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Churchill Mk. IV AVRE

One from close to home

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Jakko Westerbeke19/03/2018 19:07:29
217 forum posts
71 photos

When I bought an AFV Club Churchill Mk. IV AVRE recently, I decided to build it as a tank that was used in the landings at Westkapelle in the Netherlands, on 1 November 1944 — Operation Infatuate II, part of the Allied effort to clear the approaches to Antwerp so the port there could be used.

Looking through photos both in books and online, I first thought of making one with a Small Box Girder bridge, simply because it's impressive. However, I don’t really have the room for that, so that idea got shelved pretty soon. Buying only the winch and bridge supports seems impossible (Resicast makes a full bridge conversion, but not one with only the fittings actually on the tank), so I looked further.

After a while, I decided to build the model as one of the derelict tanks left behind in the village after the fighting, rather than as one actually in use. Specifically, I settled on this one:

(source: Beeldbank NIMH)

This is tank number T69114/B, belonging to 6th Assault Regiment Royal Engineers, 79th Armoured Division. The photograph was taken in 1946 in the Zuidstraat in Westkapelle. I have a couple more photos of it that show details not visible in this one, but I can’t share them here. Here’s what the same spot looks like today, though from a somewhat different angle (with thanks to Google Maps — click that link to explore for yourself):

Sun Xing Guang

The tank was basically located where the pavement in front of the restaurant is today, though that is actually a new building — the ones visible behind the tank in the 1946 photo having been demolished. The building with the gambrel roof is still there, as you can see, making it easy to locate the exact spot.

As a historical aside, Westkapelle was a tank graveyard after the fighting, and remained so for some years as the village was being reconstructed. T69114/B seems to be the only AVRE that was left actually in the village, but several more stranded on the beach, as this photo shows:

(source: Beeldbank NIMH)

Yes, that’s two Crabs and three AVREs, and another photo shows at least one more AVRE just to the right of the photographer. Inside the village, if you look at the modern photo, there was a Sherman V (M4A4) left about where the outdoor seating area is beyond the house with the gambrel roof, and a second one diagonally across the street from it. Some distance behind that were three Sherman Crabs, two on the left and one on the right side of the street. A few more Crabs were located further down the street. And that’s not even mentioning the LVT-4 Buffalos, armoured bulldozers and M29 Weasels left on and around the beach and dunes, or the stranded LCTs. Oh, and the big things in the background of the tanks on the beach are Phoenix caissons, put there after the war to protect the newly constructed dyke (and removed some years later).

(I’ll continue about the model in the next message.)

Edited By Jakko Westerbeke on 19/03/2018 19:09:22

Jakko Westerbeke19/03/2018 19:33:30
217 forum posts
71 photos

So, onto the model. I'd bought myself AFV Club kit No.35288 Churchill Mk.IV AVRE w/Fascine Carrier Frame, which unfortunately turned out to have the wrong type of track, so I also needed their set No. 35183, Heavy Cast Steel Box Section Spudded Tracks/B.T.S 3 Heavy Built-Up Tracks for Churchill. With those ordered and delivered, I pretty much had what I needed for the model:

Box covers

Following the instructions, I started with the sponsons. However, T69114/B had a whole bunch of rods on the side for stowing spare track links, as well as empty bolt holes where the centre sections of the track covers attached. That meant I had to drill a fair number of holes:

Sponsons drilled for track holders

I worked out the distance between the holes and their approximate position using an AFV Club track link, then drilled them with a .5 mm bit. The idea is to insert .4 mm steel wire into them once most of the rest of the model is built (mainly because I don’t want to poke through my skin with that wire all the time when handing the model ). The eagle-eyed may spot I opened up one too many of the holes for the bolt heads on the left hull side; I filled that later, when I realised the mistake.

As for those bolts: pay attention with them if you also build an AFV Club Churchill, because there are actually two styles. One is completely conical (part E30), the other has two flats at the bottom of the cone (part E29). Because they’re side-by-side in the sprue, though, it’s not very obvious that these are actually different parts, so I found I had put on a mixture. Luckily I hadn’t glued them yet when I noticed.

