To navigate your way through the Big Reveal please use the links in the bar above.
Next up in the Big Reveal is our New Vanguard series, which examines the design, development, operation and history of the machinery of warfare. We'll be adding 12 new titles to our list, so do let us know which ones stand out to you.
NVG: French Battleships 1914–45
On September 1, 1910, France became the last great naval power to lay down a dreadnought battleship, the Courbet. The ensuing Courbet and Bretagne-class dreadnoughts had a relatively quiet World War I, spending most of it at the entrance to the Adriatic, keeping watch over the Austro-Hungarian fleet. The constraints of the Washington Naval Treaty prevented new battleships being built until the 1930s, with the innovative Dunkerque-class and excellent Richelieu-class of battleships designed to counter new German designs.
In World War II, the dreadnoughts and fast battleships of the Marine Nationale had the unique experience of firing against German, Italian, British, and American targets during the war.
NVG: French Armour in Vietnam 1945–54
French experience with armour in Indo-China dated back to 1919, when it sent FT-17s to the colony, followed by a variety of armoured cars. After World War II, with the Viet Minh rebellion brewing, French troops were equipped with a motley collection of American and British equipment until the outbreak of war in Korea saw an increase in military aid. This included large numbers of the M24 Chaffee light tank, along with amphibious vehicles such as the M29C Weasel and LVT4 Buffalo, to conduct operations in coastal and inland areas that the Viet Minh had previously thought immune to attack. France’s armour was a key part of the battle against the Viet Minh right up until the last stand at Dien Bien Phu.
NVG: M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank
Since the Gulf War, the Abrams tank has undergone a transformation, while fighting in conflicts across the world. Its M1A1 and M1A2 variants have seen great improvements made to this iconic tank, including in fire-control, armour protection, and thermal imaging technology. Involvement in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan necessitated a number of upgrades and modifications as the United States fought two of its longest wars. Recent years have seen new variants of the series such as the ABV Assault Breacher Vehicle and M104 Wolverine Heavy Assault Bridge. Over the past few decades, the M1A1 Abrams has also been extensively exported and is license-produced in Egypt.
NVG: European Ironclads 1860–75
In November 1859, the French ‘ironclad’ La Gloire was launched in Toulon. She was the world's first seagoing ironclad – a warship built from wood, but whose hull was clad in a protective layer of wrought-iron plate. While history best remembers the ironclads of the American Civil War, these warships were mere toys compared to the iron-plated leviathans in contemporary European navies.
With wooden fleets obsolete, other European powers launched their own ironclads, and an arms race began to develop and build the new fleets – and it was two European navies, Italy and Austria, that fought the biggest clash of ironclads at Lissa in 1866. Together these warships embodied the startling technological advances of the late 19th century, and the spirit of this new age of steam, iron and firepower.
NVG: SU-76 Assault Gun
The SU-76 assault gun was the second most widely manufactured Soviet armoured fighting vehicle of World War II, outnumbered only by the legendary T-34. Inspired in part by the German Marder series of tank destroyers, Soviet designers realized that the chassis of the obsolete T-70 light tank could be adapted to a much more substantial gun if it was placed in a fixed casemate rather than in a turret. This led to the design of the SU-76, which saw its combat debut at Kursk in the summer of 1943. The SU-76 was deployed primarily as an infantry direct support weapon, becoming the infantry tank of the Red Amy, much as the StuG III became the infantry tank of the German infantry.
NVG: US Navy Battleships 1882–98
After the American Civil War, the US Navy had been allowed to decay into complete insignificance, until the commissioning of the modern Brazilian battleship Riachuelo and its weakness against the contemporary Spanish fleet forced the US out of its isolationist posture towards battleships.
Following several monitor designs, the first true US battleships began with the experimental Maine and Texas, followed by the three-ship Indiana class, and the Iowa class, which incorporated lessons from the previous ships. These initial ships set the enduring US battleship standard of being heavily armed and armoured at the expense of speed. These were the warships that fought the Spanish-American War, directly inspired the creation of an embryonic American military-industrial complex, enabled a permanent outward-looking shift in American foreign policy, and laid the foundations of the modern US Navy.
