Monday, August 26

Review - Ampersand Publishing's massive book “Son Of Sherman Volume 1"

Ampersand Publishing always put out publications that are detailed and full of great pics but also pretty good in value – but they have taken looking at a subject to the next level with their latest publication - “SON OF SHERMAN VOLUME 1: The Sherman, Design and Development” This book covers the Sherman from beginning to the end and leaves nothing to the imagination – let’s have a closer look at this tome of knowledge in our review…

Ampersand Publishing
Son of Sherman Volume 1
The Sherman, Design and Development
Written by: Patrick Stansell and Kurt Laughlin
Language(s): English Text
386 pages
B&W + colour photographs & line drawings.
Portrait format - Soft or hard cover (8.5" x 11")
Soft cover - $55.00. ISBN: 978-0-9773781-1-1 
Hardcover - $67.50. ISBN: 978-0-9773781-3-5
Available from the Ampersand Website here

All Shermans were pretty much the same aren't they? I mean except for the Firefly with the bigger gun they are all made in a cookie cutter with a rounded-hull and a stubby gun and they all had to run around the back of tigers to kill them? Well two myths which I was to find dispelled with pretty much one pass through this book just there. This is the first of three volumes that aim to totally and comprehensively cover the M4 Sherman for not just the modeller but armchair historian and tank enthusiast.  
The story of this book started over fourteen years ago. The original book of "The Modeler's Guide to the Sherman" was released by Ampersand Publishing from a convergence of several smaller articles written by Pete Harlem. This book just about got everything under one cover, it utilized older CAD style drawings of the hulls but there were some sticking points with nomenclature and the book did not cover all in one stop. Rumours of a better – improved version of this book finally have come true and now we have it – in not just one – but three volumes dedicated to the whole inside and outside of the M4 Sherman tank in real and model form. This book, written and edited by Patrick Stansell and Kurt Laughlin is called “Son of Sherman Volume 1” and covers the design and development of the variants, details, differences and attributes of the Sherman tank during the period of the Second World War.
While the second volume in progress in this series is centred on the needs of the modeller of the Sherman tank – and promises to show us the technique of building and finishing 18 highly detailed 1/35th scale kits. The third volume of this series still has a lot more to cover in it’s mandate. I am not sure of what is to come in that volume but there are still to be covered all of the commonwealth nations use of this vehicle, British Shermans with their large 17 ponder guns, the Israeli “Super” Shermans and the Shermans that served in the Korean conflict that still have not been covered here. Personally I would love to hear more about the Shermans in action – as the human story in connection to the subject makes the tale of the machine more interesting I find.

Physically this is a large book of three hundred and eighty six pages and not for the feint hearted for a casual read. It is HEAVY – even the soft cover is a considerable weight – but at first impressions when you open up the book it gives you that “wow” factor. The size, thickness and finish of the book all add to that. You soon find the helpful book mark that doubles up as a glossary & registration number data (or is that the other way around) as I can say with no shadow of doubt you will not finish this book in one sitting. Now I am not a Sherman enthusiast or expert by any means but I am open to suggestion, so I settled down to read. I have been through this book now two and a bit times over a period of two weeks since I first sat down to read it and though I am nowhere near the expertise of the authors I now know a lot more than the one fact that M4’s are not ALL the same.
Coming in at just under an inch thick, Volume I is a portrait format book and the 386 pages (8.5" x 11") are of a quality stock that looks "schmick" and feels very nice. You can get this book in hardcover but I feel it would build your arm up just holding it to read! There are over 900 colour and B&W photos, in the book. Mostly in large reference sections after the text about each variant of chapter focus to illustrate the point. The photography on offer will be known to some of the more well-read Sherman and Allied tank lovers. Shots of the wartime vehicles are very well reproduced and some pictures are astonishingly clear for their age. All of the modern and detail shots of preserved or restored M4’s are professionally done in proper colour and focus. There are no dodgy walk around shots in this lot.
There are also 130 drawings, most of them adapted from the earlier book on the M4, and these are a great help when trying to discern what changed from one model from another.  There are front, side and top down drawings of the hulls, glacis, under hull and later on the turrets of the Shermans. I would have liked a side on view as well but you do well and truly get the picture by looking at these detailed plans of each of the small and large differences of the Sherman.
The book is broken up into several sections. The text is very well written and insightful information is gleaned from each chapter which I do believe the authors tried to keep the wording as brief as possible. The glossary included is evidence of this – instead of going all around the shop in terminology the vehicle part numbers are used to identify specific parts (EG The 75mm turret: D50878 is and D78461 which is printed on your bookmark)

The book chapters:
·         A large preface including a guide and glossary
·         Factory made: the factories that produced the Sherman.
·         Small hatch tanks: the first Shermans.
·         Appliqué armor: the remanufacturing process.
·         Large hatch tanks: refining the Sherman.
·         Final drive assemblies: the FDA.
·         The 75mm turret: D50878 and D78461.
·         The 76mm turret: D82081 and 7054366.
·         Running gear: road-wheels, bogies, tracks and idlers.
   The appendices:
·         Foundry symbols found on the Sherman.
·         Registration data identifying the Sherman.
·         Summary of large hatch Sherman changes.
·         Transportation: getting the Sherman there.

