Haynes’ quest for world domination has picked up pace in recent months and I’m struggling to keep up with the number of books arriving in my mailbox.
Righto, lets get the stock bit of info done and dusted. Haynes were famous for their car maintenance manuals back in the day when we had cars that needed personal attention. As time progressed many became things with microchips and stuff that only a dealer with a laptop could fathom This coincided with some manufacturers being more protective over their wares, keeping the stuff of manuals to themselves. All this progress took something personal out of car ownership and, as collateral damage; it impacted on Haynes who saw much of their market disappearing. So they diversified. Now you can get owners workshop guides for all manner of real and imagined kit. It seems to be part of the brief that the likelihood of us owning much of the subject matter is minimal to say the least, but it happens sometimes.
First up we have a subject most of the followers of WHO will like the look of, the M1 Abrams tank. We can argue all day whether the Abrams is better than the Challenger 2 and going down that road will do none of us any good. There can be no argument that the Abrams has been a great success, being combat tested and a proven winner with the US military and export customers. There certainly doesn’t look to be any sign of it being replaced any time soon, but perhaps that says as much about financial and political realities as it does about the Abrams itself. Upgrades have kept the tank right up with Leopard and Challenger and this dominance seems set to last. Whether the age of the MBT is over is a moot point. I’m a suspicious sort who thinks this sort of analysis starts with governments who don’t want to spend the money rather than the people who use the things.
This book follows the drill and looks at development, construction, maintenance and operational procedures of the tank. This is classic Haynes. I’ve seen a few of these volumes over the years and I would put this book by Bruce Oliver Newsome and Gregory Walton up there with the best of them. They have taken a complex subject and broken it down into the essential parts. I’m no techy so I tend to ignore the clever stuff and look at the pictures but this book drew me in and I spent more time on it than I expected. The authors are tankies who know the Abrams well. They have lived and fought in it. This kind of association enhances the quality of the product a great deal and my message is you can trust this excellent book to be all the things you want it to be.
The best tank in the arsenal of the West in the years before Abrams was the Centurion. Just too late for WW2, the tank proved to be an enduring piece of engineering genius. Variants of the Cent stayed in service throughout the Cold War and on to the Gulf War. It was an export success and it is fair to regard the tank as being an icon of its era. Author Simon Dunstan is a safe pair of hands who really knows his stuff taking us through the development and service life of the gun tank that has seen countless upgrades and modifications, not all of which turned out for the best. He looks at the specialised armour versions and the combat history of the type in British and foreign service.
Cents fought in Korea, Vietnam, in the Middle East, on the Indian sub-continent and in Africa. The tank saw much use by Israel where engineers stretched the life of the old girl and took it on new adventures. It is a handsome tank and I have had pleasure of seeing examples in the UK and beyond over twenty years in this daft business. A Centurion on the move will always attract attention and the occasional tear from a dewy eyed fan. Mr Dunstan’s book is a virtual love letter to the old girl making the durability of the Centurion much easier to appreciate. Like the Abrams, this book hits bull’s eye for its quality and depth and, as such, you cannot go wrong with a copy in your library.
The SE5 fighter plane enjoyed much less durability, but it remains fixed in our minds as a classic of the Great War. In some respects the SE5 and it’s business partner the Sopwith Camel fulfil a kind of mirror image of the Hurricane and Spitfire. Indeed I have a treasured Gerald Coulson print hanging in my house that shows the ghost of an SE5 acting as guardian to a Spitfire.
Author Nick Garton brings his affinity with the classic era of motor racing and the connections with aviation to this entertaining book. Operable SE5s are hardly two a penny. There are full scale and smaller scale replicas about but the complexities of the real thing come across as we follow the usual route of design and development, production and so on. Mr Garton follows the basic Haynes formula but he adds a personal style to proceedings that makes this book a little different. As usual with elderly aircraft the book concentrates on a restoration project because this gives access to the guts of the SE5 in every sense of the word. Restorations offer the reverse of the production process as the subject is stripped down to its component parts and reassembled. This all contributes to another solid package from this publisher.
The crazy thing is of all the subjects included in this review the last offers the easiest access for anyone with the means to visit it. I have only been on HMS Warrior for a few hours way back in 1992 but the ship continues to attract a large number of visitors at her base in Portsmouth, England.
Warrior was built in 1860 and was the largest steam-powered ironclad of her day. There was nothing like her afloat. She was never called upon to fire a shot in anger and the comparison with Britain’s nuclear deterrent is often made by its supporters.
We follow the history and technicalities of the ship down along the usual lines but the story is enhanced by the mammoth task of restoring her. The Royal Navy has never been sentimental about casting off even its most famous or most loved ships to scrapyards and in the fading years of the age of sail they could find new lives as living quarters or coaling hulks. That Warrior was saved after years of uncertainty is something to celebrate. The beautifully restored ship is displayed at Portsmouth, the home of the Royal Navy, alongside Nelson’s Victory, Henry VIII’s Mary Rose and a rare survivor of the Great War, the monitor HMS M33.
I won’t waste your time going over details because my knowledge of Victorian era ships is negligible, but as a good sit down read this book is brilliant. Author Richard May knows his stuff and helps make the history easy to follow. This is exactly why these Haynes books are so good and this is a convenient place to bring an end to proceedings.
M1 ABRAMS MAIN BATTLE TANK
From 1980 (M1, M1A1 and M1A2 Models)
By Bruce Oliver Newsome, PHD, and Gregory Walton
ISBN: 978 1 78521 099 0
CENTURION MAIN BATTLE TANK
1946 to present
By Simon Dunstan
ISBN: 978 1 78521 057 0
ROYAL AIRCRAFT FACTORY S.E.5
1916 onwards (S.E.5, S.E.5a, S.E.5B & SE-5E)
By Nick Garton
ISBN: 978 0 85733 846 4
1860 to date
By Richard May
ISBN: 978 1 78521 106 5
Reviewed by Mark Barnes for War History Online