Gecko Models has followed up their releases of the A10 Cruiser tank family with the A9 Cruiser tank family. The A9 was designed in the mid 1930's with production of the vehicle being started in 1939 and finished in 1941. The A9 was armed with the 2pdr gun which was a good weapon able to deal with armour at the start of the war and continued to be fitted well into the WW2. The 2pdr did have weaknesses though which was its inability to fire HE and smoke rounds and that resulted in the A9 Mk 1 CS that had a modified 3.7inch howitzer instead of the 2pdr. The A9 was a reliable tank but the thin armour (14mm) made it too weak to survive enemy engagements, but it did still serve well on many occasions. The twin machine gun turrets which are said to be a leftover of the Independent tank design and had Vickers 303 machine guns fitted, but these turrets got too hot for the crew to man and so were not used at least in North Africa. A plus of this model is that there are images of the A9 being camouflaged as a truck to deceive the enemy in North Africa and that makes it a model with some unusual finishing options.
Please note that this model of the Cruiser Tank A9 Mk 1 CS only differs from the Cruiser Tank A9 Mk 1 in the main gun and the ammunition stored.
This offering from Gecko Models is one of two kits released of the A9 Cruiser tank. The model is packed in a cardboard tray with a flip top lid. This is then further protected by a card lid with the artwork printed on it. inside of this packaging there are a very large number of sprues that are packed in sealed plastic bags and all smaller sprues, decals, photo etch, cord and wire are packed in Ziploc bags; the result of all this is a model that should cope very well with all but the roughest treatment when making its way to your door.
The lower hull and suspension on this model are basically the same as the previous A10 releases and from what I have been able to check it is an accurate representation when checked against the Bovington Tank Museum A10 (There A9 is not currently on display) The difference between the A9 and A10 visually is the removal of the MG turrets and it also has thicker armour.
Something that makes this offering stand out from previous releases of the A9 from others is that an interior is included; it is not a full interior but a good amount none the less. I have no reference for the interior and so I have relied upon videos produced by Nicholas Moran and included them with this review. The control sticks are accurate in look and location, the gear shifter also appears to be a good representation. The driver’s seat looks an excellent offering in this release, but unlike the A10 where the driver sits on the left he is now in a central position in the vehicle.
The fire wall between the fighting compartment and the engine bay is very nicely represented in the model and this will add a nice backdrop inside the tank when viewed from the front through the bulkhead opening between the turret area and the front portion of the vehicle. The front bulkhead is a fairly plain detail but it needed to be there for accuracy. The front plate of the hull with its ribs has been well replicated and I am both surprised and pleased at the level of detail from a single piece moulding. Also present here is some ammunition storage for the main gun and that has been changed from the 2pdr ammunition in the other model to 3.7inch smoke rounds I believe. In the instructions images of 2pdr ammunition storage are shown around where the turret will sit, but this addition is not covered as regards addition and should be ignored by the modeller.
The next area I looked at was the suspension, wheels and drives. The suspension on the A9 is the same as the A10 and Valentine tanks and is quite a complex area of the model that has been very well tackled by Gecko Models. Every attribute of the suspension units has been made workable and will remain workable if care is taken during assembly, that said I would always advise that once the desired position is achieved the suspension is locked down to prevent breakages in the future. The details on the suspension all appear to be accurate as far as I can see and I am also pleased to see that the wheels retain the ability to rotate after being added to the model as that makes painting them an easier task.
The plates that protect the springs and such that are on the suspension have been supplied as injection moulded plastic parts where as previously I have usually seen these parts supplied as photo etched parts, however looking at the parts I am pleased to say that the thickness and detail is well done and will of course be easier to deal with than photo etch. The drive wheels have a very nice level of detail that will look good and again retains the ability to rotate. The only wheels that do not rotate after assembly are the return rollers which I find acceptable. The tracks supplied are workable and consist of twin pins being trapped between an upper and lower track pad. These are not the easiest tracks to assemble as it is easy to get glue where you don’t want it, but Gecko Models has supplied a jig to help you with assembly and holding parts in place. One observation is that Gecko Models state 74 links per side where as I am informed it should be 73, that said I am not going to get excited by 1 link different.
The upper hull at the rear is basically the same as the A10 and Gecko Models has provided the ability to have any of the hatches open that you wish; of course if you open the hatches up it will be up to you to find something to put there. The drivers hatch doors can also be left open and with a little work this area can be made visually appealing with or without a figure in place. The turrets at the front of the vehicle have a very high degree of detail present on them as can be seen from the photographs. The Vickers 303's have excellent detail present both in and out of the turrets. The seats for the gun turrets hang from the roof of the vehicle and these have also been provided.
