book7th Armoured Division - the ‘Desert Rats’
by George Forty.
Spearhead 14, published by Ian Allan Publishing.
Soft covers, 96 pages.
ISBN 0 7110 2988 1

Review by Peter Brown

The Desert Rats had a long and distinguished career, originally formed in Egypt before the Second World War they fought throughout the North African campaign against the Italians and later the Germans, and then crossed to Italy before briefly coming to England and going on to take part in the North West European campaign in 1944-45. They may be the most well-known British Armoured Division and many books have been written about them, this new account does not offer much new to those who are widely read though it is a good introduction for those who do not already have something on the Division on their bookshelves.

The book is divided into several sections, the first part starts with an insight into an Armoured Division and the many types of unit of all arms and services which made it up. This may seem obvious to some but does show that an Armoured Division is not just tank units. The 7th Armoured’s history is followed from the earliest times through to the end of the Second World War in Europe. Its major battles are described from their viewpoint; these accounts are complemented by maps and diagrams which show the many changes in organisation which took place. The history is illustrated with photos, mainly from private sources, showing the men and equipment of the Division. While this is fairly brief even though it takes up two-thirds of the book, it does cover all the main events in their story.

Following this are details of Insignia, Clothing and Equipment which is the section which will interest modellers more than the history. It is perhaps the hardest section to cover in a few pages as these areas changed time and again over the war years. There is enough detail for a newcomer however, technical characteristics of all classes of weapons are given though these is not a substitute for good tank, small arms and artillery books or uniform studies. Notes on vehicle colour schemes and markings are very brief, covering only the very early desert period and NW Europe. Colour photos show several orders of dress being worn by modern re-enactors, while these are good it is a little disappointing that these have appeared before in the excellent books by Martin Brayley and Richard Ingram on WW2 British uniforms.

Shorter sections give brief biographies of the Division’s major personalities, mostly its commanders but also the three Victoria Cross recipients, before going on to describe the post-war years which brings us literally up to date with the successors to the original founding 7th Armoured Brigade in Iraq in 2003. Last but by no means least is a comprehensive bibliography listing Divisional, Regimental and personal accounts as well as web sites for further reading and reference.

As much has already been written on this Division including several Histories and a large and well-illustrated two-volume account by the same author some years ago, this would be best seen as a first book on them for a newcomer or as a single source with the basic facts well presented as a complement to detailed studies of tanks, weapons and uniforms.

Page created 26 November 2003

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