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



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

9 responses to “Tracing your Tank Ancestors by Janice Tait and David Fletcher

  1. (Sigh.) And here I thought you had a nice book to teach us how an A9 became a Crusader, and how a Churchill became a Centurion. 😦

    • James Daly

      It does delve into that, ie how British tanks were so poor in WW2 that it inspired designers to come up with the goods in the post-war period, hence how Cromwells and Churchills became Centurions and Chieftans.

    • John Erickson

      Seriously, the Churchill and Cromwell weren’t all that bad, and evolved quite quickly to overcome their initial faults. The “cruiser” class of tanks (including Crusader and the A-9 to A-12) were horrific – paper-thin armour, 2-pdr guns firing only AP ammo, engines that blew up more than they worked. Matilda II had the weak 2-pdr, but their VERY thick cast armour gave Rommel the inspiration to use 88mm Flak guns as anti-tank weapons for the first time in France at Arras, and then (famously) later in the North African desert. The wacky ones were the “Close Support” variants – a 3in howitzer firing HE is okay, but a 95mm stub mortar firing ONLY smoke? Thank God you guys got that silliness out of your blood early in the war, and came up with the MUCH under-sung “Hobart’s Funnies”! (Even if we DID have to supply you with Stuarts and Shermans to beef up your numbers! :p )

      • John Erickson

        And I just realised I wrote a lecture to one of about 50 people on the entire Internet that probably knew EVERY last fact I just recited. Sigh. My bad!

        • James Daly

          I really don’t know all that much about Tank design John! tbh I’m not much of a techy. My strength is probably knowledge of the weapons fit on Falklands era warships. I honestly could not tell you about what calibre guns the Hood had and how many of them. I could, however, tell you a lot about the men that fired them…

  2. Pingback: Najleszy hotel w Gdańsku

  3. By staying well-informed, you are better able to create good decisions inside your financial dealings.
    Now, if in case we are going through crisis, why don’t we not be afraid to handle it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s