Tank Battles of World War I

Posted: April 10, 2015 in Books, Tanks, World War I

A new writer joins our ranks this week, as we welcome Spike Direction, offering us the low down on Bryan Cooper’s “Tank Battles of World War I”

9781473825628

According to the back cover of this book, it’s been out of print for thirty years and is highly sought after.  Well, little dust jacket, I’ll have to take your word for it on the second part, but a quick examination of the inside confirms this book was first written in 1974 and reprinted last year by Pen & Sword, presumably in time for the 100th anniversary.

This book deals with the development of the tank before and during World War I and the key battles of the Tank Brigade (brilliantly code-named The Heavy Section in the early days), as well as the struggles against the absolute indifference of certain figures in the British Army and government, who were holding out for the chance to win the war with a glorious cavalry charge, and failed to see the potential of this new machine to save soldier’s lives.

British Tank Rolling over Trench

Tank Battles of World War I is brief at eighty-four pages of text, though since the subject area in question is very specific I feel it covers all relevant information sufficiently.  Value is added by a bumload of photo pages, covering the prototype models ‘Little Willie’ and ‘Big Willie’, through to the Mark VII and Whippet tanks in action against the German A7V with it’s preposterous crew of 18, as well as appendices with schematics and vital statistics for all the British Tanks and maps of the battlefields tanks fought over.

As a history enthusiast with a basic working knowledge of the period I found this book very interesting and informative, particularly striking to me was the weird juxtaposition of the birth of modern mechanised warfare with the primitive, Flintstones-level technology being used (the cover shows this marvellously with the fellow releasing a carrier pigeon through a hole in a tank’s armour like something from Dad’s Army, also notable is the fact that the poor souls crewing the tanks often ended battles passed out on the deck with carbon monoxide poisoning!).  Also illuminating was the difference between ‘male’ and ‘female’ tanks, a description I was aware of but have only now learned the significance of.

British_Mark_I_male_tank_Somme_25_September_1916

All in all this is well worth reading for anyone interested in WWI, and can be polished off in a day should you fancy filling your afternoon with tales of daring, very gradual, CO poisoned charges across no-man’s land, wearing chainmail masks.

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