Following “Conqueror” and written in a similar format, “Chieftain” is Bob Griffin’s second book in the past few years. Several AFVA members helped Bob with info for this book, and the result will not disappoint. This is the first new work on this important Cold Warrior written in years, and it was worth waiting for.
The author has done a very large amount of digging into little known facets of the Chieftain tank’s development making use of new information made available since the last big book on the Chieftain by George Forty. The result is a very good history of the Chieftain, with tons of previously unavailable information. The photographic content concentrates heavily on in-service shots as well as interior views.
The text is very readable, including often amusing incidents in the trials and development of new systems as well as the day to day operation of the tank. The author served on Chieftains for much of his adult life and describes the tank very well indeed, so any ex-Chieftain crewmen will find this book indispensable. For the postwar armour enthusiast, Bob Griffin’s book offers an unbiased and honest analysis of what made Chieftain tick, its’ much publicized problems and its less publicized redemption.
Salient features of the work are the detailed chapters on gunnery and fire control systems, developmental outgrowths of the Chieftain and the Bob Griffin trademark register of each production vehicle and its subsequent fate. Bob has avoided the clichee comparisons arguing which NATO tank was best and has concentrated on aspects of the vehicle that have not been explained elsewhere. A nice touch is the detailed overview of the nature of the crewman’s existence from the viewpoint of the trooper and NCO.
One criticism that could be leveled at the publisher is the size of the book, which evidently could have run to over 300 pages, so I hope this author does a Concord-style photo book to compliment this work (here again, the publisher has avoided colour photos in the book which is unfortunate).
All in all, I would recommend this one without reservations to all who are interested in the evolution of the MBT, British Armour since WW2 or NATO armour in general. Once one starts reading “Chieftain”, it will be hard to put back down. Bob Griffin intends to cover the FV432 series of AFVs in the near future, though with a different publisher.