The holes for the bolts for the centre track cover were somewhat difficult to locate correctly. I ended up taking the front and centre covers from the sprue and placing them onto the model, but in the end got them wrong a bit — as I again only found out later, when I actually got round to fitting them on the near-completed hull. To get the position right at this stage, the best way is to glue the rain channels above the doors. The centre track cover has a notch at its front that butts up against the rain channel, so if the latter is in place you can get the position of the cover right quite easily.

Next, the suspension. This looks like it will be a nightmare, with a separate metal spring for each wheel, but luckily if you put the spring around the inner part, you can clamp it to the sponson without any glue:

Sponsons with springs

Just pull the spring down, hook the plastic part into the sponson, and let the spring go. Everything lines up nicely and you can add the other half of the sponson, then glue it. If you’re careful with the glue, the whole suspension remains movable.

Next, the wheels. I would advise deviating from AFV Club’s instructions and keeping the bit with two wheels separate from the long bit with nine wheels:

Wheels

It’ll be much harder to line up correctly if you try gluing the two pieces together before inserting the suspension arms.

As for those: obviously it’s never going to work if you try to line up nine (let alone eleven) arms on one side, then add the other side. I found the best way was to put one arm on without glue, and then the other side strip. Next, I glued the transverse panel that sits between the two sides by that arm, and then hooked in the second wheel arm, glued the second panel, and so on until the end. Doing it this way, I must say I actually found it easier to build this 1:35th scale fully articulated Churchill suspension, than the one on the 1:76th scale Airfix Churchill …

All that remains then is to add the suspension arms to the sponsons:

Suspension complete

This also isn’t as tricky as it seems, if you take a bit of care. I only had to clamp one of the four pieces to the sponson to get everything to sit correctly.

Once the glue had dried I put the wheels on (no pics of that) and once the hull was built, I glued the suspension in place, both inside the sponsons and at the pivots and bottoms of the arms. Putting the model onto a sheet of glass while the glue dried helped ensure everything is level.

Edited By Jakko Westerbeke on 19/03/2018 19:50:22

Edited By Jakko Westerbeke on 25/03/2018 10:22:13

Jakko Westerbeke19/03/2018 19:33:44
217 forum posts
71 photos

At this point I skipped forward to the turret. As can be seen in the photo of the real tank, the commander’s hatch was open but the loader’s seems to have been closed. Other than the Petard mortar and Best machine gun, though, AFV Club provides no interior for the turret, so I had to scratchbuild something. I based this on the drawings of the interior in the old Tamiya book on the Churchill, as well as on official stowage drawings I found online.

Turret with interior

The plastic sheet on the inside is there to bring the turret wall to more or less scale thickness (the Churchill’s turret side armour was 76 mm thick, the turret shell on the kit is about 1.5 mm, so it needed about half a millimetre more). I then just built some reasonable-looking parts from plastic card, copper wire, and a few bits and pieces from the spares box. It doesn’t need to be perfect, it just needs to look good when seen through the commander’s hatch. The following photo isn’t all that great, but it’s kind of hard to take a photo through that little hatch with an iPad

Turret with interior (top view)

Because it’s fairly well visible through the hatch, I had built a hand grenade rack from plastic strip, basically by glueing two pieces into an L-shape and giving it six compartments with seven small squares of strip. Of course, after painting the interior I discovered a very good photo of the real thing, showing that what I have is pretty much totally wrong …

(source: The Churchill Tank Project, via the Wayback Machine)

But I can’t be bothered to change it now

I left out the radio on purpose. There is at least one photo of (presumably British) soldiers stripping parts from tanks in the village late in or shortly after the war, and post-war photos show all the Shermans with no periscopes (big round hole in the commander’s hatch), no antennae, etc. I reasoned that radios would have been taken as well, given their value to a military force. For the same reason I decided to leave out both the tank’s machine guns — I can’t be sure, as I don’t have photos of this Churchill that show the glacis plate, but I would expect them to have been removed either for use elsewhere or for public safety.

