Infantry Tank Matilda Mk.III/IV “Red Army”

Tamiya, No. 35355, 1/35

Review by: Abilio Piñeiro Grajera

 

Historical background.

The first English tanks (20 Matildas II and Valentines) arrived in Arkhangelsk on 11 October 1941. A total of 2987 Matildas were manufactured, from which 1084 tanks were sent and 918 arrived in the USSR, with the remainder lost in route. The Soviet Matildas saw their first use during the battle of Moscow Matildas look generally homogenous but more detailed examination reveals considerable minor variation in fittings between manufacturers and contracts.  The Soviet Matildas were a mix of brand new tanks and reconditioned tanks (withdrawn from British and Commonwealth units in England).

Most of the pictures of the vehicles includes this features:

-Return rollers were replaced by trackskids.

-Reinforced-cleated tracks. The first tanks arrived with their original pattern tracks on.  These type of tracks provided reduced traction and stability in Russian terrain.
-External hinges of the side armour plates were removed.

-There were different versions, but all the slits in the locker covers on the sides of the glacis were plated over or solid ones.

-Real fuel tank were never used.

-Early style tow eyelets. Earlier circular lift ring mounts were used.

-#11 and newer #19 radio sets were used in some vehicles. A strange configuration.

-Tall cupola without Lakeman device for machine gun. It is not uncommon to see the mounting bracket on the commander’s cupola hatch flap but not the full Lakeman mount. A British film shows a number of Matildas being put onto a ship bound for Russia, at least two of which (T.18800. and T.27880) have the full Lakeman mount in place but once arrived in destiny it seems  most were disabled.

– The armour under the driver’s vision block should be welded on, not cast.

– Two squared plates were welded on the front hull in most vehicles.

But, What’s inside Tamiya offering?

Well, to be honest, I was really surprised when I heard Tamiya was going to realease a new Matilda and even more when I realized it was a Red Army Matilda. Until now you, as a modeler, had the option to buy the 2009 Tamiya kit and some aftermarkets resin sets to build this version but from now on it seems the things have changed. As you can see in the pictures below the quality of the moulding is typical Tamiya, with no visible ejection pin marks and almost no flash. The level of detailing is excellent with a beautifully cast texture on the turret, nose and the engine hull covers.  580 parts in dark green plastic, a little strange colour for Tamiya, are included.  320 of these are the track links and the new internal side skids, ten polythene caps and markings for two vehicles.


The turret

Surface casting texture captures the real one. The turret can be assembled fairly straightforward. You do have to drill out some holes on the hull and turret depending of the version so and chose carefully which holes you need to drill for your chosen option. The Red Army vehicles usually do not carry the external boxes on the outside of the turret so better do not drill out the holes.

Two styles of 2 Pdr gun barrels ( the 2pdr Mk.IX smooth barrel or the Mk.X ‘stepped’ composite one) are included but the kit would benefit with a new aftermarket metal gun barrel. Anyway the plastic ones supplied in the kit looks easy to clean including hollow at the muzzle end.

Just a minor issue. The folding bracket for the No.11 radio set at the rear of the turret is not included. Easy to correct adding some Evergreen strips.

The detail of the 4in smoke dischargers and the moulding of the cut down .303 Lee Enfields are very nice too. You just need to add the wiring.

Tamiya offers two types of commander’s cupola. The tall one, used in L&L tanks and a low one, a feature seen on Australian Matildas.

The loader’s hatch has a few ejection pin marks to remove and clean up on the inside, probably the only ones visible in the kit.

 

The hull

Another interesting and necessary feature to build the Red Army version is the inclussion of a new side skirts set with prominent hinges for the mud chute hatches and the recessed screw heads from the original return rollers removed. The kit includes the correct dimmensions of the internal track skids.

It’s great to see how Tamiya has also included the solid front locker hatches and the early front and rear set of circular lift rings. The rear fuel tank was never mounted on the L&L Matildas so Tamiya supplies two pieces to fill in the gap of the original brackets.

Moving on to the rear, the exhaust pipes on the Matilda were wrapped in asbestos so that any infantry riding on the tank would not be burned and the kit depicts this feature perfectly. Raised strips, rivets and bolts are perfectly casted all along the hull.

There are a great number of ejector pin marks on the lower hull but most of them will be completely hidden under the side skirts.

A new fully workable click-together individual track linkset is included. The tracks can be easily assembled as you just need to glue two parts per link. The pattern of the tracks links is correct as depicts the reinforced-cleated version supplied in most of the L&L tank batches instead of the “Summer tracks”.

 Two detailed figures are included

 

Paint

Most Matildas were painted in SCC2, a Brown chocolate tone according to Mike Starmer’ original paint chips.

So as SCC2 replaced Khaki Green 3 as the basic colour from late 1941 and remained in use right through to the end of the war it’s the most common theory Matildas were painted in this tone. Some vehicles received a white wash so it is almost impossible to match the base colour. The Soviets certainly did not repaint all tanks in 4BO and therefore we have to suppose that many Matildas and L&L vehicles would have been basically brown rather than green.

Tamiya offers the mix you need to do to achieve this distinctive tone.

Decals included in the kit covers two specific Soviet Matildas used in 1942. Note decals 3 to 12 can be used as generic slogans and markings.

Conclusion

Tamiya has captured the distintive look and features of the Matilda tanks supplied to the Red Army according to the Lend-Lease Plan.

Highly recommended.