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  1. Crusader Mk.III (BT-012) 1:35 Border Model via Albion Alloys The Crusader tanks was the answer to the need for a new Cruiser or fast tank by the Ministry, and was developed side-by-side with the less well-known Covernantor tank, with some resemblances between the two that could confuse the viewer into thinking that the Crusader was a development of its actual sibling. The initial Mk.I had an auxiliary Besa machine gun turret on the port side of the glacis plate, but this was often removed in the field, and eventually plated over at the factory, although that did leave a shot-trap that exposed the driver somewhat. The Mk.II was an up-armoured version, addressing the lack of protection that the Mk.I afforded, while the Mk.III saw the introduction of the larger 56mm 6-pounder that dealt with the lack of fire-power of the 2-pounder pop-guns the original models were fitted with. This allowed them to fight on a semi-level playing field against the Panzer IIIs and IVs, although at the time their foes hadn't yet been fitted with appliqué armour or higher velocity long-barrelled guns. The larger gun forced the removal of a crew member, meaning that the commander had to load the gun, which must have had a negative effect on situational awareness due to the distraction, but added a few extra rounds storage. The enlarged turret retained the angular polygonal shape of the earlier marks, which itself was a series of shot-traps, deflecting ricochets down into the lightly armoured top deck. The tank was also prone to exploding when hit, which forced the addition of armour around the shell stowage, reducing its capacity a little, but not too badly considering the improvement to survivability. It was used extensively in the Africa campaign where it could prove effective when used correctly, but it never really overcame its lack of armour or reliability issues that were in-part due to the harsh conditions of the desert with long treks across the dunes taking its toll on every moving component and the cooling systems. The Liberty engine was also susceptible to overheating issues thanks to a change in design to allow it to fit in the shallow hull of the tank, with various in-theatre fixes used initially before an improved version of the engine came into service with the Mk.III. By the end of 1942 it was considered obsolete, and when possible it was withdrawn from front-line service to be replaced by US-built M3 Grant or Sherman tanks, as and when they became available. After withdrawal it was used for training units back in Blighty, and some were converted to Anti-Aircraft (AA) platforms by replacing the turret with either a single 40mm Bofors gun, twin Oerlikons, or even triple AA. A few were also converted to gun tractors by removing the turret and upper deck, then adding a taller superstructure that gave it a “skip-on-tracks” look. These would be used to tow QF 17 pounder anti-tank guns while carrying the crew. The Kit This is a completely new tool from Border, and is a modern tooling of this slightly underwhelming but nonetheless important subject. It arrives in a top-opening box with a satin finish, and a nice painting of the type on the lid, plus profiles and renderings of some of the interesting parts of the model on the sides. Within is a well-crafted and comprehensive package of parts in styrene, brass and aluminium that would once have required the additional purchase of costly aftermarket. There are five main sprues, a lower hull part, a bag of track links and twelve track pin sprues in grey styrene, two frets of Photo-Etch (PE), a turned aluminium barrel for the main gun, two decal sheets, the instruction booklet with three pages of colour profiles and an advert for their new part-holder vice in the rear, and hiding in the bottom, a 30x20cm cutting matt in mid-brown that is printed with 10mm squares and various shapes on one side, with a set of line-drawn profiles of the Crusader III on the other. The mat is marked as “Limited Edition”, so the mat and some other parts may not be included with later boxings. Detail is excellent, from the copious rivets and weld-lines on the turret to the finely moulded track-links, and although it is an exterior kit, you get a well-detailed breech to the main gun. There is also a styrene gun tube included if you don’t like turned barrels, and this along with its two choices of muzzle are hollow thanks to some sliding moulds. Someone has even taken pity on anyone that doesn’t want to make a complete track run of individual links, and included a straight length of track that you can insert at the bottom of each run to save time. Construction begins with the lower hull, which has a double-wall, between which the Christie suspension arms are fitted, and the suspension can be left flexible by cutting off a turret that protrudes from the inner wall, which will permit a degree of movement of the