Free with the latest issue of Military Times on sale today, we are giving away a free extract from Nial Edworthy’s Main Battle Tank
It is the first book join the Military Times Book Club, and we would like to invite you to pick up a copy and let us know what you think about it.
Neil Faulkner explains why it is our Book of the Month
Main Battle Tank is the inside story of a modern British tank regiment at war. Author and journalist Niall Edworthy conducted hundreds of hours of exclusive interviews with tank-crew veterans of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The result is an intimate, vivid, and action-packed account of armoured fighting in the heavily-defended ‘complex terrain’ of urban Basra.
Written in journalistic style and covering in detail the events of only a few days, the book attempts to convey the reality of modern combat experience for ‘tankies’. The main focus is three distinct armoured assaults on Iraqi positions in the outer suburbs of Basra in early April 2003, mounted by squadrons of Challenger 2 main battle tanks belonging to the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, part of the 7th Armoured Division, the fabled ‘Desert Rats’.
The enemy were mainly Fedayeen, an Iraqi military elite of Saddam loyalists. Chastened by experience in the First Gulf War (1991), they had declined battle in the open desert, instead preparing positions in urban Basra. Here, equipped with AK-47s, RPG launchers, and light mortars, they aimed to draw the British into close urban fighting, where tanks would be at a relative disadvantage, at risk of ambush and entrapment.
A golden rule for tanks is never to fight in a town if you can avoid it. Tanks are modern cavalry, designed for charging across open country, where their combination of speed, firepower, and shock action has maximum effect. In urban streets, the advantage shifts to a determined infantry, entrenched, hidden, waiting to spring carefully-crafted traps. But having deployed the Challengers to the Gulf, having raced them across the open desert from Kuwait, and having established the highly expensive logistical tail necessary to support them in action, British commanders were bound to use them.
It was a gamble. Just how strong were the Iraqi defences? The danger was of a Black Hawk Down type disaster, with one or more tanks disabled and beyond help in the thick of enemy-controlled terrain. But the potential advantage was also huge: if the armoured monsters proved indestructible, if they could carry their massive, electronically-controlled, pin-point-accurate firepower to the heart of the city, they would surely destroy the morale of the defenders.
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