I have been aware of IBG Models for some time, but I haven’t tried one of their kits, partly because I’m a little daunted by the complexity of some of these. However, I recently saw this kit for sale, and a quick check seems to indicate that while it’s a fair representation of a little-known British tank, it’s not quite as complex as some offerings from this manufacturer.
Polish IBG Models is based in Warsaw and produce a range of over 150 plastic kits including aircraft in 1/72 and 1/32, vehicles in 1/72 and 1/35 and ships in 1/700. Many IBG kits represent little-known subjects – what about a Strdvagn M/38 Swedish light tank for example, or the Hungarian Toldi? Some IBG kits have lots of detail and a high part-count including PE parts. A number of their 1/72 AFVs even feature link-and-length tracks, something that I think I’d find very challenging on small AFVs, like for example, the IBG British Universal Carrier at this scale.
However, IBG also currently produce a range of thirteen kits in their World at War series. In these, a short magazine is provided describing the vehicle with a (slightly) simplified fast-build kit. This A9 was first launched in 2020 and is one of three British tanks in this series with the A9 CS and A10 being the other two. All the other World at War kits represent variants of the German Panzer II, III and IV plus a very early StuG III.
I purchased this kit from a Polish distributer (https://www.super-hobby.com/) for a very reasonable €8, though the whole range of 1/72 IBG tank kits only cost around €10-12, which makes them an attractive buy compared to some current Asian kits in the same scale. So, these are cheap, but are they any good? Let’s take a look at the IBG A9…
Up to the mid-1930s, the British War Office designated tanks according to overall weight as Light, Medium or Heavy. After 1936, new designations were introduced: Light Tanks were retained and intended for reconnaissance, Infantry Tanks were heavily armoured, slow-moving and intended to provide direct support to advancing infantry while a completely new class of Cruiser Tanks were to be developed. Cruisers were intended for the roles previously undertaken by cavalry of reconnaissance and exploiting breakthroughs and they were armed to combat enemy tanks (these were also sometimes referred to as “Cavalry Tanks”).
In 1936, the War Office was looking for a replacement for the ageing Vickers Medium Mark II tanks then in service. The engineering conglomerate of Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd. Was approached and asked to produce a design for a “reasonably cheap” Cruiser tank. The new design had to be significantly faster than the Medium Mark II, though as that tank had a top speed in the region of 12mph, that didn’t represent much of a challenge, and it should have a main gun capable of destroying enemy tanks in a revolving, three-man turret.
An A9 Cruiser Mk I
An initial design proposal was submitted in 1936. This was for a twelve-ton tank using Vickers’ own “slow motion” suspension and powered by a 150hp AEC bus engine. The three-man, hydraulically-powered turret housed what was at that time one of the best available anti-tank weapons, the QF 2-pounder. One odd feature was the provision of two secondary machine gun turrets on the front hull on either side of the driver’s position. These were intended to be permanently manned, giving the new tank a crew of six – three in the main turret, a driver and one gunner for each machine gun turret.
A captured A9 CS version with a QF 3.7-inch howitzer in the turret being inspected by German troops, France, 1940.
To keep weight down and top speed up, armour thickness was limited to a maximum of 14mm of rivetted plate. The new tank was given the war office designation Cruiser Tank Mk I, A9. An order for 125 was placed in late 1937 and the first examples were delivered to the British Army in January 1939. Around 40 were the CS (Close Support) variant which was identical other than that the QF 2-Pounder turret gun was replaced with a QF 3.7-inch howitzer. When the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was sent to France following the outbreak of was in September 1939, the 1st Armoured Division was equipped with more than twenty A9s. These proved less than satisfactory in service. The interior of the tank was very cramped, the engine struggled to provide adequate speed, thrown tracks were a frequent issue and, when they met German armour in combat, the machine gun turrets were found to provide a lethal shot-trap.
An A9 in the Western desert, 1941. This is also the CS version.
Following the fall of France in May 1940, 70 A9s were shipped to Egypt where they took part in fighting against Italian and later German forces in North Africa. Some of those A9s were sent to Greece to take part in the British attempt to halt the German invasion of that country, but all were lost. By the end of 1941, the A9 had been replaced by newer designs and the few remaining in service were relegated to a training role. The lower hull and suspension of the A9 was used for the Valentine Infantry Tank Mk III which entered service in 1940.
What’s in the Box?
