By December 1914 the manoeuvre part of World War I had ended. The battlefields became covered by continuous lines of entrenchments and barbed wire entanglements. The killing fields of fire produced by the machine guns nullified any infantry attacks and would lead to huge losses with little to no measurable gains. Many countries were trying to develop something to break the stalemate of trench warfare. The British were the first to field the tank, the Mark I.
Due to a shortage of 6 pounder guns for the Mark I and in order to speed up production of the number of tanks, it was suggested that some tanks be armed with only machine guns. It was reasoned that these tanks would be useful in protecting the cannon armed tanks from infantry attacks. This led to there being two types of Mark I’s being produced. ”Males” (armed with cannon and machine guns) and “Females” (armed only with machine guns).
The first successful use of tanks occurred on September 15, 1916 north of the Somme River. Thirty-two Mark I’s were employed and the tanks penetrated the German lines along a 5 km wide front to a depth of 5 km in five hours. The day of the tank had arrived. The Mark I “Female” had a combat weight of 27 tons (one ton less than the “Male”). It was armed with four .303” Vickers, one 8 mm Hotchkiss machine guns and crewed by eight men. The subject of this review is the 1/72nd scale Master Box
. Mk I “Female” British Tank (Somme Battle period, 1916), kit #MB72002.
The kit contents are contained in a colourful side opening box. Inside will be found a single re-sealable plastic bag that contains all the kit parts. Inside the this bag one will find the instructions, what appears to be three sprues moulded in a medium grey styrene and a medium sized photo etch fret. It should be noted that the largest sprue is two sprues in one as it contains the ‘B’ and ‘D’ pieces. The parts breakdown is as follows:
- Sprue ‘B’ - 10 (Mark I “Female” specific parts)
- Sprue ‘C’ - 7 (Mark I Generic body and hull parts)
- Sprue ‘D’ - 28 (Mark I Generic parts)
- Sprue ‘E’ - 2 (flexible plastic tracks)
- Sprue ‘F’ - 8 (Mark I “Male” and “Female” turret parts)
- PE ‘H’ - 5 (anti grenade screen and framing gussets)
Of the 60 parts provided, only two are marked as unused (a pair of 6 pounder gun barrels). The final content of the bag is a small addendum sheet that contains instructions for the photo etched parts assembly. There are no decals provided with this kit.
The instructions are provided in a four page, two sided booklet. The first page contains a historical account of the Mark I’s development and general overview of the tank. The second page has a drawing of the sprues and the parts numbering. The six remaining pages show 24 construction steps. These are in the form of exploded view line drawings with arrows for some parts placement. The builder will be most likely annoyed by the fact that while parts are referenced in the instructions by their sprue letter and a number, there are no numbers moulded on the sprues. It will be the modellers responsibility to constantly reference the parts diagram for guidance. In this reviewer’s opinion, the instructions are rather ambiguous in areas and lack consistency. The painting guide is located on the back of the box and is for one tank in a multicoloured camouflage scheme. Colour references are provided for the Vallejo and Lifecolor ranges of paints.
On examining the sprues the first thing that will impress you is the level of fine detail on even the smallest parts. Be it panel lines, bolt or rivet heads; they are beautifully rendered. Ejector pin marks are minimal and where they do appear they are on internal surfaces that will not show after construction or be otherwise hidden after the addition of extra parts.
Flash is present on a number of parts but was extremely light and should prove no problem with easily removing it. Mould seam lines were very light and can most likely be removed with a light scraping with a sharp hobby knife. Parts attachment points (gates) vary with the size of the piece as does the number and placement on the part. Some gates as with the roof framing and the rear wheels overlap two surfaces and will require care with cleaning them up.
The first three steps deal construction the top and lower hull of the tank. Only seven parts are involved but mating features (pins into holes, alignment tabs etc.) are limited with the exception of the hull rear plate (D15) which also does not have a reference number present by its part image in Step 3.
In Steps 4 through 6 the rear, wheeled carriage is to be constructed. This assembly is made up of 11 parts and again, the mating features do not appear to be the most positive on some of the parts. In Steps 7 through 9 the track run sponsons are constructed and attached to the hull along with the wheeled carriage.
Steps 10 and 11 are quite busy with adding numerous small detail pieces to the upper hull. A better word to describe a few parts is that they are tiny. One very welcome feature is that Master Box
has provided the modeller with the option of having the drivers compartment armoured visors either open or closed.
Steps 12 through 17 has the four machine gun casements constructed and they should be capable of elevation and rotation. Unfortunately the machine gun barrels are not hollowed out during moulding and though not impossible for a skilled builder, it may prove difficult to do for many. Later in these steps the sponsons are assembled and the casements mounted in them. It should be noted that parts C6 and C7, the main sponsons pieces, have large and awkwardly placed sprue attachment points that will require careful clean-up. The last step will be mounting the sponsons to the tank.
In step 18 and 19 the framing for the anti-grenade screening is constructed and Step 20 sees it mounted on the tank. The final steps in the instructions (22, 23, 24) are not exactly steps but three views of the completed model that one can assume is to provide the modeller with references as to final parts positioning.
The small photo etched assembly addendum then must be taken into account. From looking at it, one will see that certain parts should be attached at some prior point during the assembly process and not at its end. The modeller will have to decide for themselves at which point it is appropriate. Another issue that will arise is that the PE fret itself appears very thin and the anti grenade screening has no less than 20 places where it attaches to the fret. One can foresee the screen removal being a slow and delicate process with plenty of opportunity to bend or damage this screening.
While an extremely welcome and appreciated addition to Braille scale, as with many other kits, it is not perfect. Having stated that, I must reiterate my earlier observation that this is a beautifully detailed kit. From the numerous rivet detailed panels to spring details on the rear carriage, there is something to delight the majority of modellers. Earlier attempts at Great War tanks in this scale pale by comparison.
This kit also possesses a great base for those prepared to spend some extra time on it (add a full interior?). The best of all is that the company has four more versions in the works including a Mark II “Male” and “Female”.