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1/35 British Infantry Tank Mk.III Valentine Mk.II by AFV Club Kit ref #AF35185 Introduction This is the second in a series of (currently) three Valentine tanks from AFV Club. Firstly, we had the Valentine Mk.I (#AF35178), and we have recently seen the announcement of a Mk.IV in Russian service (#AF35199). This review covers the Mk.II, which is best known for its actions in North Africa. Snapshot of the Valentine The Valentine was the most widely produced British tank of WWII – just under six thousand were made in the UK from 1939 until 1944; and when including those made in Canada, the total was some 8300. It was unusual in that it was a private design by Vickers-Armstrong, rather than being designed to a General Staff specification. The Valentine served in North Africa, the Far East, and on both Western and Eastern fronts in Europe, but mainstream production came to late for it see action with the British Expeditionary Force in 1940. Although there were eleven marks of Valentine, they can be divided into three categories: the 2pdr armed tanks with two man turrets – the Mk.I, II and IV, as well as their Canadian counterparts, the Mk.VI and VII; the 2pdr armed tanks with three man turrets – the Mk.III and V; and lastly the up-gunned 6pdr / 75mm Mk.IX, X and XI (the Mk.VIII did not enter service in case you thought I missed one). Kit Overview The kit comes on ten sprues of green plastic, plus the hull is which is moulded as single tub; the tracks are rubber band type. There is a small fret of photo-etched metal (PE), a turned aluminium barrel and four individual track links in white resin. A sprue of clear parts is provided for headlamp lenses, periscopes and commander’s cupola. A very partial turret interior is provided, as are the radiators. Markings are provided for six tanks, four of which are desert vehicles; optional sand shield side skirts are provided for these. For my reference, I mainly used Dick Taylor’s "IntoThe Vally: The Valentine Tank and Derivatives 1938-1960", as well Armor Photohistory “Valentine Part I”, also by Dick Taylor. Against the 1/35 scale plans in these books, the kit is dimensionally accurate, and all of the relevant external features have been captured in quite excellent detail. As with other AFV Club kits, there are a large number of very small and delicate parts; the details of these are very sharp, but you will need to handle with care. I did not see any flash or sink marks. Hull As mentioned above, the hull tub is a one piece affair, which certainly makes for easier construction in what is otherwise perhaps not a kit for beginners. The same applies to everywhere else on this kit, but the bolt detail is quite superb – the close-up shots in this review will show that even some of the tiniest hex bolts have been moulded exquisitely. A quick glance at the box art of AFV Club’s kits will tell you that the Mk.I, II and IV all look pretty similar, and this is confirmed even when you start pawing through the reference books I used. The main difference between a Mk.II and its predecessor was the introduction of diesel engine (retained for all subsequent marks). Outwardly though, you need a good clear shot of the rear to tell the difference: Mk.IIs have a pair of grab handles on both left and right hand radiator louvers, a stay-arm bracket or stopper on both sides, and hinges for both louvers; the Mk.I only has these on the left louver. Now there is always a “but” when you make statements like that, and sure enough just to confuse matters, 75 Mk.Is were produced with Mk.II louvers! Early Mk.Is also had a mesh exhaust cover, replaced with sheet metal later on and into Mk.II production. In truth, neither of these points should really be an issue to modellers of this Mk.II kit. Also, as far as I can work out, none of the 308 Mk.Is ever saw action (most kept in Britain for home defence). Anyway, AFV Club have got these features spot on in their kit. The engine top deck and the sloping rear deck are multi part sub-assemblies, but enable the intricate nature of the Valentine’s cooling louvers to captured accurately. Valentines in Africa were fitted with side skirts, and these are provided in the kit. The skirts often had extended guards at both front and rear (see Markings, below). African Valentines can also be seen with brackets and rails along the side of these skirts for the sun shield deception device (it would look like a lorry from the air). There are various optional steps in the instructions to show which parts to use, holes to drill etc. These skirts often show quite extensive dents and bangs, and I am sure the usual suspects will produce aftermarket versions in PE, but for the time being, the ones in the kit look very good. PE parts are provided for the braces which run down the sides of the skirts. The extra fuel drum carried by Valentines is also in the kit – the main drum is in two parts so there will be a seam to remove, and care will be needed not to remove any of the adjacent bolt detail. The drum sits over some of the pioneer and repair tools, which themselves are up there with resin parts in terms of detail. Turret The turret shell is moulded with a one piece