6 Royal Tank Regiment, Bur Said, Suez 1956
in support of 3 Commando Bgde Royal Marines.
The Centurion is widely acknowledged as one of the most successful tank designs ever, combining the hard won experience of WW2 to produce the first ever true Main Battle Tank, a classic design that saw first-line service from 1945 until the end of the 20th Century, with converted Israeli Centurions deployed as recently as 2006 in Lebanon.
Although designed originally for the central european front, Centurions saw their first combat during the Korean War, but it was in the desert that the Centurion earned its enduring reputation. In the hands of the Israeli Army, its devastatingly lethal perfomance against the Egyptians, Jordanians (who also operated the Centurion) and Syrians has become legend, but Centurions also saw combat with the British Army in Aden and Suez, the Australians in Vietnam, South Africans in Angola and with the Indian Army against Pakistan.
Originally powered by a Rolls Royce Meteor petrol engine (a derivative of the Merlin), Israel modified its remaining Centurion based vehicles to take a modern diesel powerplant.
Centurion Tanks of the 6th Royal Tank Regiment were landed from Tank Landing Ships at Port Said in November 1956, during the Anglo-French occupation of the Suez canal, Operation Musketeer. Marked with a white recognition "H" on their turret (for Operation Hamilcar, the orignal code-name for the invasion), the tanks were hurredly and rather crudely camouflaged in desert sand.
This is one of the earliest Airfix AFV kits (1964) and is slightly lacking in detail. It is also quite fiddly to build, with poorly supported sloping hull sides that are difficult to assemble. That said, a little care and basic add-on detail works wonders.
This one came in a type 4 box, without transfers. Determined to do it in desert colours, I started with an Aden scheme, but eventually settled on Suez. To bring the kit to life, I added the mantlet canvas cover, deeper front mud/sand guards, radio antennae, plus some upper deck stowages.
The kit represents a Mk.8 from the early 1960s, so to convert it back to a Mk.5, I also shortened the barrel, removing the muzzle brake/counterweight. Paint is Humbrol enamel, weathered with water thinned Games Workshop acrylic washes.