Tank Commander
ronald-welch1-13
  • Pages: 232
  • Format: 220 x 155mm
  • Illustrations: Victor Ambrus
  • Publication date: 1 Sept 2016
  • Producer: Smith Settle
  • Age: 8+
  • Genre: Historical Fiction
  • Binding: Cloth hardback
  • Trimmings: Illustrated endpapers; colour blocking to spine and front
  • NB: Hand-numbered, limited edition of 2,000 copies
  • ISBN: 978-1-906562-91-5
Made in Britain

Tank Commander

Ronald Welch

From£17 UK RRP: £19

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Description

In the summer of 1914 the Germans enter Belgium and Britain mobilizes for war.

Second Lieutenant John Carey, with his regiment the West Glamorgans, exchanges his comfortable quarters at Tidworth for the mud and bloodshed of the trenches. As battle follows battle – Mons, Le Cateau, the Aisne, Ypres – and the roll-call of the dead mounts, John, like other young officers, is called on to take responsibility far beyond his rank and experience, and acquits himself bravely in what often seems a hopeless situation. But with the introduction of the tank – a revolutionary new weapon to which John becomes deeply committed, though some of the top brass are less enthusiastic – the tide begins to turn.

About Ronald Welch and the Carey Novels

Ronald Welch’s 12 Carey novels, written between 1954 and 1972, follow the fortunes of the same family from their involvement in the Crusades to their service in the First World War. Grippingly plotted and scrupulously researched, together they join up the dots of English history in a remarkably vivid and human way.

Welch was a historian who served as a Tank Corps officer in the Second World War and in 1947 became Headmaster of Okehampton Grammar School in Devon. He was, by all accounts, an inspiring teacher, and he certainly knew how to bring history alive for younger readers. You can’t finish a Welch book without having grasped such precise details as the construction of a crusader’s armour and why it was so designed, or why the longbow was crucial to the English victory at the Battle of Crécy. Most importantly they’re brilliant reads – fast-paced, colourful and imaginative, with entirely believable central characters. The Careys are a distinguished Welsh landowning family and are involved in all the great events of their times, from the plots against Elizabeth I and the Civil War to the Peninsular War, the Crimea and the Indian Mutiny.

The original editions, published by Oxford University Press and illustrated by some of the best book illustrators of their day, are now almost impossible to find and fetch prohibitive prices. We’re delighted to make these wonderful books available again, with their original illustrations, in an elegantly designed and highly collectable series.



Related articles Reviews
  1. Each of the Carey series follows the adventures of a young man from a noble Welsh family in some historical period or other. Tank Commander focuses on World War I. Young John Carey is a career soldier like his father and grandfather (and most of the rest of his family, all the way back to Philip D’Aubigny of Montgisard during the Third Crusade), but he’s never experienced war until he finds himself as a second lieutenant under shellfire at Mons, in the first major battle of World War I. The death of the heir to the Austrian throne in Sarajevo has sparked off a continent-wide conflict, and nothing John has learned so far, about fencing with the sword, cavalry charges, or maneuvering over the open ground of a battlefield, has prepared him for a whole new kind of war. As the war bogs down into the ghastly, flooded trenches of the Western Front, John gains experience, rank, and cynicism as nearly everyone he knows is wiped out. When a new invention promises to end the stalemate and save thousands of lives, John jumps at the chance to help…

    I’ve been interested in World War I ever since my teen years, when I discovered and fell in love with John Buchan’s Richard Hannay novels. Though very little of those novels actually took place in the trenches, the books were peppered with references to the different battles – Ypres, Arras, the Somme, Cambrai – which meant nothing to me but would have been well-known from the headlines to the original readers. In addition, Buchan had no call to be providing a detailed picture of trench life, since the vast majority of his readers would have experienced it for themselves.

    Tank Commander, being written in the ’70s for a generation who had never known war, fills in this picture with vivid, gritty, immersive detail. I feel it’s the single most informative thing I’ve ever read about how WWI was fought–Welch, as a renowned military historian who had seen active service himself in the Tank Corps during WWII, is on his home turf in this book. And while the book doesn’t give a comprehensive picture of the war – it ends right after the battle of Cambrai in 1917, when the war still had a year to go – its compelling and often stomach-churning descriptions of important battles including Mons, Le Cateau, First and Second Ypres, Arras, and Cambrai definitely give the reader a good idea of how the war developed over the first three years on the Western Front.

    Each time I read a new Ronald Welch book, I gain a better appreciation for him both as a historian and as a writer. Welch is no Shakespeare, not even a John Buchan, but his books are always meticulously researched, exciting, and manly. Tank Commander, like all his novels, expects a certain level of maturity of both its characters and its readers. In this novel, anyone can (and does) die. John must break the news to a young soldier that he has been sentenced to death for cowardice. He must take orders from incompetent, outdated officers while trying to use his own experience to protect his men. Tank Commander is a challenging book for any young person to read.

    The book was not without its faults. The first chapter, which catches us up on the month leading up to the war, is (I thought) rather badly edited together, with some characters introduced twice, as if for the first time. The characters, especially supporting characters, never quite come into three-dimensional life. And the plot is pretty tenuous. The book makes up for all these shortcomings by being so incredibly immersive, and so historically detailed. It straddles the line between history and fiction, its purpose less to tell a story than to follow a fictional character through a very real historical setting.

    Parents might like to be warned that Tank Commander contains pretty consistent use of mild British-type swearing along with regular, graphic descriptions of wounds and death. It may be too gory and intense for young readers of previous books in the Carey series, but I’d definitely recommend it for young adults.

    After being unaccountably out of print for years, Ronald Welch’s Carey Family Series is now being released by Slightly Foxed in illustrated, clothbound limited editions. Slightly Foxed were kind enough to send me a free review copy of Tank Commander, but I was under no obligation to write a positive review, or to tell you to rush off and MAKE THESE BOOKS YOUR OWN BEFORE THEY SELL OUT.