Britain started receiving versions of the M4A2 while fighting in North Africa. These were designated Sherman IIIs in British parlance. The early models came with direct vision visors for the driver and co-driver, but these were a weak point in the glacis that were eventually eliminated by the introduction of new driver’s hoods that were either welded from straight plates or cast as seen in this kit.
Other changes over time included the transmission housing (starting as three pieces, later a rounded one-piece and finally a “sharp” one-piece), the drive sprockets (fancy or plain), and the wheels (originally open spoked, replaced by solid-spoked or “pressed”), but field repairs could lead to a mix of early and late features on the same tank. Sherman IIIs of this type were used in Italy and Normandy, by troops from Britain, Canada, Poland, and New Zealand.
This kit from Tasca
is going head to head with Dragon’s Sherman III (no.6313) released a few years ago and Reviewed Here
Inside the box there are 22 sprues and assorted items adding up to 486 green styrene pieces, 16 clear styrene, 24 poly caps, 14 photoetched, and one rubber piece. Many of them will be familiar from earlier Tasca Sherman kits, especially the Sherman DV kit (no.35017). There are numerous options as a result of this “pick and mix” method that can bulk out the spares box, or add extra detail to other projects. Beginners should note that many of the parts are frighteningly small and delicate – great care will be required when removing them from the sprues.
Lower Hull and Suspension:
Starting at the bottom, the suspension consists of well detailed bogies with horizontal roller brackets and pillow blocks. The cast texture is minimal, but casting numbers are present. Skids are separate with the choice of mid-version or late version, but only the late one is correct for this tank. Amazingly they have bolt-head detail moulded on! The bogies have separate suspension arms for each wheel, with rubber sheeting hidden inside to provide spring action.
There is a choice of nicely moulded open-spoked or solid-spoked wheels. The solid wheels have back inserts and there are “rivets” moulded onto the sprue for those intrepid enough to shave them off and glue them around the rims. (However, there are only enough for the outer faces of the wheels.) Idler wheels likewise offer the choice of open versus solid, and the drive sprockets include the fancy and plain options which again depend on the vehicle in question.
Up front the transmission housing offers the choice of late one-piece “sharp” or early three-piece bolted types (but sadly no intermediate one-piece rounded), with the one-piece unit called for in the instructions. The separate bolt strip across the top of the housing is of the exposed-bolt type, although later units could have the recessed bolts seen on most Sherman kits. The one-piece unit has no casting markings, which is odd for a piece of cast armour. None of the photos I could find of M4A2s with this transmission show casting marks due to obstructions or soft focus, so this might be acceptable. The three-piece housing has casting marks on the two outer sections, but oddly not the centre one. True detail hounds will want to add drain plugs to the undersides.
The basic lower hull is made up from flat panels that look to fit very nicely based on a quick dry-fit. The panels are detailed for the correct welded-hull variety with the diesel access hatches, with bolt heads on the sides where the transmission joins. The rear plate for the upper hull even includes the correct bolt heads offset up the centre line.
Tracks are offered as four strips of plastic that can be glued with styrene cement, two per side. These are T49 three-bar cleat tracks as seen on many British/Commonwealth tanks, but many others were seen with T54 & T62 steel-chevron tracks, T48 rubber-chevron tracks, or WE210 “double I” tracks unique to British units in North Africa and Italy. The strips are moulded in a brownish rusty colour which should aid painting.
The upper hull is a new moulding with the revised cast driver’s hoods with periscopes instead of direct-vision visors. The weld seams are all slightly raised as they should be, although if anything they stand a bit too proud. Seams are missing along the sides where the front plate is joined to the sides. Also missing are the welds at the turret sides where the top plate creases into the engine deck sides, but as these are usually very flat the omission is acceptable.
