The M4A2 Sherman Mk III was the second of the Sherman family to enter service with the British Army under the Lend Lease agreement with America, first making its appearance with the early M3-style suspension during the Battle of El Alamein in 1942. The vehicle soldiered on throughout the war, being used in Sicily, Italy and North West Europe. It was issued to the British, Polish, Canadian, and French Forces, and was also used by the Russians and even the USMC, but was not issued to United States Army units as far as I am aware. Modelling possibilities with this basic kit are therefore wide and varied.
There has been much comment, discussion and delight at the arrival of the Tasca Sherman kits. They are rated as being the best Sherman kits ever produced by many more knowledgeable than me. Plastic Direct Vision Shermans (both the Mk II and Mk III) have been the Holy Grail for some for modellers for a long, long time. The M4A2 Mk. III was a natural follow-on/extension of the earlier Mk III DV (Direct Vision) with the early M3 suspension.
The kit comes packed in a fairly sturdy box, and has 14 plastic bags containing the parts and decals, 2 booklets of instructions, along with Tasca's excellent .50 cal MG set, and a set of their US Jerry cans. The Box Art is nicely done, depicting "Rodbourne" from C Squadron, Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry, 9th Armoured Brigade.
The majority of the tank parts are cast in a light tan/yellowish plastic. You get two small sprues with the periscopes and lights cast in clear plastic; the jerry cans and .50 cal are cast in green. The tracks, which come in 4 sections, are made in a brownish vinyl and represent the T51 Rubber Block type which were commonly used on this vehicle.
One thing that strikes one immediately is the quality of the casting; the detail is sharp and clear. There is nothing chunky about the parts, and the detail seems excellent, the moulding of the highest quality. I could see no significant flash on any of the parts, and the parts themselves are attached to the sprues with a minimal number of hold points, so removal and clean-up should be straightforward. Terry Ashley counts 432 parts in the kit and I have no reason to doubt this. My initial impression is that this is possibly the nicest plastic kit I have ever opened.
These come in two separate parts: one a 4 page folded booklet showing the build instruction for the suspension units, plus the markings for the vehicle, along with build instructions for the crewman. The second is a 10-page foldout covering the steps of the vehicle build. The instructions are mainly in Japanese with limited English references, but they are the blow-out picture type, so careful study should result in a successful build. The build sequence is laid out in a logical manner covering steps 1-20 with important points indicated by one of three symbol types (shown on page 1 of the instructions).
Low Bustle Turret and M34 Gun
The kit has the early low bustle 75mm turret with the single commander's hatch, and comes with the early M34 gun mount. Disappointingly, no gun breach is included. The turret comes in two parts, with the upper shell and lower ring mount as separate items. The turret has very finely cast texture, and there is a small, faint cast seem around the pistol port. If you look very closely at the turret, there is a raised weld seem running around the base of the shell. This might need enhancing a little.
The pistol port hatch comes as a separate item, complete with the hatch raising arm, and can therefore be shown open or closed. Only just evident in the picture (but clearly visible on the turret upper shell) are three of what I can only describe as pressure lines, one running from the edge of the left-hand side periscope mount back to just before the back edge of the turret, and one running across the back at an angle from turret edge to the edge of the commander's cupola. There is also one in front of the cupola. These are evident on the Mk II and Mk V I have, but is not something I have seen often. I believe they were sometimes present as a result of the actual casting process, but this may not always be the case. If possible you may wish to check your build references.
The commander's cupola is nicely detailed, with padding in evidence inside the rim. The MG mount on the cupola comes complete with a locking handle. The split hatches have excellent detail, with grab handles being provided for both the inside and out, with padding for the appropriate hatch present. Periscopes are provided along with hatch covers for them. You get both clear plastic periscopes and a set moulded in tan, so more than enough there. The vane sight is nicely moulded as a separate plastic part, and the antenna mounts are both present.
