bookCenturion Universal Tank 1943-2003
Osprey New Vanguard 68
By Simon Dunstan
Illustrated by Mike Badrocke and Peter Sarson
Published by Osprey Publishing.

Soft cover, 48 pages
ISBN 1-84176-387-X

Review by Peter Brown

After several designs of tanks produced during the Second World War which were often not as advanced as those they were called upon to fight, Britain finally came up with a world standard design in the Centurion. Too late for the war, it quickly replaced even the latest the wartime designs to become the single main tank in service for over twenty years with specialist versions being used for even longer. Continually improved with thicker armour, its armament improved from the then-best 17pdr through the better 20pdr to the 105mm gun which was to become a standard of Western designs. It was also an export success, equipping the tank forces of several Commonwealth nations as well as NATO and neutral nations while its best know user being Israel who made their own improvements with more powerful engines and reactive armour before converting them to a new breed of heavy troop carriers. Not so well known are South African developments, their Oliphant taking a sixty year old design into a new Millennium.

With so much to cover in the design and developments of the basic British gun tanks, recovery, bridging and engineer versions as well as Israeli and South African versions as well as describing the various actions where it has been used, a lot of material has had to be fitted into the standard New Vanguard format. Some areas such as the proposed but never adopted heavy tank destroyers have been left out, and there may well be some who would have preferred other parts of the story to be covered in more detail. But this is a good account of a long-serving tank and it makes a good addition to anyone's bookshelves.

At first sight it might look like a revised version of the original Vanguard series 22 "The Centurion Tank In Battle" also by Simon Dunstan but the text is new as it covers the vehicle's development and not just its use, photos are different and although several of the colour plates show the same subjects as in the 1981 book there is only one plate which is the same plus another which is very similar. The crew uniform plate is not included and neither are the Israeli subjects though we do get a cutaway of a typical vehicle as well as several British subjects from an early Mk 1 though Korean and Cold War vehicles to a 1991 Gulf War AVRE, Australian gun tank and Armoured Recovery vehicles in Vietnam and an Indian Army vehicle from 1965. Even those with the older book will find a lot new here, those who do not have it will find this a good account of the Centurion in its many and varied forms

Page created August 2, 2003

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