Book Review
Salisbury Plain Training Area
Salisbury PLain Training Area - British Army Vehicles on SPTA - 1970s to Today
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by: Henk Meerdink [ HENK ]

Salisbury Plain is the largest training area of the British Army in Britain. Training has been taking place on the rolling grasslands of this Wiltshire Plateau since the late 1800’s and today it sees all aspects of Military action, from Armoured Assault training , to parachute landing, from FIBUA practise to live Howitzer firing.


British Special No 9013
Author: Tim Neate
Format: Soft back
Pages: 64
Photos: 132 colour
Map: 1


The book is divided in two parts, starting with an 11 page written introduction of the history, development and use of the Salisbury Plain Training Area. This includes info on the various camps and barracks around the Plain, and describes how exercises are conducted. This is written in both German and English, printed side by side on the page. This format can be a little confusing at first, but is not a great distraction. The photograph captions are clearly and informative, and also bi-lingual.

The remainder of the book consists of photographs of various vehicles that are used on the Plain, grouped together by type, in no particular chronological order. As this book is evidently meant to be a ‘catalogue’ of the many vehicles that are seen on the Plain, the majority of vehicle types are only shown once, mostly in three quarter view pictures. There are a few exceptions to this, notably the Challengers early in the book, and some of the Engineers vehicles are shown from multiple angles.

The first photo section contains 12 photo’s, of the Chieftain and Challenger MBTs, including two of the ‘OPFOR’ Challengers in their distinctive camouflage scheme. Some of the pictures show the crossing points of the river Avon.

Light Armour
Just 7 pictures showing some of the light Armoured vehicles, such as the Scimitar and Fuchs, of which only really one springs out as showing an interesting image on the Plain. The rest are more ‘generic’ pictures.

This is a more interesting chapter, showing 15 pictures of Artillery pieces and their support trucks. Some rare vehicles, like the AEC Militant and One-ton Land Rover artillery tractors, give a good idea of what trucks looked like in the 1970‘s, and how long they were in service.

14 pictures show to good effect the equipment of the Engineers, including the Titan and Trojan in action, and there is a single picture of two Thornycroft Nubian mobile diggers. These two vintage trucks were photographed in 1979, even at that date already old designs, and show very well how Army vehicles can have an exceptional long service life.

15 The infantry use a wide variety of vehicles, either for personnel transport, or for direct fire support in action. This chapter shows 15 of those, including an interesting picture of a Land Rover mounted Wombat recoilless anti-tank gun, and a Viking All Terrain Protected Vehicle.

The largest chapter shows the wide variety of vehicles that keep the army moving, fed and watered. In this chapter are also some of the nicest photos to be found, including some rare, and not often seen vehicles, such as the Antar Mk..3 tank transporter tractor, the Bedford RL and the Ford Cargo artic tractor (one of which I drove in civi street…). Noteworthy is the fact that a fair few of these vehicles are photographed at their depots, and some show that they were finished in gloss, rather than matt paint.

Where large numbers of vehicles are moving across rough ground, with the emphasis on battle, rather than safe passage, inevitably vehicles break down or get bogged down. It is then not surprising that the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers are kept very busy, and their presence on the Plain is covered with 24 photos of a variety of recovery and specialist vehicles. Of particular interest to modellers in this chapter, will be the added stowage on many of these vehicles, a feature typical of REME vehicles.


Although you can’t really say that there is something wrong with this book, I can’t help but feel that an opportunity to show Salisbury Plain has been missed. What is missing, are photos of vehicles ‘in action’, and more general pictures showing the vehicles more in the larger environment of the Plain and at the typical locations such as Imber village or Copehill Down. There could have also been a section on the OPFOR vehicles of the Land Warfare Centre in their particular Yellow and Green camouflage, as they are such an identifiable feature of Salisbury Plain.

As it is, many of the photos show vehicles with very little of the surroundings visible, which means that the vehicles are clear and sharp, but such pictures are already available from other sources, including a number of Tankograd’s own publications. The lack of detailed maps and/or aerial photographs is a disappointment, because the small map that shows some of the different locations on the Plain is really not adequate.

Despite this, the book itself is a fine collection of photographs of Military vehicles in the British Army, many of which are seldom seen elsewhere. As a reference it can be useful, and it will be a good addition to the book shelf of the Military enthusiast and modeller alike.

Highs: Some rare images of not well known vehicles, usuall high quality.
Lows: Some subjects need more space to do them justice. Not enough Salisbury Plain specific content.
Verdict: Not quite what the title promises, but a worthwhile addition to the collection none the less.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: Other
  Mfg. ID: British Special No 9013
  Suggested Retail: Euro 14.95
  PUBLISHED: Mar 22, 2010
  NATIONALITY: United Kingdom

Our Thanks to Tankograd Publishing!
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