Oliver, Dennis. Churchill Tanks: British Army, North-West Europe 1944-45. Pen and Sword Military, 2017.
Like his earlier numbers in the Tank Craft series from Pen & Sword, Dennis Oliver’s recent volume on the Churchill tank offers the same satisfying blend of design thinking, specific unit campaign histories, beautiful illustrations, and detailed photographs, along with a modeling product survey and review for the most dedicated of hobbyists.
By focusing on the Churchill tank in one theatre of war, Northwest Europe from D-Day to VE-Day, Oliver is able to provide micro-granularity on the different Churchill variants, their markings, and even their individual vehicles in the campaign. Modelers will find it a useful handbook for the achievement of the utmost realism. Wargamers will benefit also from the battalion and brigade orders of battle provided.
The Churchill was basically a tank designed with the Great War fresh in mind: the vehicle’s long body and heavy armor would allow it to cross trenches and other battlefield obstacles with ease (if not with speed) as it fulfilled its mission of supporting attacking infantry while shooing away enemy tanks. The German Blitzkrieg campaigns of 1939-40 effectively put paid to this tactical conception of the “infantry tank,” yet Churchills remained in front-line service right up to the end of the war. The design’s staying power rested on its heavy armor, which gave it decent survivability even later in the war, and on its versatility, which allowed it to find useful applications right to the end. Quite a number of Hobart’s “Funnies” — bridge-layers, bunker demolishers, flame-throwers, carpet-layers — were built on the large, accommodating Churchill chassis. The addition of 75mm guns put the Churchill at least on a par with other Allied AFVs in Normandy, such as the Sherman and Cromwell.
Although the time-sensitive information these TankCraft books contain about retail products will eventually be out of date as current kit manufacturers continue to develop their catalogues and altogether new companies come onto the scene — which seems to happen in shorter time frames these days than it used to — their visual and historical reference points will never lose their utility.
If you’re like me and you like books, tanks and models, these volumes will be informative right now, and I expect they will remain enjoyable to look at for a long time to come.
My gallery of Churchill tanks can be found here.