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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars on tracks
Excellent book detailing the adventures of the 5th Royal Tank Regiment, from the disastrous battle of France to the deserts of North Africa, Italy, and finally the bloody break-out from Normandy and the invasion of Germany.

One strong point of this book is how Urban effortlessly changes perspective from the tank turret to the wider strategic picture...
Published 4 months ago by M. Baerends

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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Recycled materials
Ok I know Mark Urban from 'Big Boy's Rules' - a topic area I had some knowledge of, where he dealt with the interesting question of using military units in a policing role. It was something new at the time and explored new ground.

However this book fails to break new ground. I recognised many of the source materials being woven into the tale - not that this is...
Published 10 months ago by Simon Walton


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars on tracks, 13 Aug 2014
By 
M. Baerends - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Excellent book detailing the adventures of the 5th Royal Tank Regiment, from the disastrous battle of France to the deserts of North Africa, Italy, and finally the bloody break-out from Normandy and the invasion of Germany.

One strong point of this book is how Urban effortlessly changes perspective from the tank turret to the wider strategic picture. Furthermore, it is (in my humble opinion at least) very fair and balanced in that it gives due credit to the admirable bravery of the crews, while also expanding on the less glorious aspects: badly planned and executed actions, tensions between crews and inexperienced commanders (sometimes resulting in near mutiny), battle fatigue, drinking and looting, and occasions of panic. A very understandable example of the latter is a confrontation in Normandy where a number of crews, finding their Cromwell 75 mm rounds just bouncing off a Tiger's thick skin, simply bail out and run for it.

'The Tank War' clearly focuses on the human side rather than on the technical. Readers should not expect details on the Christie suspension system of the Cruiser or on the sizes of bolts in the Cromwell, but Urban does a very good job in describing the evolution of the tank throughout the war. The 5th RTR operated a variety of tanks, starting with unreliable Cruiser A13s, then transferring into reliable yet still small M3 Valentines, then M3 Grant, Crusader, Sherman, and finally in Normandy, Cromwell and Sherman Firefly. For laymen such as yours truly this is quite educational; I had never realized that armour piercing ammunition is just solid shot that does not explode when penetrating a tank but rather ricochets around inside, the effect augmented by shards of spalled-off armour.

To conclude, an excellent book about a very brave set of soldiers.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very fine war book, 25 Jun 2013
By 
Budcus (South Coast) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Tank War: The Men, the Machines and the Long Road to Victory (Kindle Edition)
I think this is probably the best book about WW2 that I have read so far. A heady mix of facts and people which illustrated time and again the useful nature of tanks on a battlefield requiring a great deal of logistics and counter measures to contain the threat they represent. Also a cunning insight into the need for precision engineering to make mechanised warfare reliable enough. Further, a fascinating insight into the political nature of the British army at the time and the restrictive nature of the regimental system. Additionally, a quick insight into the first true arms race which the Germans were so close to winning at times plus the exploding of the many myths that surrounded the early German successes and the surprising efficacy of the British counter measures, often played down or forgotten, and the bravery of tank crews who frequently survived their tank being put beyond use by enemy action and seemingly just returning to get another in order to re-join the fray. Quite uplifting in its way and a good absorbing read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars My Pride, 2 Oct 2013
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R. Sara Mairi "worm" (hong kong) - See all my reviews
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I was proud to receive this book as my uncle is featured. He is Gerry Solomon who took part in the Tank Campaigns in this book and of whom I am exceedingly proud. Thanks for the boost!
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent Book on Tanks, that gives an unbiased opinion on British Armour operations, 15 May 2013
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This review is from: The Tank War: The Men, the Machines and the Long Road to Victory (Kindle Edition)
This book is needed badly. The number of books that degrade the tank operations of the British army seems to be the in thing. This book gives the true storey of the tank men in the desert Italy and the continent. The learning curve of these operations is clearly shown, as the tank men learned the hard way how to defeat superior tanks. Mark Urban books have always covered the content very well, and this book is no exception. I recommend this book, both to the proffesional and general reader.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Rewarding read about a regiment's war, 6 Aug 2014
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This review is from: The Tank War: The Men, the Machines and the Long Road to Victory (Kindle Edition)
Not quite as good as I hoped; Urban lacks the Stephen Ambrose touch of uniting personal narratives with the wider picture. Urban's awareness of the qualities of the "filthy" tanker in contrast with the "professionals" of the cavalry makes one wonder about the quality of today's officer class.
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4.0 out of 5 stars War at the soldiers level, 5 April 2014
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This review is from: The Tank War: The Men, the Machines and the Long Road to Victory (Kindle Edition)
A fast introduction to allow the reader to "get into the story". The details leading up to a battle were sometimes thin but I was able to understand many of the actions taken by the main participants of the story. I enjoyed this book
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent account of tank warfare in WW2, 27 May 2013
By 
D. Bull (Derby) - See all my reviews
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Mark urban writes consistently interesting and human accounts of what it's like to be a soldier, whether it be in the Peninsular War or as in this book, WW2. He uses his well established method of taking several soldiers of varying rank and following them through the various campaigns to tell a detailed and human story. In this case it is 5th RTR, a unit close to my own family and indeed one of the soldiers Mark follows through the war is my uncle. If you want to feel the claustrophobia of being in a tank during some of the fiercest fighting of the war this book is for you, I for one shall never view what my uncle and others went through in the same light again.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Another good read from Mr Urban., 28 July 2014
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This review is from: The Tank War: The Men, the Machines and the Long Road to Victory (Kindle Edition)
A very well told story. Full of facts and characters. Mark Urban writes cracking books that are well researched.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rich, colourful description of 5th RTR's war (and much else), 7 July 2014
By 
T. D. Welsh (Basingstoke, Hampshire UK) - See all my reviews
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On the plus side, this is a rattling good book which gives a tremendous amount of detailed insight into what it was like to fight in a British tank regiment during WW2. It's full of personal experiences, reminiscences and anecdotes from several different theatres, from France in 1940 to the North African desert, Italy, France again in 1944, and eventually Germany. However, the title may mislead some readers into thinking that it is a comprehensive account of all the tank action (on the British side, at least); and it isn't. That would require a far larger volume!

