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Peter Brown

Conqueror by Bob Griffin  Published by The Crowood Press Ltd, Ramsbury, Marlborough, Wiltshire, SN8 2HR, England . Hardback, 192 pages ISBN 1 86126 251 5 Price 19.95

The Tank, Heavy Gun No 1 120m/m Conqueror was designed in the late 1940s and early 1950 to be able to take on then-current Soviet heavy tanks like IS-3.  Never planned for it to serve on its own, its was to have provided directsupport to the Centurion. Several changes were made in its specification as it was being designed, and it was to serve for only a dozen years. Oddly, given its intended role on the battlefield, it was improvements made to the Centurion which lead to Conqueror being withdrawn. To carry out its task, it was a big, well armoured and well armed tank. Even 45 years after it came into service, no bigger calibre gun has been fitted to a production Western tank. In some ways it was ahead of its time which lead to technical problems. Unlike many other tanks of the same period, it was never to fire in anger but despite this it served its purpose well enough.   Even with no combat history the account of its development, trials and production, its different variants including some which were never put into production, and its service use is still interesting to follow. Its powerful recovery variant soldiered on for some time after the gun tank, while individual vehicles were adapted for some highly unusual uses.

It was also the first heavy tracked vehicle to be fitted with a gas turbine engine, although this was never fully developed and the size of the engine in those days meant that this vehicle was not a true tank. Conqueror has always been overshadowed by the successful Centurion and later tanks, but now at last its story has been told and told well. Its development is followed in detail for those interested in vehicle history, and model makers will enjoy those sections of the book which show the tank in great detail using extracts from the original vehicle handbook and close-up photos. The fate of many tanks after they were withdrawn is also followed. While many ended up on ranges as targets, but many have survived or even been recovered, some of them ending where they would not be expected.

As an account of a tank, this one is, like its subject would have been had it been called on to fight, hard to beat. It is well illustrated and very readable, and fills a gap in the study of post-war armour history, especially British.

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