All posts by stevemacg

Scooby Doo Haunted House – Part 2

It’s time to start building my haunted house diorama. I’m going borrower-style here, using as far as possible stuff I find around the house and elsewhere. I begin with a rough sketch of what I’m trying to build.

The finished room will have just three walls – the front will be left open. The rear wall will be fixed in place and the two side walls will be removable. I guess what I’m trying to build here is a kind of miniature film set and the removable walls will allow me to more easily take pictures looking into the room from the eye-level of the Playmobil characters.

The starting point is an old noticeboard, 30cm x 40cm.

The walls will be 8.5 inches (215mm) high, which feels about right as a two-story structure for figures around 3 inches (75mm) tall. I drill out holes in the base and add six removable wooden dowels that will help to support the walls.

Next, I begin work on the floor. This is made from two layers of card, the lower one black and the upper yellow.

I’m planning to include secret areas and clues for Scoob and Shaggy to discover. The first is a secret trapdoor in the floor that will be hidden by a rug – the black card is used to suggest a dark area below the main floor.

Then, I use a black marker pen to add cartoon-style floorboards and the structure of the trapdoor. The trapdoor is held in place with simple sticky-tape hinges.

I also add steps leading down into a hidden area below the trapdoor – acrylic washes are used on pale card to mimic steps disappearing into the darkness. This is my first chance to see how the figures will look in-situ and I’m fairly happy with the result.

With the floor done, it’s time to start working on the walls. I begin with the wall on the left side that includes the front door. All the walls will be constructed by gluing thin coloured cartridge paper to thicker scrap card taken from a discarded box. Then, details will be added.

This is the completed left side wall with door, windows, skirting-board and ceiling moulding. All colours are either acrylic washes or felt pen to give bright colours and that cartoon feel and the details are cut out of thin card and glued to the wall. I don’t need to make the front door open so it’s just fixed in place.

With the characters in position it looks OK, though a little tall. That’s because this is the only wall that won’t feature a first-floor level.

Next is the fixed back wall which is created in the same way. The lower right portion of this wall will be hidden by the staircase and the lower left features an opening secret door that will be hidden by a dresser. The upper part of the wall will feature a non-opening door accessible from the first-floor level, but I’ll add that later when the first floor level is done.

And with the characters in place…

Then it’s on the third and final wall. This includes two windows, one on the ground floor and one on the first. 

With that done, the basic structure of my Scooby Doo set is complete.

In the next part, I’ll be building the staircase and the first floor and adding all the details.

Related posts

Scooby Doo Haunted House – Part 1

Scooby Doo Haunted House – Part 3 coming soon

Scooby Doo Haunted House

Zoinks gang! It’s time for a very different bit of modelling to start off 2022. I mentioned in my last post (a review of a set of 1/35 German infantry from 1914) that I was getting a bit jaded in my kit building. My jadedness (is that even a word?) was increased when I messed up a shadow wash while painting those figures and ended up dumping the all-black figures in the bin. Sigh…

So, I’m now going to attempt something very different indeed. It’s a kind of, sort of, vignette in approximately 1/24 scale featuring Scooby Doo and friends. No tanks, no military stuff at all, and not a kit in sight… This is just about nostalgia-fuelled fun. I hope!

OK, now that most of my regulars have gone elsewhere for their fix of regular military-themed kit-building, what’s this new project all about?

Background

Way back in July 1969, man first walked on the Moon. Which I, as a ten-year-old, regarded as surpassingly cool and exciting. But just two months later, something else happened that had a huge effect on my pre-teen self: the very first episode of a new kid’s cartoon series, Scooby Doo: Where Are You? launched on CBS. Produced by  Hanna-Barbera, the show featured a truly Gothic aesthetic supported by wonderful painted backgrounds (even if some of the foreground animations were a little creaky).

How can you not love this? Like most of the art from Series 1, this painting was created by Walt Peregoy, a background artist who had previously worked for Disney.

The show was produced in an attempt to create a non-violent kid’s show that would avoid the criticism that many existing superhero series were attracting from parent’s and media groups. The outcome was utterly formulaic: in each of the 17 episodes of the first series, the four teenage protagonists (Velma, Daphne, Shaggy and Fred) plus their Great Dane Scooby Doo would turn up at a new location in the Mystery Machine.

When the Mystery Machine arrives in town, bad things are going to happen…

They would encounter some sort of paranormal (ghosts, zombies, etc.) or cryptid (Yeti, sea monster, etc.) problem. The gang would uncover clues and set a fiendishly complicated trap (that usually failed) before finally discovering that the ghost/monster was really a baddie in disguise. Nothing startling really, but the atmosphere (at least until the final unmasking) was rather dark and scary for a kid’s show.

Another of Walt Peregoy’s wonderful backgrounds

There were jump scares, a brooding atmosphere of menace and lots of scary establishing shots. As a ten-year-old, I found some of the episodes genuinely scary. But here’s the thing: I love the horror genre, whether it’s books, movies or television. I’m certain that my enthusiasm for this began with Scooby Doo and I still retain fond feelings for the original couple of series (but not anything that features Scrappy Doo, OK?). You could argue, if you were so inclined, that these cartoons introduced a new generation (including yours truly) to the tropes of Gothic horror – from a creepy house on a remote island to an abandoned airfield, all were laden with dread and the unspoken promise of very bad things.

If you want to remind yourself about just how great the early episodes were, the YouTube video below provides the first five minutes of the very first episode of Scooby Doo: Where Are You? from 1969, What a night for a Knight.

The Plan

Jump forward over fifty years and I was in a toyshop in a large town. I was hoping they might stock model kits (they didn’t) and instead I found myself captivated by a new range from Playmobil featuring the characters from the original series of Scooby Doo. I grew to love Playmobil when my kids were growing up – the sheer quality and diverse design of everything they make really impressed me. The combination of Playmobil and Scooby Doo was almost irresistible, but my kids are now rather too grown up to appreciate these as presents and as yet, there is no sign of grandchildren to allow me to indulge my joy in train sets and Scalextric.

My latest kit failure made me think about this again. Of course, I could simply buy the Playmobil Scooby Doo Haunted Mansion, but where’s the challenge in that? Would it be possible instead to use the Playmobil characters in a home-made haunted house that reflected the cartoon aesthetic of the original? Could this then be used as the basis for a series of photographs that can be presented as a comic-strip or even a video? Essentially, can I make a new episode of Scooby Doo using these models?

That’s a lot of questions and I really don’t know the answer to any of them. I’m not even sure whether this represents revisiting my childhood or the first signs of approaching dementia. And I don’t really care, I am looking forward to something that’s a little more light-hearted than my usual modelling subject. There’s a fair bit of work involved, so I’ll be updating progress in several parts. If I ever get the comic strip/video done, I’ll post that here too. Let’s start by looking at the cast for my new episode.

The Cast

Playmobil offer all the main characters from the original Scooby Doo as well as most of the monsters/ghosts from the early series. The monsters are particularly nicely done, because all can be revealed as being other characters in disguise…

I want to keep it as simple as possible, so I went for set 70287, Scooby and Shaggy with Ghost. This provides the figures fof Scooby Doo and Shaggy as well as a third character who can wear a glow-in-the-dark ghost outfit. I would have liked to have the other members of the gang, but they are only available as a large set that includes the Mystery Machine.

