On the topic of today’s post, my flow brought me towards a Groupbuild for one of the trickiest periods in WWII, Operation Market Garden, the Allied attempt to spearhead towards Berlin.
After years of imposing Lebensraum – the ideological principle of vital space for the German population to flourish – Nazi Germany found itself on the back-foot. Following Operation Overlord, Allied armies were pushing them out of Northern France towards Holland. Fueled by recent victories, the American-British-Canadian force set out on a daring plan. Taking advantage of their enemy’s haziness and betting on swift victories in their own version of Blitzkrieg, they were sure it would mean ending the war before Christmas 1944. The plan was to quickly pass the river Rhine and then march towards Berlin. It would not work as expected.
However, the surprising resilience of the German army (thanks in part to the effort of Field Marshall Gerd von Rundstedt), coupled with several strategic blunders (attributed by some historians to Field Marshal Montgomery) turned the Operation into an overall defeat.
Failing to cross the Rhine before the difficult winter of 1944 could have proved a breaking point for the history of Europe and the World, as we now know it. Instead, the Allies ended up regrouping in the Ardennes forest, where they later endured months of thin front lines, frostbite, artillery shelling and inadequate provisions in what would later be known as The Battle of the Bulge. More on that in a future build.
Why a Cromwell?
While the Cromwell tank was constantly overshadowed by its American counterpart, the M4 Sherman, through many variants and improvements it grew into a pretty stable machine. The Rolls Royce Meteor engine, borrowed from the Spitfire airplane, allowed it to be an effective member of several reconnaissance regiments.
Apart from some initial reliability issues, its biggest downside was the effectiveness of the 75mm gun. It could just not handle strong German hulls such as that of the King Tiger and the Panther. The more powerful HV 75mm gun would not fit in the turret of the Cromwell, so there was no way to improve it other than to designate it for reconnaissance work and infantry support.
Historically, the tank would be a huge turning point for British armor engineers. Future designs such as the Comet and Centurion drew heavy inspiration from the vehicle and its experience fighting in WWII. Some historians even go as far as to consider Cromwells the oldest ancestor of the main battle tank ideology.
The Tamiya Kit
Now, as you’re probably aware, Tamiya released this product way back in 1997. That may sound like ancient times for some of us, but surprisingly enough, the kit still holds its flag up even in the 2020s. Granted, it lacks some detail and has some drawbacks, but it builds like a dream into a pretty accurate replica of the real machine. True testament to the skill of Tamiya engineers. The low number of parts fit together perfectly, with no surprises. If you’re looking for an out-of-the-box build, you can probably knock it down in the span of a weekend.
On the other hand, if you are willing to invest in some aftermarket products to pump up the final look, I’ve put together a prioritized list. Coincidentally, these are the extra bits I added to my build as well. Take a look:
- Metallic tow cables – the kit comes with some thread that can be used, but that’s just lame for a 2020 build. Considering you can get realistic tow cables for less than 2 EUR, this is a no-brainer.
- Metal tracks – the slight Cromwell track sag, as well as the increased visual impact make this a top contender for your extra buck. Replacing the default rubber tracks will set you back about 30 EUR so that might be a bit much.
- Photoetch grills – granted, you can’t buy just the grills, you need to get a photoetch set with other parts as well, but the in-box solution with a plastic mesh is out-of-scale, needs careful cutting and just looks bad. A basic photoetch set from Eduard costs about 7 EUR, not that much for the value it brings.
- Metal gun barrel – the two-part barrel included in the kit is fine. The shape allows easy sanding, so that shouldn’t be that much of a hindrance. On the other hand, if you’re lazy like me, a metal replacement isn’t that expensive and allows you to focus on other fun things, rather than an hour of careful sanding. This will set you back about 10 EUR.
- Photoetch fenders – the default fenders of the kit are made of pretty solid plastic, so if you want to bend them in a realistic way, you’re going to have to buy some aftermarket parts. Adds another 10 EUR to your list.
You know me, historical context is paramount to my enjoyment of a project. This time around, I wanted to draw significant inspiration from a single historical photo. It was taken on September 21st, 1944 and it shows a Cromwell tank of 2nd Welsh Guards crossing the bridge at Nijmegen in Holland during Operation ‘Market Garden’.
Now, of course, there are some differences between the picture and final result, my intention was not to make it identical, but historically relevant and plausible. I borrowed things such as the bent fenders and their missing parts, the missing smoke discharger, the two crewmen sticking their heads out. Other details I put together from the plethora of historical imagery I managed to find out there.
The final kit was primed with Mr. Metal Primer R and AMMO One Shot Primer. Then it was painted with a 50/50 mix of AMMO paints – SCC 15 (British 1944-45 Olive Drab) and Khaki Green Nº3 (British 1939-42). Weathering was a mix of oil paints (gray, brown, green, black, dust), light two-tone chipping and enamel earth effects for the lower hull. The tracks were darkened with a bath of burnishing fluid, followed by some light acrylic washes. I didn’t want to go too crazy with weathering, given the urban settings of the photograph.
In the next part of this adventure, I will show you the diorama I put together to accompany today’s build, in my first step-by-step article. Stay tuned for the final result!