This kit is probably one of the most anticipated Allied armour subjects since AFV Club's monumental Churchill Mk. 3 release (item AF35153). This version of the famous Churchill builds on AFV Club's previous Churchill kit, with some new goodies -a total of about 138 new parts for the AVRE version. Jim Rae has previously covered AFV Club's Mk. III Churchill, so I will cover the bits added for the AVRE version f the Mk. III.
Check out Jim Rae's review of the first Churchill kit here:
Review: AFV Club's Churchill Mk. III (LINK)
Other websites claim the detailed and complex-looking suspension of these new Churchill kits will be problematic to build. I hope the editors of these "other" sites get away from their keyboards long enough to actually build a product they review -they'll find that these kits are enjoyable and satisfying to build.
Added to the previous kit are all the parts needed to build an AVRE (Armoured Vehicle, Royal Engineers) version of the Mk. III:
Aside from all the specialised AVRE bits mounted to the Mk. III hull, this kit includes the 290mm Petard mortar ("dustbin" projector) complete with breech detail, 2 Petard mortar rounds, later and early style commander's cupolas -the late style cupola is complete with clear episcopes, both standard and up-armored hull doors, additional applique armor plates, opening hull hatch with PE parts for the hull gunner/mortar loader, late and early type engine air intakes, a pair of spare bogie units, complete Besa machine guns with PE details, and a selection of brass PE details that will keep any detail freak happy.
The box contains 604 parts: 529 plastic, 30 brass photo-etched, 25 metal springs, 15 clear, 2 lengths of black vinyl track, 2 spare vinyl track links, and a nylon tow cable -nothing in there that may be become a victim of postal damage. My box in fact fell off of my scooter while on the way home -no damage done!
Note that the first run of kits will also contain a limited-edition print of the box art!
Assembly of these kits from AFV Club is easy and straight-forward. The end result is a very detailed model with a fully-articulating suspension. I will outline the sequence I found to be easiest, though it does not follow the steps laid out in the kit directions:
Step one is to trap the springs with their spring towers to the hull sides (called "panniers" in British tank terms).
Next, I numbered some similar-looking parts with a felt pen before cutting them from the sprues. The numbered bits are the spacers w/rubber bump stops (parts D17, 18, 19, 20) that fit between each girder. The girders (parts D1, 2, 3, 4) are the long bits that will actually hold the whole assembly between them. The girders also have the pins on which the suspension arms hang. Even though some of those spacers are dissimilar, it doesn't matter if you get them mixed-up. Nobody will see them once everything is together!
Cement ONE girder (parts D3, D2) and all those spacers to the hull pannier you assembled in Step 1. Make sure the spacers are straight and that the girder is straight. There are grooves to help you line it up. Let all these bits dry before moving to the next step:
Hang all the suspension arms (parts D21,22,23) on their respective pins on that girder. How does one keep them all in place? The WHEELS keep them all in place. Once you've inserted the wheel axles though the suspension arms and spring towers, it all stays together nicely. The holes in the suspension arms are elongated to allow more flexibility.
The only hard part is to carefully remove the wheels from the sprues without damaging the outer (sharp) edges. The detail throughout the kit, especially bolt head detail, is superb.
Building AFV Club's Churchills: Blog (LINK)
After releasing their Centurion kits with workable suspensions, AFV Club set about finding a more suitable and manageable material for the suspension springs for their new Churchill kits. These springs are thus none of the bother, being very soft, yet remaining "to scale", of the stronger springs in the Centurion kits.
Although the kit-supplied vinyl tracks are as good as vinyl can be, I have a personal aversion to vinyl tracks -always have. Experimentation was necessary to cement the vinyl tracks together -only my cheap "no name brand" of Ca cement would bond. I opted to add the separately-available indy track links (item AF 35153) to do this kit justice and show-off that working suspension! When the vinyl links are properly painted and weathered, they look good, though. Building the separate track links is a breeze -just a little tricky joining the two ends together on the tank.
Churchill Individual Track Links (LINK)
The hull is entirely built-up from multiple parts, but it's trouble-free if you are careful to keep everything square. Following the steps laid out in the kit directions, you have the choice of omitting some sections of upper track guard. Wartime photos of Churchills often show this tinwork, especially the center sections straddling the turret missing, as mud and debris would build-up under the track guards, to the point where rotation of the turret was sometimes fouled. I added some texture to the front hull and turret side armor with Tamiya putty, but later decided that wasn't actually accurate on a Mk. III.
The small details made-up of PE brass parts are plentiful: cooling jackets for the machine guns, securing straps for the oil cans, guides for the loader's hatch, and gussets for the top track guards, to name a few. Nice touches include the PE parts to mount the spare track links. One needs a little common sense when bending these.
