MODELLING SHERMAN TANKS

All these models are 1/76th scale. I'll start with the Airfix Sherman. I was going to just improve a load of old childhood Sherman models, quickly, while waiting for information which would allow me to continue with my interminable Hanomag project. Of course, nothing is ever that simple.

Improved Airfix Sherman with applique armour

An improved Airfix Sherman. The basic kit is of a very basic tank, with no trimmings at all. In no particular order, here are the changes I have made.

Towing shackles have been added at the front of the hull.

Mudguards have been added at the front. These little mudguards are pretty much the minimum mudguard you see in photographs. I'm not sure I've seen a picture of a Sherman with no mudguards at all. Many had full-length mudguards, which appear to have been added to, rather than instead of, these little triangular ones. The further one is green because it is carved from the removed mudguard of a Churchill. You can see a little strip on the hull, and a little triangular strut connecting this to the mudguard. There is a raised ridge running along the top of the guard. I have made this by painting on some particularly thick acrylic paint (my silver paint has gone very thick, and is useful for this sort of thing).

In the front sprocket wheel, extra detail has been carved - lots of radial triangular notches.

Around the hull MG I have added a very thin hoop of Milliput. This represents the raised seal to which the waterproof cover for the MG fitted when in transit.

The lifting lugs are represented on the kit by little bumps on the front of the hull. I have carved these off, and replaced them with half-circles cut from hollow plastic rod. These are glued slightly further up the hull than the bumps of the kit. More lifting lugs are added to the back of the turret, and another replaces the bump/line between the top of the gun mantlet and the circular air vent on the top of the turret.

Pieces of thickish plastic card have been added to represent appliqué armour. Shermans were found to be very vulnerable to enemy anti-tank fire, and many were given this extra armour over vital spots. Fortunately, this version of the Sherman does not have the curved hull sides, so the pieces are easy to make and glue on. The two pieces on the hull front, protecting the two hull crewmen, are flat, and have gaps underneath them, which is authentic. Those on the turret sides curve around the turret. The plates on the turret front form a new mantlet, and this is two pieces of plastic card, the rear, larger, one being thinner. Holes are burned through the thinner part immediately next to the thicker central part, for the gun sight and co-axial MG. Two pieces of hollow rod clutch the barrel at the base, from either side (they don't meet top and bottom), sculpted to glue flush to the curving mantlet.

One tiny detail you can't really make out from the scan is that the round bump just visible under the bustle of the turret, has four recesses poked into it with a spike, one in each "corner" - not that a round thing has corners.

The protective bars which in reality stuck up above the headlamps, are represented on the kit by little ridges. I have left these as they are. Modelling such details is difficult, and such tiny things break off during wargames.

Improved Airfix Sherman, rear view

Here you can see the two aerials, of different lengths. The shorter one sticks up from a stalk which has a flared-out top (done with heated pin). I used artificial Christmas tree needles for the aerials, and glued these in to holes burned with a hot pin, using super-glue. This is much stronger than stretched sprue glued on with polystyrene cement.

In the MG mount on the ring which surrounds the commander's hatch, I have mounted an American MG, with a big box magazine added. British Shermans usually didn't bother with these, but it looks nice. The mount was attached to a ring which was ran on bearings, so that it could be rotated all the way round, so you are free to glue this piece on at any angle. All the photographs I have seen of British Shermans with turret-top MGs show them at the front, mind.

On the rear of the turret, is a storage bin. These tended to be square, like this one. Many were like the one on the back of the Airfix Crusader kit turret.

On the hull rear, I have made a shelf. It is L-shaped in section, with triangular end pieces. It is not glued directly to the hull, but to three vertical strips of plastic card, which in turn are glued to the hull. On this, I have placed a crate, some jerry-cans, and some gubbins. Either side of it, I have glued on more boxes.

Sherman with sandbag armour

This is something else you can do with a Sherman: cover it in sandbags. The sandbags themselves are made by rolling Milliput putty into long sausages, then cutting it into lengths with scissors. The scissors pinch the putty into bag-like ends as they cut.

Those Shermans with full-length mudguards built up the side cages from those. The Airfix model lacks these, so you need to add a shelf along the bottom of each side. Above this, apply your sandbags, then put on your vertical cage bars, then glue the horizontal bars to the vertical, which stick to the putty. You need to add another shelf on the hull front, and around the turret. Many pictures show the sand-bagged tanks with few or no bars across the front of the vehicle. I'd have thought that a sudden halt would throw off some sandbags, so I have put just a couple across. Make sure that you don't block all the headlamps, nor the hull MG, nor the vision ports in the hull-top hatches. You can just see a (tan-coloured) headlamp I have added, sticking up.

