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[BOOK REVIEW] Tank! 40 Hours of Battle, August 1944

julianj

FGM Sergeant
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Tank-cover.jpg
This is one of the most vivid books about combat inside a tank I have read. It was written by Ken Tout of 1st Northamptonshire Yeomanry about a night battle in Normandy. Instead of a conventional format, Tout wrote this mainly as a "stream-of-consciousness" novelised version of the events, as he served as a Sherman gunner then promoted to tank commander on the field of battle.

It gives you a real sense of what is is like to be inside the malodourous, noisy hull of the tank, with rounds screaming around, and the radio and intercom speech going on constantly.

"Germans in the cornfield. Our own Browning thudding away. Stan reloading and slapping my leg. Stamping on the fire buttons. Adjusting crosswire sights. Our own flame and smoke. Alien flame and smoke. Enemy barrage rocking our tank. Bookie firing away downstairs. Keith reporting. Frantic radio traffic."

There's a lot of cameraderie, recognition of the weaknesses of the Sherman, and a huge amount of info on all the aspects of tank warfare like cleaning the gun, divvying up rations, or driving that often don't get mentioned. The crew of Stony Stratford (Ken's tank) are constantly joking and winding each other up. Some of the insane humour of warfare comes through: a senior officer during the night battle is commanding his tank as it zooms past a German trench. He grabs a Mills Bomb from the rack, pulls the pin, and throws it into the trench. Nothing happens. In the morning he gives the crew a b*llocking for forgetting to fuse their grenades. Except they are all there, fused. Someone shouts "where's my apple!" It had been stowed in the grenade rack and the officer had pulled the stalk and thrown the fruit instead: "That's against the Geneva Convention, I am sure."

I highly recommend this for its insight into what it was like to crew a Sherman. BTW the cover version above of course gets it wrong: Tout's tank is not a Firefly but a normal 75mm-armed Sherman. I've got a different edition which has a 75mm silhouette (although it's still not right as it has a muzzle brake on the gun). First published 1985.
 
V

Vox

Guest
I may be mistaken but i also think he wrote to more of these.
 

julianj

FGM Sergeant
FGM MEMBER
Joined
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Messages
113
Age
120
Location
London
@Vox No you are not mistaken, he did write more, about his experiences in the advance through Europe, but I haven't read any of them.
 
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