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Mike

British Medium Tank Mk.A Whippet 1:35

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British Medium Tank Mk.A Whippet
1:35 Meng Models


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The Whippet was designed to be a light and fast tank for incursion into enemy territory in support of the heavier, slower heavy tanks that were being developed at the same time. While the heavies eschewed the caterpillar tracks of prototype tank Little Willie in favour of rhomboid tanks, the Whippet kept them and powered each one with a petrol engine that caused some steering problems, as they had to be locked in tandem to go in a straight line, while one or other had to be throttled back to turn. A difficult job, but they managed to make it a one-man task, freeing cabin space for the gunners, who stood in the angular cabin behind the long cowling for the two engines. Originally supposed to mount a 360o rotating turret that would have given it a shot at being the first true modern tank, this was dropped on cost grounds, so four machine guns were mounted in the static compartment.

Whippets were involved in some high-profile events during their service in WWI's closing years, but as soon as the war ended they were dropped like the proverbial hot potato, with only a few left in the world now.


The Kit
Continuing the theme of WWI armour, Meng have released this new tooling as a companion for their Mark V that we reviewed here. It isn't the full-interior offering of its larger sibling, but the detail on the outside hasn't been sacrificed. It arrives in a smaller box with seven sprues in sand coloured styrene plus a hull part, as well as three in black styrene containing the track links that it shares with the Mark.V. A length of braided synthetic cord and a decal sheet round out the package along with a well-presented instruction and painting guide. Again, the Tank Museum at Bovington is cited on the box and instruction booklet, where they are thanked for their help in creating these models.

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Construction begins with the suggestion that you choose one of the two decal options first, as this will influence whether an additional viewing slot part is used during the build. The large upper hull moulding is first into the fray, with some additional parts added to and around the rear bulkhead. Straight away the fighting compartment is begun, adding gun-rings to the panels, which are then flexed along weakened lines to fold them into the correct angles needed to depict the sides. This is an innovative but simple concept, but of course you will need to avoid over-flexing the seams as styrene doesn't have the best fatigue life. The other panels are added to form the complex angled compartment, which slopes toward the front to fair into the long "bonnet" where the engines are found. After fitting the fighting compartment the underside of the hull is then glued in place, and the front-mounted fuel tank is constructed from two end-caps spaced by a pair of hollow cylinders, with two more panels flexed to fit the shape, doing the job of four parts with only two. The four machine-guns are then offered up to the openings in the cabin, and secured in place with their outer rings. Three sets of louvers are glued to each side of the engine cowling along with the exhaust and muffler, plus a number of grab-handles for the access panels moulded into the hull.

The caterpillar sponsons are started by preparing the numerous road wheels, of which there are two types numbering 19 and 14, plus a further 10 return rollers. These are installed in the inner sponson wall on long axles in the order specified on the scrap diagram. The drive sprocket and idler wheels are fitted at the ends of the track runs, while the return-rollers and the mud-shedding chutes are inserted into the outer sponson wall before the two halves are brought together with a top plate, the track adjustment mechanism and a number of hangers for the towing cables. This task is repeated for the other side, after which the two sponsons are installed on the hull sides, locating on large tabs that fit into slots in the sides of the hull. A number of track grousers are stowed around the hulls, which are added to the tracks in difficult or muddy terrain, and in the event the tank gets totally stuck, two towing cables are made up from the cord with styrene eyes at each end.

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The track parts are identical to the Mark.V kit, and click together in the same way, so take care during assembly and handling, as they come undone if you are too rough. Drape them around the wheels and when you are happy with the look, some glue flooded into the hinge-points should improve the join. Sixty eight links per side are needed, and each link has three sprue gates to clean up, but as this takes a matter of seconds due to where they are positioned, it shouldn't be a mammoth task.


Markings
As already mentioned, there are two markings options included in the kit box, and both are of vehicles preserved in Belgium and Bovington. Both are in green, and wear the red and white identification stripes on the front of their sponsons. From the box you can build one of the following:

  • A347 B Company, 6th Battalion, Tank Corps, British Army, May 1918 – red IX on the rear of the sponsons, red and white stripes and the name Firefly in yellow on the fuel tank.
  • A259 3rd (Light) Tank Corps, British Army, August 1918 – Number nine on the cabin, red and white stripes and the name Caesar II in white on the fuel tank.

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As always, Meng have used Cartograf to print their decals, and as well as the two options documented in the instructions, there appear to be other schemes undocumented in the instructions because the sheet includes both German crosses and Russian red stars. The names The Musical Box and Clara are also included on the sheet as well as something in Cyrillic. Register, colour density and sharpness are good, with a thin satin carrier film cut close to the printing.


Conclusion
It is a good time to be a WWI armour modeller, and speaking as one, I could only be happier if the kit list kept on growing to incorporate some of the other esoteric projects from this innovative and experimental time at the birth of armoured fighting vehicles. This is a nice kit that shouldn't take you long to build, but as always with Meng, the detail is excellent, with a price tag that is surprisingly pocket friendly.

Highly recommended.

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Review sample courtesy of
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