedly allowed a different view to be articulated.

Interesting fact from the book; Matilda (Infantry Tank MkI), meaning "'mighty in battle' in old German." Not a comic duck or Hugh Elles's mistress.......
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 13 September 2008
Not being an expert on the period I can only say that to this layman this is an interesting and very readable book. It is maybe just 50 or so pages too long because whilst I welcome the many personal anecdotes and tales (some of them very funny indeed!) I think the author may just over egg the pudding somewhat. I am sure that more technically minded folk may pick over some of the detail in here but on the whole I would recommend this to anyone with an interest in warfare and the Great War in particular
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on 27 June 2009
Considering that tanks were invented in WWI their story has achieved very little in print compared to that of WWII. This well written book partial address this as it presents the story of early tank development. It is a mixture of politics, battles, technical developments and personal stories, and it manages to get the whole story over in a both informative and interesting way. If you want to know more about the period then this is definitively a must buy. Probably the most interesting thing is the sense of just how haphazard the development was and how it very nearly didn't start at all coupled with how bad the new 'wonder' weapon performed compared to what you expect of a modern tank.
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on 25 July 2015
Christy Campbell has done an excellent job of telling the story of the development of the tank - both the efforts to get the things built and then their use in France with the birth of the Royal Tank Regiment.
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on 24 April 2013
Lots of lovely detail and a good few anecdotes, but I got the feeling it fizzed out towards the end.
A darn good read if you've even remotely interested in the subject.
Recommended!
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on 20 April 2016
Excellent book, well written and researched. A fitting testament to a brave group of men who joined a new branch of the military services without knowing what they were going to do.
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on 9 July 2013
This book must be one of my best purchases ever. Excellent value for money! Expertly packaged and flawlessly delivered without so much as a scratch on the dust cover.
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on 19 November 2009
Really an excellent book, truly interesting account of the tanks in WW 1 and their development. Really its a must read for any tank enthusiast .
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