The author has done a great job of eliciting the experiences of many officers and men, some of which ring startlingly fresh and true even after 70 years. I particularly noticed the unabashed statement, on one or two occasions, that "no quarter was given" - in other words that the defeated enemy were killed without compunction, whether they tried to surrender or not. I had long wondered why it was that honorable (though hard-fighting) Germans such as Kurt "Panzer" Meyer and Joachim Peiper were tried (and nearly hanged, then imprisoned instead) in respect of similar incidents - yet not only was no one tried on the Allied side, we never even heard of such behaviour. On a more trivial, but still significant level, Allied soldiers were infuriated to find that their captors stole their personal belongings - yet British, Canadian and American troops did exactly the same when they got the chance. We also read about British officers and men who were unable to stand the pace - one actually blew himself up with high explosives while apparently enjoying a wade in the sea - and at least one near-mutiny that was quickly hushed up. The myth of "seasoned troops" is somewhat deflated, with the revelation that rather than becoming "battle hardened" such units as the Desert Rats felt they had done their bit, and didn't at all relish another chance to go up against German Tigers, Panthers, and 88 mm cannon.

All in all, however, the overall impression is how brave and long-suffering the British troops were, and how willing to tackle the Germans who had, for much of the war, superior equipment and command. There are many enlightening stories, such as how British tank manufacture was crippled by the cult of "craftsmanship" - defined by one cynical officer as "the ability to fit two things together which do not fit". American factory managers insisted on precision instead, so that their tanks had much higher "build quality" and were more reliable. British industry and the War Ministry turned out tank model after tank model, all of them more or less inadequate, until finally they came up with the Comet - just in time for the final battles in Germany and the victory parades.
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Recycled materials, 3 Feb 2014
By 
Simon Walton (Rossendale) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Tank War: The Men, the Machines and the Long Road to Victory (Kindle Edition)
Ok I know Mark Urban from 'Big Boy's Rules' - a topic area I had some knowledge of, where he dealt with the interesting question of using military units in a policing role. It was something new at the time and explored new ground.

However this book fails to break new ground. I recognised many of the source materials being woven into the tale - not that this is essentially wrong - but what emerges is as another reviewer suggests, a regimental history of 5RTR but with its focus on the memoirs of some NCOs and junior officers on 5RTR, all of which have previously been published or available. There is a lot of justification for the 'bolshiness' of the said NCOs given in the book, but little is done to discuss the issues that 21 AG and XXX Corps had with the performance of 7th Armoured in Normandy in terms of lack of aggression and drive.

Urban spends little time on the machinery of armoured warfare, and exposes his ignorance of important facts. For example he quotes the 2 pdr gun as being a 37mm weapon, and there are other various howlers throughout the book that reduced my confidence in the things presented as facts. He repeats various stereotypes, myths, and misunderstandings where it suits, and sadly I felt on many occasions that I was reading a 30 year old book that brought nothing new.

If this book was titled/subtitled "5RTR at war" I'd not have bought it in any case, but as titled and described it falls far short. If you've read more than two of the major works on the desert campaigns and Normandy, you'll find very little new here. It's a good example of the Lyn Macdonald way of writing - personally engaging but an indifferent military history.

If you want to read an example of how it can be done try 'Steel Inferno'.
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