Airfix Cromwell IV Tank by Nigel Robins
A new AFV release from Airfix in 1/76 this year was a major surprise, I think their last one was the Chi- Ha of 1974 and for it to be a Cromwell, one of my favourite boy-hood tanks was even better. I bought my kit on IPMS Romsey club’s visit to Airfix at Margate on 22/09/2011 and upon opening the box in the car on the way home I would say I was very pleasantly surprised.
The kit is moulded in nice, good quality, soft grey plastic and has 91 parts according to the box art. The most revolutionary thing about this kit is the way the track units are moulded. The tracks are moulded as separate, complete, preformed units to which you add the wheels!! This has the advantage of representing the track sag perfectly and these are also are far easier to assemble than would be the case with separate track links. This also allows the tracks to retain a fair amount of detail which is not always the case with preformed tracks. They are vastly better than the dreaded rubber band style track of old, which Airfix kits, amongst others, have traditionally employed with all the awkward problems of obtaining nice strong track joins and correct track sag.
Building this kit is a pleasant experience as everything fits together nicely, though the locating holes for part 6A were a little too small requiring a bit of opening out with a file and this was, also, required with the cupola (part 17B) The kit offers two cupolas; one with open and the other with closed hatches, though sadly no commander figure to grace the turret. The kit provides the wading trunking and a cullin hedgerow device. Please be aware that either the cullin or the wading trunking would be fitted not both as shown in one of the illustrations in the instruction sheet. Personally I would have preferred a more useful “Normandy” cowl instead of the wading trunking but perhaps this indicates that Airfix intend to produce a Royal Marines Centaur in the future? My advice is to initially push fit the sprocket wheels (parts 16B) onto the shafts when assembling the wheel and track units as this allows a little adjustment to be made when lining up the tracks as it is easy to misalign sprocket and track and tricky to this correct once the sprocket is glued solid. I then added the inner wheel halves and glued the tracks to them as I wanted to paint the tracks and the inner wheels and this was the easiest way to do this. I painted the outer wheel faces on the sprue as this; I found, was the simple way to paint black the solid rubber tyres. Trying to do this once the wheels were attached to the hull I believe would be a lot harder. The whole model was sprayed using Humbrol 159, the tracks were painted dark grey and the tools picked out in grey and wood. I used some Humbrol 30 to paint around the bolts and seams on the turret as some vehicles still retained the “Bostick” applied for waterproofing, which was not always removed. The vehicle I was modelling had this feature.
The kit builds up as a nice and accurate, early model, riveted Cromwell IV with the “D” or “E” type hull. The model scales out well against the drawings I have and looks very good when placed alongside the MMS Cromwell. The tracks actually seem a bit narrow but in fact this is a optical illusion: they scale out correctly, are a pretty good likeness and are accurately proud of the first and last road wheels which is correct if the model is to represent a tank standing on level ground with the tracks correctly tensioned (Well according to the manual anyway) There are some really nice touches. I liked the way the Besa machine guns were moulded, in particular, the way that the turret Besa can be painted before being placed in its mounting. The turret ariel mounting is particularly fine and cries out for a wire ariel to be fitted. Another nice feature is how the spruce is attached to the sprocket wheels, being slightly below the teeth and moulded at an angle so it can easily be detached with an angled knife cut with no chance of damaging the delicate teeth, full marks here Airfix. There are some criticisms; the 75mm gun barrel is, in my opinion, too thin. It may well be scale thickness but it just seems too weedy. I would rather have a gun barrel that is too thick than too thin as, in my opinion, 1/76 gun barrels do benefit from being slightly over scale. Otherwise when placed alongside figures whose weapons, by necessity, have to be thicker than scale the AFVs gun barrels look totally wrong. By contrast the light guards are too thick, undoubtedly to allow for the moulding process and there is a total absence of stowage anywhere on the vehicle. The insides of the commander s hatches lack the pads and handles and for the very finicky a vane sight should be on the turret roof. I must stress that all of these criticisms are minor and fall into the realm of super-detailing. An experienced modeller will enjoy adding these little extras.
For me the most disappointing thing about the kit is the decal sheet. The decals were easily applied to the model and are of excellent quality and will accept Micro-Sol decal softener very well. I even got the allied roof star to conform perfectly even though the turret ventilator was in the way, a first on a Cromwell model in any scale. The problem for me is with the subject matter. Option one is for a Royal Artillery OP Tank attached to 4CLY and knocked out At Villers- Bocage. The allied stars supplied may be inappropriate for this vehicle according to the photographic evidence (Certainly some 4CLY Cromwell s had the allied roof stars but none seems to have the turret rear star) and the serial numbers given on the placement instructions are incorrect, the 8 and the 1 are transposed, though thankfully correct on the decal sheet. The alternative option is for an unidentified Headquarters vehicle of 11th Armoured Division. This is all a bit unimaginative. If a vehicle of the 11th Armoured Division is to be modelled surely a squadron vehicle of, say, the 23rd Hussars would have been a better subject, certainly for the modeller and war-gamer. Airfix could easily given a third option of the Welsh guards (Reconnaissance regiment of Guards Armoured) or a Holland 1944 whitewash scheme for something completely different, hopefully the cottage Industry manufacturers will soon come to the rescue!!
Overall though, this is an excellent kit and by far the Best 1/76 tank kit on the market. My advice is to build some and buy many.
|A Photo of the actual vehicle portrayed in the kit by Airfix. A Royal Artillery OP Tank attached to 4CLY. The darker areas on the turret are places where Bostick was applied to waterproof the tank|
References and suggested additional reading
Osprey New Vanguard: Cromwell Cruiser Tank 1942-50: Fletcher and Harley 2006
Cromwell Tank, Vehicle History and Specification: HMSO/ Tank Museum 1983
Villers-Bocage through the Lens: After the Battle: Daniel Taylor (Undated)
D-Day to VE-Day, the British Soldier Volume 2: Histoire & Collections: Jean Bouchery 1999