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Hasegawa 1/72 Sd.Kfz. 162 Jagdpanzer IV L/48 Late Version (31151) Build Review

I begin with hull construction, and I won’t quite be following the instructions. I’m going to join the upper and lower hull before adding the tracks – the instructions suggest that the tracks should be added first. I want to paint the tracks separately and add them when hull painting is complete, so I also leave off the sprockets to make fitting the tracks simpler.

Main hull construction is simple as there are just five parts – the top, bottom, sides and rear. I begin by filling the hole for the MG port on the left side and adding the gun and mantlet. Joining the main gun barrel to the hollow tip is easy, but fit isn’t great and it takes so much sanding to get rid of the join that I’m concerned about ending up with a tapered gun. Personally, I’d rather just drill out the barrel.

The other parts of the hull go together well with no need for filler but I do notice something odd that has me scratching my head. When the rear plate is added, the hubs for the idlers and what I take to be the inner part of the hub don’t line up.

It looks to me as if the hubs and mounting pins for the idlers, which are attached to the hull sides, are around 3-4mm too low. It would be possible to cut these off and re-attach them higher, but I’m concerned that this might not be strong enough to resist being broken by the vinyl tracks. So, I leave it as-is. I just don’t know enough to be sure, but looking at photographs of Panzer IVs and Jagdpanzer IVs, this looks wrong to me.

The rest of hull construction is straightforward and everything fits well. The only minor problem is when I come to fit the small schürzen mountings, I discover that one is missing from the sprue. Initially, I assumed that this must have broken off while I was handling this sprue, but checking the photographs I took for the In-Box review (which I took as soon as I opened the package) shows that it was missing then. The missing part isn’t in the box or the plastic bag in which the sprues were packed, so I guess it just wasn’t supplied.

I can’t say I’m too perturbed. I’ll just use four mountings per side rather than five, but in over a year since I re-started model building, this is the fist time I have received a kit with a missing part. Incidentally, these are really tiny parts and the mounting positions are more a guide than a help. I didn’t quite enter full cat-startling-tantrum mode, but I didn’t enjoy this fiddly part of the build at all.  

With these parts added, that’s construction virtually done.  Or, at least I thought it was until I actually looked at the photo above. When I did, I could see that I had got the fitting of the plates on either side of the rear hull completely wrong! Why do I only notice these things in photos! I had fitted the rear plates so that they matched the angle of the rear hull behind them, but that’s clearly wrong. Instead, they should follow the angle of the hull side plates. I have to cut them off and re-fix before they look right.

I’m also leaving off the roadwheels, jack, exhaust,  spare track links and other bits and pieces at this stage to make painting a little easier. Now, it’s time to think about painting, and I’m keen to try something different. In late August 1944, some German tanks were painted with a new colour scheme – the Hinterhalt (ambush) scheme. This was applied at the factory rather than in the field and there were two versions. Both began with a base coat of Dunklegelb (dark yellow) overlaid with large irregular patches of Olivgrün (Olive Green) and Rotbraun (Red Brown). On one version of the scheme, a stencil of irregular circles was then created and dunklegelb was oversprayed through this on top of the green and brown areas. On the other scheme, small circles or triangles of dunklegelb were added to the brown and green areas and circles or triangles of green were added to the dunklegelb areas. Below you can see a Jagdpanzer IV L/70 in the Hinterhalt scheme.

This scheme was discontinued after less than three months, simply because it took more time to get vehicles out of the factory. I have not been able to find photographic evidence of a late Jagdpanzer IV L/48 with this scheme, but it is certainly possible and it’s a different and challenging paint scheme. It starts with several base coats of well-thinned Vallejo dunklegelb.

Then, I add some dry-brushed highlights.

 Then, it gets a simple scheme of lightened rotbraun and olivegrun with appropriate dots added. I can’t say that I’m entirely happy with the result, the dots look rather clumsy. I added them using a sharpened matchstick and I wonder if I did too many and made them too large? Oh well, I’ll continue anyway.

