by: Stefan Halter [ ]
The different variants of the Stuart were widely used during and after WWII around the world, from the US and Great Britain to Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Russia and France, to name but a few. American decal manufacturer Decalcomaniacs provides us with a decal sheet with 10 different marking options fo– as the title of the set says– Stuarts around the world. So what’s in the set?
Marking Options and Historical Notes
Option I: “Stuart Hybrid, A Squadron, 2 Tanks Battalion Group, Wqaiouru, New Zealand, 1943.” In three-tone camouflage OD, red-brown and olive green. The Stuart Hybrid was the British designation for the late M3 which from the outside was almost indistinguishable from the M3A1. It would have a welded hull and a D58101 turret, and could be modified from Academy’s M3A1 Stuart Kit No. 1398. Unfortunately I could not find any pictures or color plates of this vehicle in my library.
Option II: “M3 Stuart, B Co., 192nd Tank Bn., Philippines, December 1941”. In overall OD. This tank has simple markings consisting of the blue registration number and the tank’s name “HELEN” in yellow letters. This version can be built from Academy’s M3 Stuart “Honey” Kit No. 1399 by leaving off the British fittings (for a build of one of these “Philippine” Stuarts by Steven Zaloga (see Military Modelling issue 12/2002). Osprey New Vanguard No. 33, M3 & M5 Stuart Light Tank 1940-1945 by Steven Zaloga contains a color plate of this vehicle. A blurry photo of it can be found on p. 19 of Concord Publication’s US Light Tanks at War 1941-1945 by the same author.
Option III: Stuart Mk I, 5RTR, Rgt. HQ, 4th Armoured Brig., 7th Armoured Div., North Africa, 1942.” In overall Sand. While the plates show the classic welded D38976 turret, a note indicates the original image shows a “round turret” (presumably the D39273 with raised commander’s hatches?). The tank carries a diamond and the tank’s name “EXE” in blue. Unfortunately I could not find any pictures or color plates of this vehicle in my library.
Option IV: “M5 Stuart, C Co. 70th Tank Bn. (L), Oran, Morocco, January, 1943.” In overall OD. Osprey New Vanguard No. 33, M3 & M5 Stuart Light Tank 1940-1945 by Steven Zaloga contains a color plate and picture of this vehicle. It features large US flags and yellow stars on the sides, large white star on the glacis and USAAF style star roundels on the engine deck. This would have to be kitbashed by combining an AFV Club M5A1 hull with an Academy M3A1 turret.
Option V: “M3A3, Guards Armoured Division, 2nd Bn. Recon troop, Armored Irish Guards, NEW, 1944.” In overall OD. This tank again has a blue diamond. The name “RATHROWE” in white is painted on the front glacis. This tank can be built with AFV Club’sM3A3 Stuart kit No. 35053. Unfortunately, I could not find any pictures or color plates of this vehicle in my library.
Option VI: “M5A1, Czechoslovakian Independent Armoured Brigade, Germany, 1945.” In overall OD. The main marking feature of this variant is the inscription “CONDOR” in bold white letters on the front glacis. A picture of this vehicle can be found on p. 67 of Concord Publication’s US Light Tanks at War 1941-1945 by Steven Zaloga. It shows the inscription slanted towards the driver’s headlights. This is indicated in the instructions, but it is hard to get it accurate without the picture. To get the slant I would recommend adding each letter individually. This version can be built from AFV Club’s early M5A1 (kit No. 35105).
Option VII: “M5A1, C Company, 33rd Armored Rgt, 3rd AD, France, July 1944.” In overall OD. This vehicle is named “CONCRETE” and has large “C 12” in yellow on its sides. A picture of this vehicle can be found on p. 53 of Concord Publication’s US Light Tanks at War 1941-1945 by Steven Zaloga. Unfortunately, the picture shows a different font used for the C 12 and the vehicle registration number. While the ones in the decal set are more like “Times New Roman,” those on the original tank were more like “Arial.” For a truly accurate model, these will have to be sourced elsewhere. This version can be built from AFV Club’s early M5A1 (kit No. 35105).
