ARM: Review - AFV Club 1/35 scale Churchill Mk. III AVRE

Kit Review: AFV Club 1/35 scale Kit No. AF35167, Churchill Mk. III AVRE; 604 parts (529 in olive drab styrene, 30 etched brass, 25 metal
springs, 15 clear styrene, 4 black vinyl, 1 length of black nylon string); estimated price about US$48
Advantages: first kit of this vehicle in styrene; very comprehensive breakdown of parts and also changes from previous kit; good selection of AVRE fittings
Disadvantages: probably wrong turret provided; very complex suspension will try modelers’ patience and dexterity
Rating: Recommended
Recommendation: For all Commonwealth and engineer armor fans
    Early on – even during WW I – the armies in combat realized that with the advent of the armored fighting vehicle armored engineer vehicles would be handy to use in combat. Few efforts were made, however, with the extent of things primarily being fascine layers which were little more than British line tanks fitted with cables and racks to carry and release a fascine of bundled logs or even a prebuilt one.
    During WW II all of the major powers worked on armored engineer vehicles, but nobody was more active and dedicated than Britain. Mostly due to the efforts of General Percy Hobart, the Commonwealth forces were equipped with mine clearers, bridge launchers, amphibious tanks, and special purpose armored vehicles. But of all the vehicles created, probably the most ingenious of the lot was the Armored Vehicle Royal Engineers or AVRE for short.
    This tank was basically a Churchill infantry tank with its main armament removed and replaced by a short-range explosive charge launcher firing a large 11.5" (290mm) diameter charge (dubbed the “flying dustbin” by crews as it looked like a small trash can) for demolishing roadblocks, enemy strong points, and other obstacles. This was loaded by the bow machine gunner who had to open his hatch, open the front part of the launcher, load the charge, close the weapon and then get back into the tank. A small charge was breech loaded behind it to launch it over short distances.
    The tank was also provided with standardized fittings for various engineer equipment such as mine rollers, plows, push-launched bridges, and anything else Hobart’s geniuses could think of to ease the business of war.
    While early model Churchills were used for these conversions during the war, as the Churchill was declared obsolete as a gun tank after V- E day many of the later marks (VII and VIII) were converted to AVRE vehicles and soldiered on long after, fighting in Korea and many other smaller fights around the world and lasting up until about 1960.
    I’ve always had a soft spot for the AVRE, and built models of them in 1/76 and 1/35 scale. My favorite is the one with the winch and drop device on the engine deck with the fittings for the Small Box Girder (SBG) fitted to the bow for instant gap crossing. So it is no surprise that I was excited to hear that AFV Club was going to release an AVRE version.
    The kit is now here, and unfortunately is something of a disappointment. It’s not that AFV Club muffed the molds or the details; they are superb as always. The main reason is that I can only find two photos of what may be AVRE vehicles built on a Churchill Mark III vehicle with its welded turret. Nearly all of the combat photos from northwest Europe show the Mark IV variant with its cast turret as the primary conversion base for the AVRE models. I do have to point out in defense of AFV Club that they have photos of what does appear to be an actual AVRE on a Mark III turret in the directions, but where they found or any other information is not provided.
    While I understand mold amortization is a necessity in this day and age, with this in mind and many Commonwealth armour (with a “u”) fans keenly aware of the differences, this is something of a blunder and will not go down very well. As a result, I am willing to bet both Accurate Armour and Cromwell will be working to produce a conversion turret in resin to solve this problem.
    Once past that glitch, the rest of the kit is beautiful. AFV Club provides 138 new parts for this version, and they are all petite and look the part. The charge launcher is very neatly done and consists of 23 parts; it may be mounted in either loaded or loading positions as the modeler sees fit. However, no “flying dustbins” are included with the model.
    The kit comes with the universal fittings brackets for both sponsons and the modified hatches for the driver and bow machine gunner. A new cupola is also provided.
    The rest of the kit pretty much mirrors the earlier Mark III kit (AF35153). The suspension is very complex and from comments I got back from Steve Zaloga is every bit the handful it appears to be. Each of the 12 bogie units per side consists of a central tower, metal spring, rocker arm, four-piece bogie carrier units, bogie separators/dividers, and twin wheel sets per set. The problems revolve trying to get all 12 of the bogie towers (which place the springs under compression in place in one sponson half and then cement the other side of the sponson to it to “capture” them without launching tower units into space (or worse, shag carpet). Each complete sponson requires 96 parts – more than many kits consisted of 30 years ago. Two spare units are included which mount upside down on the rear section of the fenders.
    Once again, even with the new hatches for the front of the hull and cupola there is no basic interior. As before, the side hatches are neatly done and have inner and outer parts to provide for the correct thickness. But the actual vehicle (having photographed the one in the Cobbaton Combat Collection, which was a “runner” at the time and being serviced with hatches open) has a “tunnel” from the driver’s compartment to the hatch; here there are just the inner bits of the sponson assembly.
    As with its parent kit note that the etched brass parts are called out as normal parts (G parts) with no flags for using ACC glue. The Besa machine guns also have lovely little etched brass ventilated guards that have to be fitted.
    Credit for assistance in researching this kit is given to Ossie Osbourne (although they did misspell his name!)
    Four different finishing options are given: 26 Assault Squadron 5 Assault Brigade, D-Day 6 June 1944 (T68141, White 3A 79th Armoured Division); 82 Assault Squadron 6 Assault Brigade D-Day 6 June 1944 (T68916, 79th Armoured Division); F Assault Squadron Black Half A Armoured Regiment RE, Italy 1945 (Black Circle 3); 26 Assault Squadron 32 Assault Engineer Regiment, Germany 1949 (T68148, BANDIT). As noted I have no clue as to whether or not these vehicles are correct or they should be Mark IV based tanks.
    Overall, while the kit is physically lovely, I wish that AFV Club had used the Mark IV turret and eliminated both suspicion of error and also given more possibilities for correctly modeling this vehicle as it was actually used.
    Thanks to Hobby Fan and Miin Herng Tsueng for the review samples.
Cookie Sewell
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On Feb 23, 10:26 am, snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

