Five Stars out of Five – Highly Recommended Buy
This is a self-published work that is based on very considerable archival research, and it sets the standard for what anyone who ever wants to utter an opinion on the Crusader tank (aka Cruiser A15 Mk. VI) will have to let themselves be measured by. Unavoidable reading for anyone interested in British tanks, desert warfare, and general technological development of tanks.
Given that Operation CRUSADER saw over one-third of the Empire tank force consisting of these tanks, in 7 and 22 Armoured Brigade, and later 2 Armoured Brigade, it is of high interest to me.
The Crusader is the cruiser tank everyone loves to hate, for its reported reliability issues combined with the ‘peashooter’ 2-pdr gun in the first two versions. The book clearly demonstrates that this is not a fair assessment, and that with appropriate care and maintenance, the tank could operate reliably over great distances even in the unforgiving desert environment. Having read it, it is impossible to disagree with the final assessment, that many of the shortcomings of the tank were due to the flawed initial specification by the War Office (which, as an aside, renders the very good performance of the non-War Office specced Valentine infantry tank all the more intriguing), and the combination of an ‘unforgiving’ tank with a tank maintenance system that in the first line relied fully on the tank crew to undertake substantial work after a hard day of fighting. Overall a fair and balanced judgement, and it is clear that many of the initial issues of the tank were overcome through increasing sophistication of the production. Nevertheless, it never recovered from the initial performance, and tarred the image of British tanks for a long time to come.
The book comprehensively addresses the performance of the Crusader tank based on contemporary reports, utilizing about 100 archive documents, and all user manuals. It also covers later versions of the tank, such as the Crusader AA (anti-air) tank, equipped with a new turret an a twin set of 40mm Oerlikon guns, and the dozer Crusader trials, as well as the Crusader gun tractor. The book also clarifies the question of what was meant by ‘2-pdr HE’ (it was APHE), and it comprehensively addresses the penetration performance issues that arose with the 2-pdr, as well as challenges faced by the 6-pdr with the initial ammunition, in light of the encounters with up-armoured German tanks during Operation CRUSADER.
The book also excels in tracing the history of investigations and reports relating to the performance of the Crusader tank, undertaken by British authorities in the Royal Armoured Corps, who tried hard to understand what was going on in the field and how to address the matters reported up.
Room for Improvement
Nothing really. Yes, the book could be a different book with first person accounts about how muchh Sgt. Whatshisname hated the tank, but it isn’t that kind of book.
Given the self-published nature (produced by Amazon in A4), it is very decent quality, and the few photographs (from the AWM rather than the IWM, I suspect because of the criminal reproduction fees) are good quality, as are the drawings reproduced from the original.
The review is based on the paper version of the book. It was not provided for free and I have no commercial interest in the book.
Operation Report 7 Queen’s Own Husssars
Mechanical Issues of Empire Tanks
Mechanical Issues of Empire Tanks II
Chieftain’s hatch: Crusader Mk. I
Cruiser tank breakdowns and the Battle of Uadi el Faregh
Andreas, I have ordered this book recently based on your recommendation above – thanks. Two quick questions:
1. Did it have the definitive account of the 2pdr HE saga in it? (i.e. clarifying APHE from actual HE and when the latter actually entered service). You alluded to this originally in your comment on a 2pdr HE post here: https://rommelsriposte.com/2015/12/10/2-pdr-he-rounds-again/#comment-16977
2. Have you since acquired any further of Knight’s books (i.e. “A13 Mk1 & Mk.2 Cruiser” one) and if so your thoughts? I’m guessing some of the others such as
“A13 Cruiser Mk.V Covenanter” is likely not in your field of interest (i.e. didn’t serve in North Africa in 41-42)?
Incidentally I’ve been unable to find if he is doing anything on the A9 & A10 (and Cavalier/Centaur/Cromwell series) or Matilda I/Matilda II-IV, Valentine or Churchill. I assume he is working on these but can’t haven’t found anywhere to follow progress/announcements of new titles…
Fantastic effort with the website and research.
Hi, sorry for the delay.
1) Let me have a look and revert.
2) I have the A13 book, which unfortunately doesn’t cover North Africa, but is still chockfull of information.
Not sure what he is working on now, he seems to be a polymath of tanks. He is posting on the WW2talk forum as ‘Don Juan’ so you might be able to ask him directly there?
All the best
All good Thanks Andreas. I ended up purchasing the book and my copy arrived here in NZ back in October… I must get around to reading it! Thanks for the great content.
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