roof, four main parts for the vertical surfaces, and a single piece turret ring. The turret side and front are notable for the cast texture they have moulded on to their surface. At first I thought this was perhaps overdone, but on closer examination of period photos, it seems about right. The vision port on the left hand side of the turret was introduced early in the Mk.II production run (as an aside, all Mk.IVs were fitted with this port; externally they were identical to the Mk.II, but had a different engine and transmission). Alternate parts are provided depending upon whether you want the port or not. The vision port on the right hand side may be modelled either open or closed. There is not a full turret interior, but you do get a gun breach, radio and hatches with detail on the insides. The Ordnance QF 2 pdr breach looks good as far as it goes, but it is missing the guard around the rear of the mechanism which caught spent shell casings. The Besa machine gun in the turret (another in the hull) looks good, but you may want to hollow out the barrel (fiddly) or buy an aftermarket barrel. The radios are worth a careful look. Early Mk.Is and IIs were fitted with the No.11 radio set, which was replaced by the No.19 set, which began to be fitted on Mk.IIs and IVs in March 1941; it was and also retro-fitted to earlier tanks as circumstances allowed. Internally, the actual set boxes looked quite different. Some of the kit radio parts - #32 is for the No.19, #33 for the No.11 The No.19 set [Wikipedia] Externally, on the turret roof, the No.11 used a single thick antenna, with a folding base at the extreme rear of the turret bustle. The No.19 used two thinner antennae and different bases for the aerials: the “A” or No.19 on the rear of the turret roof, just right of centre; and the “B” or No.24 mounted on a bracket at left rear. This was because in reality the 19 was three units in one – radio sets A and B, and an integrated amplifier. Inside, the No.19 should look something like this The instructions would have you fit the No.11 set which is only appropriate for early Mk.IIs; but the aerial mount parts for this set are not provided in the kit. Luckily, the No.19 set is included, as well as all the relevant parts – they are just not on the instructions! So, in Step #33, use parts #E7 and #E32, joined together with part #E10; part #E4 may sit atop part #E7 but am I’m not sure about that as yet, whilst radio guard part #E31 fits over the top to complete your No.19 set inside the turret. On the turret roof, this is where the “A” aerial / No.19 antenna should go Outside, the “A” aerial mount should comprise part #B14 sitting atop etched part #G21. The “B” mount is correctly taken care of in the instructions in Step #35. All Mk.I, II and IV Valentines were fitted with the same 2 pdr gun, but there were two slightly different barrels: the first, smooth and slightly fluted at the muzzle; the second showing distinct steps at both muzzle and near the breach. The smooth barrel seems more common on early Mk.IIs from what I can gather from photographs, but I do not have definitive data on which production batches got which barrel etc. The kit comes with a nice turned metal barrel which has the steps at either end. If you want to model a tank with the smooth barrel, there is a cheap and accurate alternative from RBModel. One of the most engaging features of a number of early British tanks is the Lakeman machine gun mount on the turret. If you think it looks a bit like those retro angle-poise lamp fittings, then you are not wrong. The lamp mechanism had only recently been invented, and was transferred to the Valentine, and used for a Bren gun. Nice Bren gun, to be suspended on a Lakeman mount I gather that in practice they were rather fiddly and not a great success, but either way, although the box art shows the Bren and the Lakeman fitting in place, none are evident in my reference photos (they are present in a number of profiles though). When the mount and gun were deployed, the commander’s vane sight was often seen folded down (part #G14) so keep this in mind if you are fitting the Lakeman. The assembly will be quite delicate when finished so extreme care will be needed, and you will need to source your own small ring (thin gauge wire will do) which should attach at the end of part #E28 and go round the Bren just forward of the magazine. There is an excellent picture of this arrangement on p46 of “Into The Vally…”. Wheels, Suspension & Tracks The suspension, wheels and tracks are the same as in AFV Club’s Mk.I kit. The Valentine used a number of patterns of road and idler wheels in its production run, and the spoked appearance of the ones here are usually seen on the Mk.I. Whilst it is rare to see them on Mk.IIs in the desert for instance, it is not unheard of (see “Rosemary” below), and part of the problem may be that war time pics often don’t show this area clearly enough for positive identification. Wonderfully crisp detail, but the pattern is more common on Mk.I Valentines Note cast texture even on wheel hubs The more common type of wheels seen on Mk.IIs had oval shaped dish-like impressions, and these are included in AFV Club’s kit #35199 of a Valentine IV in