by: Randy L Harvey [ ]
This is a review by Randy L Harvey of The PIAT – Britain’s Anti-Tank Weapon of World War II by author Matthew Moss and illustrators Alan Gilliland and Adam Hook and series editor Martin Pegler.
BODY OF THE TEXT:
** Designed in 1942, Britain’s innovative Projector, Infantry, Anti-Tank (PIAT) provided British and Commonwealth troops with a much-needed means of taking on Germany’s formidable Panzers. Operated from the shoulder, the PIAT was a spigot mortar which fired a heavy high-explosive bomb, with its main spring soaking up the recoil. The PIAT’s limited effective range meant that troops required nerves of steel to get close enough to an enemy tank to ensure a direct hit, and no fewer than six Victoria Crosses were won during World War II by soldiers operating PIATs. A front-line weapon in every theatre of the conflict in which Commonwealth troops fought, from Europe to the Far East, the PIAT remained in service after 1945, seeing action during the Greek Civil War, the Arab-Israeli conflict and the French Indochina War. This illustrated study combines detailed research with expert analysis to reveal the full story of the design, development and deployment of this revolutionary weapon. **
** Quoted from the back cover of the book.
Osprey Publications has released The PIAT– Britain’s Anti-Tank Weapon of World War II as Number 74 in their Weapon series. It is a soft cover book with 80 pages. Included with the text are black and white photographs and color photographs, color illustrations, detailed captions, original design drawings and more. It has a 2020 copyright, a publication date of August 20, 2020 and the ISBN is 978-1-4728-3813-1. The book covers the development, use and impact of the British PIAT (Projector, Infantry, Anti-Tank) during World War II and other conflicts after the war’s end.
- Springs and shaped charges
- The PIAT in action
- Punching above its weight
Author Matthew Moss details the history of the PIAT from its design and development to its use during World War II and after. Specific British military manuals and training pamphlets are quoted in regards to operation of the PIAT by its operator. I addition, the specific training that the PIAT operators went through is detailed and discussed in regards to things such as loading, sighting, firing, field stripping, etc. There is also a very well detailed step by step explanation of how to fire the PIAT included. The history of the use of the PIAT in combat is well detailed and covers battles and locations such as the PIAT’s combat debut in Tunisia, North Africa, its use in Sicily and Italy, the D-Day invasion and it’s use in Normandy, its use during Operation Market-Garden and also its use by Polish forces during the Polish Uprising in the summer of 1944. In addition to detailing the use of the PIAT by British forces there is also information of several PIATs having been sent to the Russians by the British for use on the Eastern Front even though there is no evidence of the weapons having been used in combat by the Russians. As well as its use in Europe, Author Matthew Moss details the use of the PIAT against Japanese forces by the British and Commonwealth forces. There is a detailed description of the faults that the Australians found with the PIAT in a jungle setting due to the weapons weight and its limitations in the heavy jungle foliage. The Australians reported that the PIAT rockets were no good when used against the Japanese earth and wood bunkers and the rockets would not explode when they struck soft surfaces. The Australians stated that the PIAT had no use in jungle fighting and was only good for use against armored vehicles. In addition to the use of the PIAT in large scale military operations there is also information provided on the use of the PIAT in clandestine operations such as Operation Foxley, the plan to kill Hitler, and the Jedburgh Operations which was the use of the PIAT by operatives dropped behind enemy lines to work hand-in-hand with the French Resistance prior to the D-Day landings. Author Matthew Moss describes what was called a “D” Load which was the items placed in 12 “C” Type drop canisters which were dropped to guerillas fighting in occupied territories ahead of advancing allied armies. In addition to PIATS being supplied to the Jedburgh teams operating with the French resistance, information is provided on the PIAT being dropped to Jedburgh teams operating in Burma, Greece, Poland, Yugoslavia, Albania, Czechoslovakia and the Netherlands. The use of the PIAT after World War II is discussed as well as the types of weapons that eventually replaced the PIAT such as the American M20 “Super Bazooka”, Canadian Heller 3.2-inch anti-tank weapon, Swedish Carl Gustaf 84-mm recoilless rifle, the Javelin and MILAN anti-tank guided missiles, the American M72 LAW (Light Anti-Tank Weapon also referred to as the Light Anti-Armor Weapon) and others. Along with his own words Matthew Moss has also provided first-hand accounts and recollections of specific events of the PIATs use in combat. The text in the book is nicely written and well detailed. As I read through the text, I only noted two errors and they were minor. One was a double spacing between two words instead of a single space and the other was a missing comma where one should have been used to separate two items listed among others in a sentence. Grammar and spelling might not be an important factor to everyone however it is something that I take notice of and pass on my findings. I feel that if the text is well written then it shows that the author has taken the time to be a professional with their writing. Anyone wanting to add an excellent reference and history book on the British PIAT to their personal library will be pleased with this very informative and interesting book.
A total of 51 black and white photographs and 15 color photographs are included in this volume. The photographs range from wide angle photographs to close-up detailed photographs. I would say that the photographs that were chosen for this book were for the most part lesser-known photographs as opposed to photographs that are featured in many other titles that deal with the same subject matter. The majority of the photographs are clear and easily viewable with the exception of a few that appear to be too dark. However, this can be typical for the discussed period of history and consideration needs to be given to the fact that some of the photographs are over seventy-five years old and the quality of the photographs is of no fault of the author and do not take anything away from the book. Author Matthew Moss stuck to the title of the book and chose subject specific photographs and did not include photographs that strayed from the main subject of the book. The majority, if not all, of the photographs will prove to be a wealth of information to anyone interested in British PIAT (Projector, Infantry, Anti-Tank) and other such weapons during and after World War II due to the details they contain.
