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Major

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Intriguing Book
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I've just been given a book called The First World War: The Essential Guide to Sources in the UK National Archives.


It's a sort of index to all the Great War related stuff in the British Public Record Office, where there is a mountain of official documents from the period, some of which were kept secret for 75 years. There's so much in it that it's hard to describe, but it lists file numbers and gives a brief description of the contents of each file, with occasional explanatory notes along the way. The first thing I should make clear is that there's plenty on Tanks - over a dozen entries, many with sub-entries - as well as other material which is related.


Some unusual documents: notes on aircraft cooperation with Tanks;correspondence relating to Stern; memo on the possible formation of Tank armies; machine-gun purchases in 1916 and reports on . . . the Madsen gun. More than I can list here.


There are also some typically British eccentricities: request from Locker-Sampson of the RNAS for ten thousand armoured cars in April 1917, which he proposed to arm out of "private funds";a report on a collision between an armoured car and a public house; a gift from the Maharaja of Bikaner(?) of 300,000 rupees for the purchase of aircraft and Tanks; and a report on the dismissal of Murray Sueter from his command in Italy in 1917 for writing direct to King George V complaining that the RNAS had not been given enough recognition for its role in the development of the Tank. Extraordinary.


The book also lists other archives, such as the Liddell Hart Centre at King's College, and mentions a book I haven't heard of before called Men, Ideas & Tanks: British Military Thought and Armoured Forces, 1903-19. (By Paul Harris, published 1995. I'll try to find out more about that.)


The author is Ian F.W. Beckett, it was published by the Public Record Office in 2002. Hardback edition costs 20 (30 euro/$) new, ISBN 1903365414.


Hope this is of interest.



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Lieutenant-Colonel

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James,

Wow, that is an intruguing book! Does it happen to mention the existance of any plans or manuals for the 1914 Rolls Royce Armoured Cars?

Thank you,

Mark

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Legend

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JamesH wrote:


The book also lists other archives, such as the Liddell Hart Centre at King's College, and mentions a book I haven't heard of before called Men, Ideas & Tanks: British Military Thought and Armoured Forces, 1903-19. (By Paul Harris, published 1995. I'll try to find out more about that.)



I work at King's College and have delved into the LHCMA a fair bit (for the Macfie and Flying Elephant articles on Landships) - it's a superb archive (John Glanfield used it, among others, for his book 'The Devil's Chariots'). Oddly enough, I've just got 'Men, Ideas and Tanks' out of the college library.


The main book you mention sounds very useful. Don't forget, though, that the PRO has a superb online catalogue. I've already dug out numerous interesting sounding entries which I plan to explore at Kew in the new year.



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Major

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MarkV - sorry, mate, nothing specific about the Rolls-Royce. The best I can offer is that there's a pub not far from me called the Henry Royce, supposedly on the spot where the two men met. If you go in there they won't be able to tell you much about the Great War, but they certainly know about cars and guns.


Roger - didn't know about the online facility, but I shall be giving it some hammer. I only learnt of the book because a friend who works at the Stationery Office came across it and, er, made it available. The bad news is that we've already encountered a misprint - Men, Ideas & Tanks covers 1903 to 1939, not 1919. Still, I'd be interested to hear what you think of it. In my view The Devil's Chariots isn't a patch on A New Excalibur; it goes on for ages about the Armoured Car Squadron, doesn't really have anything new to add, and I was surprised to see that it was published only 12 years after Smithers's book. Tanks: A Peripheral Weapon? - now that's what I call research. Blimey.


You lucky bugger, being so close to the LHCMA. I'm 200 miles away.


J



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Legend

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JamesH wrote:


You lucky bugger...



So you may think - but then, you don't have to work for my boss... *suppresses involuntary shudder*


Yes, you're right about the typo! I hadn't noticed at first. D'oh...


In a sense I see what you mean about Glanfield not covering much new ground, but, on the other hand, he goes into really fine detail, especially on the origins of the tank. There's much useful information on obscure elements of that period. I love Smithers' book, and he does broadly cover the same ground, but the period he covers is much longer so he necessarily goes into less detail.


I do agree about 'A Peripheral Weapon?', it's very good (another borrowing from the King's library).



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