Up until now, we've had an increasingly excellent selection of new books covering Allied vehicles in many of the different fronts of WWII. However, without in any way criticizing the efforts of Authors, Editors and Publishers, one subject area has been notable by its absence - Commonwealth Forces in the Far East. The British Fourteenth Army, has, with some great historical justification, been described as the 'Forgotten Army'. Documentation on British and Indian Army Units in the Far East could almost be described as the 'Forgotten Subject'. This New book by The Factory Publishing
is a VERY serious attempt to redress the balance by covering a well-loved subject (the M4 Sherman) in a theater of operations which has been impressively ignored for too long.
The Book - The Basics
Jungle Armour - British and Indian Army Shermans in the Far East
is published by the Australian publishing house, The Factory Publishing.
The author of the book is Dennis Oliver, whose work has appeared from several other publishers. The book is within the company's 'Colour & Markings Series', of which this is the 2nd to appear. Following on from the format established from the publisher, the book is softcover, and contains 33 pages. At the center of the book are eight pages of color plates (by the author) which illustrate the markings and color schemes of some of the M4s which appear in the book as archive shots. For those who require it, the book has the ISBN 978-0-9804361-2-5
The Book - In detail
As this is an area which is not as well-documented as NW Europe or the Eastern Front, Dennis Oliver makes a great effort to put the 'players' into perspective. A brief introduction is followed by an excellent explanation of what the Indian Army was, its structure and a little about its order of battle in the campaigns in the Far East. From there, we move onto the real subject of the book - the Shermans. Five different M4 Variants/Modifications were used in this theater:
Sherman IIA (M4a1, 76mm)
Sherman III (M4a2)
Sherman DD (Modified M4a2s)
Sherman V (M4a4)
At the outset, it may seem like a bit of a 'luxury' to devote an entire book to the Sherman in Far East. After all, the Variants seem pretty standard and surely markings could be covered in another? This assumption would be completely off-base...
M4s in this Theater, following on from the U.S. experience in the Pacific Islands, required and received a number of modifications. These were effectively local modifications which reflected the difference in the fighting. Seven of the principal modifications are detailed at the beginning. The more 'obvious' are the addition of an Infantry Call Box on the offside rear of the Shermans, the attachment of a 'Prong Device' (Cullin-type) to the front, framed Wire-Netting to protect hatches or the modification of the commander's cupola. Virtually all of these modifications reflected the different nature of the terrain and the kind of warfare which was being waged. Tanks were closely supported by infantry (more so even than in NW Europe) and there was less demand for the previously-experienced 'Tank vs. Tank' warfare. This is the theme of the first part of the book which covers four pages which include some useful photos of the modifications.
Once again, with well-chosen images, the author begins the difficult task of explaining the Markings and Colors of the 'Burma Shermans'. Much of this follows on from the established regulations although it is a VERY useful guide for the modeler. This section covers almost twelve pages and it also includes areas such as vehicle names and indispensably, some notes on locally-applied camouflage schemes.
The penultimate six pages of the book look at the Regiments involved in the Burma Campaign (both British and Indian). Once again, for the modeler, this is absolutely vital information and should also be taken into account by the AM decal producers.
Going back for a moment to the Colors & Markings section, here can be found the Color Plates
. This section, present in all the books from Factory Publishing
, is one of the strongest arguments for getting these books. In eight pages, the author illustrates a number of different vehicles and includes detailed notes on markings, color schemes etc. Rather than the (frequently) 'muddy' profiles we see in some books, these are extraordinarily well-executed and highly detailed guides in themselves to many possible projects.
The final part of the book contains a series of appendices beginning with notes on the structure of the 1st Royal Armoured Corps. There then follows a detailed bibliography. The next gives a description of the Indian Armoured Regiment structure between 1943-46 showing its force composition. The final appendix covers another vital area - an overview of Sherman WD numbers.
Beginning first with the archive photos in the book, some comments. Although I'd seen a few of the photos before, I've rarely seen a better chosen or more useful series of images. As the primary 'objective' of the author was to look at the Sherman in the Far East - with a particular focus on the markings, the photos illustrate the discussed areas perfectly. They are chosen for their illustrative value rather than their 'impact' on the reader. Although some are not as good as one would wish, the detail can be seen. Inevitably, an image is only as good as its captions. Once again, detail in the text is clear and concise showing serious work has been undertaken at identification of units, individual vehicles and locations.
I see the book as a significant first (?) step as covering an area which has been poorly documented. Where else can you turn to if you HAVE to build an Indian Army Sherman? However, there is still a lot more out there. I really hope that this book is sufficiently successful to allow the author to follow-on with more on the Burma Campaign - the Grants and Stuarts still need documentation. Hopefully this WILL be the first part.
The books from Factory Publishing
are, IMO, carving out their own niche in the way we see reference material. Too often we get a good part of the technical story - the markings are frequently relegated to an appendix. As many have said, it's a great time to be an Allied Modeler; books like this will do even more in advancing the interest.
To read another review of this book click HERE