EDITIONS DU BARBOTIN
Centurytracks No.1, 1943-1945 Les Shermans Français de la Libération. By Claude Gillano, with Pascal Danjou; illustrations by Eric Scwartz. Soft covers, 64 pages, 7 x 9.5-inches. Contains 72 B&W photos, 18 color profiles (with dozens of smaller color illustrations), eight sets of line drawings, one chart, and several sidebars. ISBN2-9520988-6-7. Price: 14.50 €.
When the Free French Army was re-equipped and organized along modern lines, its three serving Divisions Blindées (Armored Divisions) were supplied with, among other AFVs, M4-series medium tanks from the USA. Initially equipped with M4A2s and M4A4s, after suffering combat attrition, these divisions were replenished from US stocks; this meant that nearly every version of the M4 saw use by the French, including one “Jumbo” assault tank. In addition to this variety of types, an extremely complex and very colorful system of markings was used. Thus, this subject is tailored-made for modelers looking for something different.
This latest title from the team who brought modelers the outstanding “Trackstory” booklets, concentrates on the various M4 types in service with the French 1ère, 2ème and 5ème Divisions Blindées (1st, 2nd and 5th Armored Divisions).
The dual-language English and French text begins by briefing the reader on the development history of the M4 medium tank (beginning with the M2 and M3 medium tanks) and the circumstances by which the type was issued to the Free French forces. This is followed by passages that identify the physical characteristics of the various production versions. Then, the author details the structure and deployment of the various French Divisions Blindées; a final bit contains anecdotes related to combat by French units in Germany towards the war’s end.
This is all well-supported by an excellent set of finely-reproduced B&W photographs, all of which are informatively-captioned in both the English and French languages. In fact, the author is so dedicated to the subject, that I was e-mailed a correction to the photo on page 14, which I quote here in full: “But you might be interested to know what I found on the Berry III pictured on page 14. First, it is Berry IV and it is also a M4A1E9 as you will find out looking at the enclosed photo. I changed my settings when I re-photographed it in the museum album and now the hull is visible. Too dark in the book as I was more interested at the time in the turret and the gun shield! This makes it a double rare bird as this is the only known in operational use AFAIK with the modified M34 gun shield (added direct telescope sight) and the spaced bogies.”
Thank you, Claude!
The 18 sets of color plates, which were researched by Pascal Danjou and created by Eric Schwartz are extremely well-rendered. Each one is accompanied by one or more B&W photographs upon which it’s based, as well as many smaller color renderings of the various insignia used. In some cases, alternate schemes are listed within a particular set. In addition, after the book went to press, two errors were detected. The publisher has wisely included a single loose page containing new full-color art for the two offending plates; again, this shows the dedication of this team to “get it right”. There are a number of sets of line drawings included (unfortunately, not to any designated scale) that show detail differences amongst and between various M4 sub-types; these are most helpful as they are easily accessed and competently presented. A helpful chart lists the three described Divisions Blindées and their sub-units, with the known M4 types seen in service. Another page contains monochrome profiles of all the known types seen in French service (which was essentially ALL of them!).
Overall then, this book is an outstanding treatment of the subject, presented in a most useful and information-packed form. One would hope that other books will follow in this series, devoted not only to the M4 (more, please!!), but other types such as the M10, Stuart light tanks, half-tracks and other American AFVs in French service. Modelers would probably also appreciate decals based on these schemes being produced, as was the case with the publisher’s Char B1 bis sheet, based on the Trackstory title.
If you like the Sherman and you are interested in French use of it, this book belongs in your library.
Frank V. “Curley the Stooge” De Sisto
Centurytracks (and Trackstory) books are available direct from the publisher, Editions Du Barbotin at: www.minitracks.fr/Sherman_Fr.html. E-mail: [email protected]
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