Images of War: Sherman Tank, Rare Photographs From Wartime Archives
is published by Pen and Sword Publishing
. 176 pages, A4 softback written by Gavin Birch.
As I said in the preamble to this review, while not exactly ignored, the Sherman in British/Commonwealth service is not exactly 'over-documented' and compared to the work done on the Sherman in U.S. service in both the Pacific and the ETO, there are a coniderable number of gaps which need filling. This book, although not the last word on the subject, does go a long way in rectifying the 'omissons' by both authors and publishers. All of the (many) images in the book were taken from the Imperial War Museum's extensive archives which rather begs the question as to how many more authors will be inspired to follow the same path?
The book covers may diferent theaters of operation - The U.K., North Africa, The Mediterranean, NW Europe, and the Far East. The latter is particularly welcome, as this truly is an area where many authors researchers have 'feared to tread'...
Within its 176 pages, the book isdivided into the following chapters:
Source of Photographs
The Sherman Story - Design and Development
The U.K. Home Army - First Shermans to the 'Funny'
North Africa - British Action - Egypt, Libya, Tunisia
The Mediterranean - Sicily and the hop to Italy
NW Europe - Normandy to Belgium & Holland
NW Europe - Spring 1945 into Germany and Victory
The Far East - British Shermans up the Jungle
U.S. Shermans - Wartime American action
Model List - Identifying Sherman Variants
Apart from its obvious value to the Sherman modeller, the first chapter, which looks at the incredible work done in Britain/overseas by the A.F.P.U.
(Army Film and Photographic Unit) allows us, 60 years later to have the access to these extraordinary images. This work, many times under combat conditions, has enabled both ourselves as modellers and the kit manufacturers to have a rich vein of reference images. Their contribution can never be overstated...
There is a fairly large amount of clear and concise text in the book although the undoubted emphasis is on the photos themselves. The quality, is, in general, very good indeed and personally, the overwhelming majority of the images are new to me. One technique the author uses is to create a 'sub-section' within a main chapter, one of these, Repairing Battle-Damaged Shermans in Burma
is particularly noteworthy with a selection of highly useful images for the modeller. As the vast majority of vehicles in the book are 'in - situ' i.e. in combat conditions, the variations in storage, unit markings etc. are of particular use to the modeller. What of course is found in many of the photos, are the nasty scratch marks left by the wartime censors which makes identifying individual vehicles difficult....
The emphasis is primarily on Shermans in British/Commonwealth service. However, the Americans are by no means ignored in the book with the final chapter covering U.S. Shermans in action. Personally, considering the depth of coverage of U.S. vehicles, I consider this the weakest part of the book. The chapter ends up as little more than teaser rather than continuing the excellent work of the previous nine chapters. Perhaps more Canadian Shermans in service would have been preferble to this chapter?
On the whole, I found the book excellent and well presented. There are one or two (slightly) annoying errors in the captions - a Vc is incorrectly identified as a 1c, however in no way do these (infrequent) errors take away from the overall value of the book. There are some real gems within the pages - the British Sherman ARV, the M4a4 with the 60lb rocket mounting and 'Cairngorm' in service in Burma are just three of he highlights amongst many more!
An incredibly useful book which, with the new Sherman kits on the horizon, will give inspiration and material for many modellers. Again, not one of those 'stand-alone books, but one which should have a part of any AFV modeller's library.
I obtained my copy from AMAZON.UK
although in case of difficulty, it can be obtained directly from the publishers - Pen and Sword Publishing
who have a secure on-line ordering facility on their webpage.
VERY Highly Recommended