The Tanks

The History of the Royal Tank Regiment, 1976-2017

Charles Messenger

The Royal Tank Regiment through the last third of the Cold War, Northern Ireland, Cyprus, the two Gulf Wars, the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Publication date:
September 2017
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Illustration :
50 colour & b/w photos, 10 colour maps, 1 table
Format Available     Quantity Price
ISBN : 9781912174003

Dimensions : 234 X 156 mm
This book is temporarily out of stock.


• An ever changing Army seen through the eyes of one of its regiments
• The men and the fighting vehicles who serve under the motto Fear Naught.
• Over 40 operational tours in just 40 years
• A distinguished military historian writes about his own regiment

The Royal Tank Regiment celebrates its centenary this year (2017). This, the fourth volume of the Regiment's history, begins in the midst of the Cold War, with the four RTR regiments mainly based in Germany. They experienced NATO's rearmament in the early 1980s and the implementation of General Sir Nigel Bagnall's revolutionary new concept for the defence of the NATO Central Region. The Troubles in Northern Ireland were also at the height and the RTR served there on numerous occasions. In addition, the Regiment saw service with the United Nations in Cyprus.

The Berlin Wall came down at the end of 1989, signalling the end of the Cold War. Yet, President Bush's New World Order proved anything but. Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait resulted in the First Gulf War, in which the Regiment played its part in many ways. However, the so called Peace Dividend meant that the RTR was reduced just two regiments. Then came the horrors of the civil war in former Yugoslavia, in which the Regiment also became involved. While it did operate in tanks in Kosovo, it was also demonstrating its versatility in many other roles in this increasingly uncertain time. Not least was the formation the Joint NBC Regiment, made up of 1 RTR and the RAF Regiment.

The RTR was at the forefront of the assault on Basrah in the 2nd Gulf War and thereafter served a number of tours in Iraq. Indeed, the Regiment was among the very last troops to withdraw from the country at the end of Operation Telic in 2009. By this time, the British Army was heavily committed to Afghanistan and the Regiment would spend the next five years deploying on Operation Herrick. As in Iraq, it carried out a variety of missions and in many different types of vehicle. The book makes plain how tough conditions, as in Iraq. The Army, however, faced further reductions and the RTR was cut to a single Challenger 2 regiment.

This History not only covers the Regiment's numerous operational tours. It details the vehicles it has used and provides an idea of how life in the RTR has changed over the past forty years. It does not duck controversy and allows the voices of all ranks to be heard. 'The Tanks' reflects an ever changing British Army, the one constant being the character of the RTR soldier, the Tankie.


There is probably nothing you could find out about the regiment in this timeframe that hasn't been addressed here by Charles Messenger.
Classic Military Vehicle Magazine

Meticulously researched and supplemented with maps and images, the book is a testament to the formation's versatility in the face of great change.
Soldier Magazine

Time and time again we see in this book, the Government cut backs on spending, the Regiment then has to shrink down and survive with limited spares, to be promptly asked to go and fight another war, all the time with a reduction in manpower and spares excellent read and a must for any one interested in AFVs or the History of the RTR. 5 stars.
Army Rumour Service

… recommended reading for those with a strong interest in armour, who will profit from the level of detail on training, tactics, and equipment to be found in its pages.
Journal of the Society of Army Historical Research

Members of this most illustrious Regiment both past and present will treasure this volume. Those with no connection to the RTR will come away full of admiration for those that choose to go into battle in a metal box. This is a marvellous read and highly recommended for all interested in military matters.