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Crusader Mk. II Kit

Italeri 1/35 Crusader Mk. II Kit First Look

By Ray Mehlberger

Date of Review March 2008 Manufacturer Italeri
Subject Crusader Mk. II Scale 1/35
Kit Number 6385 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Neat WWII British tank. Nice detail throughout Cons One marking option, which we are not told what unit its for. No clear part for turret searchlight. No crew figures
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $22.00

First Look

Crusader Mk. II Kit
Crusader Mk. II Kit
Crusader Mk. II Kit
Crusader Mk. II Kit
Crusader Mk. II Kit

The Crusader Mk. II was built for the British Army and was extensively used during the North African campaign in WWII. The Crusader was ideally suited for desert terrain and thanks to its speed it was the ideal vehicle for fast advances in this type of conflict.

Because of its light armor and moderate armament, Crusader’s were not able to adequately match the German anti-tank guns and were vulnerable to the vast mine fields which inflicted substantial losses on the Allied forces.

The tank was one of the primary cruiser tanks of the United Kingdom during WWII. The tank, Cruiser, Mk.VI “Crusader “(A15) was perhaps the most important British tank of the North African Campaign. Over 5,300 were built.

In 1939, Nuffield Mechanization and Aero was offered the opportunity to take part in the production of the A13 Mk.III (later to become the Tank Cruiser Mk. V “Covenanter” tank, which was still in design stage. Nuffield, however, preferred to work on its own version of the A13. This new tank was adopted as Tank, Cruiser, Mk. VI “Crusader”, under General Staff specification A15. Although the Crusader is often referred to as an improved version of the Covenanter, in fact it was a parallel design. Despite a later start, the prototype of the Crusader was ready six weeks before the first Covenanter.

Unlike earlier “Christie cruisers”, Crusader’s had five road wheels on each side to improve weight distribution. It had a different engine than the Covenanter, different steering system and a conventional cooling system with radiators in the engine compartment. At the left-hand side of the front hull – a place occupied by the engine radiator in the Covenanter – was mounted a small hand-traversed auxiliary turret, armed with a Besa machine gun. The auxiliary turret was awkward to use and was often removed in the field or remained unoccupied. Both the A13 Mk. III and the A15 designs shared the same main turret. Early production vehicles had a “semi-internal” cast mantlet, which was quickly replaced in production by better protected big cast mantlet with three vertical slits, for the main gun and for a coaxial Besa machine-gun and for a sighting telescope.

The tank first saw combat during Operation Battleaxe and played a crucial role in the following Operation Crusader which was named after the tank. Although the Crusader was faster than any tanks it opposed, its potential was limited by a relatively light 2-pounder gun, thin armor and mechanical problems. A particular tactical limitation was the lack of high explosive (HE) shells for the main armament. These existed, but were never supplied. Axis tank forces developed an extremely effective tactic of engaging British Imperial Tank forces by retiring behind a screen of concealed anti-tank (AT) guns. The pursuing tanks could then be engaged by the artillery. With the German anti-tank guns out of range of the tank’s machine guns, and without a high explosive shell to return fire, the tanks were left with the equally unpalatable options of either withdrawing under fire or trying to over-run the gun screen.

After the completion of the North African Campaign, the availability of better tanks, such as the Sherman and Cromwell, relegated the Crusader to secondary duties such as anti-aircraft mounts or gun tractors. In these roles it served for the remainder of the war.

Italeri is a prolific model company based in Italy.

The kit comes in a tray and lid type box. The boxart shows a Crusader Mk. II in the African desert with a big explosion in the background. It is in over-all sand. It carries the serial number T43617 in black letters on the side of the turret. On its lower bow plate is a red square with the white number 67 on it, then the serial number T43617 in all white letters and a black oval with a white rhinoceros on it. I did some research, in one of my books and found that the red square with the white 67 is for the 10 th Royal Hussars. The rhino symbol is for the British 1 st Armored Division.

In 1941, this division sailed for the Middle East and arrived just in time to face Rommel’s second push from El Agheila. It fought at Gazela, and at El Alamein, and then advanced with the 9 th Army all the way to Tunisia. It was composed of 2 nd Armored Brigade (the Bays; 9 th Lancers, 10 th Royal Hussars and the Yorkshire Dragoons and the 7 th Motor Brigade, 2 nd and 7 th Battalions RB and 2 nd Battalion K.R.R.C.

The boxart scheme is the only one offered in the kit on the decal sheet and the instruction’s illustration of this scheme never tells us the unit.

Side panels of the box have a one paragraph history of the Crusader Mk. II in 11 languages. Each language is labeled with a color illustration of the flag of the country that the language is spoken in. The kit has the copyright date of 2001 and is aimed at modelers 10 years old and older.

Inside the box is 3 light tan trees of parts, rubber-band type treads, the decal sheet and the instructions. Parts are NOT cello-bagged in the box. This is a pet peeve with me about Italeri kits. Because they are reluctant to put their trees in cello bags, they rub together in transit to hobby shops from the factory in Italy and parts get knocked off the trees.

The instructions consist of a single sheet that accordion folds out into 10 pages in 7 ½” x 12 ¾” format.

Page 1 begins with Italeri’s address, followed by the history of the Crusader Mk. II in 11 languages (including English).

Page 2 begins with general instructions in the same 11 languages. This is followed by customer service coupons in 6 languages, to send to Italeri if you have any problems with the kit.

Page 3 begins with the parts tree drawings, followed by a listing of Italeri/Model Master brand paints, suggested to use to finish the model.

Pages 4 through 8 give 12 assembly steps.

Page 9 has a has a five-view drawing for the one, and ONLY, painting and marking scheme offered in the kit. It is the boxart illustrated one, already described above.

The bottom of the page has decal application instructions in 9 languages (including English).

Page 10 has “important information concerning this kit” in no less than 20 languages (again including English)

Light sand colored letter A part tree holds: road wheels, drive sprockets, idler wheels, suspension arms, hatch doors, tow cables, exhaust mounts headlights and their guards etc. (149 parts) Twenty of these parts are shaded out on the parts tree drawings as being excess and not needed to complete the kit.

Light sand colored letter B part tree holds: the hull top and bottom parts, rear hull plate, turret parts, rear turret storage box, a shovel, tools, the small auxiliary turret parts, antennas, engine deck storage box etc. (21 parts)

Light sand colored letter C part tree holds: the hull sides, hatches, exhausts, mantle, front hull plate, fender storage boxes, fuel tank, the main gun parts, the auxiliary turret machine gun, wedge-shaped fender sides (49 parts) One part is shown shaded out on the parts tree drawings as being excess.

Parts are crisply molded with no flash evident.

The decal sheet (already discribed above) and the rubber-band type vynil tracks complete the kits contents. There are 2 long runs of tread on the tree and 5 short runs to hang on the Crusader as spares.

No clear parts are in the kit. One is needed for the large search light that mounts on the side of the turret. The headlights are the slitted ones, to hide their light from enemy aircraft at night. So, lenses not needed for them at least. There are no crew figures in the kit, nor any interior detail parts other than a very rudementary breech for the main gun and nice interior detail inside the auxiliary turret. Why Italeri lavished more detail to the inside of the little turret and not the main one is beyond me.

Except for the few ommisions, mentioned above, in the kit. I highly recommend this kit.