The plastic strip I have used for some parts of the cage is L-shaped in section, which matches some photographs I have seen. Photographs also show that the sandbags were often painted in the camouflage scheme of the tank. I have seen a few pictures of sand-bag covered tanks with "Mickey Mouse" pattern - big black blobs over standard base colour.

I have opened the turret and hull hatches on this model, and added some internal detail. This consists of handles, and periscopes. The periscopes are glued on at an angle to the hatches, but are otherwise just rectangular slabs.

This low-angle shot shows quite nicely the "track skids" added to the top of the suspension bogeys. For some reason, the kit misses these off. They are simply ribbons of thin plastic card, bent round and glued on.

Poking their heads from the front hatches, are two crewmen. These were a pig to glue in, and if some ham-fisted git pushes them inside the tank, then I may get a touch upset. They are much-cut-down Airfix German paratroopers, who wore a very similar helmet to the British tank helmet. Most crews seem to have worn a simple black beret. Some photographs even show crews with the standard infantry "battle bowler", which must have made getting in and out of the tank awkward.


Modified Shermans

This is a better view of a rear shelf. The tank on the right has a length of fine chain on the back, representing some hefty towing chain. It also has a Culin hedge-cutter on the front, by Skytrex. These were for dealing with hedges, especially in the Normandy "bocage" area which the allies had to fight through to break out from the beach head in 1944. They have horizontal blades which are designed to cut the lower parts of the hedge, breaking a gap through the hedgerow.


Diesel Sherman with early suspension

This is a diesel-engined Sherman. The old Airfix book of military modelling insists that this was a typical British type, but chaps writing on the web these days suggest otherwise. You can tell that it is a diesel by the revised engine deck. Much of the kit's detail has been carved flat, and replaced. The little bump I mentioned earlier, to the rear right of the turret, has been removed. A large flat grille has been added. This is a flat piece of plastic card with a border scored on it round the edge, and many parallel lines scored going from front to back within this border. Sorry, but the scan doesn't pick up that sort of detail. Around this, there are five new filler caps made from Milliput. These are round shallow domes with two little hinge-like bits on either side, much like the other filler caps moulded on the kit. A couple of lines have been scored on the rear deck also.

Not content with making it a diesel, I also made it an earlier model, by replacing the suspension with that from the Lee/Grant kit, which has the return rollers on the tops of the bogeys instead of to one side. The silver paint on the wheels is a childhood mistake, and will be put right.

On the hull front, is a camouflage net, made from an old bandage dyed green with Citadel ink. I have been careful to leave gaps for a headlamp, the hull MG, and I have not blocked the vision ports of the hull crewmen. It is glued on with lots of PVA, and is quite solid now that it has set. I have since dry-brushed over the top with duller green paint, and it looks great.

The turret has a new hatch, with better modelled periscope, an MG, aerial, and the turret-side stowage from a Churchill kit. Some photographs show Shermans with this sort of stowage too.


Sherman Firefly with disguised barrel

This unfinished model shows the way many Sherman Firefly barrels were disguised. The Firefly was a British modification to the American Sherman, which mounted a 17-pounder gun, which was perhaps the best anti-tank gun of the war. The Germans soon learned that it could penetrate anything they had, and so they were trained to destroy Fireflies before engaging other Shermans in a formation. British crews therefore tried to disguise the Firefly to look like an ordinary Sherman, and here is one way it was done. A false barrel-brake has been added, to emphasise the false end of the barrel, and the remaining barrel length has had white paint painted on its underside, and brown on the top, with a wavy border. This is very effective. Painting the underside of something a paler colour than the top is a good way to disguise its shape. A barrel painted plain green would be darker on the underside, as you can see in this picture. Sometimes the false barrel brake was omitted, and sometimes foliage was used to emphasise the false "end".

In this picture you can also see some bullet holes in one mudguard, a failed penetration on the side of the turret, and lots of Churchill track attached to the front, for extra protection. I used to think that it is necessary to model some means of holding this extra armour on, but in fact the track was usually just welded straight onto the hull, so you can just glue the model track on. The track would then be painted with camouflage paint to match the tank roughly.


Finished Shermans

Finished Shermans. In the background is the tank named "Amazon". A good thing about painting British tanks is that you get to paint individual names on them all. It has the "Mickey Mouse" pattern of dark blobs on it, a liberal splattering of mud, and a turret marking showing that it is one of the fourth troop of its squadron. In the foreground is the finished sand-bagged tank, commanded by Saddam Hussein, wearing a black beret, as befits a British tank crewman. The arial recognition symbol is on the rear engine decking, where it often was. The T-number (individual to the tank) is painted on the side of the gun barrel, as I have seen in photographs of sand-bagged tanks, which had bags covering all the other places where the number might be painted. The tracks have mud in the crevices between the blocks, and the blocks themselves are black, as they were coated with black rubber, and were not steel, as you might have thought.


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