The engine deck panels are separate, as are the engine hatches, but these have no interior detail. The fuel caps are separate items with enough detailing to be positioned open for diorama purposes. Hatches for the drivers come with separate head pads and periscopes, but oddly no handles – the instructions suggest bending them from brass wire. The periscopes themselves come in a choice of green or clear plastic, with separate armoured flaps, but there are no wire guards to protect them. These are more common on later vehicles, and if needed can be found in inexpensive Italeri Sherman kits or the after-market scene.
Options in the kit include two styles of cast vented covers for the grouser bins at the rear (but the simple flat plate called for in the instructions is more correct), a glacis-mounted siren with brush guard, and a choice of plastic or photo-etched brush guards for the lights. A bending jig is provided for the photo-etch. Applique armour panels are supplied for the hull sides as well as for the driver’s hoods. The rain channel around the hull machine-gun is separate, with versions supplied for use with or without the appliqué armour. Sand shields are provided in plastic, but were rarely seen intact even on early vehicles, and are unlikely on post-Normandy tanks. More useful are the plastic and etched parts to represent the mounting brackets that were left behind when the shields were removed. The one disappointment is the tow cable – Tasca provides the eyes for the ends, but not the actual cable.
Other details include biscuit tins and 2-gallon “POW” cans, but the US-style fuel cans of the earlier release are no longer included.
The turret is the low-bustle style with single split commander’s hatch. The shape is as good as it gets, and the added details such as the sighting vane are exquisite. The cast texture is well done on top, but fades out on the sides and rear due to moulding angles. The shell ejection port (or “pistol” port) opening is slide-moulded onto the turret side, so there is a slight seam to remove where the toolings meet. Once the lower part of the turret is attached the join will want some work and a coat of Mr Surfacer to blend it with the rest of the cast texture. The turret has no casting numbers, which is unusual for cast armour.
There are gun mounts for early and late versions (two types for the late), with a choice of narrow M34 mantlets (with and without cheeks, and with or without the separate MG armour) for the early mount as well as the later wide M34A1 mantlet for the later mounts. The split hatch ring has fine casting numbers on it, as do the gun mounts, but the cast mantlets do not. While the hatch halves are well detailed and the shell ejection port hatch can be modelled open, Tasca has not provided any interior detail to see except the nicely moulded coaxial .30cal MG – no 75mm gun breach or radio. And unlike Tasca’s earlier kit there is no figure to fill the hatch.
Options for the turret include side-mounted smoke dischargers, a sun compass base, two types of searchlight, appliqué cheek armour, and rectangular stowage box to mount on the bustle. The earlier Crusader-style box is also provided. The aperture for the turret-mounted grenade thrower is moulded on the inside of the turret, to be drilled out if required as per the instructions. Up on top there is Tasca’s excellent .50cal M2HB Browning machine gun, with a choice of 50 or 100-round ammo cans. And to top it off there are two different 75mm gun barrels, with slightly different contours. These are two-piece assemblies, but look to fit well enough to need minimal clean-up rather than replacement with after-market parts.
Two options are given, both from Normandy. These are:
•HQ squadron, 24th Lancers, 8th Armoured Brigade, June ‘44
•A squadron, Staffordshire Yeomanry, 27th Armoured Brigade, July ‘44
It should be stated that the instructions and decal choices are geared towards very late examples that would have been delivered in early 1944, so most of the earlier goodies are not applicable to these two vehicles.
Many other units (such as the New Zealanders, Canadians, and Poles) used the Sherman III in Italy and Europe, but their markings will have to come from the after-market boys. Of note, the Tasca website lists as “coming soon” a limited edition “Italian Front” version (item no. OL-2) that includes new decals and a commander figure.
This is by far the best Sherman kit I have ever seen, and would build into a winner straight from the box. However, this is definitely not a kit for the inexperienced or the faint-hearted due to the delicate pieces and numerous options. It should build up into an excellent model of the two Sherman IIIs for which decals are provided, but with all the optional parts (and some after-market decals) it can also build into a range of tanks fighting in Italy or Europe from 1943 onwards. Best of all, it will swell the contents of your spares box, so it can improve a number of other Sherman projects.