Tank!: 40 Hours of Battle, August 1944 Paperback – 30 Sep 1994
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
Customers also shopped for
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Explores the total experience of battle with unforgettable intensity: the fear and incomprehension; the boredom and exaggerated importance of mundane detail; the fleeting exhilaration and lasting grief. It tells the story of a crew of very ordinary young lads who find themselves rolling into an epic armoured action - the Night March of the lst Northamptonshire Yeomanry on 7/8 August 1944 - which penetrated what was possibly the strongest defence line set up by the Germans in World War II. But Ken Tout's book is much more than a record of a remarkable military exercise. It is a vivid recreation of the conditions - the heat, the noise, the smells - inside "the Tommy Cooker". This macabre nickname, given by the Germans to the Sherman tank, graphically summed up the fate of many young soldiers, burned alive when their tanks "brewed up" into an instant inferno. This is a compassionate, perceptive and sometimes humorous account which commends bravery and spirit without glorifying battle. As one of the most remarkable pieces of literature to come out of the war it makes compelling reading for the military enthusiast.For the general reader it offers a unique insight into human behaviour in inhuman conditions.
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
It is written in the style of diary entries, ranging from a few minutes apart to up to an hour apart depending on the pace of events. Without spoiling the plot, they attack at night and have to defend against German counter-attacks the next day, which makes for an account that is full of incident. The writing is fast-paced with just enough description to let you imagine the scene. Here's the description of a German infantry attack, for instance:
"Germans in the cornfield. Our own Browning thudding away. Stan reloading and slapping my leg. Stamping on the fire buttons. Adjusting crosswire sights. Our own flame and smoke. Alien flame and smoke. Enemy barrage rocking our tank. Bookie firing away downstairs. Keith reporting. Frantic radio traffic."
The sentences are short, almost glimpses or sensations as they flick through the author's consciousness.
There's long periods of waiting and watching as well, and the book is excellent at building the tension. Obviously there are limits: while the author wonders whether in the next second a German shell will turn the tank into a funeral pyre we know he survives to write his memoirs. Not everyone is so lucky and the soldiers' shock at the loss of friends and officers is very moving.
At times, nothing much happens but the author keeps the pace up by describing what goes through his mind as he scans the ground around (he is the gunner and later commands a tank), or the way he folds toffee papers to see how many creases he can fit on it. The emotion is very honest and believable: there are no heroics, just young men doing what they were trained to do and desperately hoping they are lucky.
One of the other Amazon reviewers says he found the dialogue unbelievable but I disagree: it is a great counterpoint to what is going on all around as men are maimed, mangled shot and burnt. The tank crew themselves are the main characters and while the author says these are fictional they are based on different people he served with and they certainly ring true to me.
How could the book have been any better? There are three maps, but they are very small and some of the events would have been easier to follow with a slightly larger version. The most difficult bit for me, though, was that the author often describes the crew listening to radio traffic from elsewhere in the battle (including crews reporting they are hit) but I wasn't always clears about the code-words they used or who was in command of which tank, so a glossary of some type would have been really helpful. Finally I would have loved to have some modern pictures of the area.
So, if you want to know what happened in Operation Totalise, what other brigades attacked, even what happened to the other squadrons in the regiment, look for an official history. If you want to know about a young man fighting sleep deprivation, hunger and fear in the company of four others shut up in a Sherman tank, this is the book for you. A quote on the front cover says "one of the best books ever written by a tank soldier". Make that THE best.