Just in time before publishing this review, the English version of the book is available. As I own the French version, I will use the original chapter titles. Yes, I still do have a bookshelf and yes, I still do prefer reading books over mostly anything digitally. Making a book is some sort of an art and I do support the book business as much as I can, fearing the time when there will be no more of them. As a devotee of French tanks from their start to WW2, this book comes in quite handy. That said, in the last 10 years we have seen a fair number of French tanks and armored vehicles released both in styrene and resin, although there never can be enough, right?
Tous les blindès means all and any tanks, meaning we will get to see paper and trial tanks as well. In addition, the book shows the famous light (and for its time quite fast) reconnaissance tanks, command tanks, wheeled automobiles de guerre (blindées) and so on.
The book is subdivided into these three parts:
- L'idée de puissance (The idea of power)
- L'idée de vitess (The idea of speed)
- L'idée de système (The idea of the system)
First of all and most importantly: the book was available only in French until recently, just like the Trackstory series (which is highly recommended too). You get 170 pages in a big format of 32,5 x 24,5cm (12.8 x 9.6 inches) with lots of pictures and photos. Most entries contain very well done color profiles by Eric Schwartz (of Trackstory) and Laurent Lecocq along with a black and white photo. Also most vehicles have a table with information about the engine used, horsepower, speed, fuel consumption, weight, operating range, armor thickness, personnel, armament, wide stand of wheels, length, height and width coming with most but not all vehicles shown here.
Vehicle types included are first concepts, automobiles de guerre - blindées (armored vehicles of war) , mitrailleueses automobiles - non blindées (unarmored vehicles with machine guns), voitures blindées de transmission (armored communication cars), camion blindés (armored trucks) and finally the various tanks. These start from as early as 1902 through the Great War concepts and the tanks used in WW1 such as the Char Schneider CA, the monstrous Char Saint-Chamond and the famous light tank, Char léger Renault FT. From the pre-WW2 and WW2 period we see well known tanks such as the Char B2, Hotchkiss, Renault R35, AMD 35 Panhards and Lafflys, AMC Schneider P 16, AMR 33, and Somua S35 (one of the finest French tanks). Then there are the different eras funnies like the Aubriot-Gabet, Renault SK and Char AV (Amédée Varlet), big canons automoteurs puissants (the French Stugs...) and so on. Whoever believes the French only had their Hotchkiss and B2s gets an opportunity to think again. As always it is interesting to see projects that fell through which have been picked-up in one or another form many decades later.
Between the wars there were plenty of programs for tanks that were hopelessly out of date at the start of World War 2 as well as tanks that were a match for the fast moving German panzers were it not for the mistakes in deployment and/or problems with communication systems. Sadly, a strange mix of politics, power blocs and money as well as blatant ignorance of the state of their own armed forces as well as that of the Nazi forces led to what was to become the biggest defeat of the proud French army.
If there is one area where the book can be criticized it is the minimal text accompanying each vehicle. However, this book serves as a good reference book in encyclopedia style and functions as an entertaining look into the history of French tanks 1900 to 1940 with great profiles and some pictures I have never seen before as well as time tables showing the development along with an introduction for each section. If you would like to go deeper into details regarding text and development of a certain vehicle, I highly recommend the Trackstory titles (Editions du Barbotin, in French!) covering some of the most important of the pre-WW2 and WW2 French tanks (I would like to see books about Great War French tanks that go into that much detail. . .).