Scooby and Shaggy are presented in the traditional Playmobil semi-cartoon style and the ghost is particularly nicely done with a separate hood (complete with eye-holes) that can be removed to reveal the person underneath. It really does glow in the dark too, and how many 1/72 tanks can you say that about…

There are also some accessories including a bag of Scooby Snacks, a flashlight, a burger and a lead (though I can’t remember Scooby ever being on a lead in the series).

The next step will be to start to create the haunted house set and I’m looking forward to it. What do you think? Am I losing my mind or would you also like to try something completely different in terms of model-building? Stay tuned for the next thrilling instalment…  

Related Posts

Scooby Doo Haunted House – Part 2

ICM 1/35 WW I German Infantry (1914) (35679) In-Box Review

It’s been a while since the last post, mainly because real life has managed to get in the way of my kit-building, as it has a nasty habit of doing. I also took a break because I was getting a little jaded. I had been focusing on 1/72 armour, and I came to realise that, while I really enjoy painting and finishing my kits, I really can’t be bothered with fiddly construction that involves lots of tiny parts (IBG Renault FT17, I’m looking at you…).

So, I wanted to try something a little different that involves simple construction but lots of painting. That’ll be figures, then. I did enjoy building a diorama from a Tamiya 1/35 Pak35 which came with figures, but that kit dates from the early 1970s and the quality of the included figures wasn’t great. So, I wanted to try something more modern to see how quality has improved. I also fancy a change from the World War Two period and I was therefore happy to find this 1/35 kit of figures from World War One at a local stockist for less than €10. 

This is one of a number of 1/35 scale figure kits released by Ukrainian manufacturer ICM in 2014 to mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War One. Other sets in the series include infantry of a number of other nations and from various periods during that conflict, tank crews and machine guns. This appears to be one of the most comprehensive collections of World War One figures currently available and it’s refreshing to find a manufacturer covering something other than ubiquitous subjects from World War Two.

I haven’t tried an ICM kit before, so I’m keen to find out if this offering is worth having or one to avoid. Let’s take a look…   

History

The Imperial German Army in 1914, like the armies of many other nations, was going through a period of transition in terms of equipment and uniforms.

A colourised contemporary image showing troops of the 106th Reserve Infantry Regiment in 1914.

Most infantry units used the 1910 Feldgrau uniform incorporating a grey tunic with red piping on the collar, front, rear and cuffs and exposed silver or gold buttons. The grey trousers also featured red piping on the outside of each leg. Soldiers were provided with a Model 1895 Tornister, a wooden-framed backpack faced in hair-covered cow or horse-skin and usually surrounded by a folded greatcoat and blanket.

A 1914 German uniform on display at the National World War I Museum in Kansas City, MO. The helmet cover at bottom left has the later green regimental number.

Boots were hobnailed, calf-length jackboots, usually in black for officers and brown for other ranks. The standard helmet was the Model 1895 Pickelhaube, a leather or enamelled tin helmet featuring a distinctive spike that also provided ventilation. In the field, the shiny helmet was usually covered with an Überzug, a close-fitting cloth cover. The regimental number was shown on the front of the cover for most units. Initially this took the form of red, felt numbers stitched on to the cover but from later in 1914 these were replaced with green numerals.

A modern recreation of the 1914 German uniform.

The standard infantry weapon was the Gewehr 98 rifle manufactured by Mauser. This is a very, very brief overview of standard German unform in 1914. Even to use the term “standard” is a little misleading: certain units (Guards Regiments, for example) had detail differences in unform and even some infantry regiments from various parts of Germany used different types of uniform and weapons at the outbreak of war.

What’s in the Box?

The box contains just three sprues, and two of those are identical! There is no PE here and no decals, which I for one find rather refreshing.

The main sprue contains the parts for four figures: one officer and three other ranks.

Detail is good and all the figures wear a pretty good representation of the 1914 uniform. There appears to be almost no flash at all. There are some moulding seams, but these seem to be minimal and often on areas that won’t be visible when the figures are completed. On each figure, the arms, legs, and head and neck are separate from the torso. Even each Pickelhaube helmet and spike are provided as separate parts.

The faces look good to me. They aren’t particularly expressive, but each is distinct and different with two displaying appropriate period moustaches. It’s interesting to compare these to the Tamiya figures from the 1970s which were the last 1/35 figures I attempted. These are just much, much better, particularly in terms of having detailed and appropriately sized hands – no bunches of banaas here! Overall, these figures look very good.

The other two identical sprues contain a wealth of weapons and equipment, though most aren’t appropriate for figures representing soldiers from 1914. On these sprues, for example, you’ll find eight examples of the later M1916 steel helmet as well as a heavy machine gun, an anti-tank gun, a selection of grenades and pistols and even an early submachine gun, but most of these just don’t apply to these early-war figures.

What you do get is sufficient numbers of the Gewehr 98 rifle to equip each of the three other-ranks with a rifle either with or without a bayonet. Though if you choose to show rifles with bayonets attached, you’ll have to remember to remove the handle of the bayonet from its scabbard. The bolts of the rifles are moulded as tiny separate parts though no slings are provided.

Some items display real artistry. On each backpack, for example, the folded greatcoat and blanket are moulded integrally. But each of the three is subtly different in how the creases and folds are shown. Nice touch!

The painting instructions are detailed but, in at least one respect, wrong! Model Master colour references are provided and correctly identify German Uniform Feldgrau for the tunic and Medium Gray for the trousers. However, the colour for the cover of the Pickelhaube helmet, blanket and bread bag are given  as “Pale Green”.

In truth, these items were light brown and washing and exposure to the elements usually rendered them as a light tan colour. That’s an important factor in the look of these early war German infantrymen and it does seem to be wrongly stated here. The box art doesn’t help either as it shows the figures only from the front and with tunic, trousers and helmet cover all in a similar shade of dark grey.     

Would You Want One?                                                                                                   

Overall, these figures look very good. There is nice detail here and it all seems appropriate and plausible. The only thing that I can see which isn’t included are slings for the rifles. I quite like having a kit where I don’t have to worry about decals, but having said that, I can’t help but think that decals for the regimental numbers on the helmet covers might have been nice,

Of course, part of how the finished figures look depends on how natural and lifelike (or otherwise) their poses look, and that’s something that won’t be apparent until these are assembled. However, my first impression is that this would be a good place to start if you’re planning a collection of early war figures from 1914.

It’s lucky that these are good because surprisingly (at least, it was to me) there isn’t actually a great deal of choice if you want to make German infantry in 1/35 from 1914. Revell offer a set of German, French and British infantry from 1914, but these are actually just a re-box of these ICM figures. Emhar and others produce sets that include German infantry from World War One, but all appear to be from later periods.

MasterBox did a set of resin 1/35 early war German infantry, but those do not seem to be currently available. M-Model also offer several sets of resin figures from World War One that include German infantry, but all appear to be from later periods. So, as far as I’m aware, this appears to be your only option if you want a mass-produced, injection-moulded 1/35 kit of early war German infantry.  

