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Shar2

Holt 75 Artillery Tractor. 1:35

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Holt 75 Artillery Tractor

Roden 1:35

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With the onset of large-scale hostilities in early 1915, the leadership of the British Army understood very well that the transportation of heavy weapons such as heavy artillery, by horses wearing harnesses, was no longer an efficient method, especially in the off-road conditions of autumn and winter. In view of this, it was decided to limit horse drawn transportation only for light artillery, and to procure tractors, already in use for agricultural purposes before the start of the war, for the movement of heavy weapons.


Soon after the turn of the century, American inventor Benjamin Holt built an agricultural machine with a gasoline internal combustion engine and a chassis running on crawler tracks, which proved to be very successful in design, and was copied not only in the United States, but also in England and France, as well as in some other countries.

 

The vehicle was classified as a "tractor" and was named the Holt 75. Even before the start of the First World, these machines were already being used extensively in agriculture, however, not as yet for any military purposes. After successful tests in quarry sites, where in contrast to the horses the Holt 75 easily towed not only the 6-inch but also the super-heavy 9-inch guns, it was decided to acquire them for the needs of the Royal Artillery Corps immediately. Of course, the speed of the tractor was very low - it could tow a gun at only 2 miles per hour, but even this performance figure outweighed the significant losses of military animals due to their exhaustion in delivery of the guns, especially in off-road conditions.


Simultaneously with the UK, France also became interested in the military use of tractors, suffering likewise from the near-impossibility of pulling heavy weapons solely with horses. In late 1916, about 800 tractors were ordered for the transportation of heavy guns.


After the United States' entry into the First World War in 1918, the American Expeditionary Force in Europe also used tractors of this type extensively. In total these machines as used by the allies, amounted to almost 2,000 units by the end of the war, of which 445 were built under license in the UK. Their work was not glamorous, in contrast to the tanks for instance, used for the first time during the war; but their role as a new component in the military machine, namely, the artillery tractor, was also very important, and in the following years this type of military equipment became ubiquitous, widespread even today.

 

The Model

The kit comes in a very attractive, full colour box with a representation of the vehicle in use. The kit is contained on 12 sprues of light grey styrene; there is also a small decal sheet. Although still very much having the look of a short run kit all the parts are very nicely moulded, with some small areas of flash but no other imperfections and only a few moulding pips. The parts breakdown is pretty standard, and the instruction sheet nice and clear to read. This is the first Roden armour kit I’ve actually had a close look at, and for me the detail is perhaps a little soft, again, looking like a short run kit. That said the detail is there, but may need picking out better with a wash or careful painting.

 

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Construction begins with what are effectively the six return rollers and their axle frames, three per side, on a common transverse frame. Then there is what I can only describe as a coal bunker, a circular storage bin with a small hatch, perhaps harking back to the steam age. The ten road wheels are then assembled, each from two halves. The road wheels are then sandwiched between to skid like frames which are then fitted with a top plate and four springs. The return roller frame is then glued on top with two cross beams fitted underneath.

 

The front mounted wheel is then assembled from thirteen parts and put to one side to dry. The main chassis consists of two longitudinal rails four cross-members and the tow piece circular mounting ring for the front wheel.  The wheel assembly is the fitted into place, as is the road wheel/return roller assembly. The rear sprocket axles are glued into place along with the separate mid axle which is fitted into a large semi-circular cover on the underside of the rear chassis. The towing plates are fitted to the rear chassis cross-member, while the sprockets, with track tensioners are also glued into place. The road wheel assemblies are fitted with adjustable bottle jacks and the front wheel gear is fitted with a corresponding steering gear unit.

 

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The “coal bunker” is fitted with a number of longitudinal, vertical and lateral panels, to create the rear crew section of the vehicle.  Before moving on further with the upper works, the engine needs to be built, this is a delightful little model in itself, with the main block and barrels in two halves, separate cylinder heads, oil pipes, starter motor, auxiliary fan belts and fans, ignition rails and valve stems, a battery, flywheel and throttle. The oil tank is then assembled from five parts and then glued onto the left hand side of the of the engine mounting plate, which is another six parts. The track guards are next to assembled, each from five parts, the engine is then fitted onto its mounting.

 

The five piece idler wheels, which include the axles and tensioners are fitted and the tracks fitted. The track link, although of individual type are nice and easy to build. They are held on to the sprue by two gates each, but these are easy to clean up, there is also a bit of flash on each link, but nothing to trouble even the most novice modeller. The links themselves just clip together, a bit like the Takom WWI tank kits, but these look a little more fragile. If you have any spare links from the Takom kits you may want to use them instead as they are virtually the same type.

 

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The main sub-assemblies are now brought together; these include the main chassis, engine, “coal bunker”, and track guards. The flywheel cover/footplate is then glued into position, as is the gearbox cover. On the underside the main control linkages and a large lateral plate, just aft of the front wheel are fitted, whilst topside, the four piece fuel tank, gear stick and linkage are glued into place.  The roof assembly is then constructed with inner and outer roof sections, five piece front supports and three piece rear support beams are added and the assembly put to one side. The long steering column is attached to the front wheel gear via two separate gears, then the steering wheel attached, followed but the rear steering column support, drivers seat support, seat and a myriad of other links and levers. The engine exhaust manifold and stack is attached and the roof assembly slid over it and glued into place. Finally the two piece radiator is fitted, along with its two support brackets pkus upper and lower hoses.

 

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Decals

The small decal sheet provides decals for two different tractors, with various markings for around the vehicle. The decals have been printed by Roden themselves and appear to be very well printed, with good opacity, which is nice as there are all white and will need it when used on the two colour schemes on the paint guide.

 

  • Holt 75 Tractor of an unknown artillery unit, US Expeditionary Forces in Europe 1918, in overall Olive Brown.
  • Hot 75 Tractor of an unknown artillery unit of the British Army Western Front 1917, in overall Royal Hussars Green(?)

 

 

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Conclusion
It’s great to see a rather unusual bit of kit from WWI and very welcome it is too. Whilst it is certainly not for the absolute beginner, it should certainly be a fairly relaxing build for the average modeller. While it it looks like a short run kit, with some of the challenges this may bring, it will look great next to other WWI releases and with the forthcoming BL 8-inch Howitzer Mk VI from Roden, it will make a nice vignette or diorama piece too.

 

Review sample courtesy of


logo.gifUK Distributors for logo.jpg

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Must confess, that's very tempting.....Even if it is far too big.  ;)

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I saw one of these in my local model shop window, as Sarge says tempting and just the right scale.

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Interesting article about US Coastal Artillery, with mention of Holts: https://www.dillonprecision.com/docs/BPAug2018.pdf

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Nice one, thanks Andy. :thumbsup:

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