The sloped frontal armour with the raised rib detail has been very well replicated along with the Brass coloured fire extinguishers on various locations. The engine air intakes tackled in a way that makes a strong sub assembly while providing excellent a very high level of detail. The exhaust has a photo etch grating around it that is separate top and bottom which is accurate unlike the one I have seen from another major producer.
The mud guards have been rendered in plastic with the profile doing a good job of providing the look of thinness that is needed. There are quite a few small photo etched parts to attach to the mudguards and so make sure you have a steady hand when you take it on. The tools have a good look to them and they have the clamps moulded on them; that is not an issue in my books.
The 3.7inch howitzer has been well tackled offering a full breach that can be open or closed. The differences between the 3.7 pack howitzer and this weapon are considerable:
The muzzle is not flared.
The breach opens via a slide rather than an end opening.
This barrel is a single piece rather than a split barrel.
The sighting device is present and so I feel that this area will look really nice if exposed. The interior face of the mantlet has far less detail present than on the 2pdr version, but I do not know what should and should not be present here. The rear of the turret has a full set of radios provided with a photo etch cage detail.
The internal elements of the turret inside the hull of the tank are very nicely replicated and so really make it easy for the modeller who wants the turret hatches open. The level of detail also means that a figure does not need to be added if so desired.
The external detail of the turret itself will look good once painted and weathered. All hatches in this area can be left open if so wished and so allowing a good look inside the vehicle. The aerial has been supplied as a part rather than a stretched sprue, an aspect I like even though I tend to replace them with wire. One thing I am not a fan of is the two spare wheels provided and indicated as attached to the turret lifting eyes by the provided string; I should say that while provided you do not have to add these or in the stated position.
Gecko Models have also supplied a figure with a nice level of detail present. The figure is a full figure provided to take a post in the turret. He is wearing a tank helmet that makes this figure accurate and is also wearing a coverall that makes the figure best suited to the European theatre of operations. There is an alternate head wearing a beret that is a nice option for those who desire it. I like the stance of a figure looking at a map and note that a side arm in the form of a holstered Webley revolver is included.
Gecko Models has provided 6 finishing options using good quality decals. The options are:
2nd Royal Tank Regiment, 3rd Armoured Brigade, 1st Armoured Division, France May-June 1940, Operations South of the river Somme
3rd Royal Tank Regiment, 3rd Armoured Brigade, 1st Armoured Division, France May 1940, Defence of Calais
9th Queen’s Royal Lancers, 2nd Armoured Brigade, 1st Armoured Division, France May-June 1940 Operations South of the river Somme
5th Royal Tank Regiment, 3rd Armoured Brigade, 1st Armoured Division, France May-June 1940, Operations South of the river Somme
2nd Royal Tank Regiment, 4th Armoured Brigade, 7th Armoured Division, Operation Compass, North Africa, December 1940 – February 1941
2nd Dragoon Guards (Queen’s Bays) 2nd Armoured Brigade, 1st Armoured Division, France May – June 1940, Operations South of the river Somme
This offering from Gecko Models lives up to the standards they have set themselves with the earlier releases. The only thing you can even consider faulting is the lack of a metal barrel, but you cannot really fault a company for not including that when they have included so many other highs. The interior detail provided with the entire open hatch options make this a great inclusion. The exterior detail is also of a very high standard topped off with a figure; something rarely offered in a high end model. The differences between the two A9’s offered by Gecko Models is restricted to the main weapon and ammunition storage not counting the figure which I thought would make only one appeal to me, but the difference in main gun makes more of a change than I considered and provides a lot of appeal to display them as a pair.
These are the two videos produced by the Chieftain covering the A10 on display at Bovington Tank museum and he covers both the outside and interior.
Darren Baker takes a look at the second A9 tank release from Gecko Models in the form of a Cruiser Tank A9 Mk 1 CS in 1/35th scale.
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About Darren Baker (CMOT) FROM: ENGLAND - SOUTH WEST, UNITED KINGDOM
I have been building model kits since the early 70’s starting with Airfix kits of mostly aircraft, then progressing to the point I am at now building predominantly armour kits from all countries and time periods. Living in the middle of Salisbury plain since the 70’s, I have had lots of opportunitie...