Red Army service. I am awaiting confirmation as to whether these sprues will be available separately. The more commonly seen pattern on desert Valentines – note oval shape dish / indentation pattern [sprue shot courtesy AFV Club] “Rosemary” – a rare shot of a desert Valentine with the same ‘spoked’ wheels as in the kit [british Pate – for discussion only] In the mean time an alternative is to use the wheels from one of MiniArt’s Valentine kits, although they are a fraction undersized. Their kit #35096 has the relevant dish pattern wheels, whilst kit#35100 has another pattern you may wish to use. Note that at their release, the MiniArt kits were clearly better than the ageing Italeri kit, but they are in my opinion now a clear second to the AFV Club offerings with respect to accuracy and finesse. The suspension will be fully workable, and incorporates coil springs in injection mould plastic. I have had experience of these in some of AFV Club’s artillery pieces, and whilst they are generally easier to remove from the sprues than you might think, these assemblies will require care. How they will stand up to rubber band type tracks, I have to test. Band tracks sometimes have too much tension and pull the first and last road wheels up off the ground. The tracks themselves are the second and by far most common type. The detail is very good but if you would prefer individual link tracks, AFV Club have already released a replacement set. Markings Markings are provided for six vehicles. I have identified pictures of five of the six vehicles, and will try to show what features each of these tanks should have if you want to model them accurately. Obviously if your tank has different wheels or a No.11 radio this will be a little more difficult than just sourcing a new 2 pdr barrel. ‘APH’ and ‘ITV’ represent “Armour Photo History” and “Into The Vally…” books respectively. A. 8th Royal Tank Regiment, North Africa, late 1941 until 1942 profiled APH p60, pictured ITV p100 T16113 “Horatio” of 9 Troop, B Squadron, 8 RTR, near Sidi Rezegh airfield, Operation Crusader, late November 1941 (W.D. number is conjecture) No.11 radio set no Lakeman mount visible fluted barrel (shown in profile; indeterminate from picture) ‘dished’ wheels shorter front fenders on sand skirts (rear not visible) no sunshield rails, but partial bracket visible (?) no vision port on left side of turret B. North Africa, Feb 1942 pictured APH p24 T272378 seen on beach in front of landing craft, North Africa, 9th February 1942 No.19 radio set no Lakeman mount visible stepped barrel ‘dished’ wheels shorter front and rear fenders on skirts no sunshield rails, but brackets fitted vision port on left side of turret unconfirmed C. 23rd Armoured Brigade, Tripoli, Jan 1943 pictured APH p30 T16319 seen in main square, Tripoli, Libya, 26th January 1943 No.19 radio set no Lakeman mount stepped barrel (probable – I cannot tell) ‘dished’ wheels shorter front fenders on skirts (rear not visible) sunshield rails fitted vision port on left side of turret unconfirmed D. 66th Tank Battalion, 16th Armoured Brigade, Polish 1st Corps, Scotland, 1941 pictured APH p34-5, profiled ITV p188 T1290292 is not shown per se, but tanks from this block are shown on exercise in Scotland in late 1941, from I and II (later 66th) Battalion, 1st Tank Regiment, 1st Polish Corps No.19 radio set no Lakeman mount fluted barrel ‘dished’ wheels No sand skirts fitted vision port on left side of turret confirmed on T1290294 E. 1st Battalion, 1st NZ Army Tank Brigade, Pukekohe, New Zealand, 1943 profiled APH p59 “Taniwha” 15 Troop, C Squadron, 1st Battalion, 1st NZ Army Tank Brigade, Helvetia Military Camp, Pukekohe, New Zealand, 1943 No.19 radio set no Lakeman mount fluted barrel ‘dished’ wheels no sand skirts fitted vision port on left side of turret F. 8th Royal Tank Regiment, Libya, Nov. 1941 profiled ITV p186, pictured below T17634 “Harry II” of 9 Troop, B Squadron, 8RTR, Operation Crusader, late 1941 according to ITV, this tank likely had its turret refitted to a different hull: pictures the same Caunter scheme covered turret on a Caunter hull, and also one on a plain Light Stone hull No.11 radio set no Lakeman mount stepped barrel ‘dished’ wheels shorter fenders on sand skirts sunshield rails fitted no vision port on left side of turret per profile “Harry II” [imperial War Museum] Conclusion I really like this kit. It is not for beginners, and it does have wheels which were not seen on most Valentine Mk.IIs. The markings are a bit of a let down in that as far as I can work out, you cannot build a single one of them from the contents of the box, but hopefully the section above will provide some pointers in that regard. But most importantly for me, it is accurate in both outline and details, and if you take care with the assembly you will have a stunning looking Valentine. Highly recommended. With thanks to the team at AFV Club for the review sample. AFV Club kits can be purchased at LuckyModel and most good retail hobby outlets. References: Into The Vally: the Valentine Tank and Derivatives 1938-1960 by Dick Taylor Armor Photohistory “Valentine Part I” by Dick Taylor Tank Power Vol.XC Valentine #331 – Wydawnictwo Militaria Nicholas Mayhew