THE MEN INSIDE THE METAL vol. I
The British AFV Crewman in WW2 Vol. 1
This book, Volume 1 in a series of two, completes the story of the uniforms and equipment of British tank and AFV crews. The evolution of uniforms, and the variations in actual use on all fronts, are described and illustrated, as is the personal equipment of AFV crews. The advantages and drawbacks of all the designs are discussed, in the context of actual front-line operational experience. Illustrated with many photos and drawings, covering all uniform variations and equipment.
Vol. 1 contains information on:
CHAPTER 1 UNIFORM ITEMS.
CHAPTER 2 BADGES AND INSIGNIA
CHAPTER 3 PERSONAL EQUIPMENT
by: Alan McNeilly [ ALANL ]
MMP Books have just released their latest publication by Dick Taylor The Men Inside the Metal, The British AFV Crewman in WW2 -Volume 1. The book has been published by Stratus s.c of Poland and is the fist volume covering British AFV Crewman during WW2.
The purpose of the book is to give a comprehensive overview of British AFV Crewmen during the Second World War. It includes order of dress, equipment used, training and operations. The book is compiled of contemporary photographs and illustrations text and web links.
The book was written by Dick Taylor who should need no introduction and Volume 1 covers Dress and Equipment.
Consisting of 106 pages of text and photographs the book is in A4 style glossy colour format. The book consists of the Introduction, Glossary, Acknowledgements and the following chapters.
Chapter 1 covers uniform items including footwear, headgear, Regimental side caps, helmets, uniforms and dress in the desert and Far East.
Chapter 2 covers Badges and Insignia, including cap badges, collar badges, metal epaulette titles, cloth slip-on epaulette titles, cloth shoulder designations, rank badges, formation badges, good conduct badges, service chevrons and wound stripes, trade and skill-at-arms and proficiency badges.
Chapter 3 covers webbing, personal equipment and miscellaneous items.
Chapter 4 deals with equipment and weapons, vehicle stowage, radio equipment.
The book is laid out in user friendly fashion and the contemporary photographs are supported by line drawings and modern photographs. Chapter 1 provides lots of useful information on tankers uniforms with a good representation of colour photographs that will be useful for the model builder. Plimsolls and Desert Boots (aka Brother Creepers) get a mention which is good to see, and the rational behind footwear is well explained. Head gear is well covered including the 1st and second crash helmets and some good period pictures of British Tank Crews wearing the US M1938 are included.
Particularly useful are the colour pictures of Denim and Pixie tankers suits included in the book, always a talking point for modellers.
In Chapter 2 there are good examples of the marking used on the uniforms, the medal ribbons will be of use to figure painters, something I have always meant to add to my figures. A comprehensive set of formation badges are included in this section as are the more unusual wound and proficiency badges. This is not new material but it is good to have it located in one spot for reference.
Chapter 3 concentrates on the webbing issued to armoured units covering the waist-belt, pistol holster, ammo pouch, shoulder straps and brace attachments, as well as the water bottle and carrier, small pack and large pack with straps. Good example of the various types of pistol holster are given There is a good break down of what was carried in the packs but no photographs of the inside items. Miscellaneous equipment mentioned are binoculars, goggles , sun glasses, watches and gas masks.
Chapter 4 concerns itself with crew equipment and weapons. Map cases and first aid kits also get a mention. Radio equipment concentrates on the type of headphones used, junction boxes and some wiring diagrams. Pistols, Sten and Thompson SMG are all included here as is the Bren gun. There are some nice pictures of Signals Pistols and the 36 Grenade is also included in this section.
The book doesn’t contain any startling new information that can’t ben gleamed elsewhere but it does concentrate what was specific to the Armoured Troops in one specific place which is a big plus for the book. The texts are well written and expand on the photographs and drawings. On the personal kit I would have liked to have seen examples of what was in the packs, not just mention of same and on the weapons examples of the ammo would believe have helped enhance the presentation of these subjects.
The quality of the book is in line with other MMP publications, to a very high standard and makes for an informative read.
The formation signs are a mix of actual badges and line drawings and I would have preferred if these had been pictures of actual badges although I understand that may not always have been possible.
Overall the book provides a good one stop shop for the subject areas covered in Volume 1. Much may already be known to the experienced modeller but it none the less provides a very useful point of reference for those interested in British Tank Warfare and a very handy reference for the sculptor or figure painter, plus another good reference for the armoured modeller.
Reference is given to where to find original photographs which is always a handy thing to have.
Military Machines International May 14 2015-03-17
By Chris Banyai-Riepl
The Mushroom Model Publication Green Series continues to document British AFVs, with several titles covering vehicles. Now they have turned their attention to those who operate the various AFVs. This book covers the British AFV crew from the Second World War in detail, including equipment and weapons. The book begins with the uniform, and this section is further broken down according to specific items. So there is a section on footwear and two separate sections on helmets and headgear. Differences for desert and the Far East are also documented separately. Once the uniform is laid out, the book then turns towards badges and insignia. These include cap badges, rank badges, titles, ribbons, and more. The remaining two chapters cover personal equipment such as webbing and crew equipment & weapons. Each section has a written overview of the various uniform components, followed by extensive photo coverage. The photos are a solid blend between modern actors' attire, museum examples, and period photos. In addition to these photos, there are quite a few illustrations of various pieces of clothing. The badges and insignia section also features extensive drawings, highlighting the diversity of design.
For those interested in the men behind the machines, this is a great start to documenting AFV crews. According to the last page of this book, Volume 2 will cover Regimental Insignia, making for a very thorough coverage. My thanks to Mushroom Model Publications for the review copy.