Related Posts

Tamiya 1/35 3.7cm Antitank Gun PaK 35/36 (35035) Build Review

Airfix Matilda Hedgehog (AO2335V) conversion to A12 Matilda II Mk I. Part 2: Hull, Turret and Painting

Hull

I start with the simple changes needed to the upper hull, which I’ll be doing before I glue the upper hull piece to the sides and rear. On the front, the left-hand mounting hole for the headlight needs to be filled and sanded flat.

On the rear, the exhaust stub on the right-hand side needs to be cut off and sanded flat and the right-hand cut-out in the rear hull should be filled.

Neither is particularly difficult and this doesn’t take long. I also add a little filler on the inside of the curved driver’s access hatch because there are some gaps there.

Then, the upper hull is joined to the rear, sides and base.

Now, I can start building the rear skid. This is what I’m aiming for.

By referring to several photographs, I am able to work out the overall dimensions of the skid. By my calculation, at 1/76 scale the skid should be 12mm wide, 9mm deep, should project 10mm beyond the rear of the upper hull and the angle of the top and bottom surfaces of the skid should be at a slightly steeper angel than the rear hull deck. Something like the sketch below – when I’m building something completely new, even something as simple as this tail skid, I find it helpful to start with a drawing of some sort. The overall length of the skid side plates and the angle of their front edges won’t be known until I see how it’s going to fit to the rear hull, so I’ll make them oversize and cut them down as required to fit. As long as the rear edge of the completed skid ends up projecting around 10mm from the rear edge of the upper hull and at a suitable angle, I think it should look OK.

I then build the basic structure out of pieces thin plastic card. The curved section is created by wrapping a strip of plastic card round a circular pen of the correct diameter, then placing this in very hot water. When it’s cool, it retains the curve. Here’s the finished skid, trimmed and ready to fit. You’ll note that, to get the correct angle, the front edges of the skid are actually vertical, not angled as I thought they would be.

I then add a couple of internal stiffening plates which can be seen on the original and mount the skid on the rear hull. I also try the re-routed exhaust in place, and it fits fairly well. I won’t fix it in place yet to make painting easier. The exhaust on the opposite side will emerge from under the hull and enter the opposite side of the skid.

I add the last few bits and pieces to the hull, and it’s complete.

Turret

I begin by attaching the Vickers mantlet from the IBG Cruiser Mk. I to the Airfix mantlet. I re-shape the Airfix mantlet to a more rounded shape and the new Vickers gun fits well. I also use the 2-Pdr. barrel from the IBG kit because it’s better detailed than the Airfix version.

I then assemble the turret and add the mantlet. Fit is pretty good with only a dab of filler needed at the bottom corners of the mantlet cover.

I then complete the turret with the minor addition of a spotlight on the commander’s cupola.

And with that, construction of the BEF Matilda II Mk. I is complete apart from the exhaust, some final sanding of filled areas and the addition of a couple of rectangular plates on the rear hull to cover the location points for the long range fuel tank which wasn’t used on BEF tanks. That really wasn’t very difficult at all, was it?

Painting

All the tanks of the BEF were painted in what was then the standard British tank scheme – a base of Khaki Green G3 overlaid with a hard-edged disrupter camouflage pattern of Dark Green No.4. I begin by painting the interior of the tail skid (and on reflection, this would have been better painted before it was fitted!), the inside of the mud-chutes on the hull sides and the rollers and running gear in a darker shade of the base colour. Then, the whole thing gets several thinned coats of Vallejo Russian Uniform, my go-to colour for the green used on early-war British tanks. I then add the disruptive camo pattern using a mix of Vallejo Dark Grey and Olive Green.

I then add drybrushed highlights on to both camo colours and paint the tools and spare track links.

Then it’s time to consider the decals. Obviously, I don’t have appropriate decals for a tank of 7th RTR in 1940, so I’ll have to do what I can with decals in the spares box to make something that’s representative of a 7th RTR tank in 1940 rather than recreating a specific tank. I add the white recognition squares that were painted on all BEF tanks – these are applied on the hull front, sides and rear.

All 7th RTR tanks had names beginning with the letter “G” (because G is the 7th letter of the alphabet) painted on the hull rear and on one or both angled plates on either side of the hull front. I’m going for “Goat” which was one of the 7th RTR tanks in France. I add the War Office Census numbers (the letter “T” followed by four to seven digits) on the angled hull front. I mock these up as best I can, though the WD number is incorrect for this particular tank – I just didn’t have the appropriate tiny white numbers.

All early war British tanks also carried a standard civilian number plate – it’s on the right rear trackguard on the Matilda II. These were black with white lettering, and I just don’t have small enough numbers and letters to add here, so I just place some white numbers as a representation. I may come back to this if I find appropriately small white numbers and letters.

The tracks are the next problem. The tracks fitted to early Matilda IIs were a standard and distinctive Vickers design with each link comprising a single stamped piece with an open area consisting of two linked crosses, as you can see below.

The IBG tracks are the right overall shape, but they completely lack the open areas in the centre. I spend a lot of fruitless time thinking about how to modify the tracks, but in the end I settle for the simplest solution. I paint the tracks a fairly light grey, than I draw the on the open areas using a black market pen. I then overpaint with a thinned coat of dark grey. This is the result.

The darker areas don’t show up particularly well in this photo, but they are there and just about discernible on the model. Then, I finish off the tracks with some drybrushing in light gunmetal and then give them an overall thinned acrylic brown wash. Then, I paint and add the exhausts. The re-routed exhausts fit fairly well.

Then I give everything a coat of clear varnish before the last step – a wash of dark grey oil to bring out the shadows and make everything look a bit grubby. And that’s it done…

After Action Report

It’s been a very long time since I attempted a conversion, and I’m fairly happy with how this turned out. The plastic card suspension bogies and skid look all right (though I think that even thinner plastic card for the skid might have looked better) and the bits and pieces taken from the IBG Cruiser fit fairly well. My attempts to detail the tracks haven’t really worked at all, though these are still closer than the Airfix tracks. I like to have had more accurate markings, but I’m constrained by what I had in the spares box.

This old Airfix kit isn’t too bad in terms of detail and fit. I like the fact that you can build this as an original Matilda II rather than the Hedgehog variant if you choose, though of course doing that means that you will lack suitable decals whatever version you choose to build. And 1/76 decals are relatively hard to find compared to those for 1/72 kits…

Overall, this was a fun conversion and a simple build, and there just aren’t many small-scale kits of original Matilda IIs as used by the BEF, which makes the conversion feel useful.

Related Posts

Airfix Matilda Hedgehog (AO2335V) conversion to A12 Matilda II Mk I. Part 1: Suspension and Tracks

Airfix Matilda Hedgehog (AO2335V) In-box Review and History – coming soon

Airfix Matilda Hedgehog (AO2335V) conversion to A12 Matilda II Mk I. Part 1: Suspension and Tracks

Time for something new here on Model Kit World. This is the first of an occasional series of conversion build reviews where I attempt to convert a kit into something a little different. These will be more detailed than my usual build reviews, showing a step-by-step guide to what I have done in case anyone else fancies doing the same.