We will take you for a brief walk through each chapter in turn.

After a pleasant and personal introduction and an induction of sorts as to how to get the most out of this book we go straight into the first chapter on the M4, Who made the Shermans -  where the Shermans were made (I did not realize there were so many factories at once) and in what numbers. This explains the little differences between some of the otherwise theoretically identical machines. An example of this is brought to light in a small box out section that shows you the difference in something as seemingly insignificant as an antenna bracket! The plot thickens..
We travel through all of the variants – from the M4, M4A1, M4A2, M4A3 and M4A4 - the direct vision small hatch tanks and their differences in hulls and frontal armour “glacis means a gentle slope” with the three different types of frontal armour the Sherman carried. We examine their engines and the factory idiosyncrasies that enables you to tell one tank of the same marque from another down to the casting marks. Each of these chapters is furnished with small detail pictures of tanks today in colour or small drawings and several black and white pictures at the end of the chapters. This really ties it all up for me – sort of like “theory- theory-practical” You get to see exactly what the drawings looked like on a real vehicle.
In Appliqué armor we learn about what was done to the Sherman to try and help it survive a battlefield it wasn’t completely prepared for against larger gunned opposition. We are shown several side-on drawings with approximate positions of the placement of extra armour welded onto the hulls of these tanks. This armour was so successful that new tanks rolled right off the production line with these improvements already installed. There are several great pictures of contemporary and period Shermans with the extra armour on glacis, hulls and turrets.
The Sherman M4, M4 Composite, M4A1, M4A2 and the M4A3 all went into production with the new “Large Hatch” modifications. This chapter is a large part of the book as there are a lot of variants to cover. The simplified design was thought inferior to the earlier tanks though the “wet” racks and other improvements like larger hatches for the drivers improved safety.

There are again many images of this tank in action, modern shots of the tanks in detail and several line drawings, accompanied with all the info you need to know about how each variant can be recognised and what changed.
FDA’s or final drive assemblies (thanks handy glossary) are the subject of the next chapter, and who knew there were so many varieties of such a simple (but important) part of the vehicle? There are several line drawings showing the slight changes and refining of this part before we go into the section on the turrets of the M4.
The Sherman 75mm turret (round in shape) the 76mm turret (angled almost slanted back to a point aerodynamically it seems to encapsulate the gun) and some slight information on the 105mm turret are included in the next three chapters. Accompanying each of them is the systematic text, close up/ interior detail/drawings/ period shots of each of these evolutionary like steps that refined the initial design and somewhat changed the look of this tank.  The interior shots and wartime snaps combined with the information on hand here is like gold for modellers. As often you can still see inside a model’s turret even if you cannot see the rest of the interior.
We take a look at the running gear next - factory and textbook drawings, pictures and the accompanying text walk us through the changes in the road wheels and suspension as well as the different types of tracks and their grousers, idler wheels, and sprockets are all covered here. I really had no inkling at all before reading this an understanding of this tank as I do now.
Just when you thought no one would pay attention to the casting numbers on your models' turret we go into the appendices. Looking at the foundry symbols that the factories applied to these tanks, the registration data that allows you to identify a vehicle to the factory and time on the numbers it carries and another rather interesting section on how the Sherman was transported to the front lines around the world from the factories dotted around the rail links of the USA. This is accompanied by several great pictures of the Shermans rolling out of the factory and sealed up for transport. The last appendices concerns the books read to get to writing this by the authors in a detailed bibliography.
Well what can I say but phew! Relaying this book must have seemed almost as long as reading it, but trust me from an absolute idiot when concerned with the M4 Sherman I am now considerable less vague on the subject – some would say I almost know my stuff. This is a big book with a lot of information to take in, but it’s a much larger subject than I had first imagined as well. If you are after a comprehensive book on the M4 Sherman in WWII this is undoubtedly THE book you need. – If the other two volumes of this trilogy follow the example of this title they need be the only three books you need to study this tank. I am looking forward to the modelling book almost as much as the second part of the history of this great tank.

Adam Norenberg

Thanks to Ampersand Publish for sending us this book to read and review – you can get it from the Ampersand Website here and also find updates on their Facebook site.

soon to come from Ampersand…
SON OF SHERMAN VOLUME 2: The Sherman Modeler’s Guide
A complete and illustrated description of modelling the Second World War U.S. M4 Sherman tank
Fully illustrated with over 900 colour photos to create the most thorough coverage of 18 highly detailed 1/35th scale kits. All based of the extensive research of Volume 1.
ISBN: 978-0-9773781-2-8

Second historical volume now in development!