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In-Box Review
135
BL 8-Inch Howitzer
BL 8-Inch Howitzer Mk. VI
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by: Rick Taylor [ TAYLORRL ]

Introduction

The BL 8-inch howitzer Mark VI was a heavy British howitzer on a mobile carriage used during World War I. It was designed by Vickers and entered production in March 1916. It was produced by four British suppliers and by Midvale Steel in the United States. It featured a 117.7-inch-long (2.972m) built-up tube on a conventional box trail with a fixed spade at the rear of the trail.

It used a hydro pneumatic recoil system and two pneumatic counter recoil cylinders. The breach was an interrupted screw type with an Ashbury style single motion opening breach block mechanism. The distinguishing feature on the piece are its large, open spoke, all steal “traction type” wheels. The box trail allowed it to elevate to 50 degrees; but, limited it’s traverse to four degrees right and left. To overcome the limited traverse and limit displacement after firing, it employed a triangular steel and wooden firing platform which allowed the trails to be shifted 26 degrees right and left. The firing platform travelled with the piece on its own set of wheels. Like other designs up to this point it employed a limber for towing behind an artillery tractor. It weighted 8.74 tons and fired a 200-pound (91kg) high explosive projectile to a range of 10,745 yards (9,825m).

In World War I, it was used by the British, Canadian, Australian, United States, and Russian forces. At the time of the Armistice, the United States had four 24-gun coastal artillery regiments in action on the western front equipped with this weapon and an additional three regiments in training in the theatre. The Commonwealth forces had 40 6-gun batteries equipped with this weapon in action on the Western front.

Early in World War II, the United States transferred its remaining war reserve stock of howitzers to the United Kingdom under the Lend-Lease Act. Some of these were reconfigured to 7.2-inch howitzers and employed in combat by the British. The United States gave 32 American built howitzers to Finland when they were invaded by the Soviet Union. After the war, Finland put the remaining 8-inch howitzers into reserve stores until scrapped in the late 1960s.

Review

This is the first offering of this subject in 1/35th scale. Roden, of the Ukraine, released a 1/72nd scale version in 2018. Resicast offers a 1/35 BL 8-Inch Mark II in resin which was a completely different howitzer.

The production kit is packaged in a sturdy two-part box. Inside are the instructions and a small photo-etch fret sealed in plastic, and all the sprues sealed in another plastic bag. No decals are included as artillery pieces rarely had markings.

The black and white instructions are eight pages in length. The first page gives a history and statistics in English, German, and Ukrainian. Next comes the color scheme based upon Vallejo paints and diagrams showing all the sprues and part locations. The instructions are clear and provide ten steps to assemble the howitzer and carriage. An additional four steps cover the assembly of the limber and firing platform which can be assembled in firing mode or travelling mode. The painting instructions show a dark green British Expeditionary Forces example, and a US Army Expeditionary Forces example in the three-color olive, brown, and black camouflage scheme. The black and white instructions make it difficult to differentiate between the black and brown. The box art is no help as it illustrates a British example. You will have to rely upon other references to determine where the black ends and the brown begins. Printing this page in color would have resolved the confusion.

The kit consists of six sprues and a separate box trail molded in grey styrene. The metal road surface of the wheels is molded in vinyl which must be wrapped around the four-part molded wheels. The small photo-etch fret contains four data plates for attachment to the carriage. The parts count is a modest 118. The molding is straight forward – none of the slide molding or tiny delicate parts that we see on artillery pieces from other manufacturers. The bolt and rivet details are crisply molded. There is a small amount of flash on a handful of pieces and noticeable mold parting lines that will have to be carefully scraped and sanded off. A handful of the parts, mostly on the optional firing platform and limber exhibit sink marks. Ejector pin marks are mostly hidden by assembly. The barrel and upper carriage are two-part assemblies and will require careful filling and sanding to eliminate the seams. The breach block is a very simple molding – only three parts compared to ten on another manufacturer’s kit that uses the same style of breach block.

