This book looks at the small arms used by the main combatants during the First and Second World Wars and the interwar years. Pistols, rifles, machine guns and man-portable anti-tank weapons such as the bazooka are the main theme, with one or two flame throwers thrown in. Hand grenades are mentioned in passing.
The book is nicely organised. Most of the chapters look at different areas of the two World Wars, with the chapters subdivided by nations or major battles. The chapter on the Western Front thus has sections on the Belgium Army of 1914-15, the British and German armies at the Second Battle of Ypres and the armies of Verdun (amongst others). The Second World War Eastern Front chapter starts with a look at Finland, the Winter War, the early Red Army and the German Army of 1941 before moving on to look at the major campaigns of the war on the Russian front.
The benefit of this approach is that weapons in use at the same time and on the same front are examined at the same time, rather than being split up into separate country based chapters. Some weapons appear repeatedly, either because they were of particular importance or because a new version came into general use, so the development of small arms during this period becomes much clearer.
Another nice feature are the platoon and squad charts, which show the firepower available to the smaller infantry units of several armies. The tables listing the firepower available to battalions are a little confusing as they use the figures for a single example of each sub-unit. The table for the German infantry battalion of 1941-42 with 839 men includes three rifle companies, with a total of 187 men each, made up of several sub-units including three rifle platoons, each with four rifle squads of 10. Until one realises that this means 40 riflemen the table in each platoon for a total of 120 in the three platoons the table appears to be rather inaccurate.
This is a minor flaw in an otherwise excellent book which places the development of small arms technology in the context of the battles in which they were used.
1 - World War I: Western Front and Dardanelles
2 - World War I: Eastern Front, Italy and the Balkans
3 - Interwar Years
4 - World War II: Poland and Western Theatre
5 - World War II: Eastern Front
6 - World War II: Pacific Theatre
Author: Michael E. Haskew