by: Darren Baker [ ]
This offering from Pen and Sword as part of their Tank Craft series and on this occasion looking at the Cromwell and Centaur Tanks, British Army and Royal Marines North West Europe 1944 - 1945. This book as with all of the titles in this series are I feel an attempt to offer the modeller a combination package covering both reference on the vehicles and a look at the models available to replicate the Cromwell and Centaur Tanks as a scale model.
This offering from Pen and Sword is authored by Dennis Oliver, who is an author that has written a number of books in the Tank craft series and I have begun to look forward to his work. This is a soft backed book with a good card cover protecting 64 pages of semi gloss paper. The contents of this title are laid out as follows:
The Regiments of the Royal Armoured Corps
The Armoured Reconnaissance Regiments
Camouflage and Markings
The Regiments of the Royal Artillery
The Royal Marines Armoured Support Group
Technical Details and Modifications
Product Contact Detail
The text in this title begins with a short history covering the troubled birth and piece meal introduction of the Cromwell Mk IV and the close support variant; all designs prior to the 75mm Mk IV were considered obsolete by D-Day. As such the modeller should be looking at one of the Mk IV tanks with a 75mm gun if being shown in Europe.
The section looking at the units of the RAC is short, but it provides one of my favourite inclusions covering the names of all of the tanks of the 1st Battalion, Royal Tank Regiments, and this is provided covering the three Squadrons and the four troops within each Squadron. In addition to the names of the tanks in June 1944 we are also provided with the tank asset numbers. as the title moves onto the reconnaissance units we are presented with a wide range of units, these are not as widely covered as the RTR but it does open up a wide field. Again the author has provided a breakdown but not in as much depth.
A section providing prints of a fair number of Cromwell and Centaur Tanks is next up. All of the vehicles are shown from the left or right side, but also covers the vehicles from the front and the rear hull panel where it is felt necessary. For someone such as myself who is looking to build a Cromwell shortly the section opens up a number of options. The prints provide an excellent selection of camouflage patterns used and the units that used them; its kind of a one stop reference area. Of particular note in this area are the graphics showing vehicles that had rubber sheeting from many sources added to their tanks; this is indicated to be a method of replicating the German Zimmerit, I am unclear as to how common this was but it would make for an interesting finish of a Cromwell.
The modelling section starts with a showcase of finished models that are a nice mix of models displayed as stand alone models, and a list of these can be seen after this paragraph. The text covering these models is limited and I feel it would have been useful if details on what exactly had been added to the base kits. The section covering the kits available is a reasonable section for the modeller who wants to see where to aim his or her pennies at. Models in 1/76th, 1/72nd, 1/48th, 1/35th and even 1/56th scale are looked at and covers injection moulded plastic offerings from a good selection of companies. The aftermarket providers also get a good level of coverage; one of these I was pleased to see covered is Dan Taylor Modelworks, a company that produces some exceptional items for the braille scalers amongst us.
Centaur CS Mk IV, 1st Royal Marine Armoured Support Regiment, Normandy, June 1944, by Marcos Serra in 1/35th scale.
Cromwell Mk IV, B Squadron 2nd Battalion Welsh Guards, Normandy, June 1944, by Tan Zhiyong in 1/35th scale.
Centaur Mk Iv Leyland Manufactured, England, late 1943, By Sheng Hui in 1/35th scale.
Cromwell Mk IV, Headquarters 4th County of London Yeomanry, Normandy, June 1944, by Shin Oikawa in 1/48th scale.
Cromwell CS Mk IV, A Squadron 10th Polish Mounted Rifle Regiment, Holland, November 1944, by Tomasz Bohdan Porosilo
With the modelling sections out of the way it is the turn of the Royal Artillery units to get a mention. It takes brave men to go into battle with tanks sporting dummy guns and only machine guns for offensive/defensive fire; I am aware that they were not intended for battle but they seemed to find it. The Royal Marines bring these sections of the book to a close.
The book comes to a close with a guide to the changes made to the Cromwell and Centaur in terms of Mk of tank, it also takes a look at the different types as in A, B, D and so on. The photographs in the book are all period black and white images of very good quality. I was pleased to see that some of the tanks photographed are also covered in the print section and directions in these cases are covered.
Dennis Oliver has garnered a place with me as a firm favourite due to his writing style and how information is presented to the reader. I still feel that I would have liked to see the Cromwell and Centaur covered separately, but that is a personal opinion due to my current modelling task. The modelling section gives the modeller some directions with the aftermarket companies being particularly useful as kits are usually easier to find. I feel this is a useful title on a tank family that appears to have had limited attention.