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4.3 out of 5 stars
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4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 13 December 2016
Very well written and very interesting account as a tank commander myself I can relate
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on 22 June 2017
good reading
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on 16 October 2012
The Churchill Tank always seemed to be an obsolete relic in its own time rather than a worthy fighting machine but looks deceive and it had hidden talents which more than made up for its unprepossessing appearance it was a rugged machine. No matter how well armoured any tank was in 1944 its protection was bound to be totally inadequate for the lethal high velocity shell the shaped charge and and the discarding sabot projectiles used by both combatants during the viciously intensive battles in Normandy in 1944. No armoured vehicle of either side which actively engaged the opposition in Normandy 1944 was going to survive for very long exposed to such an incredible degrees of firepower. The Churchill Tank comes across as being as good compromise as it was possible to enable its crew to engage the enemy with success if used with a large degree of tactical skill. This book outlines the experiences of a commander of a tank crew in a Churchill Tank Battalion during the hard won battles in Normandy and beyond.

Having started work with people who fought in the trenches of the first world war and all over the globe in the second world war this book answers many questions about these gallant men. I could paraphrase never in the field of human conflict did so many give so much for so little - in return. Having grown up remembering the severe shortages and rationing after the war the memory of shopping with our mothers trying to obtain some decent food or clothing when the war was won was this grey existence our reward. Now I know that such a ..... victory as we had was a victory we never recovered from!
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Sgt Trevor Greenwood was a member of C-Squadron, 9th Royal Tank Regiment, and sailed to France in June 1944 as part of the Allied invasion of Normandy. From D-Day until April 1945, he kept a, exhaustively detailed diary of his experiences and observations as he travelled through France and into Germany, despite the fact that the keeping of such records was against stringent military regulations, requiring him often to write in secret and under the most terrible conditions.

These diaries - often heavily abbreviated and laden with military language and jargon that would not be familiar to the casual reader - remained hidden in a dusty loft until sometime after Trevors death, at which point they - and their significance - was discovered by his family, and were painstakenly transcribed and revised with the assistance of the Imperial War Museum in order to provide the book that you now hold in your hands.

They are significant not only because they describe the experiences of one mans jounery through Normandy as a commander in a Churchill tank, and as such also provides a fascinating insight into the harrowing experiences that the men who fought in such conflicts endured, and testiment to how much France and its people had suffered through four years of occupation, but they also effectively record the entire history of 9th RTR throughout that theatre.

This is a deeply personal account, and Trevor recalls every aspect of day to day life in a warzone. That said, perhaps unexpectedly, this is a book that is hardly overflowing with tales of tank v's tank conflict. Trevor barely spends any time describing the details of his own vehicle - other than expressing his confidence that the Churchill tank was 'tough', and his hope that it would be up to the task of facing enemy armour if they met it. In fact, whilst they had witnessed quite extensively the carnage and destruction that the war had created accross the French countryside, Trevor and his crew do not even come under direct enemy fire until D-Day + 75, and when they next come under attack it is Trevors feelings that the culprets may have been his own allied artillery!

Nor is this book filled with stories of bravery and daring-do. No, the prevailing emotions conveyed by Trevor throughout his diaries are ones of fear and weariness. Fear that his life could be snuffed out in an instant by a threat that remains unseen - with snipers, mines and booby traps being particular phobias - and a tiredness so deeply ingrained in his crew that even though they know that every grass verge or embankment is likely littered with explosive devices that could destroy their vehicle and end their lives, they traverse it regardless through the combination of their obligation to ensure that the Allied liberation effort must continue to move forward, and their desperation to avoid another torturously uncomfortable diversion in the cramped confines of their tank.

Despite their hellish surroundings however - and Trevor describes everything from the burnt out wrecks of enemy tanks and the immolated corpses of crew who didnt manage to escape, the smell of death, the dishevelled state of the foe they were facing, the desperation of the French citizens fleeing the conflict zone, the bloated corpses of livestock, and the physical destruction of a war so devestating that it literally erased entire towns from existance - the underlying feeling invoked by Trevors accounts is actually one that day to day life must go on, and by far the most numerous, interesting, detailed, and endearing entries are those that describe events that would be considered terribly mundane in any other circumstances.