In this conversion, I want to try to change an Airfix 1/76 Matilda Hedgehog into a Matilda II Mk I as used by 7th Royal Tank Regiment (RTR) in France in 1939/40. I would rather have purchased a base Airfix Matilda II, but it seems that kit is now discontinued. It seems that the only currently available kit featuring the Airfix Matilda is the Hedgehog variant, a version with a rocket launcher on the rear hull. Happily, this kit contains the complete original kit with an extra sprue for the Hedgehog launcher. The launcher simply fits over the rear hull and there are no new mounting holes or anything else. So, if you want to build a basic Matilda II from the Hedgehog kit, all you have to do is ignore the parts for the launcher (and find some new decals). Even the long-range rear fuel tank and mountings, which you can’t use if you fit the Hedgehog launcher, are still provided.

I want to convert this:

Into this, an A12 Matilda II of the BEF in France in 1940.

Although it isn’t explicitly stated, the Airfix kit probably represents an A12 Matilda II Mk. II or later. The most obvious visual change from the original version was replacing the co-axial Vickers water-cooled machine gun with an air-cooled BESA machine gun. Initially I thought that all that would be required was to create a co-axial Vickers machine gun and a new paint scheme. However a bit of research (and you do need to do a fair amount of research for any conversion) suggests that there are actually several changes needed.

Obviously, the co-axial machine gun mount will have to be changed to the Vickers style, which had its own external mantlet, as shown above.

All the Matilda IIs of 7th RTR in France had their suspension jacked up to increase ground clearance. This pushed the suspension bogies down so that the top of the bogies projected just below the bottom of the side hull plates. This is actually quite a striking change to the way that these Matildas looked and it’s something I will have to address. You can see what I mean on the photo above of a knocked-out BEF Matilda in France. 

All 7th RTR Matildas also had a large tail skid added to the rear of the hull. This was fabricated in the field to improve trench-crossing ability and was made from welded plates of steel. The exhaust silencer was moved inside this skid and the left hand exhaust pipe was re-routed to pass into the left side of this skid while the right hand exhaust was moved to the underside of the hull where it was routed into the right side of the skid. You can see the tail skid and the new exhaust arrangement in the image above of another knocked-out BEF Matilda in France.

The tracks provided with the Airfix Matilda are supposed to be the later tracks fitted to the Mk. II onwards. They aren’t very accurate, but the first models of Matilda II were fitted with a completely different style of track, which you can also see above. The Airfix tracks don’t look anything like those. Finally, all the first batch of Matildas had only a single headlight, mounted on the left side of the front hull. There are other detail differences, but at this scale, these are the only five visual changes that I’ll be trying to make to the Airfix kit.

I’ll be scratch-building most of the new bits, with a couple of exceptions where I’ll be using the Vickers machine gun mantlet and tracks from a previously completed RPM Cruiser Mark I. That’s in 1/72 scale rather than 1/76, but the difference is so small that I don’t think it will be noticeable.

Suspension

The first step is building new suspension bogies which can be placed lower than those on the kit. Here’s the starting point.

As you can see, the bogies are moulded-in parts of the hull sides. They’re also the wrong shape. This detail from a drawing of a BEF Matilda II Mk. I shows what I’m aiming for.

The first step is to remove the existing bogies and sand the inner hull side smooth.

Then, I make twenty bogie plates from thin plastic card. The ten that will go on the outside get bolts (carefully cut off a 1/35 kit) and lightening holes. Some of which are almost in the right place… The inner plates won’t really be visible on the finished model, so I leave them plain.

Then, I attach the rollers from the kit (minus the mounting spindles) on to the bogie plates and add a small mounting strip of plastic card.

Then, these are fixed to the outer hull plate, to which a thin strip of plastic card has already been added. You do have to be careful to replicate the location and spacing of the original bogies. It all looks a bit messy from the inside, but this won’t be seen when it’s complete.

From the outside it looks all right. Here’s one modified and one original outer hull plate.

Then, the sprocket, idler, jockey wheel and internal bogie plates are added and the inner and outer hull side halves are joined.

And this is where I end up – with two completed hull side assemblies with modified suspension bogies.

Tracks

I’ll be using the tracks from the 1/72 RPM Cruiser Tank Mk. I. These are visually much closer to the tracks fitted to the first Matilda IIs, and I think that perhaps they can be enhanced even more at the painting stage. The only problem is, these are hard plastic tracks that are moulded with the sprocket, idler, roadwheels and return rollers modelled integrally. Time to get the files out… Here’s the starting point.

First, I cut off the roadwheels, sprocket, etc.  

Then, I cut sections off the track and bend and file until they fit the Matilda running gear.

Then, I join and blend the sections and this is what I end up with. Certainly not perfect, but I think it’s better than using the inaccurate Airfix tracks.

Of course, this approach means that I’ll have to paint the tracks, rollers, etc. in-situ, but I can live with that if the result is better-looking and more accurate tracks.

And in the next thrilling episode, I’ll be tackling the hull and turret. See you then!

Related Posts

Airfix Matilda Hedgehog (AO2335V) conversion to A12 Matilda II Mk I. Part 2: Hull, Turret and Painting

Airfix Matilda Hedgehog (AO2335V) In-box Review and History – coming soon

RPM 1/72 Renault FT Char Cannon with Berliet Turret (72204) Build Review

I’m not by nature a giver-upper, dear readers, in fact persistence is one of my few positive personality traits.  But I came very close to abandoning this build. In many ways, this is a horrible kit. There are lots of tiny parts, fit is variable, mouldings aren’t particularly sharp, the plastic used is brittle and attachment to the sprues is very clumsy indeed which makes it virtually certain that you are going to snap a fair number of parts just getting them off the sprue. This isn’t a happy story…

I began by building the turret and the hull. Neither are pleasant experiences. Several parts snapped as they were being removed from the sprue, fit was pretty dreadful with many parts needing to be sanded before they will fit and filler needed to cover the worst of the gaps. It took more than ten minutes with a circular file before I could even get the turret to fit in opening in the hull. The finished items are pretty rough and more sanding and filling will be required.

Some of the mouldings are also incomplete. The circled area above shows a part of the lower hull that is missing, and I used the better of the two hull halves here. The others were much worse. This area will be hidden by the suspension and running gear, but still, this isn’t good.

Then, I start on the suspension. Assembling this is no problem, provided that you have the eyesight of a falcon and the manual dexterity of a brain surgeon. I have neither and I struggled. Part of the issue is that many of the parts are just stupidly small. Here, for example is one of the upper return roller assemblies. There are 15 parts here and yes, that is a normal sized matchstick.

Several of the mouldings aren’t great. Here, for example is one of the lower running-gear side plates. As you can see, three of the nine holes that are used to mount the roadwheels aren’t there at all and two are only partly formed. All the other three plates were similar, and all need to be drilled out, even the holes that are there because they’re too small to fit the tiny axles on the roadwheels.

