The bulk of this book covers the tanks of the First World War - from the earliest prototypes, through the tanks that actually took part in the fighting and on to those designs that either never made it to the front, or where still under development when the war ended. This takes up about three quarters of the text, and for me is the best part of the book. Here we really benefit from the author's expertises - he was the historian at the impressive Bovington Tank Museum for many years - and we thus get a more detailed and convincing history of the early development of the tank, with photographic evidence to back up the more obscure areas. It also becomes clear that despite their external similarities the tanks of 1918 were very different from the tanks of 1916, and much more effective.
The last four chapters cover inter-war developments. Each covers one particular topic - immediate post-war developments, the Vickers medium tanks, 1930s medium and cruiser tanks and the numerous light tanks. The Matilda infantry tanks are only mentioned in passing - an odd choice that isn't explained. The same is true for the A13 Cruiser, suggesting that the focus here is really on tanks that originated in the first half of the 1930s. In contrast the history of the light tanks is taken all the way to 1945. The interwar sections are very good, but would be more satisfying without the gaps (or with an explanation of why they were there).
As you would expect from Osprey this is a very well illustrated book, with pictures on just about every page, well chosen to support the text. There is the normal mix of contemporary photographs and modern artwork, with some unusual pictures of the earlier tanks.
This is an excellent history of the British tank of the First World War, coupled with a useful look at most inter-war tank development.
1 - The Tank Idea
2 - In the Beginning: Prototypes and Marks I, II and III
3 - Mark IV Tank
4 - Mark V Tank
5 - Medium Mark A Whippet
6 - Wartime Prototypes: Marks VI, VII, Heavy Mark VIII and Mark IX
7 - The End of the War and New Beginnings
8 - Vickers Mediums
9 - 1930s Tank Developments: The Countdown to War
10 - Light Tanks 1927-45: Marks I-VI
Author: David Fletcher