Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Cromwell tank, Airfix A02338

One of my friends moved from his parents house to his own house and I helped him a bit with painting and the floor of his new house and moving to it. To thank the people who helped he had some presents, for me the Airfix Cromwell tank (kit no. A02338). A very good choice since this one of the few new models Airfix developed in past years.
The Cromwell tank was developed in early war years as an 'cruiser tank'. The British 'tank doctrine' was that heavy tanks where needed to enforce break troughs and smaller faster tanks (the 'cruisers') to exploit holes in the enemy lines. Tanks in the cruiser role had to be light and as a consequence where lightly armoured making them useless against the new AT-guns developed by the Germans. As a response the British started the development of a new cruiser tank with better armour and guns. This tank was to become the 'Cromwell' tank. The way tanks where build in Britain was quite archaic at the beginning of the war but the Cromwell tank was an exception; It's box like shapes made it easy to produce in mass numbers. An other big plus was the use of the Merlin engine (also used in the Spitfire) and the Christie suspension which made the tank fast and manoeuvrable. It was armed with the 57mm six pounder gun which could be classified as a medium gun at the time, the high muzzle velocity gave it a could AT performance. It could not fire Brisant ammunition making it not so effective against APC's so some Cromwell tanks had a modified gun to fire 75mm shells. This gun looks the same as the 57 mm 6-pdr gun. An other version of the Cromwell was known as 'Centaur' which was fitted with a different engine and was pretty much identical to the Cromwell in other respects. The Centaur was less fast and was fitted with a 95mm howitzer to support infantry in breaking through fortifications. The Cromwell tank proved to be on the light side when it came to arms and armour so the British and Commonwealth forces used a lot of American build Sherman tanks along side the Cromwell. The most noticeable was of course the Sherman Firefly with it's 17-pdr high velocity AT-gun making the 6-pounder look like a 'door knocker'. The Comet tank is an other tank based on the Cromwell with a better armoured turret and the 17-pdr gun. This version came into action in the last month of WWII.
A Cromwell tank still in running condition from a museum.
As said the Airfix model is a new model released this year and it looks great. The detail fit is superb. The tracks are especially interesting, these are one piece hard plastic mouldings which are extremely easy to paint a glue in place. One first glues in the inner wheels to the hull, puts the tracks on these and then glues the outer side of the wheels in place. There is no need to use glue on the tracks and the wheels and tracks can all be painted separately before assembly:

The building instructions come with a full colour print with painting instructions for two versions. This is a bit over the top since the tank was painted in 100% olive drab only. The kit also includes wading equipment and a Cullen hedge cutter. The wading equipment was used of course by vehicles in the first hours of the invasion of Normandy since they had to drive a few meters from the landing craft to the beach. The hedge cutter was used in Normandy. The local country side was full of hedges and with device a tank could create a way through for the infantry. The tank is not 1/72 scale but 1/76 like the rest of Airfix armoured vehicles. The detail on the surface of the tracks is not the best I have ever seen due to the moulding technique used but that is really not a problem. The headlight guards are also a bit thick but this is a limitation of plastic, the material to weak to be moulded thinner. Finally the model is made in India making this truly a Commonwealth effort, nice touch! On to the pictures:

The periscope and tool detail is great:

The armorfast tanks are in true 1/72 scale and slightly lager, the detail is good of course since it is a fast assembly kit:

I can highly recommend this model but be carefull when buying an other Airfix kit however! Most of them are from moulds created over 40 years ago. Some models are quite good considering their age while others are a vague shade of the vehicle they are suppose to look like. Purist who want to have everything in 1/72 can better buy the Revell Cromwell Mk.IV to be released this month.

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