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  1. Churchill 3" Gun Tank with Snake Launcher (DH96006) 1:35 Ding-Hao Hobby The Churchill tank was named after Winnie, who once he realised it wasn't a particularly good tank, wasn’t very pleased with his namesake. It was a cruiser class tank intended to replace the Matilda, and was designed with the last war in mind, as were many of the British early war designs, so was under-armed and under-armoured. Many changes and variants later it was still having problems, and its terrible performance during the ill-fated and poorly prepared Dieppe landings sealed its reputation as a poor design. The post D-Day variants were at least capable of penetrating enemy armour, but as with the Sherman, it struggled with the more heavily armoured Tiger and Panther tanks unless it was at close range. A variant of the chassis was used to create a gun carriage, with a 3" howitzer ball-mounted horizontally in a casemate and protected by thicker armour. Because of the Sherman Fireflies with their superior gun however, they didn't see action, and some were converted to carry the experimental Snake mine-clearing system, which was a development of the Bangalore Torpedo, and fired a line of rockets across the battlefield, detonating the charges within to clear a path for tanks and troops to advance. Sixteen Snake tubes were carried on each sponson over the tracks and extending their full length. The 3" gun was removed and replaced with a blanking plate to reduce the all-up weight and prevent draughts. It wasn't deployed on the battlefield, although its successor Conger did see some deployment, encountering problems with premature detonation, possibly due to the vulnerability of the explosives in such an exposed position. The Kit Ding-Hao are the specialist arm of well-known model company AFV Club, and this is a retooling of their Churchill kit that was released early this decade, with additional sprues added to create the casemate and rocket tubes. It arrives in a brown cardboard box with black overprinting that gives a little background to the company name, and what its aims are, describing the kit as "Collector Grade". The kit specific details are found on a wrap-around cover that shows printed pictures of a complete model, plus the bonus resin figure that is in the box. The box has a captive lid that hinges back, revealing quite a lot of plastic in the box. The Churchill base kit parts are all double-bagged along with the resin figure, and the variant specific parts are separate in their own bags, so there's going to be a lot of crinkly bags to dispose of once you unwrap the kit. There are seventeen sprues in olive green styrene, a clear sprue, two rubbery tracks, four small frets of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, a length of cord, twenty two short springs used in the suspension, a small decal sheet and of course the instruction booklet. The bonus figure is made from cream resin and is supplied in four parts, which fit together very snugly. Construction begins predictably with the suspension and road wheels, utilising all those real springs to give the suspension functionality. It is a little complicated, so take care and follow the instructions, testing the fit as you go. There are a lot of parts, and the working suspension adds another layer of complexity, as well as increasing the part count. The drive sprockets and idler wheels are added at the ends of the sponsons along with access doors and additional parts, after which the two assemblies are joined by attaching the hull floor and lower section of the rear bulkhead. The bulkhead is then decked out with towing hitches, light clusters and radiator parts, with the aft section of the engine deck added on top in two parts after they are detailed with hatches and grab rails. The glacis consists of a thick front plate, and a sloped plate onto which the headlamps are glued, then fire extinguishers, exhausts and their armoured shrouds are attached, then the fenders are installed on the tops of the sponsons after adding the flexible plastic/rubbery tracks, which show a surprisingly good level of detail for their type and moulding era. You can of course replace them with the usual white-metal tracks to get the correct faceted look and weathering opportunities, but that's your choice! Engine intake boxes are fabricated from styrene and PE, then applied to the slots on the sponson sides, with styrene mudguards front and rear that have PE accessories added for scale fidelity. It seems a little out-of-sequence at this stage, but the rear panel that forms the back of the Snake boxes as attached by two faux-bolts to the towing eyes, gluing only the bolts at this stage. Tiny PE firing harnesses are added to the rear of each of the firing pins, with a photo showing how they should be arranged once complete. A quartet of British style jerry cans are attached to the rear fenders, and attention then turns to the casemate. The crew compartment is made up from flat armour just like the real thing, and has a PE blanking plate for the gun mount on the thick mantlet, which glues in from behind. Hatches, commander's cupola and vents are also added before it is dropped into the long hole in the hull, and this is where you find out whether you've managed to build the assembly square or not. It might be best to test this before the glue is dry however, when it will be a lot easier to check. Large F-shaped brackets are fitted to the sponsons, which support the snake tubes, each of which is built from four sides and a separate front, which has the hollow muzzle and a representation of the rockets moulded-in. They slide in through the brackets and butt up against the rear plate attached earlier, with a number of locating pegs ensuring a good fit. Towing cables are made up from some of the supplied cord glued onto the plastic eyes, and an aerial is stretched out from sprue, and that's the kit done. The figure that is supplied is in cream resin as mentioned earlier, and has separate arms and head, with a single part providing the torso and legs. The detail is excellent and the casting is crisp with sensibly placed pouring blocks, which shows up the detail of the tanker's winter coveralls with integrated hood to great effect. The chap is relaxing with a hot cuppa while leaning against his tank, with a very natural pose, which is accentuated by the incredible fit of the parts. When you offer the arms up to the torso, there is along pin that fits into a corresponding hole, and once you have the correct position, the join between the two parts almost disappears. The head is similarly well done, although to me his neck could do with extending by a fraction, as when it is hard down into the socket he looks a bit lacking in the neck department. A small blob of Milliput in the socket would make that an easy correction, and any excess can be smoothed off with a damp blade before it cures. Markings There is only one option in the box, and for some reason you are incited to paint it Dark Earth, when almost every Churchill I've seen, including the box top photo is an olive drab(ish) colour. It's probably best to go with what you know for the main colour, but the instructions for the figure seem to be more appropriate. The decals on my review sample had merged with the protective paper, but most of it peeled away with a little effort. The rest was removed with a moist cotton bud, by rubbing gently side-to-side over the paper adhering to the decals. A few scraps remain, but these should float away when the decal is dumped in water. Conclusion An unusual variant of a fairly unsuccessful line of tanks that on initial release commanded quite a premium price that possibly scared away many potential purchaser. There should by now however be some more attractive offers available, so if you're a fan of the "funnies" or weird dead-end developments, maybe now is the time to pick one up. Recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
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