Maquette #MQ-3553 British Infantry Tank MkIII Valentine XI
Maquette kit MQ-3553 "British Infantry Tank Mk III Valentine XI" 1/35th plastic kit, individual link tracks, three decal options. UK price around £19
As expected, though this is from the Russian company Maquette, this is the old Allan kit which have also appeared at various times in Dragon/DML, RPM, Toga and VM boxes, with the original early 2pdr two-man turret replaced by the final pattern and a few more additions for good measure. The original hull, suspension and track sprues are from the older kit, with four smaller sprues with new turret, wheels and various fittings.
Originally designed for the then-standard 2pdr tank and anti tank gun which was used on the Mks I, II, VI and VII with various combinations of engine and place of manufacture with the last two named being built in Canada, the Valentine was improved by enlarging the turret to take a three-man crew and the 2pdr as the Mks III and V. Fitting a bigger gun was done with another turret design, with the drawback of no coaxial machine gun, to produced the Mks VIII and IX. Adding a coaxial BESA made the Mk X and replacing the 6pdr with a 75mm - not a major task, as the British 75 was the 6pdr bored out to take American ammunition - gave the final Mk XI. By that time, the old-style "Infantry Tank Mk III" nomenclature would have been dropped an the tank simply termed Valentine.
Logically, though listed as a Mk XI kit it has parts for a 6pdr so can be built as a Mk X as well, but here re-using old kit parts has its limitations. While the original Valentine design made extensive use of riveting, a changeover was made to welding and the XI was different due to this. While Maquette have provided the extra front towing hooks of the XI they still give the early type hull front. To be strictly accurate, certainly for the vehicle depicted on decal sheet, the glacis need some work with the bolt-heads removed and the joins between the sloping area and the driver's and nose plates needs some subtle additions to depict welding. Doing this is helped by reference to photos, good ones being in "The Universal Tank" by David Fletcher (HMSO 1993) and "British and American Tanks of WW2" by Chamberlain and Ellis (Arms & Armour and ARCO 1969). The Universal Tanks view looks very like the kit box art, though the artist has subtly changed the hull front to match the kit as well as adding suitable markings.
Other small detail which need to be changed include removing the join line between the rubber trackguard ends as later tanks used all metal ones, and minor fixtures and fittings may be amended and improved with reference to photos. One thing which has been changed or at least added is the later pattern roadwheels. These have a noticeable rounded "ring" in the dished area and would be hard to convert. The new wheels have some heavy flash but this will be easily sanded off. Maquette have also recycled some parts from the Bishop like the large external fuel tank which the instructions list as for "version with auxiliary tank" so check photos if you want to fit this. They have also added the hull rear rack for one-gallon cans (which come with separate handles no less) and other details like the distinctive curved track tension adjusting bar missing from the original kit. New driver's hatch doors with separate handles are also given, and new pattern headlights.
The turret is not affected by flash, it comes with separate hatches and barrels for 6pdr and 75mm guns but nothing in the way of interior detail. The brief description of the tank on the instruction sheet mixes up the 75mm with the 17pdr which it was not. As a bonus, the bulge for the coaxial machine gun is moulded as if it were an addition to the original mould, so anyone wanting to model the Mks VIII or IX can carve this away without having to fill any holes, though there is the promise of a kit of this type to come. Modifying the turret thus and checking the length of the gun barrel - both series of 6pdr tank gun with short and long barrels were used on Valentines - original style headlights and maybe the side skirts included on the original parts sprues suitably modified to produced the outward flare of the original will allow this earlier mark to be built in British home or Tunisian service as well as in Russian hands.
One thing which does not look good is the small stowage box on the back of the turret. Its rear and sides are moulded in one piece and the instruction sheet tells us to "bend it" which may not be easy with 1mm thick plastic. Still, it can easily be cut and fixed to shape, and other improvements will maybe include drilling out the barrels to the 4" smoke bomb throwers. Fine detail can be added to taste.
Finding suitable markings for this late vehicle do not give much in the way of options. By the time the 75mm appeared in its turret Valentine had been all but superseded as a fighting tank and the production lines were ready to take its replacement, the Valiant, but in the end that was never built though Valentine parts were used in the 17pdr armed Archer self propelled gun. British use of the final gun tanks seems to have been limited, some were converted to amphibious DD pattern but these were used only for training. In action use was limited to Command and Observation Post tanks in units equipped with self-propelled anti tank guns and both Mks IX and XI were used and oddly listed in official figures as 6pdr or 75mm carrying which may suggest they retained their guns though that is not certain. Thus, the kit decal sheet gives us a fairly comprehensive set of markings for an OP vehicle in Germany at the end of the war in Europe. This would be for 73rd Anti-Tank Regiment RA who were a 30th Corps unit, that is, not part of a Division but available to be assigned as needed to other units to increase their anti tank capability. They operated M10s but the photos I have seen do not show if these had the original 3" gun or 17pdrs. Whatever, the vehicle was depicted in the old Profile series and decals follow the paintings in that closely even down to the chalked numbers on the nose. Some small differences are there and some more research in the Imperial War Museum's photo library may reveal whether paintings or decals are the more correct, and maybe show the vehicle's serial number as the kit just gives four sets of T1234567890 which are not right but do allow individual numbers to be made up. Also included are schemes for two Russian Mk X which are limited to turret numbers.
Overall, this is a welcome addition to a too-small pool of British WW2 tanks. Valentine was the most commonly built British tank and it is good to have it in kit form. Straight from the box, this one has a few minor problems but so do many kits, especially when other marks are produced from moulds of existing versions. As a Mk XI or X or converted to the earlier VIII or IX, it will fill another gap and with two types of wheels and things like the auxiliary fuel tank it would be a basis for the three-man turret series tanks for anyone wanting to make a new turret, or even for a Bridgelayer. Another major conversion would be to the Archer, but we may be lucky and getone sometime as the box side to this kit lists the existing Valentine IV and Bishop I as well as an VIII/IX.
As to references, "Universal Tanks" may still be in print but "British and American Tanks of WW2" is not and neither is the Profile series, though this looks due for a reprint no date has been given. A good clear photo appears in the old and also out of print "WW2 Fact Files - Allied Combat Tanks" by Chamberlain and Milsom (Macdonald & Jane's, 1978). A good account of the Valentine would be as welcome as this kit. Have patience and hope.
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