As mentioned above, the kit comes with the early M34 gun mount. The contoured mantle is nicely done with the correct number of bolts and the raised lip for the .30 cal. The lifting eyes come as separate parts and are located in the correct place on the mantle, but take care, as they are different parts and need to be located correctly.
Note on the lifting eyes: I looked at a broad range of pictures of the early 75mm gun mount. On some the lifting eyes are clearly set in more towards the gun barrel, on others they appear towards the edge of the mantle as per the kit. Again, it is a case of check your references and adjust accordingly if necessary.
You get two rotor covers, one with ears and one without-- again nicely depicted, but check your references for the correct style. A .30 cal is provided for the mantle and attaches to the inner gun mount so that it can elevate with the gun. The .30 is nicely-detailed with the end of the barrel being pre-drilled a little; you may want to deepen this. To accompany it you get the small protection shield, however, these were not always fitted, so check your references.
You get two gun barrels with slightly different contours; these are moulded in 2 parts, so a little clean up may be required. If you assemble the barrel carefully, there should be no need for a metal replacement, although that is an option of personal preference. The kit also comes with the early style blanket box appropriate for N. Africa and Sicily/Italy.
With the addition of the excellent .50 cal, this should turn out to be a highly-detailed and accurate turret. I felt the texture on the turret was too fine, but if you spray paint it, this may not be an issue, although I would tend to roughen it up a little with Mr Surfacer. I test-fitted the upper and lower parts of the turret, and the rear lip of the bustle will need to be filed down a little. As with any Sherman, check your build reference: the small pipe by the fan housing was for a searchlight and not always present. The instructions indicate you should remove this part.
Upper Hull and fittings
The upper hull comes very nicely-cast, with the DV slots cut out and the earlier aerial pots cast in place. The casting is really finely-detailed. It depicts the earlier M4A2 version with the 56% angle hull. Weld seems are present but these might need to be enhanced a little. Also looking at my reference pictures, some examples show two additional welds on the front glacial. As already stated, check your reference pictures if you are building a specific vehicle.
The DV ports (parts E12 and E11) are installed from the inside of the hull and have separate visor sections (parts M23) that can be modelled open or closed. The crew hatches are well done with good detail. You get both tan plastic and clear plastic periscopes, periscope covers and head pads for the inside of the hatches, which hide a couple of sink marks nicely. Lifting handles are also provided.
The hull mounted .30 cal comes as a full weapon with a ball mount swivel, and is well-depicted. The barrel has a small indent, but you may wish to deepen this a little for better definition. The weapon passes through the opening in the hull to be glued to part C29 allowing the MG to move. Part C38 provides the surround bolt strip for the MG housing. This is a delicate part and has 5 attachment points to the sprue, so will need careful removal.
The headlights (parts D12) are beautifully done and come with clear plastic lenses (Parts G14) to enhance the finish. The bush guards (Parts D9) are in plastic but quite thin and should be very acceptable. Again careful removal from the sprue will be required.
The engine deck comes in 4 main parts: Part O7 provides the opening for the 4 additional fuel filler caps on either side of the rear hull and the cross mounting for the forward bolted mounted fittings. The access doors (Parts O9 and O10) have finely-detailed louvers but no internal detail, so moulding them open would not be an option without considerable work or a replacement part. The top rear panel of the engine deck (Part O13) is nicely done with the bolt heads present. The engine deck had 7 fuel filler caps, 4 of which are contained on sprue O and match the four holes on Part O7; the others are for the main hull, and come on sprue D. Be careful not to mix these up as there is a difference in the direction of the handles, the former curving in and the latter curving out. You may need to check your references on this point as the instructions give a and/or option.
The tail lights (Parts C33 and C32 ) are finely-detailed and clearly indicated in the instructions as to which is for the right hand side and which is for the left hand side. Bush guards are provided for the lights, but again check your references as not all early vehicles display these. The grouser covers are of the correct type, and sit slightly recessed into the rear hull. Photographs would indicate that these sat on top of the hull on the early version, but this would be a minor fix if you desire.
