Sunday, 3 August 2008

Airborne Armour

I researched and wrote this book over a four year period in my spare time, purely as a hobby project but with the intention of seeing it published commercially. I had already obtained a Masters Degree in history at the Open University so I had some background in research skills and extended writing.
I chose the subject after seeing an article in Tracklink, the magazine of the Friends of the Bovington Tank Museum. A lot of the research was done at Bovington, as well as the Museum of Army Flying and the Public Record Office at Kew. The book should be of interest to anyone curious about airborne forces in World War 2. The story is a unique one, and I think it fills a significant gap in the history of British airborne forces. It provides a full development history of the Tetrarch and Locust tanks, and probably the fullest background to the development of the Hamilcar glider ever published. The text goes on to cover the operational use of the tanks and gliders in detail, from the Tetrarch's service in Madagascar, through D-Day and the Rhine Crossing to the end of the war. The book also provides the only accurate and full history of the 6th Airborne Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment, which operated the tanks and was the reconnaissance regiment for 6th Airborne Division.
Readers will find the operational account supported by clear maps, and there are a number of new photos and illustrations which should be of interest to all airborne buffs. For example, there are rare stills of Locust tanks in action during the Rhine crossing, and drawings of an early Hamilcar concept.
I have tried to provide all the background the reader might need to put Britain's 'flying tanks' in perspective, such as brief descriptions of the development of the Glider Pilot Regiment and the glider tugs themselves. I include a chapter on developments in this field in other countries such as Germany, the USA and Russia. In particular, the German Me321 Gigant glider is described and compared to the Hamilcar.
I have tried throughout to make the book readable and accessible, whilst at the same time being thorough and accurate. For those (like me) who consider such things important, all sources are fully referenced throughout, and there is a full bibliography. The book is available online at, and also via the publishers Helion and Company. If you decide to buy the book, I wish you happy reading! By the way, the colour scheme on the photo of the Tetrarch shown here is probably wrong. Photos indicate a two-colour scheme was in use, but was most probably the usual dark green - black pattern as seen on many British military vehicles at the time.


Anonymous said...

I finished reading your book about a month ago. Simply fantastic. It was exactly the source I was looking for to put together my 6th AARR company for Flames of War. But more importantly, it was just good reading. There is a wealth of knowledge and information in your book that just can't be found anywhere else, and I often recommend the book to friends and fellow gamers, and have cited it on the Flames of War forums. Thank you for the time and effort you put into it.


By the way, perhaps you could answer a question that is being debated amongst myself and some other Tetrarch enthusiasts. In Normandy, was the Tetrarch painted with the disruptive black and green camo scheme, or was it the standard British olive drab? Thanks again.

Keith Flint said...

Scott, thanks very much for your kind words. The photos that I have seen would indicate that Tetrarchs in Normandy were in a two tone scheme, in what most books tend to call a 'bold pattern' (i.e. not Mickey Mouse Ear).
As you can see from the photo, Bovington have used a green/brown scheme, but I discussed this with David Fletcher and he advised me not to take too much notice of it - in the past the museum has tended to paint tanks with what was available rather than strictly accurate schemes!
I would definitely say that a two tone black/khaki drab (i.e. dark green) disruptive scheme is correct for Tetrachs in Normandy.

Best wishes, Keith.

Paul Waterhouse said...

Keith I have been trying to trace my Dad's wartime history and it lead me to your book which I thought was great, I really enjoyed reading it. I think he might have been in the AARR he started his military career in the 10th Royal Hussars and ended up in the 6th airborne division. He died when I was seven (1966) so I never got the chance to ask him myself.
I have lived in Sydney for the past 27 years but I am coming over to the UK in February can you give me any advise on where I could do some research. He was called Harold Waterhouse his nick name was Bill or Billy there was a pargraph in your book where a tank gunner was called Bill I thought it could be him. I also have a couple of wartime photo's of him that I would love to email to you to get your opinion on the uniforms.

Paul Waterhouse

Keith Flint said...

Paul, the place to trace any family member's military career in the UK is the National Archives (what used to be the Public Record Office). They are located at Kew in London but have a pretty good website which gives excellent advice on setting out to research the military records of a family member.

I think somewhere I have a record of the arm flashes worn by AARR members. If your photos show those it would be pretty conclusive. Otherwise, the uniform might not reveal much. I would be glad to receive the photos via email on

Can't promise anything of course. I might be able to forward them to a couple of ex-AARR members, but it would be a very long shot.

Best wishes, Keith.

Unknown said...

Like the above readers I just finished your excellent book, and I wanted to thank you. It's an excellent read that covers a big ol' hole in my collection.

I do have one question, however. The copy I purchased does not have an index. Is that a deliberate omission or a publishing error?

Keith Flint said...

Publishing error I'm afraid. I did ask for one and Helion said they would arrange it... but that's the penalty of dealing with small publishers. You will also see that footnote numbers, when appended to an inset quotation, disappear for some reason, and also the 'degrees' symbol became changed into something odd. Ho hum.

The one thing I really regret is not including more photos. But you should see the fees places like the IWM charge for publication rights...

Thanks and best wishes, Keith.

Unknown said...

Keith, my name is Dan Welch and I lvie in Texas, USA. I've got a website and run a club, Can you contact me at please? Thanks! Dan

Jamie M said...

Hey Keith, I wonder if you might have an answer for me about the 6th AARR. Did the crew wear the red beret of the airborne or the black beret of the tank corp? I've been searching for ages but can find any info.

Keith Flint said...

Hi Jamie - yes they did wear the red beret, but with the badges of their various original regiments on the front.

Piers said...

I didnt realise this was your book!

If only it had been around when I did my MA on airborne operational effectiveness in WW2!

Great book!

Keith Flint said...

Thank You Piers. That sounds like a great MA subject.