Book Review
Chieftain British Cold War Main Battle Tank
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by: Darren Baker [ CMOT ]


This offering from Pen and Sword as part of their Tank Craft series and on this occasion looking at the Chieftain British Cold War Main Battle Tank. This book as with all of the titles in this series are I feel an attempt to offer the modeller a combination package covering both reference on the vehicles and a look at the models available to replicate the Chieftain tank as a scale model.


This offering from Pen and Sword is authored by Robert Jackson is the author of over eighty books on military, aviation, naval and scientific subjects. He was defence and science correspondent for a major British newspaper publishing group. Among the other books he has compiled for Pen & Sword are Bf-109 in the FlightCraft series and for TankCraft he has written extensively on the T-34, the Panzer I and II, the Centurion and Chieftain Main Battle Tanks as well as the Russian T54/55. This is a soft backed book with a good card cover protecting 64 pages of semi gloss paper. The contents of this title are laid out as follows:

Development and Design
The Chieftain in Detail
The Chieftain in Service
Allies and Adversaries
Camouflage and Markings
Model Showcase
Modelling Products
In Service and in Action

The introduction area of this title looks at the situation following the end of World War 2 and how the former ally Russia became the enemy as it started to swallow up countries via the forceful placement of Communist Governments and force of arms. The Soviets had better armour than the countries of the west and USA with the possible exception of the UK that had introduced the Centurion tank. The Berlin Airlift and the forming of NATO halted the expansion west but still left the need for better armour in the west armed with a 120mm gun.

The foundation of the Chieftain is looked at next and the one requirement which I feel destroyed the ability of having the same export success as the Centurion enjoyed, a multi-fuel engine was the bane of the Chieftain. In theory an engine that can utilise any fuel makes sense and makes logistics less of an issue; this requirement was quickly dropped by most countries with the exception of France and Britain who persevered, The Leyland built multi-fuel engine in words of my father was a pig and a few other words besides.

The two sections covering ‘The Chieftain in Detail and The Chieftain in Service’ are I feel restricted by the available space in the title. The detail provides an interior image and a couple of close ups before looking at the various Mk’s of Chieftain and the alterations that were made to them. The in service section looks at the British Army tanks and the limited export successes the Chieftain had with Middle Eastern countries; Iran was by far the biggest user after the British and it was the overthrow of the Shah of Iran that led to the British Army getting the Challenger 1 MBT as it was a modified version of a modified Chieftain.

I was a little confused by the section titled ‘Allies and Adversaries’ as it concentrates heavily on NATO vehicles in the text and the graphics are all of the Chieftain with the exception of one; I am not complaining as I want a book on the Chieftain to concentrate on the chieftain, but the title through me off as to what I could expect. I do like that the author has chosen to provide the graphics showing the tank from, the left side, top, front and rear. I found the reason for my confusion on this section as the opposition forces show up after the modelling section and so make the title logical.

The modelling section starts with a showcase of finished models that are a nice mix of models displayed as standalone models, and a list of these can be seen after this paragraph. Please take the time to read the provided text on these models as it gives the reader some very useful information on what has been used over and above the base kit. I do like the effort put into this section by the author as the models are covered in more detail than I have come to expect.

Chieftain Mk 5, British Mainland, in 1/35th scale by Robert Bausch. This is the Tamiya model that most modellers are aware has some issues, but this example by Robert Bausch shows that despite its issues it can be built from the box and look a great model.

Chieftain Mk 5, British Army of the Rhine 1978 – 1982, in 1/35th scale by Brian Richardson. Here we see the advent of the Takom Chieftains and I may be biased but I feel you can see the improvement in quality due to the difference in age and progress.

Chieftain Mk5, 3rd Royal Tank Regiment, British Army of the Rhine, in 1/35th scale by Anthony Leone. The Takom kit has been lifted by a fantastic paint scheme that I have never seen before and won gold in the advance category, Armorcon AMPS, East Regional Model Show.

Chieftain Mk11, British Army of the Rhine 1992, in 1/35th scale by Morgen Voilet-harris. This features another of the Takom offerings in 1/35th scale and really shows how good these kits can turn out.

The section covering the kits available is a reasonable section for the modeller who wants to see where to aim his or her pennies at. Models in 1/72nd and 1/35th scale are looked at and covers injection moulded plastic offerings from Tamiya and Takom; it has to be remembered that before Takom tackled the Chieftain it was really Tamiya or nothing. Unfortunately Cromwell is covered here as provider of resin kits and most modellers with website access are familiar with the issues this company has been known for. The aftermarket providers do not get a look in with this title, but Accurate Armour is a good place to start for those interested.

With the modelling sections out of the way the book continues the ‘Allies and Adversaries’ section before coming to a close with the ‘In Service and in Action’ Looks at the Chieftain in West Germany where thankfully it never engaged in conflict with the Soviet Forces. The Chieftains in service with Middle Eastern countries did see action and the results of these actions were used to improve the Chieftains used by the British Army.


This offering as part of the Tank Craft series from Pen and Sword and authored on this occasion by Robert Jackson is another nice addition to the series. The presentation style does change with each author and I am most familiar with Dennis Olivier’s approach, but I also like the style provided by Robert Jackson in this title. I like that the modelling section is far more informative on the models and covers them in greater detail. The graphic section is also more informative due to the number of angle provided of the tanks.
Darren Baker takes a look at one of the Tank Craft series of books covering the Chieftain British Cold War Main Battle Tank from Pen and Sword.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: ISBN 9781526741424
  Suggested Retail: £11.99
  PUBLISHED: Jul 07, 2019
  NATIONALITY: United Kingdom

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About Darren Baker (CMOT)

I have been building model kits since the early 70’s starting with Airfix kits of mostly aircraft, then progressing to the point I am at now building predominantly armour kits from all countries and time periods. Living in the middle of Salisbury plain since the 70’s, I have had lots of opportunitie...

Copyright ©2021 text by Darren Baker [ CMOT ]. All rights reserved.


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