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.
Date Published :
November 2019
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Illustration :
50 color & b/w photos, 10 color maps, 1 table
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781912174003
Pages : 232
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : Available


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 defense 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, signaling 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.

About The Author

Charles Messenger served for twenty years in the Royal Tank Regiment before retiring to become a military historian and defense analyst. He is the author of some forty books, mainly on twentieth century warfare. Some have been published in several languages and have been widely acclaimed. He has also written and helped to direct several TV documentary series and carried out a large number of historical studies for the Ministry of Defence.


“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 Vehicles

“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

"This book will be of interest to military historians and modelers alike."

- AMPS Indianapolis

“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.”

- Tankette

“As with any good regimental history, there are excellent maps, photographs and appendices……….volume four of the historyof the RTR, is ………, a worthy addition to any military library.”

- Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research

“As one may expect from an historian of the author’s experience and talent, the chapters are well written. They succeed in fulfilling the dual task of informing the interested reader whilst acting as a document of record for the regiment”

- SOFNAM Autumn 2018

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