Here are the upper and lower assemblies complete. It took some time to get to this point, but there are still lots of parts to add. Several other mounting holes were not formed and had to be drilled, and the location of parts like the main support for the upper assembly is not clear.

Finally, I got the whole assembly done for both sides, and I tried one of the tracks in place, using a drill bit in place of the rear spindle. At least the tracks aren’t too tight, because the whole assembly is very fragile.

Then, I join the two completed assemblies to the hull, and even that isn’t easy. These units don’t attach direct to the hull, but are attached via a fragile spindle that projects from the hull at the rear and a single equally fragile suspension unit at the front that fixes to the top and bottom of the suspension. It’s extremely difficult to get both joined so that they are even approximately in the right place. On reflection, I would have been better to have left the suspension assemblies off until I had finished painting, but I just work round that.

And with that, main assembly is done. And what long and a frustrating task it was! Each running gear assembly contains almost fifty parts, most of them tiny. Getting small parts off the sprues intact is a challenge, and several important mounting holes just aren’t there. In total, there are close to 150 parts on the hull running gear and turret on a completed model that’s barely two inches long. This was not a fun build. But, at least it’s almost done. Only the exhaust and tools are left off for the moment and I can finally begin painting.

I’m aiming for a Polish tank from around 1933. I start with a base of several thin coats of Vallejo Dark Yellow, which seems a fairly close match for the light sand colour used on Polish tanks.

Then I add a simple green/brown camo scheme using Vallejo Russian Uniform and Tamiya Flat Earth. It seems that Polish tanks didn’t use standard, defined schemes, so I guess this is plausible.

Then I do some drybrushing in highlighted versions of the base colours. I also use a permanent marker to add a black line between the camo colours. This only seems to have been done on Polish AFVs for a couple of years, and they had reverted to a more standard three-colour scheme by the time that the war began. I just like this scheme and I wanted to see how using the marker worked. It’s far from perfect, but I’m quite happy with the overall look when it’s done.

I’m not using any of the provided decals. None are appropriate for a Polish tank from the 1930s, and most images seem to show that Polish tanks of that period didn’t carry any markings at all. It all gets a coat of varnish and a grey oil wash which helps to deepen the shadows and make the drybrushed highlights stand out.

The last parts to be added are the tools and the exhaust. And while cutting them off the sprue, the axe breaks into two parts and the shovel into three. Which rather sums this kit up. Ambition is high and separate tools are good, but not if they can’t be removed from the sprues without damage. I manage to repair the broken parts and add them to the kit.

All that now remains are the tracks. These get a base coat of Vallejo dark grey, then light gunmetal highlights on the treads and then a brown acrylic wash. You do have to be very careful when fitting the tracks, because the whole suspension, running gear, sprocket, idler assembly is very fragile indeed. With the tracks on, this kit is finally complete.

After Action Report

If you enjoy sanding, filling, drilling and repairing parts so tiny that they’re barely visible to the naked eye, you may enjoy this kit. If like me you appreciate a simple build and good fit, then you may want to look elsewhere. This tiny kit includes something in the region of 150 parts in a finished model that’s barely two inches long. In some ways, that suggests a commendable quest for detail and accuracy. In other ways, it suggests that this is a complete pain in the ass to build.

As you can probably guess, I didn’t enjoy this build. Actually, I really, really didn’t enjoy it at all. Parts that are very difficult to get off the sprue without damage combined with indifferent fit and poor mouldings make for hard work, especially when the parts involved are so small. The finished model looks sort of OK, though the fact that it has such fine detail does make the fat tracks look a little odd.

I certainly won’t be rushing to buy another RPM kit, no matter how cheap, though I hear that some of their other subjects are better done and easier to build. I guess it depends what you’re looking for. I like simple builds and good fit so that I can focus on painting. If you enjoy the challenge of a difficult-to-build kit that requires lots of effort, you might just enjoy this one.

Related posts

RPM 1/72 Renault FT Char Cannon with Berliet Turret (72204) In-Box Review and History

RPM 1/72 Renault FT Char Cannon with Berliet Turret (72204) In-box Review and History

I haven’t tried a kit by Polish manufacturer RPM before, so I when I saw this one for less than €6, I couldn’t resist. I have looked at several reviews of the range of Renault FT kits introduced by RPM from 2002, and I have been put off by descriptions of difficult assembly, crude moulding and horrible tracks. But at that price, I felt it was worth a punt.

So, is this really a terrible kit, or is it worth your time and money? Let’s take a look…

History

The tank that has become generally known as the FT-17 was designed and produced by the Société des Automobiles Renault, one of the largest pre-war French manufacturers of automobiles.  Deliveries to the French Army began in late 1917, with a total of over 2,500 produced before the end of World War One in November 1918. This was the first production tank with its main armament mounted in a revolving turret and it was produced in two main variations: the char mitrailleuse armed with a Hotchkiss 8mm machine gun and the char cannon armed with a Puteaux SA 18, 37mm, single-shot, breech-loading cannon. Two different styles of turret were used on both versions. A cast, circular turret, known as the Girod turret was the most common, but many of these tanks were provided with a polygonal Berliet turret constructed from riveted steel plates.

American FTs in 1918

Something that has led to great deal of debate is just what the letters “FT” stand for. The answer is: they don’t stand for anything. This was an internal project code used by Renault. The previous project was “FS” and the next “FU,” and so on. This tank was initially given the designation Automitrailleuse à chenilles Renault FT modèle 1917 (Armoured car with tracks Renault FT Model 1917) and during World War One, it was simply known as the “Char Renault FT.” After the war, it came to be called the FT-17, and that is how it is generally known now, even though that was never a formal designation. 

French FTs, still being used in 1940

In terms of production and sales, the Renault FT was one of the most successful tanks not just of World War One, but during the inter-war period. In America, around one thousand examples of a licence-built copy of the FT, the M1917 Light Tank, were manufactured and remained in US Army service until the 1930s. Large numbers of this tank were exported from France to countries around the world including Poland, Italy, Spain, Russia, Japan and Brazil. It was still in service in France in limited numbers by the beginning of World War Two and it was used during that conflict by Poland, Finland, Greece, Romania and Yugoslavia. This tank was still being used as a training tank after World War Two in some countries and during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001, a couple of Afghan FTs were discovered in good order by US forces.

Czech FTs in 1928

Following the fall of France on 1940, the Wehrmacht captured over 1,500 FTs. Approximately 750 were used in German service, mainly being used for airfield defence and for police duties in occupied Europe.

For kit-builders, few tanks provide the scope for variations in paint schemes and markings offered by the FT. From the battlefields of World War One, through the Russian Civil War, the Polish-Soviet War, the conflict in Manchuria, the Rif Rebellion in Morocco, the uprising in Italian Libya, the Constitutionalist Revolution in Brazil through to the Second World War, there was barely a conflict in the first half of the 20th century that didn’t feature these tiny tanks.

What’s in the Box?

Quite a lot. There are just two sprues moulded in fairly brittle grey plastic containing over 170 parts, though these clearly include many intended for other versions of the FT.