Other weapons shown and discusses in addition to the PIAT are:
- British Boys Anti-Tank Rifle
- British Blacker Bombard
- British 290mm Petard
- British Hedgehog anti-submarine spigot-mortar system
- British Lee-Enfield rifle with discharger cup and No. 68 anti-tank rifle grenade
- United States M1A1 Thompson submachine gun
- British Sten Mk III submachine gun
- Polish MAS 38 submachine gun
- United States M20 “Super Bazooka”
- German RPzB 54 8.8cm Panzerschreck
- United States M1 Bazooka
- German Panzerfaust
- Canadian Heller anti-tank weapon
- Swedish Carl Gustaf 84-mm recoilless rifle
There are 7 color illustrations by illustrators Adam Hook, who did the battlescene illustrations, and Alan Gilliland. The illustrations are very well done, nicely detailed and are of:
The PIAT Exposed – PIAT, Projector, Infantry, Anti-Tank Mk I
- A cut-away view showing the internal workings of the PIAT. Also provided is a key which details 47 specific items on the that are pointed out on the PIAT.
- A two-page action scene depicting two British PIAT teams engaging a German Sturmgeschütz III and it’s supporting infantry. One team is using their PIAT in an indirect fire role against the infantry while the second team engages the Sturmgeschütz III with direct fire.
- A two-page action scene depicting a Gurkha PIAT operator engaging three Japanese Type 97 Chi-Ha medium tanks. The Gurkha has already hit one of the tanks and is preparing to engage a second one even though he has been wounded. This scene is based on an actual event that took place on June 12, 1944 near the village of Ningthoukhong, during the battle of Imphal
Arab-Israeli War, 1948 (see attached scan)
- A one-page action illustration depicting members of the Haganah defending a roadblock with a PIAT and a German MG34 machine gun on a road leading to a kibbutz. The PIAT team is engaging a Syrian French surplus R-35 tank.
In addition to the color plates there are also color illustrations of four different PIAT rounds.
They are of a:
- Mk IA High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) Projectile
- Mk II High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) Projectile
- Mk III High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) Projectile
- Mk 4 High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) Projectile
The captions are well written and explain the accompanying photographs and illustrations in great detail eliminating any doubt as to what is shown. The captions go into very specific detail as to the specific individuals shown, dates and locations and other such pertinent information. I was very impressed by Matthew Moss’ captions as they are very helpful to the reader due to their detailed content as opposed to other captions that I have seen that are very brief and lacking in detail. I did note one error in one of the captions and it was the caption on page 41 detailing the two-page illustration. It is the caption titled “Italy, 1944 (overleaf)” yet in the caption itself it states that it depicts a scene in “Italy, 1943”.
There are 4 notes included in this volume and they are:
- Author’s Acknowledgement
- Imperial War Museums Collection
- Artist’s Note
There is 1 informational chart included in this volume and it is of:
The PIAT and its Contemporaries
- The chart compares seven different anti-tank weapons. The information compared is the weapons service debut date, caliber, weight (unloaded), length, range and approximate penetration.
The weapons compared are:
- British PIAT
- United States M1 Rocket Launcher
- United States M9 Rocket Launcher
- German Panzerfaust 30
- German Panzerfaust 60
- German Panzerfaust 100
- German Panzerschreck
Matthew Moss runs the website Historical Firearms and has contributed to a number of print and online publications including magazines such as History of War and Classic Arms & Militaria. The author of Osprey's WPN 065 The Sterling Submachine Gun, he lives in Lancashire, UK.
Born in Malaya in 1949, Alan Gilliland studied photography/film and architecture, and has worked as a photojournalist and cartoonist. He also spent 18 years as the graphics editor of The Daily Telegraph, winning 19 awards in that time, including numerous UK Press Awards. He now writes, illustrates and publishes fiction (www.ravensquill.com), as well as illustrating for a variety of publishers (including Osprey, the Penguin Group, Brown Reference Group, Ivy Group and Aurum), architects and developers, such as John McAslan (Olympic Energy Centre) and Kit Martin (Prince Charles’ Phoenix Trust advisor on historic buildings). www.alangilliland.com
Adam Hook studied graphic design, and began his work as an illustrator in 1983. He specializes in detailed historical reconstructions, and has illustrated Osprey titles on subjects as diverse as the Aztecs, the Ancient Greeks, Roman battle tactics, several 19th-century American subjects, the modern Chinese Army, and a number of books in the Fortress series. His work features in exhibitions and publications throughout the world.
As with the other Osprey Publishing titles I was impressed with this book. This is a very nice reference book that contains a well written informative text, many subject specific photographs and illustrations, well detailed captions and more, all detailing the development and use of the British PIAT (Projector, Infantry, Anti-Tank) during World War II and after. As with the other Osprey Publishing titles, I would have no hesitation to recommend this book to others as it will be a welcome addition to one’s personal reference library.
Osprey Publishing also offers The PIAT – Britain’s Anti-Tank Weapon of World War II as:
eBook (ePub) ISBN: 978-1-4728-3812-4
eBook (PDF) ISBN: 978-1-4728-3814-8
Osprey Publishing’s, The PIAT – Britain’s Anti-Tank Weapon of World War II is also available as a Kindle version through Amazon.
UK £13.99 / US $22.00 / CAN $30.00
This book was provided to me by Osprey Publishing. Please be sure to mention that you saw the book reviewed here on the KitMaker Network when you make your purchase. Thank you.