If you have an interest in French AFV's, especially those of the years leading up to France's fall in 1940, you've probably seen the beautiful profiles by Eric Schwartz in issues of "Histoire de Guerre; Blindes et Materiel", Trackstory, Mintracks, etc. of the really colorful and eclectic paint schemes they carried. Seriously, those of us obsessing over the myriad German WW2 armor camouflage schemes should swoon over the huge variety of French ones. If you've read the articles in those same publications you'll have seen Pascal Danjou's name a quite a bit as the author of well researched and highly interesting articles on French pre-war camouflage, along with the definitive books on over a dozen French tanks and other vehicles. Needless to say, combining those two along with Thomas Seignon on a book on French AFV camouflage is highly exciting.
Which is not what we got, exactly. Oh sure, we get over a hundred beautiful profiles of French AFV's and trucks. And yeah, somehow they've found over 30 authentic color photos of WW1 (!), inter-war, and WW2 French vehicles. They also threw in period color chips and the painted camouflage ideas that French artists were tasked with creating in WW1 that led to the concept of French camouflage in case you were interested. They took the time to illustrate the common camouflage patterns for each of the major tank manufacturers (thought you only had to worry about that with German Panther camouflage?). Being kindly sorts of folk, they had Lawrence Brown do a very decent English translation of the text for those of us who are a long way from college French classes.
All of this would make this the go-to reference for those of us who want to paint French AFV's. What was unexpected is that they incorporated all of that into a comprehensive history of the French army's camouflage research and methodology to the present day. Want to know how camouflage was developed? In here. Interested in the bureaucratic infighting that altered the course of French camouflage? Good, because its in here. Interested in methods for large scale camouflage with smoke, high powered lights, and even the plans to create a lit mock Paris to draw away German bombers? Have I got a book for you!
For the price, I would have been happy if it had just been color profiles and descriptive text. That wasn't enough for these authors and it makes this book both a better value but also more broadly interesting to those not just painting models.
For those of us painting French AFV models though, this book is a treasure trove of inspiration. I realize it plays to stereotype but the French camouflage patterns are often simply beautiful to look at. Not just drab greens and dusty browns but light blues, purples, yellows and others. Different patterns on turrets compared to the hulls, horizontal demarcation bands, and so on make even the patterns visually interesting. If you wish to cover your model in netting, they describe the color patterns and even the different methods of weaving material into it so no Model show attendee "expert" can criticize your accuracy!
Now, the book isn't perfect, for one subjective and one objective reason each. Subjectively, the color profiles tend to be small, presumably for reasons of space. While they are perfectly printed they are pretty enough that I really wish they had been larger to look at. Objectively, the period from 1945 to the present day is covered in a mere 20 pages and, while the camouflage was far more straightforward during this period, the text calls out the fact that it was indeed developing and different regional conflicts had unique camouflage methods during that time. These are rather glossed over and while the section is perfectly serviceable it feels lacking in detail compared to the previous 140 pages. These are minor complaints however, this is very valuable book.
If you can't tell, this book impressed me quite a bit. Enough in fact that I would recommend the book even if you have to buy it from the publisher directly. This should be noted because the shipping for the book to the USA isn't much less than the cover price of the book itself! I hope that US suppliers will carry the book to make that a bit more manageable for you.
Highs: Wide ranging and high quality research
Excellent color profiles and photos
A one-stop reference for French AFV camouflage, particularly from 1930-1940Lows: Color profiles are rather small
Not as detailed for post-war camouflage coverage
Expensive shippingVerdict: If you know the authors, you know the quality and the subject matter make this a buy