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Modeller's Guide to the Sherman

Peter Brown

Modeler's Guide to the Sherman by Pete Harlem,Published by Amepersand Publishing Company Ltd, Delray Beach, Florida. Soft covers, 120 pages, illustrated throughout with colour and black and white photos and line drawings. Price $19.98 or 13.75 in the UK.

The American modelling magazine "Military Miniatures in Review" published a series of articles on Shermans for modellers, and this book is a compilation of these. As I am not an MMiR reader I cannot comment on how much of this version is new compared to the articles, so I will cover it from the point of view of a newcomer.

First of all, this book is what it says it is, a "Modeler's Guide", so if you have been putting off buying the standard work on the tank, Hunnicutt's "Sherman - A History of the American Medium Tank" or any other factual study, this is not the answer to your prayers. What it does do which other Sherman books do not is to look at the tank specifically from the point of view of the modeller, so matters such as production figures and improvements in engine and gun performance are not covered while the external differences which took place during production are covered in great detail.

Real vehicle coverage starts with a hundred close-up photos taken while walking around and on existing Shermans showing different designs of track, wheels, suspension units, turrets etc and various smaller fixtures and fittings. The many changes are dealt with item by item with separate chapters on tracks, wheels and suspension, various final drive types, glacis plates and engine decks. Developments are shown using line drawings and some photos, with the number of variations in glacis and hull tops showing how many possible permutations there are for kit manufacturers to produce and modellers to build. The author does use his own system to differentiate each part, which means he can say how one compares to another but readers should beware of thinking these are official designations and typing to find original references to Type 4D-2b glacis plates.

Oddly, the rear of the Sherman which like its engine decks varied according to the basic mark due to the several types of engine decks fitted, and the turrets with two separate streams each with their own changes in design are not given this detailed treatment. In the case of the turrets this leaves a big hole in the overall picture, doubly so as this area is singled out several times in photo captions as being where models have not captured the look of the original.

On the modelling side, fifteen examples are built and described using 1/35th scale kits from several manufacturers together with resin and metal after market parts. These cover the main 75mm and 76mm gun tanks, all examples being in American service which again leaves gaps as none of the 105mm tanks are shown and of course none of the many special versions such as engineer and recovery vehicles. Likewise none of the many other users get a look in, though this is a sensible course of action as to try to cover all of what must be scores of types plus many more colour schemes and markings would take several volumes and it is best left to other books to do this. Each model gets a two-page colour spread showing it built up, and another page of black and white photos of it being built. Notes show where the various parts came from, though do not expect a part by part, blow by blow account of the construction. This would become tedious to those who know how to build kits and if you want a how-to modelling course you should seek out a specialist book on the matter. You may like to follow the ideas but use other sources of parts which you prefer or have to hand anyway.  One area very useful is that each tank modelled is based on a specific example which is shown in a black and white period photo. While aircraft and ship modellers seem to work from the original to produce a model, tank modellers in contrast often make a model and when it is finished cast about for suitable colours and markings to fit what they have to hand and so end up some sort of generic item. Maybe we will see a change to this in the future, especially as kit manufacturers provide more specific decals in the boxes and better aftermarket sets become available.

Other areas covered in some but not great detail are basic colour schemes, again covering US Army and Marine Corps colours. Another wise move as markings and camouflage deserve detailed coverage which would only reduce the content of what is here unless the size and price was increased accordingly.

Very useful to newcomers or old hands are listings of Sherman kits, conversion and detail sets and decal sheers, as well as books and articleson the tank. These cover many items and should help those wanting specific parts or more detail to seek them out.

In the end, this is a good book for modellers. It has its limits but unless it were to become too big to lift or afford any book on the Sherman or modelling it must say at one or another point, enough and no more. Its main drawback is as much what it misses in the real hull and turret coverage, and while the choice of all American model subjects will please many it will not please everyone, But again we have to be serious in what we expect.

Not having the original MMiR series I am pleased to have it now in book form. Those who have some or all of the original may calculation this book's value in terms of what they get new but they should also remember that having it all in one place is better than trying to find the one part of the series they are missing as that is always the one they want right now and anyway buying it in parts was not a cheap option anyway if you were to pause to total the cover price of each edition. If you like Shermans, WW2 American armour or fancy a change from Panzers, this would be a good choice for you and maybe supporting this one will mean more books covering other areas later on?

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