Sprue and part count break out:

A – 15 Barrel, lower carriage & spade
B – 31 Upper carriage, breach block, and trail details
C – 19 Limber and firing platform
D – 21 (x2) Wheels
E – 4 Firing platform and limber
F – 1 Box trail
G – 2 Wheel treads
P – 4 Photo-etch placards

Conclusion

This kit should be a fast, easy, and enjoyable build – no tiny flying parts, or parts so delicate that they break or bend when removing them from the sprue. Congratulations to Roden for tackling this overlooked yet important subject. It fills a hole in everyone’s collection of World War I artillery pieces. This kit was purchased by the author.
SUMMARY
Highs: Quick, easy built. One-of-a-kind subject.
Lows: Black and white painting guide.
Verdict: Recommended
Percentage Rating
85%
  Scale: 1:35
  Mfg. ID: 813
  PUBLISHED: Feb 06, 2019
  NATIONALITY: United Kingdom
NETWORK-WIDE AVERAGE RATINGS
  THIS REVIEWER: 85.00%
  MAKER/PUBLISHER: 87.07%

About Rick Taylor (taylorrl)
FROM: WASHINGTON, UNITED STATES

I am a retired US Army Artillery Officer. I model 1:35 scale artillery and am focused on artillery used by US forces from 1900 to present.

Copyright ©2019 text by Rick Taylor [ TAYLORRL ]. All rights reserved.



