by: Bill Plunk [ ]
Originally published on:
Introduction In 1998, Histoire & Collections published a book entitled "Tanks of World War Two" which contained hundreds of color profiles and 3/4 views by Jean Restayn. Due to popular demand and the book being out of print for some time, Histoire & Collections have published an updated version as the "WWII Tank Encyclopaedia In Color 1939-45" that includes many additions not featured in the 1998 release.
As the term "encyclopaedia" in the title implies, this release is the first of three planned volumes in an "Encyclopaedia of AFVs of WWII" from Histoire & Collections. This volume focuses on gun-tank vehicles, including light tanks, from many Axis and Allied nations, covering the span of the war from 1939-1945 and portrays them as color plates with markings and schemes from all the major campaigns and theaters represented.
Volume Two will be devoted to Tank Destroyers, self-propelled artillery, and special-purpose AFVs while Volume Three will include the various types of wheeled armored cars and miscellaneous armored vehicles.
ReviewThe book itself is impressive as a hard-bound edition of 176 pages containing over 500 color plates, the vast majority of which are presented as left-side profiles with 3 to a page as the standard with some pages also featuring 4 to a page. The book's dimensions are 9 1/4" x 12 1/2 " with all of the pages printed on high-quality glossy paper. A tiny note is included under the Summary/Chapters section on p. 3 that warns that all tanks on the color plates are not reproduced at a constant scale. This is understandable due to the wide range of vehicles presented and the format of staying 3-to-a-page and readers should not assume that the drawings are accurate in terms of scale-reference. The text that is included has been translated from French and this in turn produces in various places some interesting use of grammar and punctuation but these are minor and infrequent.
The book is organized into sections by country and may have been in alphabetical order in French but aren't when translated into English. The countries, in order, covered are Germany, Belgium, Bulgaria, China, Croatia, United States, Finland, France, Commonwealth, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Poland, Rumania, Slovakia, and the Soviet Union. Aside from the short 2 page introductory section titled "Tanks: A Matter of Tactics or Strategy?", the text is limited to 1 page or less devoted to the specific country in question and the captions associated with the different color plates. As a result, the intent is clearly for this to function as a visual reference for different vehicle types, unit markings, and camouflage schemes more than anything else.
Germany: In terms of size, the Germany section is by far the largest at 65 pages and contains 207 plates with 12 plates on the Pz I, 19 on the Pz II, 2 on the Neubaufahrzeug, 6 on the Pz 35(t), 9 on the Pz 38(t), 37 on the Pz. III, 36 on the Pz IV, 32 on the Panther, 37 on the Tiger I, and 17 on the Tiger II. Some minor errors were present in the captions in this section, for example some of the Pz II plates were labeled as Pz. I vehicles, presumably an error carried over from the previous pages.
Belgium: 2 pages, with 4 plates. 3 plates for the LT15 and one plate for an ACG 1 (Belgian version of Renault AMC 35).
Bulgaria: 2 pages, with 4 plates with 1 each for an R-35, Skoda 35(t), Skoda 38(t), and Pz IV H (T4).
China: 2 pages, 6 plates, with 1 each for an FT-17, Vickers Mk. I Light, Pz I-A, Vickers 6-ton Model E, T-26, and a Sherman of unidentified type.
Croatia: 2 pages, 4 plates, with 1 each for an R-35, H-39, Pz III N, and Pz IV H.
United States: While it may seem short at 16 pages relative to other sections, the US section focuses specifically on vehicles and schemes in use by the US armed forces and separate plates are provided for the same vehicles used by other countries in their sections where appropriate. The section contains 47 plates with 12 plates for the M3/M5 Stuart, 4 for the M3 Lee, 25 for the M4 Sherman, 4 for the M24 Chaffee, and 2 for the M26 Pershing.
Finland: 2 pages with 4 plates, 1 each for a Vickers 6-ton Mod. B and Pz IV H and two for the T-26.
