Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Book Review: Troop Leader - A Tank Commander's Story

Hi all, Griddon here with a quick book review.

While browsing the WWII section in Borders a month or so ago I found a copy of Troop Leader: A Tank Commander's Story. The book covers the activities of 8th King's Royal Irish Hussars through the Normandy breakout campaign all the way to the eventual occupation of Germany and the immediate post war period.

The book is written by Bill Belamy and is taken from his journal written at the time. These journals were against army regulations but in hindsight I think even the top brass can acknowledge the value they add to understanding the conflicts and learning valuable lessons. The author talks about his experiences in the various roles he had such as Squadron Echelon leader, through Troop Leader and subsequently, Reconnaissance 2IC.

Troop Leader is superbly written and I enjoyed the pace and flow through the various aspects of the author's war experience. The author adapts the reknown British modesty when depicting his role in the war. Some of his experiences are certainly exciting in the extreme but Bill takes quite a relaxed approach with his accounts and exercises euphemisms and humour on a regular basis. I particularly liked the insights into the roles the Cromwell tanks played in the Normandy breakout and Holland campaigns. You wont find any much tank on tank combat in the book, such was life in the Cromwell tank being predominantly used for reconnaisance activity, but there is enough enemy contact and plenty of detail to build a picture for how the Cromwell performed.

Speaking of enemy contact, there are no hugely dramatised battles or tales of glory rolling across France. There is plenty of enemy contact, this just isn't a book about huge tank engagements of WWII. Instead the book is an honest account of life in a tank, warts and all. The author talks about life in general around the war and during the more mundane downtime periods between being committed to front line activity. Some memorable tales include the day when the authors Cromwell takes a direct hit from a Nebelwerfer and when the troop needed to escape direct enemy contact by 'jumping' a dyke.

I won't spoil with any more detail but through the accounts of war time life, commeradery, relationship with his squadron and their interaction with the enemy the book fleshes out a solid perspective life in the 8th Royal Irish Hussars.

I think the book will definitely appeal to anyone interested in WWII and is a must read for tank enthusiasts. I'll be lending Mat my copy and I have no doubt he'll enjoy it immensely.


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