Comments

I have not begun work on the gun...probably moved off to the future now that I'm being made aware of the questionable orientation of the wheels. No matter however, the very subject intrigues me enough to keep hoping the aftermarket will catch up with this kit, no matter what needs to be corrected.[/quote] John, After thinking about it overnight, I found the wheels not to be as much of a problem as I thought they would be. It was pretty simple to wrap some strip styrene around them (cut to the right width with a Friskars circular wheel paper cutter!), then some appropriate thickness/width styrene strip for the treads. The patterns in the kit part diagrams made it fairly easy. I didn't worry about the exact length of the treads either, I just cut approximate length strips, glued them on, and nipped the overhanging ends off with a side cutter. Then turned the wheel on its side against a sheet of sandpaper. The wheels and spokes are complicated enough that it might be a long while before the aftermarket catches up. I have to compliment Roden on their engineering skills to mold the spokes and hubs the way they did. It took me no more that a couple of hours of building, gluing and sanding to get them into shape, perhaps less. I watched "Twelve O'Clock High (the movie) in the background while I was building, and was done by the time the credits rolled! (Of Course I haven't added the rivets yet, since I haven't begun the painting stage). VR, Russ
APR 01, 2019 - 04:03 AM
I have not begun work on the gun...probably moved off to the future now that I'm being made aware of the questionable orientation of the wheels. No matter however, the very subject intrigues me enough to keep hoping the aftermarket will catch up with this kit, no matter what needs to be corrected.[/quote] John, After thinking about it overnight, I found the wheels not to be as much of a problem as I thought they would be. It was pretty simple to wrap some strip styrene around them (cut to the right width with a Friskars circular wheel paper cutter!), then some appropriate thickness/width styrene strip for the treads. The patterns in the kit part diagrams made it fairly easy. I didn't worry about the exact length of the treads either, I just cut approximate length strips, glued them on, and nipped the overhanging ends off with a side cutter. Then turned the wheel on its side against a sheet of sandpaper. The wheels and spokes are complicated enough that it might be a long while before the aftermarket catches up. I have to compliment Roden on their engineering skills to mold the spokes and hubs the way they did. It took me no more that a couple of hours of building, gluing and sanding to get them into shape, perhaps less. I watched "Twelve O'Clock High (the movie) in the background while I was building, and was done by the time the credits rolled! (Of Course I haven't added the rivets yet, since I haven't begun the painting stage). VR, Russ[/quote] This is why this topic is in my "follow" list. I'll refer to the topic when the time arrives to build this beast. These nuggets of corrective action to this gun will be a lot easier...taking out the secondary guess work. Thanx for the inner look into this gun's accuracy.
APR 01, 2019 - 05:34 AM
John, Rick, et. al., Carlos Martin (Varanusk) has asked me to do an article on my build of these two kits for Armorama, to which I've agreed. but I'd like to get some paint on it first. Hopefully, I can write the article and get it submitted by the end of the month. I'm just putting my first coat of primer on today, and thinking about those rivets on the wheels, and whether or not I want to go to that much trouble-- I'm thinking about keeping this build as close to "out of the box" as possible. Roden has a reputation for difficult builds (I've built several of their WWI aircraft kits, and know this first hand!), but this kit is not so much "difficult" as it is tiresome in cleaning up primarily the "round" parts-- but any modeler armed with a sharp knife and sandpaper (and elbow grease)won't have too much trouble! VR, Russ
APR 01, 2019 - 10:40 AM
Russ, I ordered 2 sets of rivets from Archer - one for the double row on the upper carriage cheeks, and one for the inside of the wheel rims. There appears to have been a bit of variation in the wheels. I have photos with 2 to 4 bolts placed between the pads and on some through the pads. The US technical manual describes the pads as metal vs rubber. I did find one WWI photo with the wheels NOT reversed. All of the others showed the tread pattern mirrored. In looking at all of the photos and drawings in the TM's, I agree the recoil oil reservoir on the right side of the barrel was a post-WWI addition. After spending a hour super-detailing it, I'm going to have to break it off and clean up the mess... The TM has a couple of drawings of the platform. The drawings clearly show wood grain on the beams and the cross beams at the spade. The part where the wheels rest appears to be iron plate as well as the curved guide for the spade. The drawings also show more fittings on the sides of the beams for staking them down. I'm going to try and have mine ready for the spring show in 11 days. It will require some dedicated bench time and curbing my tendency to add detail. Rick
APR 02, 2019 - 06:18 AM
Nice to know! Glad you 'volunteered' to this build for all to see. It will help my 'minds eye' actually see the changes take place. One request: mention the 'part number' of any/all aftermarket products used, i.e. Archer rivets (I think I have that sheet, but want to make sure it is the same as what you mention).
APR 02, 2019 - 06:48 AM
I'll do my best. As for Archer rivets, I realize now that Rick was asking about the bolts on the gun carriage, and what Archer rivets I used. The fact is I didn't use any! Roden has molded the gun "cheeks" in halves, with a twin row of prominent strapping bolts on each half. When each cheek is assembled, there is a big gap down the middle of each cheek, with a row of rivets on either side of the gap. Now, these "bolts" stand quite proud of the checks on the real thing, and Archer doesn't make bolts tall enough. A purist would assemble the cheeks, fill the gap, sand them down, and replace all the "rivets" with stretched sprue or other material. I did not do that. I took the "easy way out", assembled the cheeks, then, using Tamiya thin cement and Tamiya gray putty mixed together, filled the gap--carefully, avoiding the bolts. Then, using a specially shaped sanding stick, I sanded out the gap (well, at least to my satisfaction, as this was a "quick" build for me) right down the middle. You might note the "bolts" are mounted on an angle to each other too-- that's ok. I have a very fine tooth metal file that fit perfectly between the bolts on an angle to remove excess putty. So to answer Rick's original question, I didn't use Archer rivets for the bolts. My supply of Archer rivets has dwindled, and so I'm confining their use to the wheels of the carriage for now, and again since this is a "quick build", I'll probably be abbreviating that too-- I've found several photos of what appear to be Midvale guns with only two rivets between rubber pads so I think that's the route I'll take. As to the size of the rivets (for the wheels), they will be the large size Archer rivets as opposed to the small ones. VR, Russ
APR 03, 2019 - 04:10 AM
Rick, I'll see you there (At the Spring Show)! I'm not sure how I'll handle the trail platform, as Roden has made the curved rail and it's bottom part hollow-- which I already surmised was probably incorrect. I think for now I'll leave it as is, and fix it later with real wood parts. I'm displaying mine in the towed position behind the Holt 75 (I like to display my artillery with the prime mover). You managed to find a TM? Would it be possible to bring it to the show or a TNI sometime? VR, Russ
APR 03, 2019 - 04:23 AM
So, for anyone contemplating this build, hold off if you have the patience. Rick Taylor (who wrote the in-box review) and I have agreed to write an article together about this build for Armorama. Rick lives just a little way from me, and by happenstance we are in the same casual modeling group. Rick is building his Howitzer on the firing platform, I'm building mine in the travel position behind the Holt 75 tractor. Rick also managed to get a copy of the US Ordnance manual for the Howitzer, which is very revealing with some details about the Howitzer and it's firing platform, some of which Roden got right, some of which they got wrong (different types of wheels, the recoil slide oil reservoir, the trail spade, etc). So for any of you with this model in your stash, we're going to write up our builds in conjunction with each other with some added information. Hopefully, we'll get it done by the end of April. VR, Russ
APR 04, 2019 - 10:43 AM
Yummy...gimmee, gimmee, gimmee!!
APR 05, 2019 - 11:11 PM
   

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