Friday, 30 August 2013

Chieftains, by Bob Forrest-Webb

Chieftains by Bob Forrest-Webb first popped up on my radar screen way back in 1986-87 when I bought TTG's Battlezones - Scenarios for the Ultra Modern Period which featured Chieftains amongst its list of scenario sources though I was never able to lay my hands on a copy.

This book popped up again a couple of years ago when it was recommended over on TMP but again no joy was had in finding a copy for even tattered ones seemed to command utterly ridiculous prices.

Now, thanks to the joys of electronic reprints, the book is once again available for a reasonable price as a Kindle edition and I was finally able to see what the fuss was all about. And a pretty good read it is, I must say.

First published in 1982, the book charts the fate of Chieftain crews from the BAOR's 14/20th Hussars (along with cameo appearances by an SAS stay-behind party and a US tank unit) as they face the onslaught of the Red Hordes in northern Germany's plains. While the year is not specified, from the equipment described, it is obviously set in 1982/83. The book is very much a worm's eye view of a hypothetical WW3 and does not concern itself with the whys and therefores.

Some people may find this annoying but I didn't as the rationale for a Soviet invasion is usually the poorest part of most books from this stable (Red Storm Rising being a prime example of a ludicrous and poorly thought-out rationale for all-out war).

While Bob Forrest-Webb is no Tolstoi, the book is rather well written and I found the characters to be, on the whole, better developped than the ones from, say, Team Yankee though I'm working from hazy memory here. The unfolding scenario of the 14/20th Hussars' doomed stand is also far more credible than than portrayed in Team Yankee: you won't find a counter-attack into East Germany on Day 5 in this one. Here NATO is definitely still on a back foot on Day 5. 

The book's ending has been criticised by some for being a bit of a cop out but I found it very suitable and a welcome change (no spoilers though, you'll have to read it to find out).

Like most of its stablemates, the book is dated in that it reads somewhat like a PR exercise to warn against defence cuts. Still, the book is a talented PR exercise and I found it to be an enjoyable read and a good source of scenario material in addition.

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