The next step is painting the tools on the rear hull and the roadwheel tyres. I hate painting roadwheel tyres and, with eight small wheels per side, the Panzer IV chassis is particularly challenging in 1/72. I finally get them done and add them to the hull. When attaching the painted roadwheels, and it’s notable that the individual wheels are a loose fit on the spindles, so some care is required to ensure all eight line up. I also add some fairly generic decals: a balkenkreuz on the rear hull plates,  a three-digit unit number on the hull sides, kill rings on the gun and a Panzer Lehr Divisional marking on the front.

Even the decals were a problem on this kit. Usually, I find that a minute or so of soaking in warm water is enough to release these from their backing. Here, each decal had to be left for at least ten minutes before it would move and even then, some of them cracked (that’s why there are fewer kill rings than provided). I can’t imagine why that is – the backing sheet does seem thicker than usual, but even so, loosening these took much longer than normal.

Then I add the spare track links on the rear and add a brown detail wash over everything. I also add some mud and staining to the hull close to the roadwheels and return rollers. There is nice detail here, and the wash helps to highlight things like the joints in the armour plate on the front on the hull.

The tracks get a simple finish – dark grey base, gunmetal highlights on the treads and a brown acrylic wash overall. These tracks really are lacking detail.

Then I add the tracks and sprockets to the hull, which fortunately isn’t too difficult. The tracks aren’t at all tight, which helps. Then, all I have to do is add the exhaust and tools, and it’s done.

After Action Report

This isn’t a terrible kit by any means. But I don’t feel it’s a great kit either, mainly due to some niggling issues. It takes quite a while to fill the left side MG port on the front hull so that it’s invisible on the finished model. The fit of the tip of the gun and the main part of the barrel isn’t great and also requires lots of sanding, which inevitably leads to a slightly tapered main gun. I think that the idlers and their hubs are set too low, and that looks a little odd from the side as well as meaning that these parts don’t line up with the inner hubs on the hull rear plate. The roadwheels are a loose fit on the mounting spindles, making it very difficult to get them to line up accurately. Accurately fitting the tiny middle schurzen mountings is tricky. The decals take way too long to separate from the backing sheet and the tracks are really poor.

Set against those things, surface detail isn’t bad, and this does look like a fairly accurate representation of the Jagdpanzer IV. It’s probably true to say that my biggest problem with this kit is the Hasegawa Churchill I built previously. Although that kit dates from 1974, fit was as close to perfect as you will find in 1/72 scale, the build was simple and straightforward and the whole kit just seemed sharper than this one. I probably expected this to be as good as that Churchill and, IMHO, it isn’t

So, would you be disappointed with one of these? Probably not if, unlike me, your expectations weren’t set unrealistically high. Though I’m afraid those tracks really aren’t up to modern standards…

Happy kit-building

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Hasegawa 1/72 Sd.Kfz. 162 Jagdpanzer IV L/48 Late Version (31151) In-Box Review

Hasegawa 1/72 Infantry Tank Churchill Mk. I (31127) Build Review

Hasegawa 1/72 Sd.Kfz. 162 Jagdpanzer IV L/48 Late Version (31151) In-Box Review

I recently finished a Hasegawa 1/72 Churchill tank, and I was highly impressed with that kit. In fact I was so impressed that I was immediately keen to try another Hasegawa AFV kit, and the same supplier that had the Churchill on special offer also had this kit for under €10.

However, this is a much more recent release, dating from 2001 (the Churchill was first released in 1975). Is it as good as that kit? There’s only one way to find out…

History

By the middle of World War Two, the German armed forces seemed to have become more than a little obsessed with the notion of assault guns designed as anti-tank weapons. Most featured a large-calibre main gun in a fixed superstructure mounted on the chassis of an existing tank. By mid-1943, Germany already had the StuG III and IV, the Marder I, II and III, the Nashorn and the Elefant in service and the Jagdpanther and Jagdtiger were in the final stages of design and being prepared for production. You might imagine that the last thing the Werhrmacht needed was another tank destroyer, but you’d be mistaken.

