Vehicle Art of WW2
...a new book from Pen and Sword
Title: Vehicle Art of World War 2
Author: John Norris
Publisher: Pen and Sword Books
There have been plenty of books on the subject of aircraft Nose Art, but this new book by John Norris is the first I can remember to look at the subject of military vehicle art and naming. Throughout the book, plus an appendix filled with additional photos, it is heavily illustrated throughout. Though there are a few archive photos, the vast majority are modern day colour pictures showing restored vehicles at military vehicle rallies, and some museum exhibits.
It starts with an introduction that looks back to ancient times when shields were decorated and often a way of identifying individual leaders, and later the likes of the British Black Prince. While it may have made them a target for their enemies, it also gave their own troops a rallying point and inspiration. In WW1 the German pilots went to extremes, the Red Baron with his bright red aircraft was just one of many pilots with distinctive individual aircraft colours. While it made them more of a target, perhaps it also put their enemies on the back foot from knowing their reputation. When it comes to vehicles, a variety of markings proliferate. There are simple names such as wives and sweethearts, others such as names from mythology have been popular as well. The book looks at the different practices which became common in the British, French, German, Russian and US Army approaches varied. The Russians commonly used patriotic slogans, the British used common naming practices such as tanks from, just for example, D Company each being named with a name starting with D and so on. The Americans liked pictures, sometimes saucy and sometimes using the well known Disney cartoon characters. Some became 'official' images, such as the all-seeing eye of the Guards Armoured Division or the red Jerboa of the Desert Rats. The variety found across the different nations in WW2 makes for a fascinating variety and story in itself.
How many of us name our cars, or find a way of remembering different vehicles and equipment. It's over 40 years ago, but I remember when I left school and started work at a local removal firm. I found it strange at first but even today I can picture our different pantechnicons by their registration letters such as XKJ (a Bedford TK), XTP (a Leyland Chieftain), RRV, PRV and so on. We find it convenient to name vehicles and as this book illustrates, nowhere is it more common than in the armed forces of many nations. AN interesting topic and one which modellers, military historians, re-enactors and military vehicle restorers will find interesting.