NVG: British Escort Carriers 1941–45
In 1941, as the Battle of the Atlantic raged and ship losses mounted, the Admiralty desperately tried to find ways to defeat the U-boat threat to her maritime lifeline. Facing a shortage of traditional aircraft carriers and shore-based aircraft, the Royal Navy, as a stopgap measure, converted merchant ships into small ‘escort carriers’. These were later joined by a growing number of American-built escort carriers, sent as part of the Lend-Lease agreement.
The typical escort carrier was small, slow and vulnerable, but it could carry about 18 aircraft, which gave the convoys a real chance to detect U-boats, and sink them. Collectively their contribution to an Allied victory was immense, particularly in the long and gruelling campaigns fought in the Atlantic and Arctic.
NVG: British Amphibious Assault Ships
Amphibious assault ships have been at the centre of nearly all of Britain’s expeditionary campaigns since World War II, from the Suez crisis of 1956 to operations in Iraq in 2003.
The Suez Crisis saw the helicopter transform amphibious warfare. For the first time, a battalion-sized force was flown straight onto the landing grounds rather than battling onto a beach. In the 1960s these were followed by the Fearless-class ships of Falklands War fame – the first purpose-built amphibious assault ships in the Royal Navy.
In the 1990s, a new generation was ordered: the helicopter carrier HMS Ocean and the Albion-class LPDs. In recent years Ocean, Albion and Bulwark have been the largest fighting ships of the Royal Navy and have served as the navy’s flagships, as well as being perhaps the most versatile ships in the navy.
NVG: Russian Battleships and Cruisers of the Russo-Japanese War
This book focuses on the development of the major warships of the Imperial Russian Navy between 1885 and 1905, the two decades between the appearance of the steel warship and the close of the pre-dreadnought era.
It shows how Russia responded to the challenge of swiftly-changing warship design, exploring how it used a combination of foreign-built and -designed warships over the two decades to develop a shipbuilding industry capable of building competitive-quality warships – as well as why the fleet performed so badly against the Japanese in 1905.
NVG: German Guided Missiles of World War II
Although not as well-known as the V-1 and V-2, the first German missiles to see combat were anti-ship weapons, the Henschel Hs.293 guided missile and the Fritz-X guided bomb. In their most famous use, the Italian battleship Roma was sunk by Fritz-X attack in September 1943 when Italy attempted to switch sides.
As a result of Allied strategic bombing attacks, the Luftwaffe began an extensive programme to develop several families of new air defence missiles to counter the bomber threat, including the Wasserfal, Schmetterling, and others. These missiles later served as the basis for air defence missiles elsewhere in Europe, especially in France and the Soviet Union. German missile wire-guidance technology was also applied to a variety of smaller missile projects, including the X-4 air-to-air missiles and the X-7 anti-tank missiles.
NVG: Churchill Infantry Tank
This is a new book by David Fletcher on the Churchill, a tank quite different from any other World War II British tank, built outside the normal process. It was built under the watchful eye of the Prime Minister, after whom it was named, by a firm with no previous experience of tank production. Despite being condemned as unsuitable and more than once being scheduled to be replaced by a better design this never actually happened. It remained in production and ultimately vindicated itself since, although it was slow and noisy, it was found to have superior climbing ability and thicker frontal armour than the vaunted German Tiger.
Its classification as an Infantry Tank has been extensively criticised although Field Marshal Montgomery, who advocated a Universal Tank to fulfil all roles, found the Churchill a useful tank on many occasions, particularly considering its ability to absorb punishment.
NVG: The Medieval Cannon
The first illustration of a cannon in Europe can be dated quite precisely to 1326. This book explores the development of gunpowder, the earliest appearance of cast-bronze cannon in Western Europe, followed by the design and development of the wrought-iron cannon. The wrought-iron hoop-and-stave method of barrel construction was a system that came to dominate medieval artillery design both large and small until the end of the 15th century, and saw the cannon used not only as a prestige weapon, but start to be used as a practical and terrifying weapon on the medieval battlefield.
The book will focus on the technology and tactics of early European artillery on both sea and land, and assess its impact on medieval warfare.