During 1943 work began on designing an improved version of the existing StuG III, with a new vehicle featuring heavier frontal armour and the same 75mm Pak 42 L/70 fitted to the Panther tank. Initially given the name Panzerjäger IV, this was later changed to Jagdpanzer IV. The new tank destroyer was be based on the Panzer IV  Ausf. H chassis but with modified, sloping frontal armour. A shortage of the PAK 42 meant that the first production versions, which began to appear in early 1944, were armed instead with a development of the shorter 75mm Pak 39 L/48.

An early production Jagdpanzer IV L/48 with a muzzle-brake and zimmerit

On early versions, this gun was fitted with a muzzle brake but experience in the field showed that, because the muzzle was relatively close to the ground, a huge cloud of dust was kicked up every time the gun was fired, giving away the vehicle’s position. On later versions equipped with the L/48 gun, the muzzle brake was omitted. The final version of the Jagdpanzer IV, the Panzer IV/70 (V), was provided with the much longer L/70 main gun for which this vehicle was originally designed.

A later Jagdpanzer IV L/48 – no zimmerit and no muzzle-brake.

One issue with the new design was that it was very front-heavy, which caused wear and failures to the front suspension units. To counterbalance this, spare wheels, spare track links, tools and crew stowage were all moved to a platform on the rear of the hull. Early versions were provided with the zimmerit anti-magnetic coating, though this was dropped in September 1944. Many Jagdpanzer IV were also fitted with additional schürzen side armour though this was often removed as it became easily clogged in muddy conditions.

A final model Jagdpanzer IV/70 (V).

Unlike previous assault guns which had been manned by crews from artillery units, the Jagdpanzer IV was issued direct to panzer and panzer grenadier units and manned by panzer crews. The Jagdpanzer IV served on both eastern and western fronts from its introduction in early 1944 until the end of the war. Somewhere between 800 – 1,000 Jagdpanzer IVs of all types were produced in total.

What’s in the box?

The box contains six sprues in grey plastic (two, containing the roadwheels, sprockets, etc., are identical), a set of vinyl tracks, instructions and a decal sheet.

Overall, detail looks more than reasonable, the mouldings are fairly sharp and I can’t see any flash or visible sink-marks. However, I’d also have to say that my initial reaction is that this just isn’t quite as sharp as the Hasegawa Churchill.

Most of the tools are moulded integrally with the rear hull. All the hull hatches are separate parts than can be shown open or closed. However, there is no internal detail and the hatches are fairly large, so, without figures, showing the hatches open is going to reveal a large internal void. One nice touch is that the small hatch forward of the commander’s hatch is also separate and this can be shown open with the commander’s periscope extended.

Another nice touch is that the conical cover over the MG port on the right side of the hull front is a separate part and can be shown either open or closed. However, there is also a second MG port on the left side of the hull – this was not provided on this version of the Jagdpanzer IV, so it will have to be filled. No zimmerit is provided, which is acceptable for a late model L/48, and no schürzen, which is probably also OK. The main gun barrel is solid, but it does have a separate end-piece that is moulded open.

Although the instructions don’t mention it, you can build this kit with either three or four return rollers (the holes for the centre rollers must be drilled out). Some late model L/48s seem to have had just three rollers, as does the later IV/70. However, most contemporary photos show this version with four return rollers, so that’s what I’ll be going for. 

The tracks really aren’t great. I would guess that these probably date back to the original Hasegawa Panzer IV from 1974. External detail is just about OK, but there is nothing at all on the inside. I normally like to build my kits out of the box, but it there was any option here in Spain, I’d consider buying some better aftermarket tracks for what looks otherwise like a well-detailed kit.

