I’ve mentioned before that I keep tabs on a few social media pages dedicated to tanks. One of them is all for the M4 Sherman in it’s many guises I never fail to be impressed by the knowledge some of the contributors share.
I’ve been a lover of the Sherman tank since I built my first Airfix kit back in the early 1970s and I have been fortunate to have photographed a number of them rumbling around over the years. I actually carry a permanent reminder from a mishap getting down from one in the shape of a few broken bones that went back together more or less as they should.
This is the first book I have seen from this publisher and it is also the first book by David Doyle I have reviewed, even though he is a prolific writer on military hardware. I am pleased to say this volume really is very uesful. Mr Doyle is preparing a series on the different marks and variants of the Sherman in Schiffer’s Legends of Warfare range and begins with the M4A1, the tank that started it all.
Right from the off I was amazed at the number of modifications and enhancements made to this particular tank. I was well aware of the ‘small hatch’ and ‘large hatch’ changes, the different main armaments and the complete revision of the suspension later in the war but they really only act as signposts along the path of the story. The devil really is in the detail and Mr Doyle finds much to explain through the course of his book.
We begin with the T6 prototype and the direct vision model of the M4A1 complete with multiple .30 caliber machine guns in the hull. It is nice to know that ‘Michael’ one of the very earliest Shermans that was delivered to Britain still survives on display in the Tank Museum here in England. I have walked round this tank many a time and even then some of the fixtures identified by Mr Doyle passed me by.
This sort of quality continues from cover to cover as the book expands into a very straightforward recognition guide to the tank. There are so many modifications – the applique armour, brush guards, machine gun stowage, periscopes, pistol ports and much, much more.
I state the obvious when I say this book is a must have reference for model makers. I’ve seen how many of them go to enormous lengths to achieve absolute accuracy when it comes to even the tiniest difference between Shermans, even when they are the same mark but made at different factories.
For tank aficionados the book offers something quite comprehensive and it does much to underscore the absolute power of American industry during World War II. This is exemplified by having the capacity to take back thousands of early model M4A1s and rebuild them for further use.
UK tank lovers are fortunate to have a M4A1 that makes regular appearances on the show scene here. I had really only concentrated on the cast hull as a recognition point before, but this book has really opened my eyes and I will be able to consider many more details in future.
Concentrating on a specific mark at a time really works and I look forward to further installments from David Doyle as time progresses. I don’t know how many he has planned but if they turn out as well as this one, the Sherman will be pretty much covered as far as I am concerned. Highly recommended.
SHERMAN TANK, Vol. 1
America’s M4A1 Medium Tank in World War II
Schiffer Publishing, Ltd
ISBN: 978 0 7643 5567 7
Reviewed by Mark Barnes for War History Online