This illustrated encyclopedia is based on the Orbis War Machine series of the 1980s, a very sizable part work that covered a wide range of topics, from the First World War up to the most modern weapons of the period. This book extracts all of the standard articles relating to the Second World War and organises them into five main categories - Tanks and AFVs (which also includes un-armoured transports), artillery (including rockets), infantry weapons, aircraft (including air-to-ground weapons) and ships.
Although the text is thus some thirty years old, most of the time this isn't a problem. However there are some issues that needed sorting out. First, few of the longer articles from War Machine are included. In some cases this leaves a real gap in the text - most notably for the Jeep, which gets a very tiny article which includes the claim that more detail can be found 'elsewhere in this issue'. In cases like this either the longer article should have been included or a new smaller article written. Second, there are quite a few references to the 1980s use some weapons (tanks, ships and artillery in particular), written in the present tense - i.e. this gun is still in service. Thirty years on this is rarely the case, and these really should have been removed. A few blanks at the end of entries would have been better than this clearly dated material. The book would greatly have benefited from some light editing to deal with these issues.
On the positive side (and there are many positives), the accounts of the development and wartime service of the weapons covered are still accurate. The text covers a very large range of topics - far more than other similar books. This is the case in two ways - first, in the overall choice of topics, which ranges from light vehicles and trucks to advanced jet fighters, and from aircraft carriers to tiny coastal warfare vessels, and second in the range of nations covered, with many eastern and central European weapons included.
The text is also very good on the relationship between different weapon systems - this sort of book often treats individual weapons as entirely isolated objects, but here the progression from one item to the next and the way in which one country reacted to developments in another are covered.
The text is supported by useful stats and good illustrations, with the vast majority of articles getting at least one picture or plan.
Overall this provides a very good overview of the hundreds of different types of weapons used by the combatants during the Second World War, and is a very good reference work.
Tanks and AFVs
Editor: Chris Bishop
Year: 2014 edition of earlier original