Surface detail is just about adequate. There is flash here, and some of the mouldings are a little vague, with things like mounting holes not always accurately moulded or even present – on the lower suspension covers, for example, only around half the holes needed to mount the roadwheels are actually present and correctly moulded. Connection with the sprues is a little clumsy too and cutting parts off will require care if they aren’t to be damaged. The roadwheels (below) are tiny and cutting them all off the sprues and removing the flash looks as if it may be a particularly long and tedious job. The return rollers are even smaller…

This kit claims to model an FT-17 with the “Berliet” polygonal turret armed with the 37mm Puteaux gun. However, there are lots of alternate parts on the sprues. For example, there are different types of idler wheel and sprocket, but no information about which you should use for a particular tank. There are also two similar (but not identical) sets of hull halves and front hulls and there appear to be all the parts needed to model the circular Girod turret armed with either the 37mm cannon or the Hotchkiss machine gun as well as the octagonal Berliet turret.

The tools are moulded as separate parts and hull and turret hatches can be modelled open, though there is no internal detail. Some mouldings really aren’t very good at all. On two of the hull halves, the bottom edge is not properly formed and looks as if it has been nibbled by termites (above). The spindle on which the suspension assembly mounts is also snapped off and missing on one of those halves, so I guess I’ll be using the other set of hull halves, even though those aren’t the ones called-out in the instructions.

What about the tracks? I have seen several reviews that claim these are so badly done as to be unusable. For whatever, it’s worth, I disagree. These are vinyl tracks and they look adequately detailed. I’m surprised about this. Some reviews note that the tracks provided with this kit are truly terrible and, squinting at photos of the tracks in those reviews, the tracks I see in the box here do look different and perhaps a little better detailed. I wonder whether RPM have revised these and what I’m seeing is a newer version of the vinyl tracks?

Whatever, these look reasonable in terms of detail, though like most vinyl tracks they’re rather thick,  and they use a similar system to that seen on early Matchbox kits where the tracks are joined using a tab on one end that fits into a hole on the other. I have found that worked very well on the Matchbox kits without the need for any glue and I hope it will here too, though I won’t find out or be certain how these will look until I begin construction.

The instructions seem clear, but all the text is all in Polish. Colour schemes are provided for eight tanks: A US Army tank of the 304th Tank Brigade in 1918, two French Army tanks used on the Western Front in 1918, a tank of the Polish Army used during the Polish-Soviet War in 1920, a tank of the Italian Army used in Libya in 1919, one of the unpainted prototypes used for French Army training (around 150 of these were produced), a tank in German service and a tank with hull number 181 described only as “trial series production.” Three of the colour schemes are illustrated on the back of the box.

Decals are provided for all of these eight tanks. Or at least, I think they are… The backing sheet is white and the white decals provided are virtually invisible in most lighting conditions. The illustration on the back of the box shows what’s there, but that has a blue background. It’s also notable that there is only one piece of carrier film that covers all the decals, so these will have to be carefully trimmed. If you can see them…

Would You Want One?

Maybe. If you like a challenge… This isn’t a simple kit that you will be able to build quickly and getting the tiny parts off the sprues and removing flash without causing damage may be a problem. Some of the mouldings aren’t as sharp as I would have liked and it looks as though a drill will be needed to open a number of holes that are either not there or only partly open. But the tracks don’t look nearly as bad as I was expecting and the overall level of detail is reasonable. I almost didn’t buy this because I was put off by negative reviews, but in the box at least, it actually looks all right. However, if you don’t fancy such a challenging build, there are several alternatives in 1/72.

Chinese manufacturer Flyhawk Models do several versions of the FT in 1/72 in a kit first released in 2014. Like most Flyhawk kits, detail is very good indeed and this includes sufficient parts to build two tanks, PE parts and separate tracks moulded in the same hard plastic as the rest of the kit. This is probably the best and most complete small-scale kit of the FT available at present.

There are several quick build versions of the FT in 1/72. French manufacturer HAT Industrie produce the FT in 1/72 as a simplified kit intended for wargaming. This has a low part-count (the complete tracks, suspension and side-armour is provided as a single part, for example) and each pack contains two kits. Another Polish manufacturer, First to Fight, offer a quick-build Renault FT in 1/72. This is also a simplified kit with fewer than 20 parts in total. Finally, Spanish manufacturer Minairons Miniatures offer a pack of three 1/72 Renault FT tanks. These are fairly simplified injection moulded kits that are intended for wargaming, but if they’re like the Minairons resin kit I tried, they should build into nice representations of the FT.   

If you’re happy with 1/76, Revell have re-released the old Matchbox kit that first appeared in 1983 which includes a Char B.1 bis and a Renault FT. The Renault is somewhat simplified and the tracks are rather thick vinyl, but this actually isn’t a bad representation of the FT. And, like all the reissued Matchbox tanks, this does include figures and a rather nice diorama base on which to display the finished models.

Related Posts

RPM 1/72 Renault FT Char Cannon with Berliet Turret (72204) Build Review – Coming soon

The First Cruisers: A9 Cruiser Tank Mk. I and A10 Cruiser Tank Mk. II.

“The battalion was equipped with A10 tanks, surely ranked as the worst in history.”

“The designers of the A10 must be in the pay of the Nazis.”

Captain Dick Shattock, Technical Adjutant, 3rd Royal Tank Regiment

“They were ponderous square things like mobile pre-fab houses and just about as flimsy.”

Second Lieutenant Bob Crisp, 3rd Royal Tank Regiment

The process of tank design and development that created the tanks used by the British Army in World War Two was seriously flawed. Designs were constrained by the need to re-use existing technology and by severe financial limitations. The outcome was, in too many cases, tanks with serious problems that were rushed into production and sent into combat before they were ready.

A trainee driver sits between the machine gun turrets in an A9 of the 53rd Training Regiment, Royal Armoured Corps, at Tidworth in October 1940.

Image: Imperial War Museum via Wikimedia Commons

The first British Cruiser tanks, the A9 Cruiser Tank Mk. I and A10 Cruiser Tank Mk. II exemplify all these problems. They were designed to fulfil a need for agile, well-armed tanks to carry out a new tactical doctrine. Neither was well-armed or armoured, both had serious flaws and questionable reliability, but they saw combat against German and Italian armour in France, North Africa and Greece. This is the story of the A9 and A10, of why they took the form they did and why they were rushed into combat when it was apparent that they were not suitable or effective.

This is the story of the early Cruisers.    

It’s true! When I’m not wrangling kits, my day job is as a writer. Mostly, I ghost-write non fiction books for clients round the world (I have written more than 150 in total) but now and again, I find the time to publish my own books. And this is one…

It’s available on Amazon as both a paperback and an epub (Kindle) book. Clicking the link below will allow you to visit the book’s Amazon page, and even to read some of it for free. So, what are you waiting for?

Airfix 1/76 Cromwell IV Tank (A02338) Build Review

The way in which the tracks are provided in this kit means that I will be painting and assembling the tracks, roadwheels, idlers, sprockets and lower hull before I start painting the upper hull. As usual, I’ll be brush painting everything.

The lower hull comprises seven parts and assembles without any problems and without the need for any filler.

