Book Review, Reading Material, Reference

The Leopard 1 in Danish Service

For some reasons, I’ve been acquiring a massive quantity of new reference books during the pandemic. Among those, I was fortunate enough to secure a copy of the massive new study on Danish Leopard 1s, The Leopard 1 in Danish Service, from Kim Hartvig Sørensen and published by, you guessed it, Trackpad Publishing. That book sold out surprisingly fast, but I am told it has now been reprinted. 

This book is an important one for the Leopard 1 enthusiast because Denmark was pretty active in the 1990s and 2000s when the Balkans flared up. The country deployed a squadron of Leopard tanks in both UNPROFOR, IFOR, SFRO and KFOR. Denmark was the first country ever to fire the Leopard 1’s main gun in a combat situation and, objectively, is one of the countries that has deployed Leopard 1 operationally the longest (from October 1993 to August 2003), closely followed by Canada in Afghanistan. Incidentally, Denmark strikes a number of similitudes with Canada as a Leopard 1 user.

The first thing to mention is that the author is no stranger to his subject, to say the least. A former Leopard 1 commander in the late 1980s, Sørensen has served in Cyprus, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. He now serves has a staff officer at the Danish Army Command. His perspective, understandably, is very much an operational one. This gives the book a definite leaning toward an operational history of the Leopard 1 rather than a purely technical one. In that sense, it reminds me of Trackpad Publishing very first publication, the excellent (but much shorter) Dutch Leopard book.

In terms of format, I did mention the book is massive: Hard cover, 340 pages. One immediately thinks of Michael K. Cecil’s equally exhaustive, 288-pages book on Australia’s Leopard AS1, which boast a very similar approach of presenting the Leopard 1 entire service history in all its minute details.

Though similar in scope and size, the books do differ slightly in terms of overall perspective. Where Cecil reads first as a technical study that then deals with the platform’s operation history, Sørensen’s feels like the opposite: it is first an operational history with technical data. This is a subtle difference, of course, but I mention it because I guess you could say it marks the difference between how a civilian expert and a former operator approach the subject. As far as I’m concerned, both approaches are absolutely valid, (and both books are brilliant), it’s just a matter of tone and perspective.

The Leopard 1 in Danish Service is a richly illustrated book, and most pictures (more than 1400) very directly relate to the actual text, as opposed to being more generic accompanying photographs. Understandably, most pictures are of a smaller size, in some case hard to discern. This is due to some pictures having been taken by tankers, thus not always of the highest quality, and because with such a considerable volume of information, larger photographs would have likely meant less content. Beside, Trackpad also publishes an excellent Model Fotofocus book on the Leopard 1A5DK1, so we have access to very extensive detail documentation on the ultimate iteration of Danish Leopard 1s. Personally, I would welcome an In the Field publication that would present those pictures from Sørensen’s book in a larger, full page format, but admittedly it would likely be too redundant to the less passionate to be a viable publishing venture.

All these considerations aside, from a modeling perspective, the book is a truly impressive trove of incredible inspiration, for you get visual and operational references about virtually every single leopard 1-based vehicle in Danish service, running from the early acquisition of 1A3DKs all the way to the development and fielding of the Leopard 1A5DK1, along with Bergepanzer 2, Biber and Wisent.

Structurally, the book is divided in the following chapters:

  1. Choosing the Leopard
  2. Leopard 1A3DK Arrives
  3. Early Operations
  4. Squadron Life
  5. Modifications
  6. Leopard 1A5DK
  7. Peacekeeping Operations
  8. NATO Operations
  9. More Modifications…
  10. Biber AVLP
  11. Bergepanzer 2 ARV
  12. Wisent ARV
  13. Wisent 1 AMCV
  14. Wisent 1 AEV
  15. Training Equipment
  16. Crew Dress
  17. Camouflage…
  18. Transportation
  19. The Royal Leopard
  20. The Funny Side
  21. All Good Things…

Appendix 1 – Vehicle Fates
Appendix 2 – Sources
Appendix 3 – Endnotes
Appendix 4 – About the Author

As the above table of content demonstrates, the book covers pretty much anything there is to be said about Leopard 1-based vehicles in Danish service. The first chapter dealing with the Danish process for choosing the Leopard is quite interesting, for this sort of information isn’t always presented in such detail. The core of the book is made of the operational history of the Leopard 1, from early acquisition to deployments, support vehicles employment and training equipment. The book then finishes off with a series of quick references chapters on crew dress, markings, transportation and a few lighter subjects (including a chapter presenting some goofing around Danish tank crews which provide some pretty funny diorama ideas if that’s your thing).

The only thing that I can think of that is not overly positive about this book is its price. Obviously, a book of this size and quality cannot be cheap, but with the absurd pandemic shipping fees and the low-value Canadian dollars of late, getting this book from Britain comes at the premium cost of about 135 CAD. That is expensive. I am fortunate to have the mean to acquire these premium reference publications, but I know just a couple years back, I would have had to pass, regardless of its indisputable qualities. The bottom line with the value question is always: is it worth it? As a hopeless single malt fan spending way too much on whisky, I have some perspective on the matter, and I will say it is indeed entirely worth the money and I do not regret a single penny spent on the book. But it is indeed pricey.

At the moment of writing this, I don’t know if the book will be formally distributed in North America. I imagine this is less of a concern for my European and British colleagues, with their stronger currency and likely less abusive shipping rates.

Still, Trackpad Publishing must be commended for publishing books of this quality, given the size of this publishing house, which is single-handedly operated by Michael Shackleton as far as I’m aware. The design and overall quality of their book is very high, having absolutely nothing to envy to larger publishing houses. Trackpad doesn’t compromise on quality, accuracy and thoroughness of information. So yeah, understandably, their books are expensive.

Conclusion

As you’d expect, I cannot recommend this book enough to the leopard 1 enthusiast. Admittedly dealing with a niche subject, it is a massive and very thorough study that should definitely find its way on any Leopard 1, NATO or Cold War military history bookshelves. It is richly illustrated with an absurd amount of detailed information coming from an author who have ample first-hand experience with the platform. It provides a very complete operational history along with technical data and an impressive amount of visual references.

Signals Info

Publisher: Trackpad Publishing
Publication Date: 2020
Author: Kim Hartvig Sørensen
ISBN: None. 
SKU: TP012
Format: A4 portrait, 340 pages, more than 1400 pictures.
Trackpad Publishing site.

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