A choice is given between building the Type A version with side applique armor (see photo, Right), or Type B, without the additional armor (see photo, below). You are also given the choice between late or early-style bolt heads. I've enhanced my AVRE with the addition of the separately-available brass conical bolt heads from AFV Club (item AG35020), but the kit-supplied bolt head detail is really just as good.
Note that "Type B" tanks without the applique armor still retained the angled gussets (parts C6 -Right and C10 -Left) on the pannier sides, but this isn't shown in the directions. (see photo, Below)
The bolt heads festooning the Churchill can be tricky to mount, as the conical headed ones have no purchase for the tweezers, while the small bolts (parts M2) are tiny and could be very tricky to install. Using sticky "Blue-Tac" on the end of a paintbrush handle works well for installing the conical bolt heads. For the tiny bolts, leave them connected to a small portion of the sprue, using the sprue to handle the bolt. Remove the bit of sprue after the bolt is installed. Piece of cake!
Depending upon which type to depict, one has to open-up some holes in the pannier sides. I easily avoided this by simply removing all but one locating pin from the hull attachments -the holes and mounting pins are entirely unnecessary.
The smoke emitters and other parts on the rear panel are nicely done with PE details, but an extra rear fuel tank is not included. The separate engine deck hatches and exhaust system are gems, as is the multi-part driver's vision hatch and pioneer tools. A choice is given in using either early (part E14), or late-style (part M10) engine air intake boxes. I don't think the latter were seen on wartime Mk. III tanks.
Two commander's cupolas (either the early Mk.I, as seen in the previous Churchill kit, or the later "All Round Vision" type with clear episcopes), and turret applique armor are included. As a welder in my previous life, I can safely say the weld bead detail throughout the kit is very realistic!
Also included is a cupola-mounted spotlamp, made from clear parts, if you opt to use the early cupola. Like the Mk. 5 Centurion kits, the clear styrene is of a less-brittle material than seen in earlier kits. Pushing the ring of clear episcopes into the cupola requires some effort, as it's a tight fit -no cement needed!
The Petard mortar has a slide-moulded, one piece barrel which can be posed in either the loading (vertical) or firing position. The mortar is fully-detailed, including a metal spring, a PE guard for the co-axial BESA, and includes the breech -which will be seen through the open loader's hatch. Mounting that PE coaxial BESA guard was perplexing me -until I noticed the reference photos thoughtfully included in the kit directions.
The two Petard rounds included are built-up from separate rings to ease the painting of the stripe around the middle of the mortar round. They can actually be loaded into the mortar barrel. I would have liked some decals to depict the stenciling seen on wartime pics of the mortar rounds, though (see photo, Below). The commander's sight vane (PE part G13) is a little fiddly to attach - hold your breath while doing so! The later-style radio mast (parts L22, L24) is also a new addition to the previous kit.
Decals are provided to depict four different vehicles: one each for Germany (1945) and Italy (1945), and two for D-Day. I really can't say if the markings are historically accurate for those specific vehicles or not, but they are crisp and trouble-free.
As the only Churchill AVRE plastic kit, it's well worth the sticker price. One is left with some spare parts from the previous Mk. III kit, but the aluminum 6 pdr. gun barrel of the previous kit is omitted; you really must have both kits to claim to be a British armour fan, anyways! After building the first Churchill from AFV Club, I found this to be one of the most enjoyable and trouble-free kits I've built recently. All the parts fit together well, but some minor flash needs to be removed from the vinyl tracks. There is more work involved than the typical Tamiya kit, but the fit of parts is just as good. I found no ejector pin marks where they would show, and very minimal flash.
This kit is extremely detailed and very much looks the part when compared to pictures of the few AVREs remaining today -the kit was based on meticulous examination of these vehicles. It's true that the later-style cupola and air intakes are only seen on restored AVREs, but the early options are included.
Those intimidated by the complicated-looking suspension just need to study the instructions and plan ahead. Those complaining that they really wanted their AVRE with a turret from one of the other marks of Churchill may soon be satisfied! I will be working my way through a series of Reviews of AFV Club's update sets for the Churchill Mk. III, including some resin accessory and figure sets released under the Hobby Fan name.
You can follow my ongoing construction blog of the Churchill via the link provided above. It will warm the cockles of every British armor fan's heart to know that AFV Club plans to release variants of the Churchill regularly in the future. This year is off to a great start so far, with the release of the two most-anticipated kits of Allied armor fans. Will we next see a Churchill bridgelayer or other Churchill "funny"? Who knows...stay tuned to Armorama to find out!
"Gun power 26"
By Leszek Moczulski
Published by AJ Press
"Mr. Churchill's Tank"
The British Infantry Tank Mk.IV
Schiffer Military Publications