Tag Archives: cavalry

Tracing your Tank Ancestors by Janice Tait and David Fletcher

Some books land on your doormat and you think ‘thank you!’. The Tracing your.. Ancestors series books are most definitely among them, and particularly anything of a military persuasion! This book is published in conjunction with, naturally enough, the Tank Museum in Bovington. The authors are Janice Tait and David Fletcher, resident Librarian and Historian at the Tank Museum respectively.

As we might expect, this book is very strong on the history of Tanks in the British Army.Right from the Corps beginning during the Second World War, its difficult experiences in the inter-war period and the mechanisation of the old Cavalry Regiments, the crucial armoured battles in the Second World War, the era of national service, and then the modern world of the Cold War and the British Army of the Rhine. The history is flawless, as is the coverage of technical issues, tank names and industrial aspects. It is also very good at covering those quirky little historical points that are unique to the British Army – namely the manner in which men consider themselves members of their Regiment rather than the Army as a whole, and the politics of mergers and inter-Corps rivalries.

Each chapter is structured chronologically, looking at the Tank history of a particular era. Then at the end the reader is given pointers towards where to research, be it institutions, documents, websites or books. Even though I consider myself an experience military historian, I learnt a few things here. Perhaps the family history aspect is slightly light compared to the general history, but then again, I’m not sure that there is much more than could be added. I would maybe have liked to have read more about what is held in the Tank Museum’s collections, perhaps some comprehensive listings rather than ‘here are some examples…’

One issue where I feel it does let down the reader, is when the authors allow themselves to become, dare I say it, slightly snobby about family history. Yes, for us experts, we can get frustrated at ‘amateurs’ getting things wrong. But it is their family history, more than it is ours. We shouldn’t expect every person to know the difference between the Tank Corps and the ROYAL Tank Corps. Or fussing over whether someone was actually a ‘Desert Rat’. Such points are not really that important to the reader, I feel. Thats exactly why we ask the experts.

But I applaud Pen and Sword for collaborating with the Tank Museum. It makes sense, in terms of accessing unparalleled expertise, and also gaining access to an unrivaled collection of photographs. This book will be of interest to all military historians, not just in terms of family history – I can imagine it coming in handy when researching any tank-servicemen. It’s going to stay on my bookshelf thats for sure.

Tracing your Tank Ancestors is published by Pen and Sword

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Filed under Army, Book of the Week, Family History, Uncategorized, western front, World War One, World War Two

Mounted Grenadiers of the Imperial Guard – Ronald Pawly

Mounted Grenadiers of the Imperial Guard

Mounted Grenadiers of the Imperial Guard

From the moment Napoleon Bonaparte emerged to prominence at the recapture of Toulon in 1793, until his final defeat at Waterloo in 1815 and his subsequent exile to Elba, the French Army had revolutionised warfare. Napoloeon developed an Army that was overwhelmingly made up of conscripts, using a large body of poorly trained men who could be easily replaced. At the head of this mass army, however, was perhaps the most formidable Royal Household unit formed since the Roman Praetorian Guard – the Imperial Guard. The Imperial Guard came to set the standard for elite Household units, a mantle picked up by the British Foot Guards and Household Cavalry at Waterloo.

The Mounted Grenadiers were the Imperial Guards heavy cavalry, imposing in their Bearskins and chosen for their physical stature. This book, by Ronald Pawly uses regimental records and is a short history of the Mounted Grenadiers, and also contains many photos of rare weapons and equipment, as well as Osprey’s trademark artwork.

This book is pretty much a historical narrative of the unit, the part that they played in the Napoleonic French Army and the wider Napoleonic Wars. If you are looking for a comparative study of Napoleonic heavy cavalry then maybe this isnt the book for you, but if you are simply interested in reading about an elite force and studying them in depth this will make for a very good read. I can imagine this being especially interesting if you are keen on military models, wargaming or military uniforms. It is packed with facts and figures, and has clearly been written by someone who has done much research on this subject.

I must warn you, however: this book is very difficult to read without hearing the Sharpe theme tune in your head, or upon closing your eyes seeing epic scenes from the film Waterloo!

Mounted Grenadiers of the Imperial Guard is published by Osprey

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Filed under Book of the Week, Napoleonic War