Eight Gun Tank variants (Marks I-VIII) and numerous AVREs, Bridge-layers, specialized vehicles and countless one-offs. The Churchill served virtually everywhere from Libya to Italy, from NW Europe to Korea and from the Russian Steppes to the beaches of Dieppe Makes for a pretty exciting subject for the modeler? Well, you would think so. Unfortunately, for almost 30 years, we had one model of the Churchill in 1/35th scale styrene (well, 2 if you count the Crocodile). Then, just a year or two ago, AFV Club began a series of vehicles which, it will be hoped, will cover ALL the major Marks of the vehicle and a good few of the specialized vehicles as well.
That's in model form. Unfortunately, the Churchill hasn't fared brilliantly in reference material either. Whilst the Tiger or the Sherman get enough publications to stock a reasonable-sized branch library, the Churchill doesn't. It has, it must be admitted, often been the subject of great books. Unfortunately, many of these were published in the 60s and 70s - with correspondingly 'Rare-Book' price tags.... Two things have been needed. First, a good compendium of contemporary images. The second, a book on modeling the Churchill which reflects the recent releases from AFV Club. The first of this modest 'wish-list' is here with this recent book from Ampersand Publishing - the subject of this review.
The Churchill Tank: A Visual History of the British Army’s Heavy Infantry Tank 1941-1945. (Part One: The gun tank, Mk I-VIII) is written by David Doyle with an introduction by David Fletcher. The vital statistics for the book are as follows: format of the book is 11 x 8.5 inch, soft cover with rigid binding. Containing 120 pages which include around 150 images, the book is divided into 9 chapters. These are: Churchill Mark I
Churchill Mark II
Churchill Mark III
Churchill Mark IV
Churchill Mark V
Churchill Mark VI
Churchill Mark VII
Churchill Mark VIII
Beginning at the beginning with David Fletcher's foreword, he makes a brief but interesting summary of the Churchill. He draws no real conclusions as to its success - that ISN'T the point of this book though. It's longevity of service speaks volumes of its REAL success.
From the Foreward, we move onto the variants. Naturally enough, this goes chronologically, and normally the first image is of the prototype of the various marks. These are almost always the best-photographed aspects of ANY vehicle. The Churchill is no exception to this. Each photo covers one page with a brief (around a paragraph) of notes on the vehicle which cover any particularly interesting aspects. Interspersed amongst the wartime photos are additional images from preserved examples. These are well chosen as they highlight details which are not always clearly seen on the 'official' images.
Although the division of the book is clearly done by variants, within each chapter are some excellent 'sidebars'. Most notable, in this respect, are the 8 pages dedicated to the Dieppe Landings. The majority of these images are of Mark IIIs but there are a couple of useful shots of Mark IIs. Equally impressive is the series of images from 'King Force'. These are important as, although it was a small unit (6 Mark IIIs), the modeler should find plenty of inspiration to model some interesting vehicles with unique color schemes.
Unlike some other vehicles, what increases interest in the Churchill was the length of service of some of the variants. The Mark III, for example, can be seen on the Beaches of Dieppe in 1942, in Italy, in Tunisia and in the final battles of 1945. So, within the images, it isn't unusual to see several different variants in the same location.
The Images and the captions
A tremendous problem, particularly with British and Commonwealth AFVs has been the problem of 'limited-sources'. The majority of images have always come from a primary source (the IWM) or the Tank Museum at Bovington. Primarily this came about as, unlike their German counterparts, photography didn't become a significant hobby amongst the Allied troops. This is now becoming reflected with the enormous quantity (and quality) of amateur images from the German side. There ARE certainly these type of images available but not as many. The primary sources which were used by David Doyle: The Tank Museum, I.W.M., the Patton Museum and a private source, Warehouse Publications. The Dieppe images originated from the Bundesarchiv. With taking a more complicated 'route', Doyle has maximised the number of different images in the book and, IMO, avoided the reprinting of many frequently seen images. I've seen a fair few of the images before, that doesn't take away from anything though - the majority ARE new to me and will be to many others. Image Quality
The book's publisher, Ampersand, have always been notable for the superlative quality of the images they've used. This is NO exception. Photos are large, impressively re-mastered, and, for those who require detail, they'll find it without trying to guess what they're looking at. The author could have put more images in, personally, I think it's better with these large images. The Captions
Sadly, David Doyle suffered an ill-tempered (and generally ill-informed) attack on his work on other books a few months ago. Something that frankly had little foundation in reality. The captions in THIS book, are in my opinion first-class. They contain precisely the required level of comment and explanation. I've double-checked a few of the images and found no anomalies whatsoever.
I was very impressed with the book. However a couple of (personal) gripes. The author has put an enormous amount into the book and, inevitably, the format only permits so much. That said, I'd like to see another book covering the Churchill which shows the gun-tank in Lend-Lease Soviet service, in Korea and its (Post-War) use by other countries. I'd also have liked, having become accustomed to it from other publishers, to have seen pages of scale drawings. Even though the AFV Club Churchills are excellent, nothing is so perfect it doesn't require a little enhancement. By the same token, reproductions of some of the 'official' stowage diagrams would also be welcome. Also welcome would be publishing data on the different track-types. Not as extensive as the M4, but worth documenting nevertheless.
Overall, despite my (minor) griping, it really is a first-class book. As it's primarily a photo-record and has introduced a number of new images, it is even more welcome. Hopefully, sales of this book will encourage Ampersand to continue the series with the other Variants of the Churchill - ARKs, AVREs, Bridgelayers etc. It should also encourage modelers to try a Churchill (or four), they REALLY are incredibly interesting subjects!
My thanks to Ampersand Publishing for the opportunity to review this excellent book.
Highs: Image quality, the well-considered captions and the many new images. Lows: The lack of inclusion of images of the Churchill in Soviet service. Also, perhaps more on the vehicle as a 'Beutepanzer' would have increased the appeal even more. Generally, very little on the negative side though.Verdict: Excellent work on a much-needed subject. Caters perfectly for the modeler with the clarity of images presented. At this price an absolute bargain!
About Jim Rae (jimbrae) FROM: PROVINCIA DE LUGO, SPAIN / ESPAñA
Self-employed English teacher living in NW Spain. Been modelling off and on since the sixties. Came back into the hobby around ten years ago. First love is Soviet Armor with German subjects running a close second. Currently exploring ways of getting cloned to allow time for modelling, working and wr...