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New Vanguard 98: British Anti-Tank Artillery 1939-45

by Chris Henry, illustrated by Brian Delf

Osprey Publishing Ltd: ISBN 1-84176-638-0, 48 pages.

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Although we are drawn to this web site mainly due to our interest in tanks and other AFVs, many of us are also interested in the tank’s antithesis: the anti-tank gun. While the classic gun-versus-armor race is never ending, it is perhaps most easily understood when one examines a particular nation’s conventional anti-tank artillery park. There it can readily be seen how guns very simply became larger.

The book’s text describes how the British Army began the war with a fairly modern design, the 2-pdr Mk I and Mk II. It was also forced by low production rates early in the war to purchase French Hotchkiss 25mm guns as well as use the Swedish Bofors 37mm guns (although it is not clear how the latter were acquired). In all cases these guns were barely adequate in the beginning, but were soon out-classed. Next in line was the 6-pdr., a gun which was used from 1942, throughout the remainder of the war. It speaks volumes of this particular piece that it was able to destroy a Tiger I under favorable conditions, and that it was also “Americanized” and used by US infantry anti-tank units as the 57mm M1. A lighter airborne version was also produced, and used by US, British and Polish airborne units. Probably the ultimate gun was the legendary 17-pdr., which could take on all but the most heavily armored German panzers from the front and any of them from the sides or rear. The monstrous 32-pdr., a design of huge and ungainly proportions never saw service in the war for which it was designed, and was largely replaced post-war by the Burney recoilless weapons. These last pieces or ordnance included the 95mm, 3.45-, 3.7- and 7.2-inch RCL guns. These designs evolved into the post-war era as the BAT (Battalion Ant-Tank) weapons which were in use until replaced by anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs). The text also details the methods of use of the guns (firing drill) in combat, as well as tactics.

The 38 B&W photos (including TM illustrations) are well captioned and accompanied by 18 charts giving technical specifications for guns, carriages, self-propelled mounts and ammunition performance. Various SP vehicles such as the Deacon, Firefly (a wheeled 6-pdr., not to be confused with the later 17-pdr.-armed M4A4 Sherman, which itself is only given passing mention in the text), Archer, Achilles, as well as truck-mounted “portee” weapons are also covered. Curiously, the Cromwell chassis-mounted 17-pdr. Challenger tank destroyer is not mentioned. Several towing vehicles are also depicted.

The eight pages of color illustrations detail the four main weapons in excellent fashion, with especially fine coverage of the various 2-pdr.’s. The center spread art depicts a 6-pdr. gun in both the airborne and standard configuration, with the latter being shown with the auxiliary shields sometimes used as added protection for the crew. There are profiles of the Archer and Achilles SPs as well as a portee mounted 2-pdr., but they are very simply done (although they are certainly well-drawn) and therefore will not be of use for modelers searching for color schemes or markings. Captions are extensive for this section and detail technical specs and tactical use.

This is a fine resource for modelers contemplating the plastic and multi-media kits that are available to depict most of these guns. However, as with so much in our hobby, there is certainly a need for state-of-the-art plastic kits of the 2-, 6 and 17-pdr. guns. Hopefully, one of the bolder manufacturers will take note.


Frank De Sisto

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