If you only buy one book this year on railways, railguns, armoured trains, heavy guns, coast defences et ect et ect, this is the ONE

Gordon Angus Mackinlay

MALMASSARI Paul. Armoured Trains. An Illustrated Encyclopedia 1825-2016. Naval Institute Press, Annapolise, 2016. Hard cover, dustjacket, 527p., photographs, drawings.

27 years ago the original was ground breaking, this edition greatly enhanced and better photos.

Big, well produced and laid out, with excellent photos, with lots of good information, the text a fine example of a coffee table book.  You can lay it out, close it, come back and more enjoyment even if you just look at the photos.

In a book of this nature, and depth of information, there is bound to be problems, items with which you do not concur.

On my second read, I started to get annoyed at the size of the photos, but, the use of a good magnifying glass solves this.

Some photos have trivial mis-captioning, ie. p.238 Great Britain section, “Note the armband on the left sleeve signifying that the wearing is in mourning” in fact it the appointment insignia of a RTO – Rail Transport Officer!  Still a great photo though.

My favourite in the whole book (and there many)) p.235 of “Hairy Mary” during the South African War with a horde of sailor around her draping the boiler and coal hole with heavy duty ropeage.

As we go through Nation by Nation, many oddities, many fascinating items. 

One showing a British concrete blockhouse mounted on a thirty ton trailer during the Palestine Arab insurgency of the 1930’s, then in the 1990’s on the ground beside a chain link fence.  A image that I once knew quite well, it a former guardhouse/defence bunker on the main gate of a Israeli stores depot/base workshop outside of Haifa, outside of which the UN Observers had a liaison office in a caravan.  When posted down there looking up from my files, through the tiny window directly into the barrel of a 12.7mm DShK Model 1938 Heavy Machine Gun, it made you very interested in getting rid of the boring clerical work as quickly as possible!!!

Mr Attwood put up a item about loco’s in the 1939-45 War in Palestine having conventional concrete as heavy pseudo armour, the British Army Royal Engineers in Palestine pre-1939 had a good working relationship with the French military in Syria (which included Lebanon at that time), whose engineers with French civil engineering companies were laying out border defences along the invasion routes from Turkey. 

This at the time of the building of the Maginot Line, and the defences were of a similar design but to a lower level of sophistication (such also built on the Italian-French frontier, that of Tunisia and Libya, and small (5-8 kilometre) sections on the land travel routes from Siam (now Thailand) and South China into French Indo-China (now Cambodia, and Viet Nam).

These were made out of high quality material and construction Ferro-Concrete at which the French and remain today the world’s leaders in construction.  Training visits to Syria saw the Royal Engineers commence using Ferro in their constructions in Palestine during the uprising.  With many structures (such as the blockhouse) being built and remain today, notably today are “Crusaders Forts” these are Palestine Police Stations built to a design of the English Crusaders in the region in the 12th Century (some of the stone structures still intact).  With well over one hundred built by the Royal Engineers and their civil contractors for the Palestine Government and the majority still remain today, most still in use as police stations or security posts.

As well as the Maginot Line, Ferro was used to build the U-Boat and S-Boat shelters along the French Atlantic coast by the Nazi occupiers, such in the main remain intact as it would take too much labour and money to demolish them!  And as the years go by, the Maginot etc just get harder and harder.  Of interest the railway sleepers of the Australian Alice Springs to Darwin railway line are made out of Ferro concrete, which had been well cured in direct sunlight before laying, and their construction is expect to make them last at least one hundred years, with a massive saving on track maintenance.

There is so much of interest within the book, it gives something to everyone.  The Polish section shows just how effectively the Luftwaffe diver bomber (Junkers 87 Stukas) force knocked out the railway lines and immobilised the Polish Army’s armoured trains.  Other photos show just how easy it is to disable a train.

While that of Rhodesia shows the weird and wonderful items used to protect their railways during their terrorist war, which goes on to show such further used in Mozambique with the Zimbabwe Government fighting the terrorists there.

Equally the armoured trains of the Netherlands East Indies (now Indonesia) show post war wonderful uses of Willy’s Jeeps.

The tail of the book has a wonderful section on armoured trains in the once popular European genre of comics for adults, some extremely accurate in their rendition.  With the last item being a series of armoured trains technical drawings.

While everyone’s favourite Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway (RH&DR), of a miniature railway with a couple of photos and scale drawings, brought back memories of a wonderful long time friendship with the dead but definitely not forgotten Ian Hogg when he attached to the Small Arms School Corps development team at Hythe ranges for the Sustained Fire Role Tripod for the L7 GPMG, his depth of knowledge and wide variety of interests in everything to do with the Line, from the surrounding architecture to the actual defensive positions was discussed.  From the barren depths of my mind some vivid images of that time came out.

One series of photos in the Swedish section, made me in the 45 degree C heat of a NSW summer feel extremely cold.  With massive steel structures mounted on trailers in the middle of a above the Arctic Circle Swedish winter, just made one cold looking at them.

Expensive, but, believe me well worth the price, will give entertainment and information for years to come.

Paul Meekings Books has the UK published edition (somewhat cheaper than the NIP one)

Mackinlay    New South Wales