axles. Bear in mind that styrene will eventually fatigue though, so you take your chances there. The outer skin is covered in diagonal rows of rivets where the dividers are joined on the real thing, then attention shifts to the detailing of the upper hull. Over the course of a number of steps, the air intake box, driver’s enclosure and circular hatch (site of the old machine gun turret) are made up, along with a host of stowage boxes with ribbed sides, again thanks to slide-moulding. Spare track links and rear mudguard sides are also added, then the two hull halves are joined together. The front and rear bulkheads are decked out with light clusters with protective cages, towing hitches and other small parts, plus a large cylindrical fuel tank with feeder hose, and drive sprocket armour either side of the more substantial towing hitch in the middle of the rear bulkhead. Two each of idler wheels and drive sprockets are made up, then ten pairs of road wheels are built with a poly-cap in the centre and outer hubcap part, which are all fixed to the axles just in time for you to make up the tracks. There are 117 links per side, with each link having two sprue gates on the curved edges, and two ejector-pin marks on the flat inner surface, most of which can be scraped or sanded away quite easily if you feel the urge. There are two jigs supplied on the sprues, which allows you to lay down five links at a time, then hold them in place with a top part of the jig while you insert the individual track pins, one each side per link. The instructions have you inserting the pins after removing them from the sprues, which aren’t spaced accordingly, so have to be inserted separately. I got round this by cutting between each one whilst still on the sprue, giving me a little handle to help assembly without losing pins everywhere. Using a sharp knife or nippers, you can then remove the sprue stub and move on to the next one. It’s time consuming, but the result is a well-detailed, flexible track run that should look great under some paint and weathering. Don’t forget the aforementioned lengths of pre-moulded track for the bottom of your track run if you fancy short-cutting the process. They’re very similar to the individual links, although slightly, and I mean very slightly less detailed, but as they’ll be on the bottom, not much will be seen anyway. It’s totally up to you, so make your choice. With the tracks done, the side-skirts are installed, with a choice of smaller PE skirts that expose most of the tracks and require a little bending at the rear, or deeper styrene skirts with separate stowage rails running most of their length. The turret begins with the barrel slipping through the mantlet along with the coax Besa machine gun. The styrene barrel slips in from inside because it isn’t yet wearing its muzzle, but the turned barrel is 0.8mm wider at the shroud and has its muzzle turned-in, so it won’t fit through the hole as it stands. The instructions don’t number the mantlet, but it’s Da11 in case you wondered. The breech is assembled and has the two pivots attached to the sides, then it’s mated to the back of the mantlet, and you can choose from a cylindrical muzzle if you have fitted the PE side skirts, or the tapering one for the styrene skirts. Fitting the aluminium barrel will necessitate the use of the styrene skirts due to the turned-in tapered muzzle. The mantlet inserts into the turret front, and the floor with separate ring is made up so that the front and top half can be glued in place. There are two hatches with handles and internal details in the roof, plus a small panel at the rear that completes the structural element, then aerials, lift-eyes, spotlight with clear lens, fume extractor and stowage box at the rear are all attached around the turret, with a shovel strapped to the rear of the bustle-box. The final job is to join the turret and hull together, which is a drop-in fit, so take care during subsequent handling of the completed model. Markings There are three decal options on the sheets, with full colour profiles with five views for each one, which have been penned by AMMO, and use their codes for the paint colours. From the box you can build one of the following: 6th Armoured Div., Tunisia, 1943 9th Queens Lancers, 1st Armoured Div., El Alamein, 1942 26th Armoured Brigade, 6th Armoured Div., Tunisia, 1943 The decals are printed anonymously and have good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion We’ve not had a modern tooling of the Mk.III Crusader in this scale for what seems like eons, so it’s a welcome release, especially as it’s well-detailed and is a comprehensive package. The turned barrel is nicely done too, but I’ve yet to figure out how it fits in the mantlet, although I intend to find out, as it’s tempting. Very highly recommended. Available in the UK from all good model shops. Review sample courtesy of
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