I attach the upper hull and add all the other bits and pieces to that, other than for the rear mudguards and the side-pieces for the track guards, which I’ll leave off until the tracks are complete and in place. Fit is great with one exception: Part ??, arrowed below. This part has two pegs that are supposed to fit into two holes in the upper hull. But the holes are too small (or the pegs are too big) and I had to use a 1mm drill to enlarge the holes before this part would fit properly.

I then added the inner halves of the roadwheels, idlers and sprockets to the lower hull. The tracks fit over these and are retained in place by the outer halves which are fixing in place after the tracks. Some care is needed when fitting the sprockets as these must mesh with the gaps between treads on the tracks, so dry-fitting and adjustment is needed before the inner halves of the sprockets are fixed in place.

With the inner wheels in place, I try a dry fit of the tracks, and they look pretty good. 

Then, it’s on to the turret. The armour plates on the sides and rear are separate parts, but fit is generally very good. The only issue is where the mantlet and front plate join the turret. Here, there’s a distinct gap.

This is odd, mainly because fit everywhere else is very good, but I don’t think I messed up construction, so some filler will be required.

The completed turret sits nicely on the hull once it’s done. The last bit of construction before I start painting is the main gun. And it’s a bit of a faff. The barrel and one half of the muzzle come as a single part with the other (and very tiny) half of the muzzle as a separate part. This means that the muzzle opening is open without the need for slide moulding, but fit and location of the half of the muzzle isn’t great.

Careful sanding is required to get something that looks even approximately right. Once the muzzle half is added, I notice that the opening at the front is too small and clearly not circular, so I end up having to drill it out anyway!

Time to start painting. First, the tracks get a coat of Vallejo dark grey, followed by dry-brushing with gunmetal and a wash of acrylic brown. I also paint the lower hull as well as the inner and outer halves of the sprockets, roadwheels and idlers. I’m using Vallejo Russian Uniform as the base colour. This is initially a little light, but previous experience suggests that once it gets a coat of varnish and a dark grey wash, it should look all right.

Then the tracks are pushed into place and the outer halves of the wheels are glued into place – this also holds the tracks in position.

I did find painting the roadwheel tyres difficult here. Hell, I always find painting 1/76 roadwheel tyres challenging, but these were even more fiendishly difficult than usual. The main problem is that the small outer lip of the wheels is barely defined at all, making it hard to follow with a brush. It takes several attempts before I get something I’m moderately happy with. I also highlight the hubs and bolts with a lighter version of the base colour.

Overall, I like this method of track construction. It’s easy and straightforward and even I find it difficult to get it wrong. OK, so I still feel that the tracks could have had more detail, but in general, this isn’t bad. With the tracks in place, I add the small side-pieces at the front and rear of each track guard. There is no clearance at all between these and the tracks and on one side at the front, I had to sand down the outer edge of the track to get this part to fit properly. Fortunately, this isn’t visible once the side piece is in place.

Then, the upper hull is painted with several thinned coats of the base colour and some dry-brushed highlights are added using a lightened version of this colour.

Finally, the decals are added (but not the white stars – as noted in in-box review, I don’t think these were used on the tank from 7th Armoured Division for which decals are provided) and I add some chipping in Vallejo German Grey on exposed edges and around hatches. I also paint the tools on the rear hull and the hull and turret machine-guns and then give everything a coat of clear varnish.

Finally, it gets a wash with dark grey oil paint to bring out shadows and make everything look a bit grubby and well-used. And that’s it done.

After Action Report

This was a straightforward build with no major problems. Fit is generally good, the instructions are clear and I do like this method of representing tracks. Detail is generally very good and this ends up looking like a Cromwell, which is about all you can ask for at this scale.

Getting rid of the join where the tip of the muzzle is attached to the gun is fiddly and filler was needed at the front of the turret roof, but otherwise this was a relaxing and enjoyable build. If you want to build a 1/76 Cromwell, this is the only choice, so it’s lucky that it’s a decent kit.

I would have liked to see some more detail on the tracks and perhaps a few items of stowage for the rear hull and a commander figure might have been nice, especially as the turret hatch can be shown open. But overall, these are pretty minor niggles. It’s nice to see an Airfix tank kit that’s up there in most respects with modern kits compared to the older 1/76 offerings from this company which are looking rather tired now. I just wish other small-scale armour kit manufacturers would take this method of producing tracks and add more detail…

Related Posts

Airfix 1/76 Cromwell IV Tank (A02338) In-Box Review and History

Airfix 1/76 Cromwell IV Tank (A02338) In-Box Review and History

In 1961 Airfix released the first of their military vehicles in 1/76 with the Churchill, Panther and Sherman (though they were initially sold as “OO Scale”). For the next 13 years, these 1/76 vehicles became a mainstay of the Airfix range. In 1974, they released three new kits: the Type 97 Chi-Ha, SAM-2 Guideline missile and German Reconnaissance Set. Then suddenly, and just when it seemed that there was going to be a never-ending stream of small-scale Airfix tanks, that was it. There were no more 1/76 military vehicle kits from Airfix.

Airfix Panzer IV packaging from 1997. A decent kit, but it was 1/76, not 1/72 as this box suggested.

There were additions to the existing range, with things like the Churchill AVRE bridge layer, Matilda Hedgehog and the Sherman Crab, but these were based on additions to the original kits rather than new moulds. Some kits were released in the 1990s with new packaging that described them as “1/72,” but they were still the same old 1/76 kits inside. In 2008, Airfix released re-boxed versions of a number of 1/76 kits by JB Models, but for more than thirty-five years, there were no truly new Airfix 1/76 military vehicles. Then, in 2011, Airfix released a new 1/76 tank: The Cromwell IV and this was a genuine new moulding rather than a re-release.

I wonder why that was? Why, after such a long break did Airfix seem to suddenly decide that the kit world needed a new 1/76 tank? The release of the Cromwell was followed by one more 1/76 tank, the King Tiger in 2014, and then it all stopped again. The latest Airfix small-scale tank kits (the Tiger I and Sherman Firefly) released in 2020 were both in 1/72, so it looks as though these may have been the last of the Airfix 1/76 tanks.

Airfix tank kits were some of my favourite builds as a young modeller, but many of the earliest kits now look pretty ropy. How does this (relatively) new release stack-up? Is it worth your time or one to avoid? Let’s take a look…

History

The Cromwell was one of the best British tanks of World War Two. However, given that many British tanks of that period were pretty dreadful, that wasn’t especially difficult. For example, by the time that the Cromwell came into service in early 1944, many German, Russian and American tanks and tank-destroyers were being designed around the use of sloped armour, which gave greatly increased resistance against penetration. However on the Cromwell (as on all other British tanks of World War Two) there was no attempt to use this approach.

The design and development of what became the Cromwell was typically complex and confusing. In 1940, the British Directorate of Tanks and Transport specified several new tanks that were to be developed around the QF 6 Pdr gun. Proposed designs included the A23, a scaled down version of the A22 Churchill, and the A24, designed as a replacement for the existing Crusader and using elements from that tank.

