A Military, Political and Global History of Armoured Warfare: An Interview with Alaric Searle

Alaric SearleWe recently had the chance to pose a few questions to Dr. Alaric Searle, Professor of Modern European History at the University of Salford Manchester and author of the new book Armoured Warfare: A Military, Political and Global History.  His book is an impressive work, encapsulating over 100 years of AFV history into a single volume of just over 250 pages.  While there are many books that trace the technical development of armored vehicles, this book places the history of the tank within a broader historical perspective, examining its impact in not only the military realm, but also the political and economic.


How did you become interested in the topic of armored warfare?

While I was an undergraduate studying History at Edinburgh University, I took a course on the Great War in my final year. This led to my discovery of the writings of J.F.C. Fuller, so I then decided to write a final year dissertation on the British Tank Corps in the First World War.

You state in the preface of Armoured Warfare: A Military, Political and Global History that this book was the result of your experience teaching the subject at University. What are some of the biggest challenges in terms of the preconceived ideas or lack of knowledge that students bring to the class room regarding armored warfare?

Possibly the biggest challenge is encouraging the students to move away from old and very dated works, very specifically memoirs such as Heinz Guderian’s Panzer Leader. As I have been researching German military history for around twenty years, I am fully aware of the latest German research. The students cannot usually access this research, so it often takes some persuading to change some of their idealized views of German commanders. The other challenge is to communicate to the students that there were conflicts beyond Europe and that that experience is as interesting and significant as some of the more well-known wars and campaigns. This said, we do have some very good students at Salford, so I am often surprised at how much the students already know.

The book takes a rather broad “global” approach to the subject. Was it a challenge to condense the topic down into a book that was of reasonable length?

There is a simple answer to that question – yes! While it is always possible to condense chapters and text, what I did find was that some explanations became unclear, so I had to return to the manuscript later and clear up some of the lack of precision by adding in more explanation. What was most irritating with the word length was that one or two conflicts simply could not be included. The two most obvious ones are the Soviet-Finnish Winter War of 1939-40 and the Indo-Pakistan wars. If there is a second edition of the book, then I will definitely include those conflicts.

Were there topics addressed in the book you would like to return to in a later work in more detail?

Oh, yes. I am currently working on an article comparing war elephants and tanks. I delivered an early version of this idea to a seminar at Oxford University last year. The reaction was very positive, so this has encouraged me to expand my talk into a longer article. Some of the ideas I developed in the final chapter on the visual history of the tank I would likewise want to turn into some articles. And, I am working on a full-length monograph re-examining the military theories of Major-General J.F.C. Fuller. So, there is going to be more work on this subject appearing over the next two or three years from my pen.

Typically with books about armor, the cover photo features a Tiger tank or something along those lines. Your book has a rather interesting photo of what looks like a location in Vietnam with some M113 troop carriers and a helicopter taken from the roof of an M48.  Is there a reason for why that particular photo is on the cover? [Read more…]

Tank Chats #33 Panzer III

The Tank Museum presents another installment of “tank chats.”  This episode features museum curator David Willey describing the late model Panzer III tank that resides at the Tank Museum.  For more information on this vehicle, we recommend the recently released Haynes Manual on the Panzer III by Dick Taylor.

Photo of the Day: “Five of Hearts”

Today’s POTD is of the Renault FT tank on display at the Ft. George Meade Museum in Maryland. This particular tank, nick-named the Five of Hearts, served with the 2nd Platoon, Co. C, 344th Tank Battalion during the Meuse-Argonne fighting on 4 October 1918. This photo comes from the Facebook page of Steven Zaloga who notes that the camouflage scheme is more typical of the post-war US experimental schemes than the wartime French colors.


AFV News from around the Web

Some articles and videos concerning AFVs from the past week.  Click on the headline to go to the full piece.


U.S. Department of Defense – Army Unit Bolsters Abrams Tanks With ‘Reactive’ Armor

170228-A-ZZ999-777GRAFENWOEHR TRAINING AREA, Germany, March 7, 2017 — Tank and maintenance crews from the 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment assigned here are giving their M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks a buffed-up look that improves the tanks’ overall defensive capabilities.  The crews, with the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, which is serving as the initial ABCT rotational force in support of Atlantic Resolve, began installing the Abrams Reactive Armor Tile system Feb. 28 to tank hulls and turrets.