The instructions are straightforward and seem to show what’s needed.

Only one suggested colour scheme is provided, for a Jagdpanzer of 3rd Panzer Division on the eastern front with an interesting three-colour scheme partially covered in whitewash. However, the decals provide plenty of options so it should be possible to depict a Jagdpanzer on any front.

Would you want one?

Overall, this looks like a really nice kit, accurate, sharply moulded and well detailed. Except for the tracks, which are crap. I don’t really understand the thinking behind that – why go to the time and expense of producing the moulds for a kit that features great plastic parts and then provide it with tracks that were more than thirty years out of date? Hasegawa produce several other versions of the Jagdpanzer IV in 1/72. In addition to this L/48 (late), there is an L/48 (early) version (31149), an L/70 late model (31150) and even an early L/48 with zimmerit and photo-etch parts (30027). Fortunately, if you don’t fancy a Hasegawa Jagdpanzer (and I’m guessing that all these other kits feature the same nasty tracks), there are a number of other options.

Italeri do an early L/48, though this is a re-release of an Esci kit from 1974. It isn’t a bad kit and can be built with or without the muzzle-brake and it features link-and-length tracks, a couple of figures and some stowage items for the rear hull. Trumpeter do a Jagdpanzer IV that comes with both L/48 and L/70 barrels. This comes with vinyl tracks, but they appear to be well detailed inside and out. Dragon do kits of several versions of the Jagdpanzer IV in 1/72 and all are very nicely detailed and include Dragon’s “DS” tracks.   

If you prefer 1/76, Revell do a very nice Panzer IV L/70 which is a re-release of the Matchbox kit from 1978. It’s a pretty good kit, and though the  vinyl tracks aren’t perhaps up to current standards, it does come with a rather nice diorama base and an infantryman figure. 

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Hasegawa 1/72 Sd.Kfz. 162 Jagdpanzer IV L/48 Late Version (31151) Build Review

Hasegawa 1/72 Infantry Tank Churchill Mk. I (31127) Build Review

I have decided to build this kit as a Churchill Mk I of the 9th Royal Tank Regiment in 1942.

I start with drilling out both gun barrels and then move on to construction of the central section of the hull. Something that immediately becomes obvious is the superb fit of all the parts that make up the lower hull. This is as good as it gets and certainly as good if not better than the fit on any other small-scale AFV I have built.

No filler is required at all and everything lines up as it should. I construct the outer boxes that support the tracks separately, mainly because I want to paint some internal details such as the suspension springs before assembly. I also paint the inside of the front and rear hull plates and the sprockets and idlers in a slightly darkened version of the base colour.

When I finish painting, I assemble the outer boxes that contain the suspension – each comprises three parts: the outer plate including the outer faces of the rollers, a central part that includes the suspension springs and the roller axles and a small inner plate that includes the inner faces of the rollers. Fit is again great with one exception – the roller axles line up perfectly with the inner and outer faces of the rollers on nine out of the eleven rollers, but on the raised front and rear rollers, they don’t line up at all. This isn’t a massive problem – the suspension springs can be bent into the right position, but it’s odd considering how well everything else fits.

With that done, I join the boxes to the hull. The suspension springs are clearly visible, so I’m happy that I took the time to paint them before assembly.

The only parts left to fit off the hull are the exhausts, which I’ll paint separately. I do leave the idlers and sprockets free to rotate, because they engage with the tracks and I’ll need to have them in just the right position to get the tracks to sit correctly. There is nice detail on the sprockets at the rear, but unfortunately when these are in position, they can’t be seen at all. At this stage I also check the fit of the tracks and I’m delighted to report that they’re just right in terms of length, neither too tight nor too loose, so I’m hoping that fitting these won’t be too much of a chore.

Next, the turret. Again, fit is very good indeed with only a tiny amount of filler needed at the front on the join between the upper and lower parts of the turret. The inner mantlet is free to elevate.