The A24 Cavalier

However, none were completely satisfactory and design work continued on another, similar tank designated the A27. This was originally intended to be fitted with the American 410hp Liberty engine first produced during World War One. However, the new engine didn’t perform as required and another version of the tank was designed using the then-new Rolls-Royce Meteor, a development of the Merlin aero-engine. Initially, the A24, A27L and A27M were all called “Cromwell” and all looked very similar. However, later these were redesignated as, respectively the Cavalier and Centaur with only the Meteor-engined A27M retaining the Cromwell name. The official designation for this tank was Cruiser Tank Mk VIII, Cromwell (A27M) although it was also sometimes known as the Cromwell IV to distinguish it from the earlier tanks that had used the same name.

A Cromwell of the 11th Armoured Division in France, 1944

Main armament on the A27M was the  Ordnance QF 75 mm, an adaptation of the British QF 6 Pdr gun able to fire US 75 mm ammunition also used by the Sherman. The Sherman was also used by many British units, and using a common shell greatly simplified ammunition supply. The anti-armour capability of this gun was limited, but it was able to fire a more effective high-explosive round than the 6 Pdr. Some Cromwells were completed as Close Support (CS) tanks provided with a 95 mm howitzer in the turret.

Frontal armour on the Cromwell was around three inches thick and in early tests, the Meteor engine was found to be capable of pushing the tank to a top speed close to 50mph. However, the Christie suspension wasn’t capable of dealing with this speed and the engine was governed to keep top speed down to under 40mph, still notably faster than most other British cruiser and infantry tanks of the time. Even that speed proved too much for the suspension, and on later versions, the engine governor was used to limit the top speed to 32mph. Speed was the Cromwell’s greatest asset. During one encounter with German tanks in Holland in 1944, a troop of three Cromwells were able to escape by vaulting over a 20-foot-wide canal!  

A Cromwell of the Welsh Guards in 1944

The Cromwell was used during the invasion of Europe following Operation Overlord. Although its speed was useful, it proved vulnerable to the powerful guns fitted to some German AFVs. Like the Sherman, its main gun also lacked the power to penetrate the frontal armour of many German tanks. Early problems meant that later versions of the Cromwell featured wider tracks for better off-road capability and a few of the last Cromwells featured welded (rather than bolted) hulls and additional turret armour. Almost 2,000 Cromwells were built and they continued to serve with British and Free Polish forces for the remainder of the war. Recognising the deficiencies in the Cromwell’s armament, the turret was redesigned to create the A34 Comet, which was otherwise very similar to the Cromwell but featured the more powerful 17 Pdr HV (High Velocity) gun.   

What’s in the Box?

The box contains just two sprues moulded in light grey plastic, decals and instructions.

Surface detail on most parts seems good with nicely engraved panel-lines.

The commander’s hatch can be open or closed, but there is no interior detail and no figure is included.

Airfix haven’t used slide moulding here, and to get round this, they have provided one half of the muzzle of the main gun as a separate part. In theory, this means you won’t have to drill it out, but past expereince suggest that you’ll need to be very careful when sandind these parts to conceal the join so that you don’t end up with an oddly shaped muzzle. The sprues include optional parts for a deep-wading trunk for the rear hull, a splash-guard round the commander’s hatch and a Cullen hedge-cutter for the front hull.

There are some thoughtful touches here, like the way that the sprockets are attached to the sprue. On most tank kits, you have to be very careful not to damage the sprocket teeth when removing these parts from the sprue. Here the sprues attach beneath the teeth, which should make it easier to remove the sprockets without damage.

Probably the most interesting aspect of this kit is the way in which the tracks are modelled. These are provided as a single moulding for the complete run of tracks on each side, but separate from the idlers, sprockets and roadwheels. If you’re regular reader, you’ll know that I spend a lot of time being disappointed, or frustrated, or sometimes both, by the tracks provided with many small-scale tank kits. This is, as far as I know, a unique approach and it certainly looks like a simple and effective way to model tracks in this scale.

The instructions look commendably clear. At one point they do show both wading trunking and hedge-cutters fitted, which is obviously rather unlikely (one or the other, but not both).

The decals are printed nicely in-register and cover two tanks, one from the 7th Armoured Division and generic markings for a Cromwell from the 11th Armoured Division. A bit of research suggests that the tank from the 7th Armoured is actually a Royal Artillery OP Tank that was attached to 4th County of London Yeomanry. This tank was one of several destroyed when the British encountered Tiger I tanks of the 101st SS Heavy Panzer Battalion at Villers-Bocage on 13th June 1944.

T187796 is one of the tanks for which Airfix provide decals with this kit. Here, it is pictured after being knocked-out and abandoned at Villers- Bocage. But in this photograph, it doesn’t seem to have the white star on the turret top and covering the ventilator.

However, although the instructions show both tanks having the turret-top white star, I’m not sure that’s correct. Wartime photos show that several tanks of 4CLY didn’t have these stars, and a photograph of the tank to which the decals apply seems to show it without. Only one colour scheme is suggested for both tanks, with the tank finished in overall “Khaki Drab.”

Would you want one?

In many ways, this looks like a great kit. It’s sharply moulded, it has good detail and it seems to be an accurate representation of the Cromwell. I like the option of including the deep wading gear and the hedge cutter. However, very few British tanks were fitted with the hedge-cutters – I have been able to find only a single wartime photograph of a Centaur fitted with this device, and that was a prototype used only for testing. It’s certainly possible that some Cromwells were modified in the field to have these devices, but they seem to have been very uncommon.

I love the idea of tracks moulded in a single part in hard plastic but separate from the roadwheels, idlers and sprocket. But, I’d like to have seen more detail, especially on the outside of the tracks. If you compare these to, for example, the hard plastic tracks provided with some Zvezda 1/72 kits, those are just much better detailed. The tracks below are from the Zvezda Jagdpanther.

It seems like this approach should give the possibility of very accurate tracks indeed, but these tracks aren’t really any more detailed than most vinyl tracks. In fact, they aren’t particularly detailed at all. The main gun also looks a little thin and the light-guards seem rather thick. So, some good elements here, but perhaps also some missed opportunities?

If you would prefer something different, I’m afraid that, like many World War Two British tanks, there just aren’t as many kits of the Cromwell as there are of its German, Russian and American counterparts. If you prefer 1/76, this is your only option, though Revell have re-released the 1973 Matchbox 1/76 kit of the very similar A34 Comet. Even in 1/72, there are only a couple of possibilities. Revell released a 1/72 Cromwell IV back in 2001, and fortunately it’s a pretty decent kit featuring link-and-length tracks. Like the Airfix kit, it includes the Cullen Hedge-Cutter, but not the deep wading gear.

The Plastic Soldier Company also offer a pack of three 1/72 Cromwells. Each can be constructed as the base Cromwell or as the Close Support version fitted with a 95mm howitzer in the turret and each includes a commander figure and a Cullen hedge-cutter. Like most of this company’s products, these are really intended for wargaming and are a little simplified in terms of detail – for example, the tracks and running gear are moulded as a single part on each side. But they do build into a reasonable representation of the Cromwell.

Related Posts

Airfix 1/76 Cromwell IV Tank (A02338) Build Review