Financial Review – (Australian) Army’s plans for more and better tanks

1488852550924As the Defence Department gears into “new and enhanced capability”, spending around $195 billion over the next 10 years, most people are aware of the large-scale builds: the Air Warfare Destroyers, the 12 future submarines, the future frigates and Australia’s step into the aviation future with 72 F-35 stealth fighters.  Less well known is the resurgence of a defence technology which has not made many headlines for the past 45 years: the main battle tank.

IHS Jane’s 360 – More details of Russia’s Bumerang emerge

1634514_-_mainRussia has released additional details of its latest Bumerang (Boomerang) family of wheeled 8×8 armoured fighting vehicles (AFVs) that are the long-term replacement for the currently deployed BTR-80 8×8 amphibious armoured personnel carrier (APC).  The Bumerang chassis has the designation VPK-7829, with the infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) variant designated the K-17 and the APC model is designated the K-16 (while under development the vehicle was referred to as the Gilza, which is Russian for ‘cartridge’).

Haaretz – Israel’s First Would-be Female Tank Troops Start Their Arduous Training

1008288172Israel’s first women seeking to become tank-crew members started the process this week as Israel strives to join countries like Norway, Canada and Australia on the short list of states with women in tanks.  At the end of their basic training in mixed-gender battalions, 15 of the women will be selected for a pilot program to see if they are fit to serve in tanks. Selection will be based in large part on motivation and physical fitness.  In light of certain rabbis’ and reserve officers’ wariness about women serving in the military and/or the Armored Corps, the army’s pushing of the process seems to be sending a message in support of women in combat.

IHS Jane’s 360 – Lazar III enters service

p1682693_-_mainYugoimport’s Lazar 3 8×8 MultiRole Armoured Combat Vehicle has entered service with Serbia in the armoured personnel carrier (APC) configuration.  The vehicle has a welded steel chassis to which its monocoque steel hull – which features spall liners – is bolted. In its baseline form the vehicle has all round ballistic protection to Standardization Agreement (STANAG) 4569 Level 3, and over the frontal arc this is increased to Level 3+. Mine protection is to STANAG 4569 Level 3a and 3b, and the floor has two levels of protection.



Video: T-80 Drift

This video appeared on youtube a few days ago.  We are going to guess that this is not a driving technique found in the manual.

Lester Tenney, WWII tank commander and survivor of Bataan Death March, passes away at 96

06TENNEY-blog427On Feb 24, 2017, US tank commander and survivor of the Bataan Death March Lester Tenney passed away in California at age 96.  A member of the 192nd Tank Battalion National Guard at the beginning of WWII, Tenney served as a radio operator and later a tank commander during the fighting on Bataan in the Philippines in December of 1941.  After being taken prisoner, Tenney survived the Bataan Death March as well as over three years as a POW forced to labor in a coal mine.  Following the war, Tenney was released and made a new home in California.  He would go on to obtain a doctorate in finance from the University of Southern California, taught at San Diego State and Arizona State Universities and founded a company providing financial advice to corporations.  He authored a book based on his experiences titled My Hitch in Hell (Memories of War), published in 1995.  He also worked with other former P.O.W.s to seek an apology from the government of Japan, an effort that proved successful in 2009 when Japan’s ambassador to the US, Ichiro Fugisaki, apologized on behalf of his government.

For more about Lester Tenney, check out the following links.

New York Times 3/5/2017 – Lester Tenney, 96, Dies; Faced Japan’s Brutality and Won Its Apologies

LA Times 2/27/2017 – Lester Tenney, Army tank commander who survived Bataan Death March during World War II, dies at 96

CNN 4/9/2017 – ‘Dying was easy: It’s the living that’s hard’

Voices of Manhattan Project (2013) – Lester Tenney’s Interview

Simon Wiesenthal Center – Letter from Lester Tenney in response to Yukie Sasa article “The Bataan Death March: Fact or Fiction”

Photo of the Day: Sherman farm tractor

It’s been a while since we posted a photo of the day.  We bring this feature back today with this rather amusing photo taken in the late 1940’s in Chelyabinsk oblast.



