This book covers all aspects of the Churchill tank's history in some depth, with attention paid to technical details of all versions of the Churchill, the mechanics and politics of its production and the tank’s service history. The book is hardback, and printed on heavy, glossy paper. There are 211 pages illustrated with hundreds of black and white photographs and line drawings. Many of the line drawings are reproduced from original work done at the Tank Museum at Bovington. There are 14 chapters which tell a compelling story about the life of the Churchill, from its conception to its retirement.
1. The Winds of Change
The author describes the historical and military background against which the specification for the Churchill was decided and the first steps in its design. An indication of the attention to detail in the author’s research is the inclusion of photos and a scale drawing of the A20 pilot vehicles (the first vehicle built in the development of the Churchill).
2. Vauxhall Motors and the New Tank.
Detailing the development, trials and manufacture of the Churchill.
3. The Churchill Described.
A very detailed overview of the tank’s early marks. There are copious line drawings, including internal and external stowage, [IMAGE 2] and seriously detailed drawings of components such as suspension bogies and cupola. The photos used in this chapter show Churchills on the production line and undergoing testing.
4. Early Trials.
This chapter quotes extensively from contemporary army reports from units as they became equipped with Churchills. Most interestingly, it describes how development of the Churchill was almost entirely abandoned. Quoting minutes from a meeting of the Tank Board on 9th December 1941, it clearly states that “…The War Office was discussing specifications for a new infantry tank. And, it was not intended to develop the Mark IV.” However, at the meeting of 8th January 1942, “The General Staff are clear that there is a requirement for an infantry tank. For this they are prepared to accept the Churchill carrying a 6-pounder gun and made reliable.” At this time nearly half of Churchills were unserviceable owing to break downs arising from design faults!
5. Great Guns.
Initially the Churchill was to be armed with a 2-pounder gun, but this was clearly going to be inadequate. At this time (January 1941) the Germans were only two months away from putting the Panzer IV F2 (armed with the long barrelled 7.5cm KwK40 L/43 gun) into production. Arming the Churchill with a 6-pounder gun demanded a significant redesign of the turret. This chapter also deals with development of the Churchill 3-inch Gun Carrier, a self propelled gun. There are detailed photos and diagrams of this vehicle: ideal source material for anyone contemplating converting an existing kit or even scratch building one.
6. With the Canadians.
Not only describes the infamous but important Dieppe raid (as you would expect), but also Canadian exercises with Churchills before the raid.
7. The Great Rework Scheme.
In early 1942 work was begun to improve the Churchill’s performance and reliability and this chapter describes in great depth exactly what this involved.
8. Churchills in North Africa.
Starting with a description of the technical modifications necessary for the Churchill to be able to perform in the desert, this chapter goes on to summarise the key operations involving Churchills during the North African campaign. There is also a description of the action in which the Tiger I now residing in The Tank Museum at Bovington was captured. The chapter concludes with a discussion of subsequent War Office assessments of the Churchill’s performance and recommendation made to improve the tank further.
9. The New Model Churchill.
Lessons from the North African campaign seem to have been well learnt as we see the Churchill blossom into the tank that would complement the Sherman in the months following D-Day. There is also a brief discussion of the provision of Churchills to the Russians, with the suggestion that some Churchills may well have seen action at Kursk. What great diorama potential that provides for the modeller!
10. Churchills in Normandy.
If you plan to build Tamiya’s Chuchill VII kit, this is the part of the book for you, as this and the following two chapters are the ones with most pictures of the MkVII in action.
11. Campaigning in Italy.
12. The Last Battles.
By the last year of the war, minimal further development of the Churchill was taking place, so these chapters describe key battles involving Churchills as the Allies advanced into Germany.
13. A Hero Retires.
After the war a detailed review of the Churchill’s combat performance was undertaken, and this chapter deals with that, and subsequent revisions of the tank’s design. Of particular interest to the modeller is a Mk VII equipped with panels of steel mesh armour to protect against spaced charge attacks, such as from a panzerfaust. There is also a short description of the Churchill’s post-war service in Jordan and Korea.
14. Black Prince: The Big Gun Churchill.
Why didn’t they put the 17-pounder gun in the Churchill like they did with the Sherman? Ultimately they did, with the development of the “Black Prince”. Photos of this tank show it was clearly derived from the Churchill, but it required a more powerful engine and bigger turret, and so a larger hull, and so wider tracks. Ultimately, this tank was not produced, the famous Centurion (whose design was first considered in September 1943) being the better designed and more manoeuvrable vehicle and consequently the design chosen by the War Office.