Sunday 26 July 2015

Making time to read

Since my redundancy last year my reading output has dropped drastically. I rarely get a proper lunch break these days and this was usually the time when I'd get most of my reading done. Add to this the fact that with my new job I'm so knackered when I get home from work about the most ambitious thing I can do of an evening is not fall asleep in front of the TV! My pile of unread books has grown ever larger and so I decided to make a real effort to squeeze time (any time) for reading back into my daily schedule...and I started by reading a book I have already read before! In my defence it was a Donald Featherstone classic and I one that I value as probably the best book I have for wargaming the battles of North Africa in 6mm.

Tank battles in miniature: A wargamers' guide to the Western Desert Campaign in 1940-1942 was originally published in 1973 but had somehow gone completely under my radar until I bought the 2010 paperback reprint edited by John Curry. I enjoyed the book so much that I stumped up the cash for an original first edition hardback copy and this is the book that I have been reading recently.

I wrote a brief review of the book when I first read it and decided to republish it again here below:

The book contains a clear and concise summary of the actual campaign at each stage of the war. This is probably the clearest description I have read so far in fact. Each phase of the campaign is clearly delineated and at the end of each section the vehicles and tanks used by both sides are listed along with approximate numbers. This will be of great importance when building an army list or picking a particular period or battle to recreate. Having detailed the action of the campaign the author then goes on to discuss the tactics and their evolution throughout the war.

Following on from this is a section describing the terrain encountered and it was here that I realised what a really good writer Donald Featherstone is. Don's descriptions are evocative, vivid and clearly convey the desolate and barren land across which men fought and died. This was as harsh and as unforgiving a landscape as anyone could wish to fight for. But it was also 'ideal' country for manoeuvre warfare and as such was unlike any other theatre in the Second World War.

Further chapters describe the technical specifications for the vehicles, tanks, guns and aircraft used throughout the campaign. There are also sections on communications, visibility and navigation, how top fire tank and anti-tank guns, 'brewing-up', air operations, the Long Range Desert Group, minefields and supply. Much of this can be found in other books but this volume collects together a wide range of facts that not only give a really good picture of the Western Desert war but will also be invaluable to anyone planning on wargaming the period. 

This is an truly excellent book that is just as useful now as it was when first published in 1973. 

Paperback: 156 pages
Publisher:   Patrick Stephens Limited, 1973
Language:  English


  1. Brewing up was always at the forefront of British troops' minds. Got to have those tea breaks. Oh, not that sort of brewing up? ;)

    It is a great little book. I remember reading it as a teenager, along with one of the others in that series. I also bought the paperback reissue a while ago.

    The only other theatre where a war of manoeuvre would have been possible was the steppes of Ukraine and Russia, but the sheer number of troops there compared to North Africa limited the possibilities.

  2. Agreed, smashing book. I read the whole series in the public library in my lunch breaks. First thing I looked for when eBay came along was this series and got the lot. The author of some of the others in this series was Bruce Quarrie, another prolific war-gamer/writer.

  3. Had a few from back in the day but mow have managed to get the original set (including the excellent Eastern Front one for a snip compared to its usual mortgage required price on eBay! This and Wargaming Airborne Operations are my wargaming bibles!

  4. I remember this and a few others from the first time round. Good that you are catching up on the back reading. I WISH you well in this endeavour.

  5. Good and balanced review. I know the issue with taking a job that doesn't pan out how you would like it too. In the same boat myself. Leaving it soon. Take care of yourself and do make time to read, it helps me escape.

  6. I have been tempted by Featherstone's Tank Battles series every time holds a 40% discount offer.
    With your endorsement, I think it will be on my shopping list next time.

  7. The NW Europe book in this series was the first wargaming book that I read when I was about twelve. It was also the first set of rules that I played. Great fun!

  8. Great classic. I still miss commuting into London as it used to give me nearly 2 hours reading time per day.

  9. The trouble with long commutes on the train today is that the invention of the laptop forces you to work.

  10. Dunno about reading time??? Painting time would be nice?

  11. I bought the Curry reprint of this recently also - top read.

  12. Not done much reading as well. I read a book about a Bass player for AC/DC but that's not games related at all.

  13. Good review. I am older enough to have the entire collection of this excellent series of books and they are often referred to. Well done on your new acquisition.


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