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Tanks in Detail 2, M3-M3A1-M3A3, Stuart I to V

by Jonathan Forty

Ian Allan Publishing Ltd, ISBN 0-7110-2932-6, 96 pages

This is a useful book for modellers working on the Academy, AFV Club or Tamiya Stuart kits. It packs a lot of information into its pages, including some very handy detail shots from the respective Technical Manuals – more on those later. Some of the information is a little garbled, though whether this is due to printing errors or to insufficient research is a moot point and the careful reader will work out the correct version for him or herself. The main problem is that the chapter on development, although quite comprehensive, fails to mention the change from a hull upper rear made up from flat plates to one using a single curved plate. Readers really need to consult Steve Zaloga’s Osprey volume on the Stuart to get the full picture.
The development chapter does include no fewer than three good, clear four-view plans by D P Dyer of the early M3, mid-production M3 and M3A3. Unfortunately no scale is stated, but they are very obviously larger than 1/35. Users will need to work out their actual scale from the dimensions quoted and get photocopies reduced to the correct size if using them for part sizes and positions. It also goes through the turret and hull changes (other than that rounded rear end) but omits the ‘D’ numbers of the turret patterns etc. No problem here, those who want to know will find them in the fighting compartment chapter and simply need to turn back and forward to refer to them. Clear, large photographs show the different sub-types well and provide good reference.
The next chapter deals with the chassis, engine and suspension. Here there’s a good selection of photographs – maybe more than needed of the glacis being removed to show the final drive arrangement, but plenty showing the driver’s controls and instrument panels too. Oddly enough the suspension section makes no mention of the Kelsey-Hayes wheels, leaving the unaware under the impression that the spoked wheels were used exclusively all through production – though it does include details of the radio fit for US Army tanks which seems strange in a section headed Suspension!
The fighting compartment is the subject of the next chapter, and here you get the turret D numbers. This chapter is largely pictorial with relatively little text. Excellent plan and photo coverage gives you photos of the Bovington Tank Museum’s diesel-engined M3A1’s fighting compartment (distinguished by their credits as RG/TM), including the sponson both with and without its machine gun and mount – very useful. Here you’ll also find detail pics of the commander’s turret seat, periscopes, turret basket and main gun mount. Not only all that, but also Dyer cross-sections of M3, M3A1 and M3A3 to give the general layouts plus larger cross-section drawings of their turret arrangements and ghosted drawing of the M3A1 and M3A£ ammunition stowage arraignments.
The Armament chapter describes and illustrates the main gun, M23 combination mount, gunsight etc and, most usefully, six types of main gun round with their markings and colours noted for each. Then comes the chapter on Markings and Insignia, which is rather generalised but does include a handy colour chart of the US 1st Armored Division’s marking system in the Tunisian campaign. There are also two double-page colour spreads of – mainly British and Commonwealth – Corps and Division signs, though quite what the point of these might be it is hard to say, when there’s no indication of their application to particular Stuarts and some seem rather unlikely to have ever appeared on these tanks. Stylised plates showing actual tanks and their markings would have been more use – though not, for preference, like those showing US Stuart markings which are displayed on patches without even a note of whether they were on the turret sides or the hulls. This kind of presentation is useless.
Despite my feelings on the Markings chapter, the rest of this book is useful and the interior arrangement drawings and photographs, while not completely comprehensive, will be very helpful to modellers. Recommended with reservations.

John Prigent