Reviewed by: Andrew Birkbeck, IPMS# 27087
Thousands of books have been published over the years covering the various armored fighting vehicles utilized by British and Commonwealth forces in the Second World War, and many of them are sitting on my bookshelves, and I am sure yours. There are also numerous books on the various battles that took place involving these vehicles and the generals, officers, and enlisted men who took part. But it is rare that you get a book as detailed as this one on the individual crewmen who accompanied these machines into battle.
This book does not cover the training these men received prior to going into battle, nor does it cover their backgrounds prior to joining the armed forces. Nor does it cover the makeup of the units involved in the fighting. What it does cover, and covers it very well indeed, are the uniforms and other personal gear the AFV crews wore into battle, the badges and insignia adorning their uniforms, and their crew equipment and personal weapons.
The book is divided thus:
Chapter 1: Uniform Items
Included in this lengthy chapter is footwear, headgear, regimental sidecaps, helmets, uniforms, along with separate sections on specialized Desert and Far East (Asia) items.
Chapter 2: Badges and Insignia
Here are covered cap badges, collar badges, metal and cloth epaulette titles, cloth shoulder designations, rank badges, formation badges, trade and skill at arms and proficiency badges, medal ribbons.
Chapter 3: Personal Equipment
Webbing, holsters, packs and pouches, canteens, goggles, watches, gas masks etc.
Chapter 4: Crew Equipment and Weapons Map cases, external crew stowage diagrams, radio equipment, side arms, automatic weapons, flare pistols, hand grenades.
Together with excellent written descriptions of the items under discussion, each chapter is lavishly illustrated with both color and black and white period photographs. Additionally, there are numerous well chosen color photographs of uniforms and equipment from private militaria collections, and historical items utilized by modern day historical re-enactors. Finally the author utilizes, where appropriate, well drawn sketches, both color and black and white.
The written sections are very well put together, and easy to comprehend, and are blended very well with the photographs and sketches. All the photographs are very clear, and both these and the sketches will be of great help to those who include figures with their various military model vehicles.
The author Dick Smith (Taylor - MMP) is well known among those who study British military vehicles for his three part book series on the colors and markings of British Army Vehicles (1903-2003). I have this series, and it is excellent. Anyone reading this review today and who is familiar with Mr. Smith’s (Taylor's - MMP) previous works can rest assured that his latest effort covering British crewmen in WW2 is just as well written, just as lavishly illustrated, and represents excellent value for money. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.
I would like to thank Mushroom Model Publications for providing this review sample to IPMS USA, and to Mr. Smith for providing the military historian and armor and figure modeler with such a well researched and written book.
Airfix Model World 07/2014 2015-03-17
This is the latest in a series of books for MMP by Dick Taylor, including excellent titles on the Valentine Tank and, perhaps most notably, the four volume Warpaint series on the colours and markings of British army vehicles. The Warpaint titles represented one of those rare projects which actually deserve the description 'definitive' and the attention to detail which is in evidence in The Men Inside the Metal suggests that this will be in the same category when the second volume is eventually published.
The author is a former officer in the British Army who served in armoured formations. Having retired as a Lieutenant Colonel there could have been a risk of being too close to one's subject, but actually the familiarity with the subject matter is entirely positive. Taylor's Introduction makes it clear that 'it is impossible to be too dogmatic about much of the subject, and it is unwise to use the words "always" and "never" in this type of work', which is music to this historian's ears, and this sentiment informs the work as a whole. Taylor has conducted a lot of primary research in the archives and clearly loves his subject, but embraces the uncertainties of the subject as interesting in themselves. Not only is the written and photographic evidence often open to interpretation, but in the field the demands of the immediate environment often trumped official regulations. In some theatres, especially the desert, units seem to have taken particular pride in their flamboyance or scruffiness, so adding another dimension to the possible divergences from official regulations. A desire to impose order on such chaos would be counter-productive but actually Taylor delights in such variety and his affection for the subject matter shines through, especially with the inclusion of a number of reproductions of Jon Philpin-Jones' Two Types cartoons.
The needs of modellers are central to the book and in fact on the opening page Taylor expresses his hope that his research will go on to inform future modellers and manufacturers. The many photographs, diagrams and charts which feature throughout the book will certainly be of use to anyone with an interest in British armour in the Second World War. For instance, and perhaps inevitably, I turned straight to the section on the Pixie Suit and, to my great pleasure, found that my previous research on this is supported here - it was a light tan colour (though rapidly discoloured with use) and most definitely not green.
Chapters and coverage is as follows:
Chapter 1 on uniforms covers footwear, headgear (berets, sidecaps, etc), helmets, and individual uniform items. Sometimes there is an overlap between these necessary but artificial divisions, so pith helmets and desert boots are discussed in the section on uniform items for example, rather than being placed among the headgear or footwear respectively. This certainly isn't a problem and makes sense on the page.
Chapter 2 is on badges and insignia, a subject which has already consumed the attention of many other authors. This chapter includes discussions about cap badges, collar badges, shoulder designations, rank badges, formation badges and even medal ribbons, among others.
Chapter 3 concentrates upon personal equipment, including webbing, mess tins, goggles, binoculars, watches and gas masks.
Chapter 4 looks at crew equipment such as vehicle stowage (with excellent diagrams and an extensive list of stowage items), radio equipment and weapons.
Amidst this rich feast of information are esoteric and very useful pieces of information, such as a chart of the colours used for the sidecaps of different armoured regiments, photographs of the insides of different helmets, photos of dog tags, illustrations of the different trade, skill-at-arms and proficiency badges, and even a photo of tins of blanco.
There are numerous books on Second World War uniforms but I can't think of any other title that provides such a great wealth of detail, informed by such an impressive amount of research, on a single arm of service. The result is a book which I found endlessly fascinating, often very funny, and enormously useful. This is a book which I'll be using regularly for years to come and I'm very much looking forward to the publication of volume 2.
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