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In 1915 a machine christened Little Willie changed the way that wars were fought. Little Willie was a fully tracked armoured vehicle that could break a trench system. Its development was completed in December 1915, but by then it had already been superseded by an improved design, Mother. This was the first rhomboid tank, and the prototype for the Mark 1 which would influence a whole generation of tank building. This book details the development of the Mark I, and its surprise arrival in France in the middle of 1916 during the closing weeks of the battles of the Somme.
The formidable Mark IV tank was pitted against the German Army from 1917 until the end of World War I. This book reveals the important role the tank played in the historic battle of Cambrai in 1917 as well as the first ever tank-versus-tank actions against German A7Vs. In awe of British technology, the Germans actively captured, salvaged and repaired Mark IVs for deployment against the Allies. Using rare photographs and detailed artwork, David Fletcher explores the Mark IV's design and development, its variants and accessories, and brings to life its exciting deployment on the battlefields of World War I.
A fire-breathing 'monster' on the battlefield, the Churchill Crocodile flamethrower was one of the most devastating and awe-inspiring weapons of the Second World War. Tank expert David Fletcher chronicles the development of the flamethrower tank, detailing the variants of the Crocodile and examining the dramatic effects of these tanks in battle from D-Day to the dramatic flamethrower attack on the River Senio in Italy. Revealing the strengths and weaknesses of the flamethrower tanks, Fletcher investigates the post-war use of Crocodiles to burn down and sterilize the site of Belsen concentration camp, as well as their mobilization for the Korean War, and post-war developments to the prototype Centurion Crocodile. In addition to the role of the Churchill Crocodile on the battlefields of Western Europe, the various wheeled flamethrowers designed for home defense in Britain during World War II are examined. Researched using the papers of Reginald Fraser- the genius behind the flamethrowers and dramatically illustrated with detailed artwork and previously unpublished contemporary photographs, this book brings to life the true terror of these tanks.
For most of World War II, British tank development remained faithful to the design philosophy inaugurated during World War I. Experiences in North Africa highlighted flaws in this basic design, however, and the General Staff identified the need for a new heavy cruiser that could combine speed and manoeuvrability with increased armour and armament. The Cromwell Cruiser tank was designed as a result and soon proved itself one of the fastest and most successful tanks deployed by the Allies during World War II. This book details the design and development of the Cromwell and its many variants, from its introduction at D-Day, through its many successes in the final year of World War II and beyond.
The Covenanter (which never saw active service) and Crusader Cruiser tanks were developed between 1939 and 1940. The Crusader first saw action in the North African desert in June 1941: its speed and sleek design made it a hard target to hit, and the tank was well-respected by the Afrikakorps for its velocity in combat. But its hurried development prior to World War II also made it prone to mechanical failure. This book examines the Covenanter and the many variants of the Crusader tank, detailing the designs, developments and disappointments of these infamous World War II tanks.
Although to the casual eye all British tanks of World War I look much the same, the Mark V is quite outstanding and has a strong claim to be the tank that won World War I for the Allies. In this title, renowned tank expert David Fletcher examines the technological developments that made this tank excel where others had failed, and the reasons why it gave the British the upperhand over the Germans on the battlefield and why it was adopted by the US Tank Corps. Accompanied by detailed artwork showing the design changes that allowed the Mark V to breach the widest German trenches, this title is an excellent resource for the study of the armor of World War I.
The Matilda was the principal British infantry tank in the early years of World War II. It served with the BEF in France and later in North Africa, where it earned the title 'Queen of the Desert'. Outclassed by increasingly powerful German anti-tank weapons, it still remained a power in the South-East Pacific, and was kept in service until the end of the war by Australian forces. In this title, David Fletcher deals with Marks I to V. Development and operational history are discussed, along with service in other countries, including Germany and Russia. Numerous variants are also covered, including the prototype 'Hedgehog' bunker-busting weapon.
The first Rolls-Royce armoured car was a privately owned vehicle fitted with a machine-gun and a limited amount of armour plate at a dockyard in France. It was used by a squadron of the Royal Naval Air Service in Flanders in 1914. Backed by First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill more and better versions followed until, by 1915 there were about 100 of them which were then handed over to the Army. "They searched the world for War" as Sir Albert Stern said of them and before long there were Rolls-Royce armoured cars operating as far apart as German South West Africa, the Western Desert, Gallipoli, all over the Middle East and the north west frontier of India.All of them used the classic 40/50hp Silver Ghost chassis. They were fast, silent and reliable but above all strong. "A Rolls in the desert is above rubies" said Lawrence of Arabia and the Duke of Westminster would have agreed with him following his famous raid to rescue the kidnapped crew of the steamship HMS Tara. At least one car accompanied the adventurous MP Oliver Locker-Lampson on his adventures in Russia.After the war, unable to find a better model the War Office simply copied the original Admiralty design with minor improvements. If that was not enough the Royal Air Force also acquired some to support their operations in the Middle East. A new design with a larger body and dome shaped turret also appeared for service in India. They also served in Ireland and even, briefly in Shanghai.The 11th Hussars still had Rolls-Royces in Egypt when the war against Italy began and the youngest of these was over fifteen years old when they went into action, but after that their numbers dwindled as newer vehicles came along. But then history repeated itself. Britain was threatened with invasion and a new army of veterans was raised to assist with defence. Some battalions built home made armoured cars, on private chassis and at least three of these were based on Rolls-Royces.
In this title, David Fletcher relates the story of the Sherman Crab Flail using rare sources and photographs. Among the first tanks ashore on D-Day, the "Crab" proved its worth both in its mine-clearing role and as a fighting machine. This book recounts some of its more glorious moments with the famous British 79th Armoured Division and the US Army, giving a detailed exploration of the history of a powerful and innovative machine and the deadly mines it faced.
The most powerfully gunned tank fielded by the Allies during World War II was the Sherman Firefly. An ordinary American-built Sherman modified by the British, the Firefly had the firepower that could finally match the awesome German tanks that had dominated Europe. David Fletcher examines the controversy that dogged the Firefly and the psychological boost the tank provided to Allied forces. Exploring its successes and failures on the battlefield and providing a realistic assessment of the tank's worth, this is essential reading for anyone wanting to know the facts about a tank variant that quickly developed its own mythology.
The Sherman DD (Duplex Drive) tank was designed by the Allies specifically for the D-Day landings; enveloped in a waterproofed canvas screen, the tank was launched at sea from landing craft and then 'swam' slowly to shore, where the screens were deflated, allowing the tanks to operate as fighting vehicles. Exploring the development and modifications of the Sherman DD, this book discusses its many variants, including the prototype Valentine DD tank and its role as a training tank in Britain and limited operational use in Italy, and examines the successes and tragic failures on the beaches of Normandy and further into North-West Europe, including the challenge of crossing the River Rhine.
The Universal Carrier was a fast, lightly armed vehicle developed by the British Army to carry infantry across ground defended by small-arms fire, specifically the Bren light machine gun, hence the name 'Bren Gun Carrier'. This name would stick with the Universal Carrier and all of its future variants. This book details the Carrier, which was employed in a number of roles including carrying ammunition and towing anti-aircraft guns and trailers. All Allies used the Universal Carrier extensively during practically every World War II campaign. By the war's end, the Universal Carrier had proved itself to be an invaluable and successful cross-country vehicle that was both agile and fast for its time.
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