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Tamiya Cromwell - Additional Details

Peter Brown

 

Cromwells were used by the British 21st Army Group in North West Europe from D Day to VE Day. The 7th Armoured Division, the Desert Rats of North Africa fame, used them as their main equipment with three Armoured Regiments so equipped as well as their Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment, whose intended role was more scouting than combat though they managed their fair share of the latter. The other armoured divisions, the British Guards and 11th Armoured and the 1st Polish Armoured, all used mainly Shermans of various types but had Cromwells in their Armoured Reconnaissance Regiments. The Canadians did not use Cromwells, but one other user was the Czech Armoured Brigade, who had at least two regiments' worth in December 1944. With the introduction of Comet into 11th Armoured, the use of Cromwell slowly declined and by the end of the war in Europe they were being replaced by Comet. Total losses of Cromwell and the related A30 Challenger – a lengthened hull with a 17pdr gun in a large turret - were around 650, about the same as Churchills but well behind the 2,700 or so Shermans lost in the campaign by 21 Army Group. No Cromwells served in other theatres of war, and the only major variants to see action were Command and Artillery Observation Post versions and the turretless Armoured Recovery Vehicles used by all Cromwell units.

Post-war, their days were numbered, a few served in Korea though by then the Centurion was the main fighting tank. Some served on in Territorial Army units – the part-time part of the British Army - and many were fitted with a new turret with the Centurion's 20pdr gun to become the Charioteer. Only a few Cromwells served in other armies, a couple with the early Israeli armoured formations, the main export type being Charioteer which served in Finland, Austria and The Lebanon. Several ended up as hard targets on firing ranges in the UK. A sad if not entirely wasteful end for a good tank, those used to mark the safety boundaries on ranges appeared in bright colours which would make unusual alternative schemes. Some have been recovered and may be restored to run again, though not in anger.

Markings Details

On the kit decal sheet, full marks should go to the relevant Tamiya departments for their work here, with attention to detail usually seen in other sorts of kits - now, what are those noisy things with wings called? Stencilled antifreeze instructions on the Polish option and landing craft details - decal 21 - on the 5RHA tank are things usually overlooked. All the vehicles depicted are from the era before Normandy Cowls were fitted as a matter of course, and none carried the hedgerow cutting prongs. The books mentioned are covered in more detail later, and photos in them will help with stowage and small details. The tank from 5th Royal Tank Regiment was photographed pre D-Day, appearing in this guise while training at Shakers Wood, Brandon, Norfolk and a photo of it appears in Delaforce's book "Churchill's Desert Rats". The style of markings is typical of that used by the 7th Armoured Division in North Africa and the unit continued to use it throughout the NW Europe. With suitable alterations it could be used for 1RTR - the red arm of service square would carry the number 51 for them - or for other 7th Armoured vehicles in NW Europe. See the listed books for examples. 2nd Battalion

The Welsh Guards formed the vanguard of the Guards Armoured Division. They were inspected by Winston Churchill just before D-Day,  vehicle named BLENHEIM was personal inspected by the great man himself and was the subject of the colour plate in the old and much missed Profile series and an equally old ESCI decal sheet. The style of markings was used in Normandy and later, although in common with many Cromwell units the Welsh Guards added extra stowage and camouflage nets, one veteran commander told me they had a strictly enforced regime of all vehicles being stowed alike. In the drive on Brussels, one tank fired so many rounds from its hull machine gun that the heat from the barrel set its cam net alight! Some Welsh Guards vehicles, at least in training in the UK, had a second, darker color in wavy blotches over the basic drab scheme, but in Europe they had one-colour schemes.

The AOP tank of 5th Royal Horse Artillery (note - not "House") of 7th Armoured may be a suitable choice for Panzer fans who have run out of subjects, as it was a vehicle captured at Villers-Bocage and was run at least for propaganda photographs. AOP and command tanks had their guns removed to leave room for their new role, this tank appeared to have the usual 75mm gun's muzzle brake in place, unlike the dummy type on the Polish vehicle.

Fourth option from 1st Polish Armoured Division is the personal vehicle of their commander, General Maczek. Photos of the vehicles show it to have had a dummy gun fitted, much the same in size as a 75mm but with a simplified muzzle brake. This had no holes drilled through from side to side, and was a cut-off cone without the distinctive belling out of the real gun's brake. It also carried a horseshoe on the left-land (hull machine gunner's) side mudguard. I hope Polish practice for horseshoes differs from English ones, as the show is shown open end down, whereas for a good luck symbol in English it is open end up "to keep the luck in".