Hmm. You may want to check out the Terry's review for more info on this:
http://www.perthmilitarymodelling.com/reviews/vehicles/afvclub/afv35167.html
But it seems a little odd to me to complain that the major problem of a kit of a Mk.III AVRE is that it's a kit of a Mk.III AVRE.

Bovington Armour Museum, apparently.

The kit is advertised as being a Mk.III AVRE and that is what has been produced. How is this a "blunder" as opposed to "not your first preference"?

Perhaps you're missing a sprue? The PMMS review cited above states "Also included are two 290mm Petard mortar rounds made up of 7 parts each ...".
Bruce Probst Melbourne, Australia
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It's a blunder when most of the ones which appear to have been used in Northwest Europe were Mark IV based and the four that they selected appear to be wrongly marked (per Peter Brown, who is far more knowledgeable than I on British Armour.

I looked but did not find them, not sure as the kit checked out

Ah, another step missed! Thanks for the heads up, missed them the first time around.
Also noted I confused Mr Orsbourn with another individual named Osbourne with the same nickname (but not with Ozzy who couldn't be confused with anybody else anyway!)
Thanks!
Cookie Sewell

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On Feb 24, 10:21 am, snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

No, that's still not a "blunder". There do appear to be some errors with the kit instructions concerning the turret, since the vehicle at Bovington uses post-war modifications and AFV Club did not detect that, but as the PMMS review points out the parts to make the turret correct for 1944 are supplied in the kit, so it's easily rectified. Again, since the kit is DESIGNED to be a Mk.III, the fact that it BUILDS as a Mk.III cannot reasonably be construed as being a "blunder". You regularly complain about "boo-birds" picking on kit faults, what is it called when someone complains that a kit is actually accurate but isn't what THEY wanted it to be?
Unless, of course, you're claiming that NO Mk.III AVREs were ever used in 1944-45. I think you would have a hard time backing such a claim up.
BTW, after-market resin Mk.IV turrets are already available from Resicast (who also make various other Churchill accessory kits, for both the AFV Club and Tamiya Churchills). http://www.resicast.com

Well, marking problems are a separate issue. Honestly, when was the last time that any new "mainstream" AFV kit (from any manufacturer) appeared with accurate decals? It's what keeps the aftermarket decal guys busy.
Bruce
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There is a tendency to use the molds you have and not create the bits to go for the "Center of Mass" version.
Aircraft guys would not tolerate a P-51D-1-NA in the colors of a late war ace using a later model with the dorsal fillet, or passing an F4U-4 off as an F4U-5 with no changes. Likewise the ship guys grouse over which period a WWII ship represents when it is not marketed as that particular one.
German armor fans are nastier about failings with just tiny differences in the armor kits produced, and all you have to do is read the blogs like Missing Lynx under Axis armor.
My point is that if nearly all of the extant photos of AVREs in action are of Mark IVs putting out a Mark III (with precious few references to show where and when it was used) is a blunder; not fatal, but it does disappoint as it means you are really going to have to scramble to find one in action.

Few companies get the markings right, no argument, and other than ROC or ROK ones AFV Club and Academy respectively have poor records followed by Itaerli's non-Italian subjects. DML does much better but as noted often does not show which bits on a kit are used with which decal sets. I think the reason is DML uses good modelers for their research and does not work backwards -- most companies (and DML has also been guilty) find markings they like and then stick their kit under it whether it is correct for those markings or not.
Cookie Sewell
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on 2/22/2009 6:26 PM (ET) snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote the following:

Did you see these pics of a Mark 4 AVRE? http://www.armourinfocus.co.uk/a22/avre/avre.htm <http://www.armourinfocus.co.uk/a22/avre/avre.htm A couple of pics are dead on that site. One of the Mark III and one of the Mark IV Here is another set of pics. http://www.armouruk.net/churchill.htm <http://www.armouruk.net/churchill.htm Or, you can search for some more here. http://tinyurl.com/d65pya
--

Bill
In Hamptonburgh, NY
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