Sunday, February 16

Read n' Reviewed: "T-54/5 to IDF Tiran 4/5: The Birth of the Bastard Tank" from Abteilung 502

Paul Lee is intersected in post-war AVF vehicles - and having made Miniart's T-55 here on the news we thought it only proper to let him take a look at Abt. 502's new book featuring the IDF T-54/5's and their service in the Israeli hands. See what he thought about the book in his review...

Read n' Reviewed: T-54/5 to IDF Tiran 4/5: The Birth of the Bastard Tank 
from Abteilung 502
Authors: Ma’or Levy
Softcover 88 Pages Softcover A4 Portrait
English text 
Price: 19€
Available from Abteilung 502 distributors
Abteilung 502 gives us volume 2 in their series on the captured vehicles in IDF service, and covers arguably the most well-known of all captured vehicles, the T-54/55, otherwise known as Tiran in Israeli service. Israeli armour definitely has a strong following in the armour community so this book looks to find many fans in the modelling community.
The idea of taking an enemy’s weapons and using them against their former masters has probably existed since the dawn of time, ever since Ogog the caveman picked up a rock that was thrown at him and threw it back at his attacker. The introduction to the book gives a nice quote from Sun Tzu’s Art of War, “Therefore, when in chariot fighting, more than ten chariots are captured, reward those who take the first. Replace the enemy’s flags with your own, mix the captured chariots with yours, and mount them”, and this a perfect summation of the transition from the T-54/55 into the Tiran which is the focus of this book.

It really isn’t that surprising that Israel would find itself involved in numerous conflicts about its borders since its creation in 1947, when the UN decided to partition Palestine and slap Israel in the middle of its unwilling neighbours. The first chapter of this books covers the Six Day War where Israel captured numbers of Egyptian, Jordanian, and Syrian vehicles. As these pictures show, the equipment ranged from fairly modern pieces such as the T-54 or SA-3 SAM, to WWII vintage vehicles such as the Sherman, and other obsolescent vehicles at that time such as WWII era Archers, Bren Carriers, and even some Pz IV’s captured from the Syrians. 
The second chapter covers the options the Israeli’s had in terms of procuring vehicles for their growing tank force. At the time, Israel was in a strange diplomatic situation with its Western “allies” such as the UK and US being unwilling to sell modern military equipment to Israel for fear of tilting the balance of power too much in the Middle East, while its hostile neighbours were getting their modern equipment from the Soviets. While the Israeli’s were using some Centurions and M 47 Patton’s at the time, there just weren’t enough of them, so while the captured Centurions and Patton’s could be turned around into Israeli service with some modifications, the Israeli’s found themselves with a “gift” of a couple of hundred T-54/55’s that were not an option that could be purchased
However, while the idea of turning a tank around and using it against its old masters sounds easy enough, in practical terms of incorporating them into your own armed forces is another question altogether and the third chapter covers the Israeli analysis and testing of the T-54/55 and whether it would be a suitable option for their needs. 
The next chapter covers the various modifications that had to be made so that the T-54/55 would be suitable for Israeli service. The engine was obviously a significant consideration since they couldn’t just buy spares from the Soviet Union, although fortuitously, the Soviet Bloc liked to use their machinery for other purposes, so while the military engine couldn’t be bought, the Israeli’s were able to buy practically the same engine from the Romanians who had them in use for agricultural purposes. Other elements such as the different hatches, main gun, and various equipment are also covered. 
While introduction of the tank turned out to be slow, one role that impressed the Israeli’s was the Egyptian use of the T-54/55 as an engineering vehicle with a mine flail or dozer blade, a concept that the Israeli’s had almost completely ignored during the Six Day War, and almost perfect for a second tier vehicle. All this captured equipment also gave the Western powers a first hand look at contemporary Soviet equipment, but also to the public as shown here on Armoured Corps Day in November 1968.
Operation Raviv was a series of raids on some Egyptian army bases on the west coast of the Gulf of Suez, and it was here that the Tiran fully showed its usefulness to the Israeli Army, for use in amphibious operations with the smaller Tiran much more suited than the larger Western tanks. And so the Tiran finally bears fruit for these four men, the Fathers of the Tiran, and is accepted into Israeli service the next day after Operation Raviv with the forming of the 274th Brigade. 
It is interesting that the Tiran was accepted into Israeli service in a role that you usually wouldn’t associate with the Israeli Armoured Corps. But the final chapter is devoted to this and has many pictures of the Tiran training in the amphibious warfare role, disembarking from various types of landing craft. 
And that is the story of how the Tiran came to fruition into service with the Israeli armed forces.  There is no doubt that Israeli armour is one of the most popular subjects for armour modellers, and this is an outstanding volume for modellers interested in the pictures, or the historian interested in the process and engineering of a vehicle from service of one nation to another. 
Highly recommended reading

Paul Lee

Thanks to Abteilung 502 for sending this book to read and review