Taming the Panzers, Patrick Delaforce
This is a history of 3rd Royal Tank Regiment (a battalion sized unit for those not au fait with UK Armoured regiments). It starts with a chapter of their origins in the First World War and then their subsequent peacetime evolution. 3RTR fought in the 1940 France campaign at Calais, then in Greece in 1941 followed by the western desert. They returned to the UK in late 1943 and took part in the NW Europe campaign eventually meeting up with the Russians in the Baltic.
The Author was an artillery officer (with 13 RHA) who supported 3RTR in the NW Europe campaign and this gives him a connection to those that he has written about, much of the text is based on letters and conversations with the surviving officers and men of 3 RTR.
During the desperate days of May 1940 that ended with the fall of France, the 3rd Battalion Royal Tank Regiment was sent to Calais where it played a vital role in the week-long battle. In helping to stem the inexorable German armoured advance, the battalion was praised by Churchill for giving the British Expeditionary Force vital extra time to effect the crucial evacuation from Dunkirk‘s beaches.
In the spring of 1941, 3 RTR fought the panzers once again in the ill-fated Greek campaign. They fought a costly withdrawal against the Germans, losing all their tanks, but inflicting heavy casualties. Hitler was furious: the six week Greek campaign delayed Operation “Barbarossa” which allowed the Soviets time to re-group before the Germans reached Moscow.
Following their evacuation from Greece they re-formed in Egypt and fought in the Gazala battles, Operation Crusader and then in El Alamein and contributed to the subsequent defeat of the Axis forces in North Africa.
Taking part in the D-Day invasion in June 1944, 3 RTR was in the thick of all the desperate Normandy battles. They took part in the “Great Swan” to capture Amiens and Antwerp, then provided right flank protection in Operation ‘Market Garden’ and helped halt the panzers in the Ardennes. Equipped with new Comet tanks 3 RTR swept across the Rhine and four other well-defended rivers to meet the Russians on the Baltic.
This book is very well informed, the author was there personally for some of it and was able to speak to those that were directly involved in other parts as well as having access to war diaries etc. The style is very readable and it is an excellent unit history for a tank regiment that was involved in all of the main campaigns in NW Europe and the Med.