Band of Brigands: The First Men in Tanks

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9780007214594: Band of Brigands: The First Men in Tanks

Inspired by a visit to northeast France to witness the excavation of a remarkably intact World War I tank from beneath a suburban vegetable plot near the town of Cambrai, Christy Campbell—then defense correspondent of the Sunday Telegraph—began to piece together the little-known story of the young men who formed the British Tank Corps. Very few of them had been professional soldiers; they were car enthusiasts and mechanics, plumbers, motorcyclists, circus performers, and polar explorers. One officer declared "I have never seen such a band of brigands in my life." They had trained in conditions of great secrecy in the grounds of a stately home in East Anglia and were originally known as the Heavy Branch, Machine Gun Corps. The word "tank" itself was deliberately chosen to mislead. Men in tanks saw the face of battle at its most brutal. Their task was to crush and burn the enemy out of his fortifications, and to carve a path for the infantry so they could finish the job with bayonet and grenade. Captured tank crews were beaten up or sometimes shot out of hand by the Germans. They fought in their stifling armored boxes packed with gas and explosives, aware that at any moment a shell-hit might incinerate them all. Christy Campbell has combed contemporary diaries and letters and later recollections to tell properly for the first time the robust yet harrowing story of how the first men in tanks went to war. The time frame is 1916-18, with a coda on how German blitzkrieg ideas developed from an English root.

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About the Author:

Christy Campbell is a writer, journalist, and former defense correspondent and feature writer for the Sunday Telegraph. He is the author of Fenian FireThe Maharajah’s Box, and Phylloxera: How Wine was Saved for the World.

Review:

Praise for 'Phylloxera': 'An entertainingly educational story of scientific exploration, political filibustering, profiteering skulduggery and a disaster that was nearly total!This is not just a book for wine buffs. An intoxicating read.' Peter Millar, The Times 'Such are Christy Campbell's superb story-telling skills that, notwithstanding my woeful ignorance of science, botany and viticulture, I found myself utterly hooked on this fascinating piece of social history.' Hugh Massingberd, Daily Telegraph '"Phylloxera" is a rattling good read; the author handles scientific material with such a nimble touch that at no point was I overcome by the onslaught of entomological detail.' Giles MacDonogh, Literary Review Praise for 'Fenian Fire': 'Christy Campbell has come up with a genuine historical scoop!In a superb piece of historical detective work, Campbell has pieced together every element of the conspiracy on both sides of the Atlantic, from the prime minister's house in St James's to the Islington garret where the "dynamitards" were arrested in November 1887!It was a classic case of an agent provocateur sting.' Andrew Roberts, The Times 'Campbell has uncovered an extraordinary web of personal and political intrigue!an enthralling tale!the pace never slackens!Particularly good is his account of the origins of Irish revolutionary nationalism!To tell this involved story against the backdrop of bureaucratic bickering, revolutionary intrigue and clandestine meetings between spies and informers is both original and clever. Campbell is making this type of breezy investigative history his own.' Andrew Lycett, Sunday Times 'The "jubilee plot" is such a bizarre episode that I would regard it as the product of a febrile imagination had Christy Campbell not documented sufficient evidence to remove all reasonable doubt!From Mexico City to Liverpool and from the House of Commons to Chicago coroner's court, the story moves at the pace of the best sort of adventure story. All the Boy's Own Paper ingredients are there!colourful characters and compelling story!Its account of Fenian organisation and activity makes a real contribution to nineteenth-century history.' Roy Hattersley, Observer

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