By Major Robert Crisp, DSO, MC
Brazen Chariots is an easy to read account of the Desert War as viewed from the turret. Set in Operation Crusader in late 1941, it is a first hand account by South African Robert Crisp who was a troop and later squadron commander in the 3rd battalion of the Royal Tank Regiment. Its hard to put down and gives the impression of confused, highly mobile armoured warfare. Crisps’ battalion was re-equipped with the US made M3 Stuart Light Tanks immediately prior to the operation and faced significant challenges against the DAK’s PzIIIs and IVs. Interestingly, he recounts taking the tank for its first trial run and the origin of the name ‘Honey’. Light hearted mostly with dash and bravado, he also describes his emotional challenges and difficult decisions which no doubt haunted him for many years. It also shows the reliance of the tank units on their supporting echelons and the challenges of limited fuel and munitions that plagued both sides in the desert.
This witty and absorbing account is strongly recommended – I can’t believe I haven’t read it before.
Some Desert War gaming aspects I got from this book:
- I'm now going to have to build a troop of M3 Honeys in my 8th Army force
- Ruined vehicles and their use as decoys will be important terrain elements
- From an Operational view the destruction of enemy forces is the main tactical objective
- Logistics was the achilles heel of all - if a support column got lost, interdicted or captured, whole units were immobilised or had significantly reduced combat effectiveness the next day.
- Units often became widely scattered, leading to vast difference in their makeup and strength on a daily basis, and ad-hoc combat formations.
- Battlegroup Tobruk force lists will be interesting - be ready to make some tanker trucks!