The rear plate (Part E3) is correctly done with the vertical bolt heads off-set slightly to the left. You get a complete set of tools to finish the upper hull, and these are the nicest plastic tools I have seen yet. There are very fine locating points indented on the hull so placing these should be no problem. You may want to add straps as necessary. Page 6, instruction 12 will help in this regard.
You get the choice of either the 3 Piece Transmission Cover or the Sharp Nose Cast Transmission Cover with the kit.
The 3 Piece Transmission has nicely-cast texture with a foundry casting number on the left and right hand sides. The flanges come in four parts, the first time I have seen this. The detail on each is excellent, and joined together they should provide a pair of detailed flanges to match the transmission cover. On the actual vehicles, the flanges had a seam running down the middle, so be sparing with the glue here, as being in two parts these should give a good representation of the actual flange when joined up. The drive housings (Parts c52 and C53) are highly-detailed, and the detail on the bolt strip is very good. The fittings for the towing brackets come as separate parts and are pre-drilled to accept the shackles.
The Sharp Nose Case Transmission is also well done, again with subtle texture but no foundry casting marks. Again the fittings for the lifting shackles come as separate parts and are pre-drilled, a development I am pleased to see. The final drive housings (Parts J4 and J5) are also separate parts and well-detailed on both sides.
Both transmissions lack the drain plugs on the lower side. The 3 piece transmission should have 3 oil drain plugs, and the sharp nose 2 plugs. This should be an easy fix. I have read and seen comment about the bolts strip. I am not an expert but it would appear that on the Cast Nose Transmission, the bolts on the strip were recessed a little, whereas on the kit examples, they stand proud on both types. I have searched for pictures, and depending on the angle, seem to have found examples of both. So I cannot really comment on that other than say you should check references for your particular build.
You get 2 sets of plastic moulded front fenders: parts O14, O15 and parts C48-49. The instructions show the use of parts O14 and O15 and the build-up of same for both transmissions, with different parts J7 and J8 being used for the 3 Piece Transmission and Parts J1 and J2 for the Sharp Nose Transmission. Without a build of the kit, I can say only parts C48 and C49 are on the 3 Piece Transmission sprue, and come as a built item, so it's something to check once your build commences. Both fender parts are quite thin but will need some ejection marks removed from the underside.
The lower hull is very well detailed and comes as six separate parts: the floor (Part E 8), side panels (Parts E9 and E10), rear bulkhead firewall (Part E5), sponsons (parts E9 and E10) and rear panel (Part O18). To the floor you will need to add part J24 or C43 depending upon which transmission housing you choose to use. Added onto the rear panel will be the muffler and radiator. The inside of the panels have quite a few ejector marks you may or may not choose to clean up. The muffler (Parts O2 and O1) is well detailed, as are the radiator panels with a fine mesh texture (Parts 016). The inclusion of the rear bulkhead should ensure a good alignment of the parts; just be sure to mount the muffler the correct way. You may wish to add the 2 small bolts to either side of the central fitting.
Early VVSS Suspension
The kit comes with the early style VVSS suspension with the straight roller arm and raised roller supports. You get 2 styles of road wheels: the 5-spoke open style, and the 6-spoke cast closed style, which also include a detailed backing insert. Two types of track skids are included: the early half skid style, and the later full skid style. Again check your references if you are building a particular vehicle or within a particular time frame. Much has already been written about the Tasca suspension: these have excellent detail, foundry marks and the 3 small bolt heads on the lower portion of the units. They can be built as workable units with the sponge provided, or fixed with the addition of some of the Formations Ride Height Spacers for Tasca Sherman Suspensions Kit F086.