Book Alert: Rolls-Royce Armoured Car: 1915-44 (Haynes)

Haynes has released another of their “Owners’ Workshop Manual” titles focused on armored vehicles.  This latest one examines the Rolls-Royce Armoured Car: 1915-44 and is authored by well known British AFV expert David Fletcher.  This is a 160 page hardcover book.  As with others of this series, it features plenty of photos, charts and diagrams.

Publisher’s Description:

The Rolls-Royce Armoured Car is almost a legend: introduced by the Royal Naval Air Service the First World War for shore patrols, modified versions were still in service during the Second World War in 1940–41 with the British Army’s 11th Hussars in the North African desert. Between the wars they were used for policing duties by the Royal Air Force in Iraq, Egypt and India. Centrepiece of this manual is the Irish Army’s 1920 Rolls-Royce Armoured car ‘Sliabh na mBan’, restored jointly by the Irish Defence Forces and specialist historic Rolls-Royce restorer James Black Restorations between 2012 and 2015.

Author: David Fletcher MBE is the former Librarian at the Tank Museum and a respected world authority on armoured fighting vehicles. He is also a prolific author, including the Haynes Great War Tank Manual (2013) and co-author of the Haynes Tiger Tank Manual (2011). He lives in Dorset.


Video: CNN visits DriveTanks.com

CNN recently sent one of their reporters  down to Texas to visit DriveTanks.com to drive and shoot a M4 Sherman tank.  While the video is a little silly, it does give a pretty good idea what one would expect in case they ever pony up the (rather substantial) fee to operate the Sherman tank at Drivetanks.com.

Publishing News: SABOT purchases Verlinden

According to a post on their facebook page, SABOT publications says that they have purchased Verlinden Publishing and plans to relaunch the Verlinden Warmachine Series.

Statement from SABOT:

17097869_442018192796659_6956954807529505527_oSABOT Publications is relaunching the Warmachines series of photo reference books initially created by Verlinden Publications. SABOT Publications recently purchased Verlinden Publications, including all of its photographs, slides, books, and other intellectual property. We hope to continue the success and variety of titles that the Warmachines series offered. With a couple of new 1/35 scale kits expected to come out on the M1 ABV, this vehicle will be our first book in the new series. The second book will focus on the Stryker MGS in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Warmachines series will be smaller and more focused on a particular topic. The books will be 64 pages in length, with all full color, large high quality photographs, 8.5×11 inches, with minimal text, and retail for US$24.99. These books will really focus on the photos as references. The first two Warmachines will be available by the end of March. They will be available for preorder on the website very soon. Look for more new titles coming out throughout the year!

Sabot also publishes a photo series titled “In Detail”, which we posted about last July.  Since that time, they have released two new entries in that series, M60A2 MBT Volume 2 and M1A2 MBT Volume 2.


AG001-2TFor those interested in WWII Armor history, be sure to check out Kampfgruppe Walther and Panzerbrigade 107 by Jack Didden and Maarten Swarts.  This 440 page book features over 450 photos and provides a day to day narrative for the month long period that this unit existed.  The authors have unearthed many new sources and photographs, from both sides and as a consequence the book contains images of nearly every knocked out fighting vehicle and illustrations showing the composition of the Kampfgruppe, Panzer-Brigade 107, US Task Forces and all the other units involved.

Here is a brief review from the facebook page of Steven Zaloga.

I just got in the second Jack Didden book on German units during Operation Market Garden covering Panzerbrigade 107 in September 1944. This is a massive book, about 430 pages. It is very well printed on gloss stock and very heavily illustrated. The photographic coverage of Panzer Brigade 107 is surprisingly good. There are numerous maps, in color with considerable tactical detail. In spite of the German focus of the title, for anyone interested in the British XXX Corps attack towards Nijmegen, there is very extensive coverage including the most thorough photo of British AFVs in this campaign that I have seen. Overall, a most impressive effort. Not inexpensive. I got mine from RZM Imports in Connecticut to avoid the European postal fees.