British Expeditionary Force, France, 1939-140, Part One – Robert Gregory
reviewed by Jim Mesko
The latest Armor Color Gallery book, Armor and Camouflage of the British Expeditionary Force, France, 1939-1940, Part One, 1st Army Tank Brigade, by Robert Gregory, is a must have book for anyone interested in the early days of British armor during World War Two. The book includes 26 full color plates and 157 black and white photos, many taken by German soldiers who were given cameras and encouraged to take photos, unlike the British troops who were prohibited from taking photographs. The author points out how fortunate we are in having this German source of pictures, since there were so few British official photos that were taken or survived the hectic days back in the spring of 1940. All of this is put together in an 80 page book that includes an appendices of the known names assigned to both tank battalions and a color page on tank markings and flags of the two tank battalions. Gregory thanked and acknowledged the support given by noted authors and photo collectors Peter Brown, Andrew Foulkes, Ken Jones, James Naveira, and Nick Watts.
Armor vehicles covered in the book include the Mark VI Light Tank, and the A11 and A12 Matilda Infantry Tank.The author goes into the early development of these tanks and their intended purpose in the overall British strategy for tank employment. This is followed by a section dealing with camouflage and markings which is quite extensive for the limited pages allotted to this subject due to space restrictions. There is a very comprehensive breakdown of section colors and serial and movement stripes, along with the actual identity of the serial allocation. The final breakdown of the text deals with the actions from May 10 through May 30 and the various units involved in the fighting around Arras. An interesting nugget of information is the use by the BEF of the French 25mm Hotchkiss anti-tank gun along with the standard 2 pounder. I only wish that there had been room to include a map of the battle to better understand the text, but this is a minor complaint.
The heart of the book is obviously the 157 photos which have been reproduced in extremely good detail. While some have appeared before in magazine articles and other published works, these are often small and detail is hard to see. The ones in this book are reproduced in a larger format and are crisp and shows great detail. In particular the modeler is given a wealth of photos of tanks in various stages of distress, with great attention to detail. The photo section is broken down by the two tank battalions, 4th and 7th, and allows the reader to compare the photos with the information provided in the markings section. I found the photos of tanks in the sunken lane around Arras particularly interesting. The entire selection of photos is outstanding.
This is an exceptional book for anyone interested in the history of British AFV’s during this period of the early days of the war on the continent against the Germans. It is especially helpful to the modeler who wants to reproduce an accurate model of any of the three tanks covered by the book. In my opinion this is one of the best of the series and I highly recommend it. I am looking forward to Part Two when it comes out.