Friday, 9 September 2011

AFV Club MkIV Churchill Review

OK, so here is the first of my reviews of Churchill Kits and Books

This review originally appeared on, although it was volunteered (I bought the kit myself rather than receiving a review copy)

Peter Brown also did an excellent review, noting some different aspects, for Military Modelling Magazine

AFV Club MkIV Churchill (AFV35154)


Following on from their ground-breaking  Churchill Mk.III released in 2009, and the Mk.III AVRE (AFV 35167) a year later, AFV Club continue their line of Churchill kits with one of my favourites; the Mk.IV.  This release makes a great deal of logical sense in that the Mk.IV shared the same hull and suspension as the Mk.III and in terms of the model, only a new turret was needed to produce a new kit. It also makes sense in that the basic cast turret and chassis of the Mk.IV provided the basis of the widest range of Churchill types and Marks produced during the service of the Churchill with British and Commonwealth armies during and after the war
The Kit- What’s in the Box?

So what’s in the box? Part of the fun of modelling is popping the lid on a new kit for the first time and seeing what’s inside, and this kit does not disappoint.  The kit comes with seven large sprues, and one smaller sprue, of olive green styrene, one largish sprue of clear plastic, twenty two metal springs for that articulated suspension, a medium sized fret of etched brass, a turned metal barrel, a good sheet of decals and some black thread for the tow cables.  The first run of this kit also include two bonus sprues; one of the early cast track workable track set, and one of their pressed track set. These are intended for use as add on armour often seen on Mk.IVs. It is worth keeping tow links though for the two individual links stowed on the rear of the panniers as the rubber links provided for this purpose are next to useless!

The instruction booklet is indeed a booklet numbering some 20 pages of clear black and white line drawn instructions in the usual exploded diagram style with monochrome painting instructions at the end. The booklet also contains a brief vehicle history and parts/ sprue list.  Also included in the box is an ‘art print’ of the box top cover (minus all the writing etc.) on good quality satin-glossy paper.

Constructions  starts with instructions concerning the preparation of the panniers, then their construction and then the suspension. The suspension itself is famously a bit tricky, however there is an easier way to do it (link here) Once the suspension, idler and sprocket have been added you then construct the hull from plates attached to these ‘units’.  Once the basic hull is constructed you then finish detailing the hull before building that very nice turret.
The New Turret

The turret is an early production example featuring the off centre ventilator (positioned to the left over the gunner) and single periscope (other than the episcopes in the Commander’s cupola). This type can be considered the cast version of the Mk.III’s welded turret. It is most commonly seen on first production Mk.IV gun tanks with the shorter barrel (without counterweight). It is also seen on some reworked Mk.IVs such as those converted to AVREs.
In terms of engineering this is indeed a very nice item. The casting detail is quite good with a reasonable depth, enough to take paint without disappearing, but not too rough.  The two cast pistol ports can be modelled open or closed which is a nice innovation, and looking at all the various fittings and fixtures (bolts in the lifting sockets, attachment points for the stowage bin and so on) everything seems present and correct. The turret is moulded in two halves, upper and lower, and these meet in the same place the real thing met, although you will need to add your own weld seam
Casting numbers are present on the forward right face but sadly no effort is made to represent the tie downs, although a little effort with a pin vice and some wire will solve that.  The general shape of the turret is excellent with the curved edges at the front, so tricky to get right, being pretty much spot on to my eye and comparisons with drawings and photographs in reference.  The turret interior features a rather basic 6pdr breech and internal detail on the hatches and pistol ports but no other detail is provided.  The turret does however suffer one reasonably annoying flaw. It appears that when it was designed it was designed in sections, facets of the finished shape. Where these have joined there is a noticeable seam that will show when painted and so will need to be removed. Removing it sadly also means you will need to re-texture. Not a major issue to contend with, but somewhat annoying
A new turret bin is provided, again a reasonably late patter, but the earlier version is also included. Those wishing to model a Tunisia Mk.IV may wish to source an earlier version without the triangular cut outs.

