Not everyone’s cup of tea

“In desert war—then and subsequently—the tank is the primary weapon, an armour-plated monster spewing fire and destruction as it plunges straight ahead to its objective. Or so it seems to the ‘poor bloody infantry’ as they deploy, naked and horribly exposed, across an unforgiving landscape of rock, grit and thorns. To the men inside the tanks, the advantages of speed, armour plate and fire-power seem not nearly so clear-cut. When the hatch is closed for action and the engine reaches its optimum heat, it becomes stiflingly hot and the combined stench of fear, fuel, sweat, cordite and machine oil can be overpowering. The outside world is visible only through slits in the armour, and what little can be seen is often obscured by swirling clouds of dust. The crew characteristically consists of a driver, a gunner, a radio operator and a commander. They cannot see each other’s faces and must communicate by intercom. The charge may be exhilarating but there is always the fear of being trapped inside a metal tomb if one’s machine is disabled by a thrown track or, even worse, hit by armour-piercing enemy fire, causing its ammunition to explode and its fuel tanks to ignite. This was known as ‘brewing up’, an experience never to be forgotten by those fortunate enough to survive it.” – John Bierman and Colin Smith, The Battle of Alamein

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