11th Armoured Division's command tank had the original style muzzle brake. Published photos show TAUREG II with a very bent gunner's side front mudguard and large map boards in front of both turret crew. Other command tanks of the same division in that photo can be seen with no muzzle brake and another vehicle was T187740 OLIVER which gives a possible simple variation.

If you plan variations on markings, by mixing and matching the kit's decal sheet and adding those from other kits or after-market sets, you could end up with any of the 7th Armoured Division's units, or alternatively 10 Pulk Strzelcow (Pulk Rozpoznawczy) - 10th Polish Mounted Rifle Regiment - or the 2nd Northamptonshire Yeomanry or later 15/19th Hussars who were Armoured Reconnaissance Regiments to 1st Polish Armoured or 11th Armoured Divisions respectively.

Sources

There has only been one book in English devoted to the Cromwell itself.

Back in 1983 HMSO published "Cromwell Tank - Vehicle History and Specification" for the Tank Museum. This had a short history of the Cromwell series written by David Fletcher, then Librarian and now also Curator, as a preface to a reprint of the 1943 Cromwell I Service Instruction Book. This was the British equivalent of a TM and goes into great detail on the vehicle, its engine, mechanicals and weapons. Note that the vehicle it covers is the early 6pdr armed version, so not entirely as the kit vehicle but maybe a conversion possibility. The book includes a color cutaway and 1/35th plans as well as interior and exterior Stowage Diagrams of the Mks I, IV and VI. Time passing has meant that the book is out of print, but the Tank Museum can offer a set of extracts from various manuals in its Plans Packs series.

The Cromwell I, II & III (6pdr) set is 4.50 and the Cromwell IV - VII one is 6.00. Anyone interested in these items should contact The Library Administrator, The Tank Museum, Bovington, Wareham, Dorset, BH20 6JG, England enclosing two IRCs or a large stamped, self addressed envelope if in the UK and ask for a full current list. See their web site www.tankmuseum.co.uk for more details.

The 1/35th plans in the HMSO book also appear in the Wydawnictwo Militaria series no 27 on Cromwell by Janusz Ledwoch (Warsaw, Poland 1994). While the text is Polish, many good clear photos and color plates make this book well worth seeking out. Try Barbarossa Books, West Beynon House, 242 High Street,Bromley, Kent, BR1 1PQ, England if you cannot get the book closer to home.

Several general books cover the Cromwell, notably David Fletcher's standard work "The Universal Tank - British Armour in the Second World War Part 2" (HMSO 1993) which is a must for anyone interested in British AFVs of the period.

Another must have is "British Tank Markings and Names" by B T White (Arms and Armour Press, London, 1978 but long out of print) for photos and colour details.

If you want something more specific to the Cromwell in action, try "Churchill's Desert Rats - From Normandy to Berlin with the 7th Armoured Division" by Patrick Delaforce (Alan Sutton Publishing, Stroud, England and Dover, New Hampshire, USA 1994) for its main user, or "The Black Bull –From Normandy to Berlin with the 11th Armoured Division" from the same author and publisher in 1993 which also includes material and photos on Cromwell.

For Villers-Bocage, see "Villers-Bocage Through the Lens of the German War Photographer" by Daniel Taylor, published 1999 by Battle of Britain International Limited, Church House, Church Street, London E15 3JA, England at 17.95. This has many large, clear photos of 4th County of London Yeomanry (Sharpshooters) Cromwells and also the kit's RHA vehicle.

Older works with Cromwell content worth looking out for on the second owner market include George Forty's "The Royal Tank Regiment - A Pictorial History" (Spellmount, Tunbridge Wells and Hippocrene Books, New York 1988) which has a fair coverage of 3RTR and 5RTR Cromwells or his earlier "Desert Rats At War 2 - Europe" (Ian Allan, Shepperton 1977 and also available in other editions including a combined volume covering this and the earlier Desert periods).

For the Polish side, see if you can the out of print Vanguard 30, "Polish Armour 1939-45" by Krzysztof Barbarski (Osprey, London 1982) which has a colour plate of General Maczek's vehicle and several photos of other 1st Polish Armoured Division tanks.

The captured RHA Cromwell was in "Captured American & British Tanks Under the German Flag" by Werner Regenberg (Schiffer Publishing, Atglen PA 1993) or its original version "Beutepanzer unterm Balkenkreuz - Amerikanische und englische Kampfpanzer" from Podzun-Pallas Verlag, Friedberg, Germany.

I know of no reference books for the Czech Armoured Brigade, but some Photos of their Cromwells and Fireflies were published in the Articles section of the Accurate Armour web site www.accurate-armour.com

 

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