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Chieftain Main Battle Tank - Development And Active Service From Prototype To Mk.11


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Chieftain Main Battle Tank

Development And Active Service From Prototype To Mk.11
Robert Griffin
Kagero Photosniper Series #0007
Available from Kagero for €16.71




For those not familiar, Kagero's Photosniper Series has been going for some years now. I have some of their earlier World War Two subjects, and even though they have been spruced up a bit with a slightly smarter look, the tried and tested format is fairly similar. Background, development and service are covered in a fairly traditional way, with text supported by photos and the odd diagram or plan. Then we have what many call a 'walkaround' section - many photos, usually of a restoration or museum example, with brief annotation. And finally a profiles section, where artwork is used to provide renditions of colourful or significant examples of the type.








The book begins by setting the scene at the very beginning of the Cold War, and even alludes to the British experiences of World War Two, although I think that perhaps the later Churchills and the Sherman Firefly are unnecessarily tarred (by implication) by the author. The very successful Centurion - which made it into theatre (but not combat) in the dying embers of the Second World War, and was amazingly still in service up until the first Gulf War - was nonetheless considered being replaced only a year or two into production. The Soviet threat, and specifically their armour dominated British Army thinking for decades; and after the concept of a 'one tank fits all' was dropped, it was decided to go for a Medium Gun Tank and also a Heavy Gun Tank combination (the latter being the Conqueror). But as minds were changed once again, so the Chieftain as main battle tank - or Project FV4201 as it was initially known - was born.






Even as a small child making a crude (Airfix?) model of the Chieftain, I remember hearing something along the lines of 'good tank, rubbish engine', and when all is said and done, that phrase still sums things up nicely. By the time the British Army had accepted the tank (reluctantly it seems) and running trials were underway in 1960, the Chieftain was saddled with the feeble L60 engine. What is interesting is that you now get some explanation as to why this engine was adopted, why it was so poor, and how there were alternatives despite claims to the contrary at the time. The L11 120mm gun was very good indeed, however, thus the Chieftain could certainly hold its own offensively. And so the section continues, through further trials, full-time production and use, continuous upgrades and finally through to retirement.






Pages 26 to 63 comprise the main photographic section. There are extended walkarounds of individual tanks, as well selections of shots of different vehicles showing similar or evolving features. Most of the internal shots are understandably of restoration rather than running production vehicles, which means you never really know 'what's missing', but such is the nature of the beast. Most of the pictures are sharp enough, but the interior ones are often too dark, which is disappointing. There is a also a selection of plans in that well-known modelling scale of 1/55(!).






The final section profiles some 19 tanks. Mostly one sided, I thought perhaps these would be '50 shades of dark green and black' (somehow not as catchy is it?), but to my surprise there was quite a variety of schemes on display. The most eye-catching for me was the irregular squares of the Berlin Brigade tanks of the 4/7th Royal Dragoon Guards from the early 1980s.


A nice little book on Britain's first main battle tank. A good mix of history and development combined with useful detail photos, and some nice profiles to provide some modelling inspiration.




With thanks to Kagero for the review sample. To purchase directly, click HERE.


Nicholas Mayhew



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