Top critical review
13 people found this helpful
on 3 February 2014
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'.