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The World War II Tommy - British Army Uniforms, European Theatre 1939-45 in Colour Photographs

Peter Brown

 

The World War II Tommy - British Army Uniforms, European Theatre 1939-45 in Colour Photographs by Martin Brayley & Richard Ingram  Published by The Crowood Press Ltd, Ramsbury, Marlborough, Wiltshire SN8 2HR. 144 large format pages, hardcover. ISBN 1 86126 190 X. Price 25.00

While the title adequately describes this book's purpose, it does not do justice to its contents. In short, it describes and illustrates the many items of uniform and equipment worn by British Army units during the Second World War, using photos of existing uniforms posed on re-enactors. The range of items covered is very wide-ranging, literally from underwear to several patterns of overcoats with everything in-between.

While the well-known khaki wool Battle Dress was the main form of uniform for most of the period, it was not the only one. Stocks of the pre-war Service Dress which was the common uniform of the Great War was used at the start of the conflict, and specialist clothing for mountain, snow and airborne warfare was introduced during the war. The basic Battle Dress itself went through many detail changes, and the equipment of the soldier and the gas masks and steel helmets he wore were also modified. These items are shown posed on individuals and groups to show them as they were worn at the time.

Alongside the uniforms, the basic soldier's weapons of rifles, Bren and Sten machine guns as well as the PIAT anti tank weapon, 2" and 3" mortars and the heavy water-cooled Vickers machine gun as well as infantry manpack radios are also seen. Vehicles are not covered, although some appear as background to the photos of overalls and special tank suits issued to their crews. No particular unit is depicted, though many individual regiments and corps are shown.

Taken as a straightforward depiction of what the Tommy of the era looked like, this book will be hard to beat. The photos show that well enough and their captions point out changes in design and matters such as the pattern and type of insignia seen. For those who collect uniforms it gives the main types and many variations, for the figure modeller the photos will provide much inspiration for individual figures and dioramas.

As British uniforms have not attracted detailed coverage in the past, those involved in this work have provided us with a first-rate picture - more correctly, hundreds of pictures - to redress the balance. Coverage is confined to the types of clothing seen in the UK and North-West Europe, which leaves the way clear for a similar study on clothing of the desert and jungle campaigns which the authors are working on. If that proves as well done as this, it will be worth waiting for.

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