The Second World War Tank Crisis – The Fall & Rise of British Armour 1919 – 1945 written by Dick Taylor and published by Pen & Sword Books – £25.00 – Hardback – Pages 240
British Second World War tanks performed so badly that it is difficult to bring to mind any other British weapon of the period that provokes such a strong sense of failure. Unfortunately, many of the accusations appear to be true – British tanks were in many ways a disgrace. But why was Britain, the country that invented them, consistently unable to field tanks of the required quality or quantity throughout the conflict? This perceived failure has taken on the status of a myth, but, like all myths, it should not be accepted at face value – it should be questioned and analysed. And that is what Dick Taylor does in this closely researched and absorbing study.
He looks at the flaws in British financial policy, tank doctrine, design, production and development before and throughout the war years which often had fatal consequences for the crews who were sent to fight and to be ‘murdered’ in ‘mechanical abortions’. Their direct experience of the shortcomings of these machines is an important element of the story. He also considers how British tanks compared to those of the opposition and contrasts tank production for the army with the production of aircraft for the RAF during the same period.
His clear-sighted account goes on to explain how, later in the conflict, British tank design improved to the point where their tanks were in many ways superior to those of the Americans and Germans and how they then produced the Centurion which was one of the best main battle tanks of the post-war era.
I love a book where you’re going to learn something new, and from this book, I learnt a whole lot of new knowledge. I mean I never knew Britain had not done very well at building tanks, it had crossed my mind how we didn’t seem to do well in the ‘tank stakes’, but I hadn’t thought much more about it. But it turns out at the beginning we were doing very well, but things have slowly gone down ever since, a bit like the British car industry. This book is very well written, and it’s been written for the ordinary reader, it looks at design, money, influence and development both by machine and politically. The author Dick Taylor has written such a good and balanced book that would please those that know all the technical details to someone like me who is still learning about the life of tanks. I very much enjoyed the detail and thoughts of Taylor, who clearly knows what he talks about. The book was so enjoyable it made me want to read a book similar to this that looks at both the development of tanks, planes and ships and to compare the difference between the three in the 20th century. A great book to read and recommend.