Compared to the ordeal of traversing miles of difficult terrain in a small metal box whilst under enemy fire, the task of struggling to sleep in a hole in the ground whilst under attack by nothing more dangerous than swarms of mosquitos seem banal by comparison, as does a lack of cigarettes, going a few days without a bath, having to miss breakfast, or having to wait in-situe and do nothing for an indeterminate period of time - but it is these more prosaic experiences that most frequently occupy Trevors thoughts and his writings.

Perhaps most compelling however is the fact that, despite exisiting in an environment where it seems impossible that any hope could exist, there is an almost persistant tone of positivity throughout Trevors writings, especially when we are privvy to his thoughts regarding his family and friends - and in particular his wife Jess, and his son who he refers to as 'Poppet', who was only 11 weeks old when he left for war, and whom Trevor had only briefly seen.

Trevor also speaks glowingly about the character and reserve of his crew and colleagues, maintains his obstinance and dry sense of humour throughout his ordeals, and exhibits the kind of stoicism and tendency for understatement - the 'stiff upper lip' - that could only result in a man describing an Allied formation being smashes to pieces by its own heavy bombers as no more than 'hard luck' if he were made of the sternest British steel!

Then theres the tea...

I've never read a book that contained so many examples of men trying to make a good old fashioned British brew under so many challenging conditions, but come hell or high-water, the 'hot sweet' must never get cold!
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on 16 November 2016
enjoyable read
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on 9 March 2017
I got the impression the author was a bit holier than thou!
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on 29 December 2016
good
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on 11 April 2013
Trevor's account is not of epic battles and sweeping observations on the course of the war in Europe, there are plenty of titles that will offer this. This book is written about what happens to the ordinary tank crew, the fear, the happiness, the discomfort, the conditions and of friendships made. Written in secret, as journals were against regualtions, Trevors day to day account of war is both simple and yet complex, his observations on the horrific smells in Normandy, of shattered towns and of civilians going about thier lives is wonderfully insightful. His mentions of letters to his wife, Jess, and his family too all offer the reader a chance to glimpse into the life of battle. War is never simple yet the humble tank crew sometimes never saw the 'big picture' they simply survived day to day.

This book is a worthy purchase, a shame it was not in hardback but worthy to be on anyones bookshelf, if you want a book on strategy this is not for you, if you want to understand what it was actually like then buy this book.
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on 1 June 2013
Having read Peter Beale's Tank Tracks about 9RTR I never expected to have the opportunity of such an excellent diary as this. This book pairs very well indeed with Tank Tracks.

This diary give a rare perspective of life in an armoured regiment which was fully committed to infantry support from the time of landing in Normandy to cease fire in Germany. It has the typical understatement of the time which us modern readers need to allow for. Readers should be aware Sgt Greenwood was breaking serious regulations about keeping a diary which is why so few exist. One as comprehensive as this is an absolute gem.

This is a worthwhile additional to anyone's research/library about the liberation of North West Europe in 1944-45.
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on 26 September 2012
I bought this book on the strength of the cover really, but i have to say that a different book covering a similar topic with a far inferior cover, Ken Tout's 'By Tank', is the better of the two. Greenwood's dedication in keeping his diary in the midst of battle really must be commended, especially when his fellow troopers were spending their time entertaining the recently liberated local ladies, but unfortunately his prose isn't in the same league as Ken Tout's. Both books cover a similar period, Greenwood in his sturdy Churchill & Tout in his Yank Sherman and both show us the mundane existence of the tankmen punctuated by brief spells of violence, indeed much of Greenwood's diary concerns the Belgian & French civilians he meets, and his absent wife Jess, back in England sending what appears to be a letter every day. By mid way through the diary Greenwood's tank is carrying more loot then Captain Bluebeard and must have looked more like a mobile removal sevice than a Churchill, but again this kind of honest insight really makes the book. Unfortunately the final assault into Germany is covered very briefly, Greenwood evidently not having the time to chronicle the events, shame as i was looking forwward to reading about that.
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