I check the fit of the turret on the hull, and it’s fine. And that is essentially construction done. There are no problems here and nothing that is at all difficult.

Now, it’s time to begin painting. Finding the precise colour to use is not especially easy. From 1941-42, British tanks were painted in a base colour of Khaki Green No.3, which is a bit lighter than US Olive Drab. After a bit of research, I have decided to use Vallejo Model Color Russian Uniform Green 70.924, which seems at least close to the correct colour. It may be a bit light, but I’m hoping that oil washes will darken it a bit.  

I have used Vallejo acrylics before, but I do note a couple of odd things about this paint. First, it separates really quickly when you put some on a palette. To avoid streaks, you must mix it carefully each time you load the brush. Second, it rubs off really easily. Just gently handling the model results in patches of bare plastic that must be touched-up. I haven’t experienced this with any other Vallejo paints. Once I have an even coat, I give it a quick protective coat of clear varnish before adding some highlights by dry brushing with a slightly lightened version of the base green and I paint the tools on the rear hull and the jacks on the sides.

Then I add the decals. This doesn’t take long as only six are provided for the Mk I – three each of the identification numbers and the red squares denoting this as a tank of “B” squadron.  

After another coat of varnish, I use a heavily thinned wash of black oil paint. This gives me the density of shadow I want in nooks and crannies and also darkens the green and adds streaks and grubby areas to the hull and turret.

Overall, I’m not too unhappy with the final colour. It’s close to what I was hoping for and, I think, a reasonable colour for a British tank in 1942.

Next, the tracks. I give these a very simple finish of dark grey, light gunmetal highlighting for the treads and then a wash with a dark brown acrylic to finish. I glue them together using a two-pack epoxy resin, and this holds well given that they hardly need to be stretched at all to fit in place. All that’s left to add are the two exhausts on the rear hull, and it’s done.

After Action Report

This was simply a joy to build. Everything went together perfectly and with no problems. If you were looking for a first small-scale AFV kit, this would be a great place to start. OK, so the decal sheet is a little sparse, you’ll need to drill out both guns, the commander figure isn’t the best and tracks aren’t great, but they do at least fit and that’s more than I can say for many 1/72 and 1/76 kits!

Despite these minor drawbacks and other than the tracks, detail here is sharp and entirely adequate. Everything appears to be where it should and the proportions and sizes of everything look good.  

Other than drilling out both guns and adding some rough texture to represent rust on the exhausts, this is built straight out of the box. I enjoyed building this and I’m happy with the result. And I don’t suppose you can ask much more from a kit that cost less than €10!

This 1975 kit is highly recommended. And I’m rather looking forward to my next Hasegawa 1/72 kit. Come on, at that price, I wasn’t going to buy just one, now was I?

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Hasegawa 1/72 Infantry Tank Churchill Mk. I (31127) In-Box Review and History

Hasegawa 1/72 Infantry Tank Churchill Mk. I (31127) In-Box Review and History

Hasegawa is another name I remember well from my early modelling days, though I don’t think I ever built a Hasegawa kit back then. Hasegawa is a Japanese manufacturer based in Shizuoka in the Chūbu region of Honshu. The Hasegawa Corporation was (and is) a direct competitor to Tamiya. Like Tamiya, Hasegawa began as a manufacturer of wooden toys, puzzles and kits. In 1962 the company released their first plastic kit, a 1/450 scale model of the Japanese battleship Yamato. Within a couple of years, Hasegawa had switched entirely to plastic kits.

While Tamiya focused exclusively on 1/35 scale for its early AFV kits, Hasegawa produced a large line of 1/72 armoured vehicles from the late 1960s. This particular kit was launched in 1975. The Mk. I Churchill is still underrepresented in kit form and most kits of the Churchill kits available in all scales are based on later models.

