Wednesday, September 16, 2015

British Army M4 tank

In 2014 Warlord Games in association with Italeri released a plastic kit of the American M4 kit. At Salute that year they had a special offer if you bought five of them.

I built one of them on the Sunday after Salute.

At Warfare in Reading Warlord Games released their Armoured Fury starter set which came with three more M4s and two Panthers.

So, I am now the proud possessor of eight M4 Sherman kits.

Unlike the M4A3, the M4 was used in British and Commonwealth service, being referred to as the Sherman 1 (just add one to the number after the A, the M4 being effectively an M4A0. The A number does not indicate a later version, but a different construction or engine.).

The M4 as modelled by Warlord is an earlier version of the M4, not the earliest because of the position of the track return roller at the back of the bogie. It also has the original single hatch turret, which made the Sherman and its tendency to burst into flame a death trap for the loader.

The M4 kit builds a tank with the US 75mm gun, great for supporting infantry but rubbish against opposing tanks of the period 1944 onward (the tank counts in the Armoured Fury box feel a little in favour of the Panther). I am still waiting for a kit of the British Sherman Firefly with its high velocity 17 pounder gun.

There are plenty of books on the subject, and I referenced the New Vanguard book on the Sherman,  British Tanks in Normandy by Ludovic Fortin (referred to later as BTN), British Armoured Vehicles by George Bradford. I also used the Osprey Modelling book on the US 76mm Sherman for ideas on stowage. The Sherman Minutia website is also a useful reference though I have not identified the particular manufacturer of the M4 represented by the kit (normal web site health warnings apply).

Research is important, when I was younger I built the Airfix kit and thought that there was only one Sherman style, but there are many, the Minutia page above being a good way of examining the differences.

Looking at the pictures, the first thing you notice is that the British Army tanks came ashore covered in kit. Experience in the desert led the tankers to want to have everything they could need. There is a picture on page 5 of BTN showing a Sherman Firefly carrying a ladder.

The problem is the availability of 28mm scale junk to pack on your tank. Warlord Games does a range of white metal accessories, unfortunately they are unsuitable for the light weight plastic models, and with the height of the Sherman tank it would make them unstable.

So I chose to use the bits from other Warlord Games kits.

One of the features of a number of pictures of British Shermans was the presence of track, either racked or welded to the glacis and turret. The problem is there is little available from Warlord Games kits. In the end I used a piece from the hull front of the Panzer IV. I also added a rack on the left front glacis above the left headlight assembly. This required the removal of the tow wire from the glacis.

One of the things that veterans of the desert war had were bags and rucksacks in quick to grab locations in case they had to exit the tank quickly. So I used two plastic packs from the British Infantry sprue, and two made from square section plastic from Evergreen detailed with micros trip and green stuff.  I leave deciding which is which as an exercise for the reader.
The two boxes in the frame on the left side of the rear hull come from a sprue of crates, drums and boxes purchased from Knightwing Models - bought ages ago. The frame is from microstrip.

The distinctive "radio box" on the turret bustle is a feature of all Firefly tanks (the 17 pounder is so long it occupied the space normally occupied by the radio, so the radio was moved to a box attached to the bustle), However, there are a number of pictures and drawings showing non Firefly tanks with the same box. It alters the shape of the turret and is a distinctively British feature. It is built using 6.3mm square section Evergreen rod, the lid is a thinner section of Evergreen strip detailed with even thinner strip and microstrip.
The two jerry cans are from the Warlord Games SDKFZ 251C sprue and the large box is again made from 6.3mm square section with a lid made from 6.3mm strip detailed with micro rod and microstrip. Large boxes on the hull rear are a feature of the Firefly (it is however a different shape), but would not be present on a Sherman 1 of any flavour as it covers the hole for the crank handle. Insufficient research on my part. I might just drill a hole in the box at some point.

Next up was a more cluttered Sherman 1.

Photographs, including the aforementioned BTN picture on page 5 show equipment stowage bars across the front of the mudguards. They look like rod or rebar welded to the hull. So I used two pieces of microrod. To give a strong base to the outer rod, I used two of the boxes from the Knightwing set as the load in the centre and cemented them to the transmission cover and the rod cemented across the cover. I then positioned the second bar in contact with the boxes. The oil drum was detailed with some microstrip straps, as were the boxes. Handles were then added to the boxes. The rack under the hull machine-gun was filled with a tarpaulin made from green stuff. I used two goes, one to provide the body of the tarpaulin, the other to provide the detail as I was concerned that additional pressure might break the rod.
 As you can see I have added a "radio box" on the turret bustle and green stuff duffle bags to the turret sides. I had run out of plastic rucksacks. I drilled 1.6mm holes in the turret sides and inserted 1.6mm evergreen rod in to provide a depth marker and positive adhesion to the green stuff.

 This time I noted the hole for the crank handle and added it and a crank in its holder. Again plastic rod was used to mark and hold the position of some of the additional baggage added.

The two white boxes are scratch built from various profile strip and a Knightwing box is strapped to the hull deck with microstrip. Three sacks were sculpted as if hanging from the tow wire attachment and three rucksacks from the other side of the hull rear plate.
Straps and attachments were sculpted from green stuff. The cast turret was textured using liquid poly and the brush. I did fill in the lamp mount on the turret top with plastic rod as that does not appear in any of the pictures.
You may notice that the track and suspension is already under coated in Citadel Chaos Black. I did not attach them to the hull until after the rest of the tank had been undercoated with Plastic Soldier Company British Tank Green. This was also true of the tank above as well.

The hull was left British Tank Green (or Russian Uniform Green). The various bits of baggage were painted with various Vallejo greens and English Uniform Brown lightened with Khaki and Buff. The straps were khaki. The wooden crate was painted Vallejo Old wood. Green baggage was shaded with Citadel Athonian Camoshade, brown with Seaphim Sepia and Agrax Earthshade.

I painted some of the running gear and the exposed hull side with Vallejo Russian Uniform Green, though because I was going to cover most of it in mud, I did not make a thorough job.

A year ago I bought the British AFV pack from Warlord Games. It has various unit patches for the Guards Armoured Division, which used Shermans in Normandy. At the back of BTN there is a markings diagram for the Grenadier Guards. So the two tanks are from C Squadron. The baggage on the right rear hull obscures the tactical sign.

The decals were sealed with Humbrol acrylic matt varnish after they were dry (I used Humbrol Decal Fix to improve adhesion and smooth them in place). After the Device debacle, I made sure that each face was dry and varnished before moving on the the next. I used Citadel Typhus Corrosion for the mud on the transmission cover, tracks and running gear and the hull rear. Agrax Eartheshade was used to weather the rest of the hull. Citadel Nuln Oil was used for the fuel filler and spillage and around the gun mantlet.
 The location of the Squadron identifier does seem to vary, and based on a photograph I have added the circle (C Squadron) to the hull rather than the turret. There also does not appear to be one on the rear of the turret. The registration numbers are also in positions based on photographs.

 That is a speck of dust on the turret top, I must replace that picture with one without it.

 Crooked Dice's William Killen for scale.

Additional pictures:
 No dust now.
 The two tanks.

So I need one more similarly stowaged Sherman, though I suspect I will be building a Sherman Kangaroo (armoured personnel carrier) as the next one as something different. Hopefully before I return to the tanks, Warlord Games will have some suitable stowage.