ISU-152 self-propelled gun, Chernobyl, Ukraine

It was designed by the Soviet Union during the Second World War to take on the German Tigers and Panthers.

Today, Chernobyl is remembered as the site of the devastating nuclear accident of April 1986, when one of the area’s power-plant reactors exploded, lethally contaminating the immediate surroundings – as well as much further afield. But the area around Pripyat in Ukraine also saw heavy fighting between German and Soviet forces in 1943, as the USSR slowly and relentlessly rolled back the advances made by the Nazis in the previous two years.

This image depicts a rusting ISU-152 tank. With its prominent 152mm (5.98in) main gun, it was designed by the Soviet Union during the Second World War to take on the German Tigers and Panthers.

It is just one of more than 150 fascinating and eerie images from a new book, compiled by Chris McNab, on abandoned aircraft, tanks, warships, and locations from the biggest conflict in world history.

Fittingly, McNab takes readers right across the globe, exploring crashed American bombers and Japanese anti-aircraft guns in the jungles of New Guinea, sand-covered trucks in the Sahara, and hundreds of aircraft and ships destroyed in Truk Lagoon, the biggest graveyard of ships in the world and now a hugely popular diving site.

While most such relics have been museum pieces since the end of the war, the tank pictured here had a brief, if unfortunate, second life.

After the disaster of 1986, it was reused to help demolish radioactive concrete buildings around the Chernobyl site, in the mistaken belief that the thick armour would protect its crew.

Defeating the Nazis was one thing. Defeating ionising radiation was a whole other matter.

Chris McNab, Abandoned WWII Aircraft, Tanks & Warships (ISBN 978-1838860875) is published by Amber Books Ltd and is available from bookshops and online booksellers (RRP £19.99). Visit www.amberbooks.co.uk for more information.

Text: Calum Henderson 
Image: Dreamstime/Aleksandra Lande