The Hull

The basic hull is, essentially, exactly the same as the one in the Mk.III kit. It is, in nearly every regard, excellent with good fit, engineering and in my opinion, outstanding crispness and accuracy of detail.  In common with the Mk.III it includes hatches for the driver, co-driver, engine and outer transmission hatches all with internal detail and all can be positioned open or closed. The bow Besa MG comes in a mount with allows traverse elevation and depression of care is taken with where the glue goes during assembly. The driver’s hatch can be positioned open or closed. Unfortunately the armoured glass in the driver’s glacis hatch is still moulded from green styrene rather than clear
Unfortunately the hull still has the solid grills on the air intakes, but having built a number of these now, some with and some without etched replacements, I can confirm it is possible to get them to look nice with careful painting. If you do want replacements, AFV Club’s own AM etch set, Voyager’s set and Orangehobby’s excellent set will all be suitable seeing as the Mk.III and Mk.IV share an identical hull.
Constructing the air intakes is a multipart affair, and from experience, care and a dab of CA can be very useful as the upper outer plate of the intake does tend to bow in which will leave a gap with the lower outer plate if you aren’t careful. A dab of CA in the middle prevents it bowing as the styrene cement sets.  The towing eyes are represented well but are missing their welds and there is a pair of mould seams running back to the inner side of the intake which will need to be removed. Most modellers will not worry about the welds (they are very small) and the seam is easy to deal with. 
The mud guards are very well made indeed with perfect detail and good fit. The rearmost onse can be a bit tricky to seat correctly and it is easier to start at the front and work your way back. The front section (behind the forward curved section) is a little thick if you want to model the curved idler guards removed, but these can be thinned with careful sanding.  The guard sections are broken up in the same way as the real thing. This allows you to model your track guards in any of the many ways seen on the real thing, including removing the forward or rear curved sections, or the mid sections either side of the turret (often removed to prevent the turret fowling if they were damaged)
The idlers are very good, but are missing the lightening holes seen on all Mks of Churchill. If you fit the curved mudguards at the front though, these are more difficult to notice.
Two parts I always find difficult are the rain channels over the pannier doors, and the strip of plate that goes above the single track links stowed at the rear of the panniers. These parts are thin and fragile and great care must be taken removing these from the sprues to avoid damage and or loss
New parts on the hull include higher periscopes for the driver and co-driver and some boxes for the plate covering the rear air outlet.  The higher periscopes were introduced in time for the Mk.VII and were intended to give better vision for the hull crew over the ‘horns’ of the panniers. These were then ‘retro-fitted’ to older Churchills to bring them up to standard. As such they are something of an anachronism on a Churchill with the early pattern Mk.IV turret, unless you are modelling a late war Churchill that has been brought up to Mk.VII standards  The good news on this, and on the vane sight, is that the kit still includes the earlier items. If you wish to build an initial production Mk.IV you can from the box, simple search the sprues for the earlier items.

The Track

The track provided is the standard ‘rubber band’ type. Detail is very  good for this medium, but there are some annoying pour points to remove every ten or so links. In addition, although the track is not over-tight, the shape of the track run, under and over the pannier, tends to compress the first and last suspension unit in a slightly unrealistic fashion. It is advisable to glue these units in position once you have chosen them. This eliminates the problem
Workable track link sets are available from AFV Club and both are very good indeed. The Mk.IV can be seen with either type so both are suitable for this kit should you choose to use them.


Decals are provided for four options:-

2. SALOME, 79th Armoured Division, Suffolk, England, January 1944
3. EAGLE, 6th Guards Tank Brigade, Munster, Germany, April 1945
4. MINOTAUR, The Armour Museum, Brussels (present)
1. BANDIT, 6th Guards Tank Brigade, Munster, Germany, April 1945
Regrettably I am unfamiliar with Eagle so cannot comment on the veracity of either the decals or whether this tank can be easily depicted from the Mk.IV version in the kit. 
Salome can be built from the kit, but features the lower driver and co-driver periscopes and only the first aid box on the rear plate, which was located in the centre (and not to the right as in the instructions). The markings appear to be correct with the exception of the location of the recognition flash on the rear plate. It is advised that modellers look up this picture from the IWM archives if they wish to model Salome. 
You can argue with the Minotaur option, but in common with other museum schemes it can only be trusted to replicate the museum tank and not an actual in service tank

Bandit is a tricky one in that you cannot tell from Pictures whether Bandit had an Early turret. However picture evidence would suggest Bandit may well have an ARV cuppola which is not provided in this kit. However if you have one of AFV Club's AVREs you can use the ARV cuppola from that, using teh low profile MkIV cuppola for the AVRE (which was in any case more common)

The decals in general are very well produced with perfect register and very little carrier film. From experience (and I doubt these are any different) AFV Club’s latest kit decals are high quality and very easy to use, responding well to mark setters and softners.  No doubt there will also be a number of aftermarket decal sets on the way for other options.

A very nice kit and another winner from AFV Club.  Although the instructions point you towards an early Mk.IV later upgraded and modified, tying the tank to a late 1944 early 1945 timeframe, the parts exist in the box to make an early IV suitable for Tunisia, Italy, or Europe
The Mk.IV to me is an incredibly important release because with a little work here and there it offers so much potential for conversions: a MkV, MkVI, Mk.IV 75mm, AVREs, Mk.X LT and even an NA75 with a little light surgery and a suitable Sherman donor.  With so much potential it is important that AFV Club got this kit as ‘right’ as they could and to my mind they have. The overall quality, sharpness of detail, closeness to plans and the real thing and general attention to detail make this an outstanding kit, but for modellers who might build only one Churchill and the dedicated Churchill fan.
Highly Recommended


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