Top positive review
21 people found this helpful
on 13 August 2014
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.