Tanks in Detail - Sherman & Firefly
This is, like the book on the Panzer III an entry in the Tanks in Detail series. This series takes a tank or (part of) a tank family and aims to provide a reasonably indepth look at its development and characteristics, aiming for an audience of World War II enthusiasts and military modelers. They're sort of inbetween those general overview volumes disposing of all WW2 tanks in less than 200 pages and the really hardcore 500 page tomes that detail each nut and bolt of a particular tank model. There's only a limited audience for these books, especially books about lesser known tanks, so they tend to be pricey and short, often with a greater emphasis on pictures than on text. Nevertheless when done well they're a good introduction to a particular tank or tank model.
Unfortunately, I don't think these volumes are particularly well done, as I also said in my Panzer III review. Much of the information found here could also be found by a trawl through Wikipedia, let alone some of the more dedicated World War II sites. The pictures on the other hand are copious, but mainly show various Sherman models in action or on display, more as illustration than as an augmentation of the main text, though there are some good interior shots and pictures of the various engines used. Unfortunately however, unlike the Panzer III volume, there are no colour side views to show off the camouflage schemes used on the Sherman, nor are there any technical drawings to scale.
Worse though is the fact that this volume is a bit misleading. Its fill title is Medium Tank M4 (76mm & 105mm) Sherman and Firefly, which should mean that indeed the emphasis is on those two particular Sherman models. And indeed there is a short chapter on the Firefly, which was a British Sherman variant which mated a 17 pounder (or 76.2mm) gun with a Sherman I or V model tank after the standard model Sherman, armed with a 75mm gun, turned out to be incapable of taking on the German Panther and Tiger tanks. The 105mm Sherman however is only mentioned in the chapter on the Sherman base models. Much of the rest of the book is instead taken up by the development and production story of the Sherman family as a whole.
This severely hampers the book because the story of the Sherman is too complicated to be able to tell in anything but the barest outline in a volume like this. Had the writer concentrated on the two variants this book was supposed to be about, this could've been a good overview. Now however too much information has to be crammed into too few pages, with the result that things are simplified too much, with some sloppy mistakes being made, as Peter Brown argues in his review. Personally I also noticed several typos, which doesn't install much confidence either in the production values of this book.
If therefore you're looking to a good introduction to the Sherman Firefly and the 105mm Sherman, this may do more harm than good. I would avoid it unless you can get it cheap, as it's not worth full price.
Webpage created 20-04-2008, last updated 03-05-2008.