You get three styles of drive wheels: two with the more-detailed and fancy layout, and one with the later smooth finish. Again, check your build reference for what you desire. Poly-caps are supplied to fit to the drive wheels. You also get two styles of idler wheel: the open-spoke version and the cast, closed version which comes with the appropriate back insert (like the cast road wheels). Make your choice and add the remainders to the spares box.
These are excellently detail suspension units and wheels, enough said.
The track represents the T51 rubber block type that was commonly seen on the Mk III Sherman. It comprises 4 sections of brownish vinyl-type track. There are gaps between the blocks, and the end connectors are detailed and well-depicted for this type of track. There are 3 small ejection lugs that will need removal on each section. My understanding is that you simply glue the sections together with normal plastic cement.
Point to note: Part C25 the idler base can be adjusted to tighten the track, so donít glue this in place in the initial build stage at step 4.
Sand Skirts and Additional Equipment/Figure
The sand skirts come in 3 main sections. The parts are reasonably thin, but have a number of ejection marks that will need removal-- or not, depending on how you build. This is a much easier option than PE, and also allows for a great choice of finish on the kit. To accompany these are a set of very thin side rails, off which are often seen hanging various bits of equipment.
The kit comes with a set of the Tasca US Jerry Cans , a set of their excellent .50 cal M2 MG, a set of 2 Gal Water cans and a rack to hold them in, some Biscuit Tins and a Full Commander figure, plus a set of 4inch Bomb Throwers. The Tasca Jerry Cans have already been reviewed here on Armorama
. The Tasca .50cal I believe is already well-known for its excellent match to the real thing, so I wonít cover that ground again.
The Commander is a full-length figure dressed in what I believe to be the 2-piece lightweight denim overall, and wearing a Mk I Pistol Holster. The arms are separate and come with the denim sleeves rolled up, with a watch on his left wrist. On his head he wears a tanker's beret. The details of the uniform appear to be correct, and the figure quite well-sculpted. He should build-up in to a perfectly acceptably figure for the cupola (after a little clean up).
Decals and Markings
The kit comes with markings for 3 vehicles. Some of the markings are specific to transmission type, so check before you build if you want a particular vehicle. The markings appear to match the known data on these vehicles, and photographs of them should be reasonably available for reference if one happens to be your build choice.
C Squadron, Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry, 9th Armoured Brigade Late 1943 Ė Syria Aleppo
3rd County of London Yeomanry, 4th Armoured Brigade July 1943 Ė Sicily
1st Squadron 1st Krechowiecki Lancers, 2nd Tank Brigade Fall 1943, Palestine
Also included is a set of RAF Roundels often seen on the early tanks.
This looks to all intent and purpose to be a cracking kit, also itís a cracking British/Commonwealth
kit, and one that has been longed-for in 1/35 plastic for many years. With the exception of some side stowage, you have for once everything you need in one box to build an excellent representation of a widely-used British/Commonwealth fighting vehicle.
Some may choose to swop-out the MG barrels and 75mm barrel for metal replacements, or change the track to suit a particular vehicle, but it is so refreshing to get a kit that really doesnít need much added to it other than the skill of the modeller. The quality and detail of the parts is 1st class, the addition of the figure, 2 gallon flimsy cans & rack, plus the excellent Tasca .50 cal MG and Jerry can set, just put that final touch to possibly the best Sherman kit I have seen so far.
If there is a down side for me itís not including a gun breech and radio for the turret; with the exception of Tamiya that seems to be standard across manufacturers, but something I do wish they would address on all British and American Tanks. Is there room for improvement? Well there always is, but this is easily the best Sherman kit I have come across to date. It's beautifully engineered, clean-up should be minimal, great possible build choices and a good choice of finishes available to the modeller. And you will have some nice parts let over for the spares box! Both armour builders and diorama builders should enjoy what I would hope is a very satisfying experience.
by W Gawrych
British Sherman Tanks
by Dennis Oliver
British Armour in Sicily and Italy
by Dennis Oliver
The New Breed
by Dennis Oliver and Michael Starmer