Edited By Jakko Westerbeke on 19/03/2018 19:45:24

John Race19/03/2018 20:45:52
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7467 forum posts
1541 photos

Jakko .

Count me in please , nothing beats a wreak for me laugh

Have to compliment you on the introduction to the build, a very concise history , esp with the modern photos.

The build looks very neat and the photos are too

John.

Scottie19/03/2018 21:06:20
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6417 forum posts
886 photos
1 articles

Jakko,

​Count me in your off to a good start I will follow along.

Scottie

Mike Cartmale19/03/2018 23:03:13
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559 forum posts
404 photos

Jakko,
A complete and concise intorduction to your build, I too will follow along.
Do you still intend to add the winch and front bridge carrying frame? I have mine, plus plans that I can let you have a copy of.
Cheers, MikeC.avre1.jpg

Jakko Westerbeke20/03/2018 09:53:02
217 forum posts
71 photos
Posted by Mike Cartmale on 19/03/2018 23:03:13:

Do you still intend to add the winch and front bridge carrying frame? I have mine, plus plans that I can let you have a copy of.

No, as the tank in the photo doesn’t have the winch, it also won’t have the bridge support at the front. Several of the tanks on the beach did have those bits, but since details on the beached tanks are more difficult to find I’ll build the one I posted the photo of. Except that I’ll have the engine deck hatches closed, since I didn’t feel like trying to scratchbuild an engine, nor to buy the Resicast set and only use half of it

Mike Cartmale20/03/2018 15:25:18
avatar
559 forum posts
404 photos

Jakko,

Good thinking, looking forward to seeing more of the build.

Cheers, MikeC.

Jon Arnold21/03/2018 13:07:02
avatar
1343 forum posts
88 photos

Got a bunch of these... I'll observe from the sides..

Jakko Westerbeke21/03/2018 18:18:53
217 forum posts
71 photos

By now I’ve put most of the hull together, except for a number of the detail parts. After putting on the AVRE fittings, I noticed in the photo of the real tank that the pates with the lugs didn’t have bolts in circular surrounds — only the front plates with the curved rail had those.

Hull side with wrong bolt heads

Above is with the wrong bolts, below is after I cut them off and replaced them by the plain bolt heads without the bit of tube around them.

Hull side with corrected bolt heads

Luckily the mixture of bolt heads on this particular tank means there’s plenty of spares of the smaller ones (Though I only needed one.)

And a few photos of the hull with more of the detail parts on:

Hull, front right three-quarters

The front driver’s hatch is open in all the photos I’ve seen of this tank, but the rear one is shut. I decided to open the visor and the loader’s hatch slightly, mainly for interest. Same with the rear engine deck hatches: in the photo of the real tank I posted, the right one is all the way open and the left one is partly, but lacking an engine I decided to show them as having been opened and then shut again with the locking thingies (I can’t think of the proper name for these just now ) resting on the engine deck, thereby keeping the hatches open a little. I intend to have the bracing struts for them not neatly stowed either.

Hull, left rear three-quarters

One of the square bits around the turret ring went flying off into oblivion the parts graveyard under my workbench, so it had to be replaced with some plastic card. The white bit by the right drive sprocket is the flange that the missing mudguards bolt onto:

Mudguard flange

Just a bit of .25 mm plastic card with the shape traced from the mudguard on the opposite side, then trimmed to fit and with .45 mm holes drilled.

The pencilled lines on the transmission deck are the locations of the clasps for the pioneer tools. Since the tools are missing in the tank in the photo (gee, I wonder why, in a village being rebuilt after having almost literally been bombed off the map … ) I’ll need to add the empty clasps, but I haven’t yet found a good photo of what they looked like.

Edited By Jakko Westerbeke on 21/03/2018 18:22:23

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