I also have a personal connection with this tank. My father served in the Scots Guards during World War Two, initially as a driver and later as a gunner in Churchill tanks. I recall wanting to build a model of one of his tanks when I was young, and being surprised and more than a little disappointed to discover that he had no idea in which model(s) of Churchill he had served as crew member. I guess that fascination with marks and models is a luxury us modellers have that the men who served in these tanks didn’t care about – they simply used whatever they were given.

Recently, I found a supplier here in Spain offering some of these old Hasegawa 1/72 kits for just €9. How could I resist? Opinions vary as to the quality of these early Hasegawa kits. Some seem to be OK while others look pretty dreadful. Which is this? Let’s take a look…    

History

Perhaps nothing illustrates the deficiencies in British tank design more graphically than the specification that led to what became the Churchill tank. In September 1939, two days before the declaration of war, a meeting of the General Staff of the British army discussed the need for a new infantry tank. They decided that it should be able to operate on ground churned-up by heavy shelling, it must have good trench-crossing capability and it should have sufficient armour to protect it against German anti-tank weapons. To facilitate these things, they envisaged a tank with tracks that ran all the way round the hull and with weapons mounted on sponsons on the sides. They also noted that it’s top speed need be no more than ten miles-per-hour and that it needed a range of no more than fifty miles.

A11 Infantry Tank Mark I, the original Matilda. It was named after a popular cartoon duck due to a tendency to waddle on its fairly soft suspension.

This would have been a perfectly respectable specification for a tank to be used on the battlefields of the Somme or Passchendaele in 1916. It was wholly unsuitable for a tank intended to oppose the German Blitzkrieg of World War Two. It seems that the General Staff envisaged an attack on the German Siegfried Line and wanted a tank capable of undertaking that mission. One year later, the Germans had graphically illustrated the importance of mobility in armoured operations. Poland, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Holland and France were all occupied by Nazi forces and it was clear that British tanks would not be assaulting the Siegfried line any time soon. However, Britain desperately needed a new tank to counter the threat of a German invasion. The initial specification had led to the construction of a prototype, the A20. A new specification was raised for an infantry tank but, in order to produce tanks quickly, it had to use many of the features of the existing A20. This led to a new prototype, the A22, which would eventually become the Churchill tank.

An A12 Infantry Tank Mark II, the Matilda II, in North Africa

The British designation for tanks is confusing, so it’s probably worth spending a moment talking about that. In the inter-war years, the British Army recognised three distinct types of tank. The light tank was fast and lightly armed and armoured and used exclusively for reconnaissance. The cruiser tank was intended for the roles previously undertaken by cavalry of reconnaissance and exploiting breakthroughs. Cruisers were relatively fast and usually armed with weapons intended for anti-tank combat. Finally, there was the infantry tank. This was intended to be used in support of advancing infantry and to counter fixed defences such as blockhouses or trenches. It had no need for high speed and it was heavily armoured to protect it against anti-tank weapons.

The War Office classified all British tanks as one of these three types and most, but not all, were also identified by a War Office designation comprising the letter “A” (“Armoured”) followed by a number. When the war began, Britain already had three infantry tanks in service. The A11 Infantry Tank Mark I (often informally known as the Matilda), the A12 Infantry Tank Mark II (often informally known as the Matilda II) and the Infantry Tank Mark III, formally known as the Valentine (which, for some reason, never seems to have been given a War Office “A” designation). So, the new tank would be known as both the A22 and the Infantry Tank Mark IV, and sometimes as both. However, it was also later given a formal name: Churchill. To save excessive wear on my typing finger, I’ll refer to it here simply as the Churchill, with each major upgrade or change being further identified by a Mk number.

The A22 prototype. This was elongated for improved trench-crossing ability. The production version was shorter, with just 11 rollers on each side instead of the 14 seen here.

