Among the events that contributed to my early initiation to tank warfare, one came about when I was around 12, about 35 years ago. It took the form of endless rows of T-54s seen in some armament magazine, combined with worrying statistics about the Warsaw Pact’s numerical tank superiority. So when I spotted a new book on the T-54 from well-known authors Stephen L. Sewell and Jim Kinnear (and published by Osprey), I promptly ordered it, partly based on that recollection of my Red Dawn-influenced Cold War’s childhood, but mostly because, well, the T-54 is iconic and a cool modeling subject. Oh, and a reasonable price helped, too!
The book is a nice, great quality hardback format that is likely to please the reference collector. It is well illustrated and captioned. Now that I am aware of the existence of this series of titles, I will certainly keep an eye on more of this. There’s a T-10 book I decided to get after seeing the T-54 one, and rumor has it that a T-55 book is in the work.
The structure of the book is as follow:
- First There Was Morozov…
- Development of the T-54 Medium Tank
- Description of the T-54 and its Variants
- Derivatives of the T-54 Tank Family
- Soviet Army Service and Export
- Appendix One – T-54 Tank Production by Year
- Appendix Two – Production by Tank Model
- Appendix Three – Related Article (Obiekt) number for T-54 Tank Designs
- Appendix Four – T-54 Standard Production Model Technical Characteristics
- Appendix Five – Soviet Standardized Production Flow for Armoured Vehicles
- Appendix Six – T-54 Model 1949 Cutaway Diagram
- Appendix Seven – Glossary
- Appendix Eight – Known Customers and Users of the T-54 Medium Tank
- Appendix Eight – OPVT Underwater Tank Driving Equipment
The approach is fairly conventional, starting with the design, conception and production phases of the T-54, followed by a thorough description of each type, then a chapter on variants and specialized vehicles, and finishing up with some in-service information. There are no less than nine appendices going from technical specs to production numbers.
So what’s in there for us modelers? While I think that this is a great book to get a clearer historical and technical picture of this iconic tank, modelers will especially appreciate the third chapter, where more specific information is presented about each variant. More importantly, this chapter offers a large array of walkaround pictures of each variant, most of which present Museum-preserved vehicles and some outside so-called ‘flower pots’ which are less well preserved. The only issue with these pictures is that some are rather small so it may be useful to have a magnifier nearby to study these pictures. The chapter dealing with the T-54 in service is also interesting in that it provides some inspiration for us modelers.
In general, the book is profusely illustrated with period pictures, walkaround pictures, some archives documents and plans, and (too few!) excellent drawings and color profiles. Most are interestingly captioned and provide some perspective on the subject. It would have been a great addition to provide high-quality 1/35 plans for each variant, and it would have made this book a more definitive piece of reference. In fact, for a book like this, my personal opinion is that the inclusion of such plans is almost mandatory, especially with credible authors such as these guys. I have one of Miniart’s T-54 kit in the mail at the moment of writing these lines and would have loved to challenge it against such plans. Of course, it’s not like this cannot be sourced elsewhere, but still, getting Sewell & Kinnear-approved scale drawings would be something I could see myself dishing a few extra bucks for.
What the book does NOT offer are markings references. This is entirely understandable, however. One must realize that the T-54 is a very widely used tank. Providing proper references for such a ubiquitous vehicle would require its own fairly substantial book. Markings are always a pretty intricate subject anyway. The few color profiles included in the book are of excellent quality, however.
A well-made general/introductory book on a pretty iconic subject. Provides some really useful information for modelers in addition to background and development history. Some walkaround reference pictures are a bit on the small side. A great addition to the Soviet armor enthusiast’s library. Is it all you’ll ever need on the subject? No. Is it a great starting point to learn about the T-54? Absolutely, yes. Last time I checked, the book was running for about 40 CAD on AbeBooks, and at that price, it is indeed worth it.