North Africa Colour and Markings Series
by Dennis Oliver and Michael Starmer
Soft cover A4 size 36 pages
Published by The Factory Publishing,
135 Kaloona Avenue, Mount Keira,
NSW 2500, Australia
Review by Peter Brown
Covering Sherman tanks and Priest self-propelled guns in service with the British Army in North Africa, this is the first in a new "Colour and Markings" series from a publisher new to me. It is the result of a long-distance long-standing collaboration between Dennis Oliver in Australia and Mike Starmer from England who have both have produced several books in their own right.
Mr Oliver's have included "Codename SWALLOW" on Shermans at El Alamein plus two Concord titles with one on "British Sherman Tanks", while Mr Starmer has published his own series on British vehicle colours. So as the Introduction to the book states, the authors have covered this area before, although this book deals with Shermans in more detail and more widely and also includes new material on Priests.
The account starts off with the background leading to the shipment of Shermans and Priests to 8th Army after the fall of Tobruk when it was widely believed that Egypt could fall to the Germans, then describes the organisation of British armoured units serving in North Africa and their markings and colour schemes at the time the vehicles arrived in late 1942.
Each Armoured Brigade and their individual Regiments is then covered, concentrating on the different camouflage schemes and markings each used and how they changed. Official orders and instructions laid down rules and regulations for colours and markings but there were wide variations.
Different units could thus appear differently for various reasons, things being made even more complicated when 8th Army moved from the desert proper into Tunisia and their tanks were repainted to match the new terrain while 1st Army units already in the country were re-equipped with Shermans. These are all described in detail based on various sources and photos.
Text is illustrated with around 30 black and white period photos mostly from Imperial War Museum archives and twelve pages of colour plates specially painted by Mr Oliver. Each of these covers at least three and sometimes more vehicles using a mixture of side and front views plus close-up views to show markings more clearly. Reproductions of the official camouflage scheme drawings for Shermans for October 1942 and Shermans and Priests from April 1943 are also included.
With so much ground to cover in a book of this size the amount of information given on each unit is often brief and the level of detail varies. No list of sources or bibliography provided, anyone who wants to look at a specific unit in more detail or follow up what is provided here with their own research to on will not find that easy. There are also a few facts which are open to dispute, the text states that Priests in North Africa had welded lower hulls when as the colour plates correctly show they were riveted at this period, figures given for the number of diesel-powered Shermans around at El Alamein also appear low given the number known to be delivered.
This book will be welcomed by modellers wanting reference material to produce models of British Shermans and Priests in North Africa in any scale.
Some conversion may be needed as the vehicles in use at the time were early production versions, though there are several available aftermarket products to help with the work needed.