Previously, Concord Publications did two volumes covering British Armor in NW Europe. Now, by way of increasing the availability of this kind of material within their catalogue, they have begun a new series covering the same area. So, is this a completely NEW book or a re-pop? Concord Publications are an excellent source for good value, photo-coverage publications which cover areas which are of interest to the armor modeler. Apart from a handful of titles though, they do tend to cover, in a more general manner, a more 'extended' time-frame. Other publishers are covering the specifics of Unit Histories, individual vehicle types or one short campaign.
This new book, covers ground which has been covered before. This, in no-way should be seen as a criticism, rather it reflects the publisher's release program which does (albeit loosely) reflects their parent company's OWN release program.
The book - in brief
7069 - British Armour in North-West Europe - Volume 1. Normandy to Arnhem is published within Concord Publications' 'Armor at War' Series. The book is written (and illustrated) by Dennis Oliver. Within its 72 pages are 165 photos along with 16 color plates of a variety of vehicles. For those who require it, for ordering purposes, the book has the ISBN 962-361-164-1
The book - in detail
The 'text' part of the book (apart from the photo captions) at the beginning, is six pages by the author, giving a brief 'snapshot' of the formations which were present in-theater from the Normandy landings until the coverage of the book ends (Operation Market Garden, september 1944). By necessity, this is somewhat truncated but does cover the 'principal' Divisions along with less-documented units such as the Royal Marine and R.A.F. contingents.
Following the introduction, the real business of the book begins. The preparations for D-Day are documented in a handful of photos. Although brief, there are some useful images.
Going off on a personal 'sidebar' for a second, due to the easier environment in which photos were taken, it's time that one of the publishers commisioned a book dealing with two areas of importance - the Pre-Invasion exercises (which went on until May 1944) and the 'loading' of the landing forces. For modelers, these are an absolutely invaluable source of data on Stowage, (uncensored) Unit markings, and the items which frequently crop-up such as wading-stacks or waterproofing.
Back to the review... Dennis Oliver keeps as close to the chronology of the NW Europe campaign as possible. Some of the first images are clearly of the area of the beaches or the urban areas close to them and can be clearly identified as having been taken in the the first day or so of the invasion. The author keeps the time-line going throughout the book. The fighting in the Bocage country, Operations Charnwood & Goodwood, the advance into Belgium and culminating in the armored support for Market Garden all follow the correct time-frame. The Images. This is a photographic account of the first four months of the campaign in NW Europe. It isn't intended as a history of the campaign - this can be found in many other books. Therefore, two elements are vitally important for modelers of the AFVs featured - clear images and good, accurate captioning. I'll deal with the second later, but let's consider the photos first of all. I've been a touch critical of Concord in the past for trying to put too many images in the same format book. In this though, they seem to have gotten a good balance. Typically, there are 3 images per page. Some however only contain 2 and a few pages will have 4-5. The latter are not a problem as they do include close-ups which don't really need a bigger image. Those with two are well-chosen and clear. The re-scanning of the images goes from 'Good' to 'Excellent' although there are a few exceptions which the publisher should consider with future titles. A handful of photos are pretty dark and, if it wasn't for the captions, would be pretty useless.Sources for the images are principally the Imperial War Museum although there are a few from the Canadian National Archives. The Captions. Oliver has really made a notable effort with identifying individual vehicles and has (correctly) re-checked the original (I.W.M.) captions and made corrections where necessary. This has added enormously to the value of the book and whenever possible, he has added comments on variations in markings or items such as squadron pennants. The Color Plates. The author has made, in my opinion, some significant improvements in the presentation of color plates - due in no small part to his work within his own publishing house. This is reflected with the color plates in this book. A total of eight pages (two vehicles per page) cover these illustrations. A profile of the vehicle is given along with details of unit markings and any non-standard variations. Each plate carries a VERY detailed description of the essential points.
When I first saw this book listed, on Concord's website, I must admit to being a little puzzled. A few years ago, two volumes were published on exactly the same subject. While some of the images appear in the previous books, there are substantial differences, Firstly, the Color Plates in the originals were, IMO, pretty poor, these are excellent. Secondly, in the originals, many of the captions were incorrectly done (and as far as I can tell, were based on the original IWM captions) the photos in THIS book are much more carefully researched. The quality of the images has also improved considerably although, as I said before, the publisher does need to improve some of them a bit more.
There are problems which any researcher encounters with this subject area. Even the most cursory glance on any of the on-line auction sites which sell images, will reveal that on the German side, WWII was better documented by the individual soldiers along with the 'official' propaganda agencies. The primary source for Allied photos is the considerable archives of the I.W.M. or the National Archives of Canada. There simply don't seem to have been as many 'amateur' photographers on the Allied side (liberating Leicas apart) as within the German ranks. This (seeming) lack of sources is frequently reflected in the work of some publishers. Private images DO cost more than official ones, particularly looking at the inflated prices on some websites. That apart it's a VERY good collection of images. For those who are into modeling British vehicles it's a good jumping-off point although some more experienced modelers may want far more specific publications.
It's a book I would unhesitatingly recommend although there STILL remains a need for books which cover subjects such as British/Commonwealth Armoured Cars (for example) and I would urge Concord (specifically) to commission more books covering subjects which are NOT necessarily produced in kit-form by their parent company.
Highs: The sheer variety of vehicles covered and the disciplined and careful captioning by the author. The color plates are enormously valuable also.Lows: The repetition of (some) of the images from other books. Yes there ARE a finite amount of images out there, but...
The publisher needs to pay more attention to quality of reproduction on a few of the images.Verdict: An excellent book though more a 'primer' than an absolute 'essential'. It's well-worth adding to any archive however.
About Jim Rae (jimbrae) FROM: PROVINCIA DE LUGO, SPAIN / ESPAñA
Self-employed English teacher living in NW Spain. Been modelling off and on since the sixties. Came back into the hobby around ten years ago. First love is Soviet Armor with German subjects running a close second. Currently exploring ways of getting cloned to allow time for modelling, working and wr...