The Second World War Tank Crisis

...The Fall & Rise of British Armour 1919-1945, from Pen & Sword

Title: The Second World War Tank Crisis
Author: Dick Taylor
Publisher: Pen & Sword
ISBN: 978-1-39900-352-0

As the sub-title tells us, The Fall & Rise of British Armour 1919-1945. A 242-page hardback it examines the history of British Tank development from the end of WW1 to the end of WW2. Britain invented the tank but once WW1 was over the changed priorities of peacetime meant that changed.
Between the wars there was of course a desire to save money on defence spending after the end of WW1. There were questions of cost, and also of quantity along with differing views on what armament, armour and engine they needed, plus ideas of Light, Cruiser and Infantry tanks. There were choices over many elements and those decisions are assessed along with the resulting tanks that were taken into service with the British Army. Over 9 chapters we are taken through the story from the end of WW1 through to the 1930s, when events in Europe started a new increase in arms production, and on to the end of WW2 in 1945. Unlike aircraft production, there was really only one company familiar with building tanks, and clearly that would not be enough. So not just how did government spending change, but companies unfamiliar with tanks were being tasked to design and build new tanks. Riveted construction or welded, the engines they needed and the guns they carried were all involved. Some were ordered straight from the drawing board, rather than after testing prototypes. The opposition they faced influenced new designs but development took time. We could have built the US Sherman but persevered with UK designs. In the final stages of the war the Cromwell proved popular for its' reliability, and this was improved still further with the Comet and its' larger gun, before we got to the 'Universal' tank, the Centurion, what we would call a Main Battle Tank (MBT) now.
Some interesting conclusions and a mix of both good and bad elements to the story. Lots of facts and figures, some of which are difficult to confirm as accurate, even from surviving wartime records. An interesting book for anyone interested in the history of tanks, not just WW2.
Thanks to Pen & Sword for our review copy.

Robin