This comes as a magazine with the model kit attached. The magazine itself is fairly brief, with just 12 pages presented in two languages (English and German). There is good background information on the development of the A9, its equipment and the use of this tank in combat in France and North Africa (though there is no mention of the use of the A9 in Greece) including photographs and colour drawings. A section on markings and colour schemes is helpful and accurate, though it might have been useful to include a drawing of the “Caunter” scheme described in the text. No scale is mentioned on the front of the box or in the magazine, but this appears to be a fairly accurate 1/72 representation of the A9. The box identifies this as an A9 with a “ZPDR” gun, but this is a typo – this kit represents the initial version of the A9 with the QF 2-Pounder gun.
The kit box contains five sprues containing 52 parts moulded in light grey plastic plus decals. No instructions are provided, but a simplified construction guide is provided in the magazine.
First impressions are that surface detail looks very good. There are lots of rivets here and they are nicely done without being overscale. The use of slide moulding means that the muzzle of the 2-pounder gun and the exhaust are open – no drilling required! The main turret hatch is a separate part and the shovel and crowbar on the right are also moulded separately. One notable thing is that the plastic used seems quite soft and the attachment points are fairly thick, so some care will be required when removing small parts from the sprues.
The tracks, roadwheels, idlers, return rollers and sprockets are moulded as a single part for each side, though the suspension bogies are separate parts. The tracks themselves are the only place where detail is a little disappointing. The A9 had rectangular openings in the external faces of the track plates which aren’t shown here, there is a distinct moulding seam on the outside of the tracks and on the inside, the track horns are moulded as solid blocks where they are visible between the roadwheels. The radio antenna also looks rather overscale, but otherwise everything looks nicely detailed and accurate. No figures or stowage items are included.
Oddly, the decal sheet does not provide markings for the tank of A Squadron 3rd Royal Tank Regiment as depicted on the front of the box and magazine. Instead, one set of markings are provided for an HQ tank of 5th Royal Tank Regiment, 1st Armoured Division, in France in 1940. A suggested colour scheme for this tank is included in the magazine and on the rear of the kit box. However, this appears to show a green base with a brown camouflage pattern. I would guess that this is a printing issue and the usual colour scheme for the tanks of the BEF was a base of Khaki Green G3 overlaid with a hard-edged disrupter camouflage pattern of Dark Green No.4. This is correctly described in the magazine.
The magazine also includes a view of an A9 in overall “Light Stone,” as applied to British tanks in North Africa. No decals are provided to go with this scheme, but as many British tanks used in the early stages of fighting in North Africa seem to have lacked markings, this isn’t a major issue. If you do choose to model an A9 in North Africa, the distinctive three-colour “Caunter” scheme was also used on British tanks in 1940-41. This uses a base of Light Stone with a hard-edged pattern in Silver Grey and Slate. If my masking skills were better, I think I’d be tempted to try this scheme on this kit. But they aren’t, so I’ll probably stick with the simpler khaki/dark green camouflage as used by the BEF in France.
Would You Want One?
This looks like a reasonably detailed and accurate representation of the A9 even if the track detail is rather simplified. As far as I am aware, there are no replacement tracks available in 1/72, and even if there were, you’d have to somehow separate the sprockets, idlers, roadwheels and return rollers from the existing tracks. One (expensive) option would be to use the running gear and very detailed and accurate link-and-length tracks from the Italeri (ex-Esci) Valentine Mk I to improve this kit, though as that Italeri kit is now discontinued, it won’t be easy to find.
If you do want to build a small-scale A9, your choices are very limited. IBG also offer the CS version of the A9 as part of their World at War series. This is essentially identical to the kit reviewed here other than for the provision of a QF 3.7-inch howitzer in the turret. IBG also offer an A10, essentially an A9 without the machine gun turrets, in desert configuration.
The only other option is the Plastic Soldier Company who offer the A9 in 1/72 as a pack of three tanks with alternate parts to build the A9, A9 CS and the A9 with desert sand-shields. Like this kit, the PSC kits include simplified tracks moulded as a single part with the sprockets, roadwheels, return rollers and idlers. Detail on the PSC kits is fair, though not perhaps quite as refined as this IBG kit, though it does also include stowage items and commander figures appropriate for both European and African theatres, but no decals are provided.
IBG Models 1/72 A9 British Cruiser Tank Mk.I with 2 pdr Gun (WAW011) Build Review – coming soon