The finalised design was slightly archaic in appearance, with a central crew, weapon and engine compartment flanked by large side-pods with tracks running all round the circumference. Where other tanks used rubber for roadwheels and return rollers, the Churchill used eleven steel rollers mounted on individual bogies and steel “bumps” to support the upper run of the track. As a result, all marks of Churchill were extremely noisy when they were moving. The notion of mounting guns in sponsons was dropped for the A22 and all production Churchills had a fully rotating turret. The tank housed a standard crew of five, two in the forward hull and three in the turret.

A Churchill Mk I. This tank, “Indus” of the 9th Royal Tank Regiment, is shown during a training exercise at Tilshead on Salisbury Plain in 1942 and is one of the tanks for which (some) decals are provided with this kit. The red squares on the turret and hull front identify this tank as belonging to “B” Squadron.

The Churchill was designed for the then-new 6 Pounder gun but a shortage of this weapon meant that on the initial Mk I, armament comprised a QF 2-pounder main gun and a co-axial 7.92mm Besa machine-gun in a cast turret plus a hull-mounted QF 3-inch howitzer. On the otherwise identical Mk II, the hull howitzer was replaced by a second 7.92mm Besa machine-gun. The Mk III had the more powerful Ordnance QF 6-pounder gun in a squared-off, welded turret and the top run of the tracks was covered, something that continued for all subsequent models. The most numerous Churchill was the Mk IV, which was identical to the Mk III except that the turret was cast, though it retained the same squared-off look.

The Mk V was produced in small numbers and featured a QF 95 mm howitzer in a cast turret. The Mk VI was also only produced in limited numbers, and featured a 75 mm Mark V gun. The second most numerous Churchill was the Mk VII which had a wider hull and heavier armour in addition to the 75 mm Mark V gun in a cast turret. The Mk VIII mounted a 95 mm howitzer in a modified cast turret. Mks IX – XI were earlier versions upgraded with additional armour.

Holland, November 1944. Churchill Mk IVs of 3rd Battalion Scots Guards, the unit in which my father served, carrying infantry of the 2nd Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders

The Churchill was also used as the basis for a number of specialist vehicles including the AVRE bridge layer and the Crocodile flame tank. Churchills served In North Africa, Tunisia, Italy and western Europe as well as being used for the first time in combat during the Dieppe Raid in August 1942. Although early models were inadequately armed, unreliable due to rushed production and slow (the top speed of the Mk IV was just 15mph), all Churchills were massively armoured. The Mk VII, for example, had six inches of frontal armour, 50% thicker than the frontal armour on the German Tiger. It may have originated with a wholly inadequate specification, but the Churchill gradually evolved during the war into a formidable tank. For example, the final wartime derivation of the Churchill, the fifty-ton Black Prince, was too late to see combat, but it was very heavily armoured and armed with the powerful QF 17-pounder gun.

What’s in the Box?

The box contains three sprues moulded in fairly brittle, grey plastic, a set of vinyl tracks, decals and instructions. Despite what it says on the box, parts are provided for both a Mk I (with a 2-pounder in the turret and a three-inch howitzer in the hull) and a Mk II (with the hull howitzer replaced with a Besa machine-gun). Some people who know more about Churchills than I do have suggested that this doesn’t really work as the frontal armour plates on the two types were different, but to me, it looks just about right. If you are feeling bold, you could probably also make this into a Mk II (CS) in which the hull and turret guns were swapped round so that the howitzer was in the turret and the 2-pounder in the hull.

First impressions on looking at the sprues is that the mouldings are very nicely done. They’re quite delicate and much better than I expected for a kit that’s heading for fifty years old. There is some flash and a few sink-marks, but these all seem to be on the inside of parts where they won’t be seen on the finished model.

Both turret hatches are separate parts that can be shown open or closed. The tools on the rear hull and jacks on the sides of the sponsons are moulded in place.

All the tiny rollers are moulded as integral parts of internal and external hull sides, though this is actually quite well done and I think they should look all right on the finished model.