France: 18 pages are devoted to France with 16 of them focused on the 1940 Battle of France. There are 54 plates with 6 on the FT-17, 3 on the FCM 2 C super-heavy tank, 8 on the R-35, 2 on the R-40, 4 on the H-35, 11 on the H-39, 2 on the Renault D2, 1 on the FCM-36, 3 on the S-35, 8 on the Char B1 bis, 3 on the M3/M5 Stuart, and 3 on the M4 Sherman.
Commonwealth: This section is the second largest in the book and covers 24 pages as an "umbrella" for all of the United Kingdom/Commonwealth vehicles covered and the captions are the only indication of which country/unit they apply to, so some hunting around in this section is necessary vs. the others as a result. There are 73 plates with 3 on the Vickers Mk. VIb, 1 on the Vickers II, 1 on the Light Tank Mk. IIb, 1 on the Matilda Mk. I, 6 on the Matilda Mk. II, 3 on the Cruiser (A9), 2 on the Cruiser (A10), 4 on the Cruiser (A13), 3 on the Crusader, 3 on the M3 Grant, 6 on the M3 Stuart, 6 on the Valentine, 6 on the Churchill, 10 on the M4 Sherman, 5 on the Firefly, 7 on the Cromwell, and 3 on the Comet.
Hungary: 2 pages with 4 plates, one each for a Toldi I, Toldi IIa, Turan I, and Turan II.
Italy: 4 pages with 9 plates, 2 on the Carro Armato L6/40, 2 on the M11/39, 2 on the M13/40, 1 on the M15/42, and 2 on the P26/40.
Japan: 3 pages with 7 plates, with 1 each on the Type 89, Type 92, Type 95 Ha-Go, and 3 on the Type Type 97 Chi-Ha.
Poland: 4 pages with 10 plates, this section includes vehicles from the 1939 period as well as vehicles fighting with both the US/Commonwealth and Soviet forces. It provides 3 plates on the 7TP, 2 on the Cromwell, 1 on the Sherman Firefly, 2 on the T-34, and 2 on the JS-2. There's an error in one of the captions that incorrectly identifies a JS-2 as a T-34/76 and lists a time-frame of 1943, so the entire caption should be considered an error.
Rumania: 4 pages with 10 plates, 1 plate on the Praga R-1 tankette, 2 on the R-2 (Skodz Vz. 35), 1 on the Pz 38(t), 3 on the R-35, 1 on the Pz III N, 1 on the Pz IV H, and 1 T-34/85 after Rumania had switched sides.
Slovakia: 2 pages with 4 plates, 1 each on the LT vz 40, LT vz 35, Pz 38(t), and Pz III N.
Soviet Union: The final section, and third largest at 20 pages, it contains 59 plates. 6 plates on the T-26, 1 on the BT-2, 2 on the BT-5, 3 on the BT-7, 1 on the BT-9, 4 on the T-28, 1 on the T-35, 4 on the T-60, 5 on the T-70, 1 on the T-80, 1 on the T-50, 14 on the T-34/76, 3 on the T-35/85, 3 on the KV-1, 5 on the KV-1S, 1 on the KV-85, 3 on the JS-2, and 1 on the T-44.
ConclusionAs a visual reference for inspiration on camouflage schemes, markings, and vehicles used by different countries, this book will come in handy for many modelers. Not all countries are treated equally in terms of the number of plates present and usefulness in that regard will vary based on countries or vehicles of interest. There are some errors in the captions that have to be cross-checked for assurance of accuracy as well and the lack of consistent scale on the plates also is a factor. Overall the color plates are well drawn, illustrated, and presented and pull together a large collection of artwork together into a single volume covering a wide span of countries, vehicles, and theaters involved in World War II. The heaviest concentration of plates are on German, Commonwealth, and Soviet vehicles while still including examples from other lesser players to provide a little something for everyone. The book does not contain any photographs to support the color plates and is strictly a collection of artwork representing the different vehicles and schemes from Jean Restayn. Light on text and lacking photos, the book is solely a collection of color plates and the reference value for many may suffer as a result, especially when the cost is taken into consideration.