Option VIII: “M5A1, French 2nd Demi Brigade, Cochin China, January 1946.” In overall OD. This vehicle’s name is “EL ALAMEIN,” and it features the Free French marking and a small French flag on each side, as well as the typical French number plates. A color plate of this vehicle can be found on p. 33 of Squadron/Signal’s Armor in Vietnam– A Pictorial History by Jim Mesko, but unfortunately there is no photo. The decals conform with the color plate. There is some misalignment of the colors on the number plate, but this can be rectified by adding the flag separately from the black plate. This version can be built from AFV Club’s early M5A1 (kit No. 35105).
Option IX: “M3A1, Australian 2/6th Armd Rgt., Papua New Guinea, 1942.” In overall OD. The vehicle’s name is “CABBY” in white letters on the turret with a white "12" roundel also on the turret. A picture of this vehicle can be found on p. 23 of Concord Publication’s US Light Tanks at War 1941 – 1945 by Steven Zaloga. The picture clearly shows (and the caption so identifies it) an M3 with the D39273 turret, so the title of the decal sheet is incorrect. Unfortunately, the decal sheet also contains a mistake in that “CABBY” is way too large compared to the original, and the white 12 is too small. This is of course unless there was a later M3A1 with the same name and unit. Since there is no D39273 turret in plastic, one will have to be scratched, or maybe there is an aftermarket item available?
Option X: “M5A1, 601st Tank Destroyer Bn., Volturno River, Italy, October 1943.” In overall OD. This one features a star in a circle as well as a distinctive red Y on yellow square on each side of the hull. This tank features prominently in several publications. Concord Publication’s US Light Tanks at War 1941-1945 by Steven Zaloga has the original photo on p. 27, and to my untrained eye (comparing to the yellow square next to it) the ring around the star could be yellow and the star white. Osprey's New Vanguard No. 33 M3 & M5 Stuart Light Tank 1940-1945 by the same author has a color plate showing both the star and ring in white. Squadron/Signal’s U.S. Armor Camouflage and Markings in World War II by Jim Mesko also has a color plate, this time with both the star and circle in yellow. All three have one thing in common though: the marking as a whole is much finer than the one in the decal sheet, so it will best be replaced. This version can be built from AFV Club’s early M5A1 (kit No. 35105).
The set contains the decal sheet and a three page instruction sheet with side and front view of each option, as well as a list of print references. The instruction sheet is somewhat unclear, as it does not show the exact placement of the decals other than with an arrow. It is recommended that you refer to period photos to get the right features of the vehicle along with the correct placing of the decals.
The decal sheet is printed on a continuous clear backing so each decal will have to be cut out individually. The sheet clearly divides the markings for each of the ten versions, so you won’t mix them up. Each decal is provided in twice the number actually used so really you could model 20 vehicles from this set— not a bad deal in my view!
Printing is on the light side, and with all colors (excepting black and white) the individual color dots can be seen due to what I suppose is a low printing resolution. While this will not really be noticed once weathered, it is still quite noticeable with the yellow circles, for example (see photo at right). In some cases there is a slight misalignment, but this can be corrected with careful cutting.
I tested a few of the decals on my trusty Quad guinea pig. Each decal has to be cut out individually, so it depends on your cutting skills how much of the clear backing can be seen. Dip it in warm water, and after a few seconds the decal comes off the backing sheet. Personally, I have never seen a decal that comes off so fast and easily. I applied my decals in the normal way I usually do: over a coat of future with the help of Micro Sol. This worked out well, though the future underneath some decals got milky at first. This disappeared as soon as it was dry. The decals themselves are flat when dry and the backing sheet is quite thin. Once you’ve added your flat clear coat, the decals can be weathered normally.
On the photos at right you can see the effect after a simple weathering with pigments. Unfortunately on my example, the pigments got stuck at the edges of the backing film. I think this is due to my not too careful cutting.
These are certainly not Cartograph decals, but once they’re on and weathered accordingly, a very nice result can be achieved. As mentioned above, some of the options don’t compare well with period photos of the same, so care will have to be taken. It is definitely advised to have a period photo of the tank you are building when applying the markings.