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Book Review
Armored Units of the Russian Civil War - Red Army

by: Jim Rae [ JIMBRAE ]

Originally published on:


The Russian Civil war could be seen, at its most simplistic level, as an 'internal' ideological struggle. However, for a Civil War, its aftermath was to have far-reaching effects which were to last until the 1990s with the collapse of the Soviet Union. It also, helped to serve as the catalyst for the development of armored warfare. To describe it as a brutal conflict is somewhat of an understatement, to also see it as a 'localized' civil war is also incorrect. This was a war fought by proxy by several of the major pawers and directly by countries such as Poland or Czechoslovakia. The weaponry was as varied as the participants (or their agents) with U.S.-supplied Renault Ft-17s alongside extemporised armored cars and British Whippets.

I've always had a degree of personal interest as well. My maternal grandfather was amongst the crews of the Royal Navy convoys which supplied materiél to the Czarists (or 'Whites') in the conflict...

The book - bare bones

Armored Units of the Russian Civil War - Red Army (New Vanguard - 95) is published by Osprey Publishing. The book is the usual New Vanguard format, and consists of 48 pages - seven of which are full-color illustrations The book is written by David Bullock and illustrated by Andrei Aksenov and Peter Sarson. .

The book - in detail.

The book is really an overview of the Armored Units of the Soviet (Red) forces. It is a book with (logically) many applications for the modeller, however, its focus is overwhelmingly on the strategic use of of these forces. This is, in my opinion, a strength rather than a weakness. Far too often, modellers see AFVs as isolated 'incidents' which pop-up for conflicts. To understand the development of Armored Vehicles they have to be seen in their historical/political context. The author begins by 'drawing-in' the reader with a wonderful little written 'sketch' of the imagery of this period drawing upon references to some well-known cinematic images, those of Eisenstein and of Dr. Zhivago by David Lean.

The first section deals specifically with a common (and predominant) theme in this book - Armored Trains. An overview of their development, use and configuration occupies a great deal of the first chapter with a great deal of interesting information on their deployment on various fronts, extensive listing of all of their names - 'romantic' names did not enter much into this with, such titles as 'Destruction of the Counter Revolution' or 'Dread Avenger of the Lost Communards' amongst the many trains deployed. This is a truly fascinating aspect of the Civil War.

The second chapter looks at Armored Cars. It begins with some details of the various types (Imported, Russian-built and Extemporized) and their armament and numbers. It then, logically, goes on to examine their tactical organization and use on the four principal fronts. Not surprisingly, this is the largest part of the book - there were far more Armored Cars than Tanks in the conflict...

The third chapter deals with the Tank in 'Red' service. Beginning with the first ( a French Renault FT-17) captured near Odessa, the chapter traces the history of the first Soviet-manufactured (copied) tanks, which were little more than (un)licenced Renaults. The biggest boost to the embryonic Soviet tank forces, came with the capture of 59 British Mark Vs between 1919 and 1921. Although by no means decisive in the Civil War, they are significant in that from these faltering steps came the beginnings of the Soviet Armored forces and the first inkling of a Soviet Armored strategy.

The penultimate section, very much geared towards the modeller, deals with such areas as markings, color schemes and camouflage.

The book finishes with a bibliography and more details on the color plates.

The book - Conclusions

For modellers looking for inspiration, this book has plenty of fresh ideas. There are strengths and weaknesses which are (logically enough) dictated by the historical events. The strongest section is undoubtedly that of the Armored Trains with plenty of original photos, color plates and diagrams. As the trains played such a large part in the conflict, this is logical. The next section on Armored Cars is also interesting with some good written descriptions of the various models in use. The final section on tanks, is interesting enough, but not really wildly stimulating..

Images - One of the more irritating aspects of the New Vanguard series is their insistence on publishing a series of small thumbnails. This book is no exception. The photos are well-chosen, but in many cases, too small to be of much practical use. On the other hand, the color plates are amongst the best I have seen from Osprey although there is some duplication from other sources. Particularly noteworthy (with the Armored Trains) are the illustrations accompanied by a sihouette of their 'consist' .

Text - Even though this is perhaps more 'academic' than other 'New Vanguard' books, the text is informative without being heavy-going.

Structure - the book is well structured with 'sub-chapters' in each of the three principal sections.

Moving onto the 'negative', once again, although Osprey have commissioned an interesting book, it still remains an introduction. Frankly, with the competion that exists from a number of publishers, I can't help wodering if Osprey need a radical re-think of the 'New Vanguard' series. Many of the areas which we take for granted from other publishes - scale drawings, detail photos etc. are sadly lacking in this series. Although the book is very well written and well presented, my personal feelings are of a desire for more. That said, the subject matter is a little 'specialized' for many and the work of author, illustrators and editors is superb, but in the end let-down by the restraints they are working under. I would unhesitatingly recommend the book but with the understanding it is a good introduction. Now, when do we get a 1/35th scale plastic kit of train 41 - Glorious Leader Egerov of the Red Army?


My thanks to Osprey Publishing Ltd for supplying this (and many other) review samples...

Armored Units of the Russian Civil War - Red Army (New Vanguard - 95) is published on April 25.
In this, one of Osprey Publishing's more recent books, a rarely-covered subject is given some much-needed coverage. A conflict which laid the foundations for modern armored forces. The title is definitely one of the more 'esoteric' but altogether fascinating...
Percentage Rating
  Scale: 1:1
  Mfg. ID: 1841765457
  Suggested Retail: $15.95/£9.50
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Apr 25, 2006

About Jim Rae (jimbrae)

Self-employed English teacher living in NW Spain. Been modelling off and on since the sixties. Came back into the hobby around ten years ago. First love is Soviet Armor with German subjects running a close second. Currently exploring ways of getting cloned to allow time for modelling, working and wr...

Copyright ©2021 text by Jim Rae [ JIMBRAE ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of ModelGeek. All rights reserved.


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