The only part that is showing its age is the commander figure. The moulding here is rather vague and I don’t think I’ll be using the figure when I build this kit. If you want to place the figure inside the turret, you’ll have to chop off his legs. However, a base is also provided if you want him free-standing.

The tracks are vinyl and while they’re not wonderful, they’re not quite as bad as I was expecting. I have read some reviews which suggest that the tracks provided with this kit are so bad that they’re unusable. I disagree. They certainly aren’t as good as link-and-length tracks or even as good as some current vinyl tracks, but they do sort of resemble early Churchill tracks, at least from the outside. Here are the Hasegawa tracks next to a detail of the tracks on a Mk I Churchill at The Tank Museum in Bovington in the UK.

There is no detail on the inside of the tracks at all and I was initially disconcerted to find that they lacked internal horns. However, early Churchill tracks didn’t have such horns – they just had a raised area on the inside of each link and that’s missing here. Pitch is a little short – the original had 58 links per side while these have 66. So, wonderful tracks? No. Just about acceptable for 1/72? I think so, and I do prefer to build these old kits straight out of the box. The real test will be whether these tracks are long enough, and I won’t discover that until I start the build!

The instructions comprise a series of old-school 3D drawings that seem to show the sequence of assembly fairly well. The text is written in wonderful “Jinglish” the like of which I haven’t seen for many years. The history of the Churchill begins: “After a terrible in France, the Royal Army…”

Two colour schemes are shown. Both show standard green Churchills, a Mk I in the markings of “British Home Forces, 1942” (the markings are actually for a tank of “B” Squadron, 9th Royal Tank Regiment) and the other as a Mk II of the Calgary Regiment of the Canadian Army. The decals are printed in register, but aren’t particularly complete for either vehicle.

The decal sheet also provides insignia for both the 2nd Armoured Brigade and the 6th Armoured Division. However, I note that this decal sheet is for both the Churchill kit and Hasegawa’s Crusader Mk II, so I assume the spare decals are intended for the Crusader? If you were so inclined, I suppose you could use them for the Churchill and perhaps even for a Churchill in North African colours?

Would you want one?

Overall, the quality of the mouldings here surprised me. They’re good. Not perhaps up to the best current standards, but much, much better than many AFV kits from the 1970s. Overall, this looks like a reasonable representation of an early Churchill. And if you want to build a 1/72 scale Churchill Mk I or Mk II, this is your only option. As far As I am aware, no other manufacturer produces a small-scale kit of these early models of this tank.

Hasegawa do offer a slightly different version of this kit as the Dieppe Raid Limited edition. This includes a Daimler Mk II Armoured Car and a Mk II Churchill modified with wading gear. Dragon produce several versions of both the Churchill Mk III and IV in 1/72 as part of their Armor Pro series, and all are nice kits featuring Dragon’s DS vinyl tracks. Italeri do a Churchill Mk III in 1/72 – it’s a re-release of an old Esci kit from the 1970s, and it’s pretty good and comes with length and link tracks. The only other alternative in 1/72 comes from the Plastic Soldier Company who do a pair of “Churchill Tanks,” no Mk is specified, but these appear to be Mk IV or VI. Like all PSC products, these are really intended for wargaming and they are fairly simplified models.

If you don’t mind working in 1/76, the Airfix Churchill Mk VII from 1961 isn’t a bad kit and it’s still available as part of the Vintage Classics line. It was also re-released in 2006 as a Crocodile flamethrower variant and in 2009 in AVRE bridge layer mode, though both feature the same rather basic 1960s parts and tracks. Revell also do a Churchill in 1/76, though it’s only available as the AVRE model and it’s a re-box of the Matchbox kit from the 1980s.

Sadly, British Armour just doesn’t seem to receive the same attention from manufacturers (or modellers) as US or German AFVs, so it’s good to see what appears to be a reasonable kit of a little-covered British tank.

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