Soviet T-35 multi-turret heavy tank. Т-35 тяжёлый многобашенный танк. Stalin’s Monster Tank. Zvezda 1/35

The T-35 was the largest Soviet tank and with its menacing and inspiring appearance it became a symbol of the might of the Red Army during the 1930s.

When I first saw the release of this kit by Russian manufacturer Zvezda, I knew straightaway I had to get hold of this Soviet Leviathan! I knew very little about this tank and until the collapse of the Soviet Union detailed information about Soviet arms was difficult to come by. That has all changed now of course and there is a plethora of websites devoted to Russian and Soviet military subjects.

The stunning box art alone made it an irresistible project! These multi-turret fighting machines would often proudly lead the columns of military hardware during parades on Red Square in Moscow or on the Khreschatik, the main boulevard in Kiev, Ukraine.
Look at the size of the beast! In reality it was about 32 ft in length and weighed 50 tons. Had to clear my modelling table for this one! Actually the fit wasn’t all that brilliant, especially the turrets, but Soviet weaponry was often crude and poorly finished so it didn’t really matter all that much.

In the first years of the interwar period, the majority of tank powers equipped their armies almost exclusively with light tanks. However a few countries built small numbers, or even single examples, of multi-turreted heavily armoured tanks which were called land battleships or dreadnoughts. Soviet tank builders also became infatuated with these types the representative example of which became the T-35.

The requirement for this weapon originated in 1932. The T-35 was the only five turret tank to go into mass production although in limited numbers. The factory appointed with this task was the Kharkov locomotive works in the name of the Comintern. The cost to the State Treasury of a single T-35 was 525,000 roubles for which money one could build nine BT-5 light tanks!

This heavy assault tank was intended to operate against infantry and anti-tank guns and to help overcome heavily fortified enemy positions. Its powerful armament of three large guns and five machine guns deployed in five turrets enabled the T-35 to bring to bear fire from two guns and three machine guns forward, behind or either side, thereby securing all-round fire.

T-35s took part in battles in Western Ukraine in June and beginning of July 1941 where all were lost. Four T-35s were employed in the defence of Kharkov in October 1941. Some Western and Russian publications suggest the T-35 took part in the Soviet-Finnish war in 1939- 1940 but apparently this is not true.

The combat career of the T-35 was very short. In the summer of 1941, one captured T-35 was repaired by the Germans and sent to Germany. During the loading and transportation of the tank by rail, a number of difficulties arose due to the fact that the T-35 did not fit the gauge (the gauge in Western Europe is less than in the USSR and Russia – 1420 mm versus 1535 mm). However, the tank was delivered to a German tank test site in Kummersdorf, where it was tested. The further fate of this T-35 is unknown.

According to the memoirs of the German driver, “the control of the tank was extremely difficult, and the switching of levers and pedals is very difficult”.

The T-35 had a crew of ten-eleven men(!):

1) commander (senior lieutenant) – in the turret number 1 (main), to the right of the gun, fires and loads the gun with the help of the radio operator, commands the tank.

2) assistant commander (lieutenant) – in turret No. 2 (front cannon), fires from a 45-mm gun, is the deputy commander, is responsible for the state of all the weapons of the tank, when not in action manages the training of artillerymen and machine gunners;

3) junior tank technician (rank 2 military technician) – in the control department, controls the movement of the tank, is responsible for its technical condition, directs the training of driver and motor mechanics outside the battle.

4) mechanic- the driver (sergeant) – in turret number 3 (front machine gun), fires, provides engine care, is the deputy driver of the tank, is responsible for the state of armament turret number 3.

5) artillery turret commander No. 1 (junior platoon commander) – is deployed to the left of the gun, fires, is responsible for the state of armament of the turret.

6) the commander of turret No. 2 (a separate commander) – to the right of the gun, performs the functions of a loader; in the event of the departure of an assistant tank commander, fires from a 45-mm gun, is responsible for the state of armament of turret No. 2.

7) the commander of turret No. 4, the rear cannon, (separate commander) – of a 45 mm gun, fires it, is the deputy commander of turret No. 1, is responsible for the state of armament of turret No. 4.

8) the driver-mechanic, the youngest (separate commander) – in turret No. 4, to the right of the gun, performs the functions of a loader, provides care for the running gear of the machine.

9) the commander of the machine gun turret (separate commander) – in turret number 5 (rear machine gun), firing from a machine gun, is responsible for the state of armament of the turret number 5.

10) senior radio telegraph operator (separate commander) – in turret No. 1, serves the radio station, helps to load gun in battle.

11) senior driver-mechanic (junior platoon commander) – is outside the tank, provides care for the transmission and chassis, is the deputy sergeant – driver-mechanic.

12) minder (junior technician) – outside the tank provides constant care for the engine, its cleaning and lubrication.

Imagine trying to control and co-ordinate that lot in the heat of battle!

As for following rules of movement for the T-35, it was advised that on
single-span bridges – only one tank at a time!

Now she is weathered after seeing action. I added some weld seam lines to the turrets and other places using a heated screwdriver. Perhaps a bit overdone but who cares??
The frame around the main turret was also the radio antennae
I removed some side skirts to show the running gear detail. I hope you like the background -Bob Ross I am not!
Another parade! November 7, 1935. The rear facing gun turret is clearly visible
T-35 of the 34th Soviet Tank Division abandoned on the road due to mechanical failure
A knocked out T-35 being examined by German soldiers 30 June 1941. The battle took place near Brody, Western Ukraine, the region my parents came from.
Restored T-35

Soviet Tank BT-7 model 1937. БТ-7 быстроходный танк Tamiya 1/35 scale

Such a cool looking design! The world’s first truly fast tank. It features sloped armour all around the body in place of the previous flat version. It was an excellent tank for its time and gave the Russians the experience on which to base the famous T-34 and their large-scale tank tactics.

When I heard that Tamiya had released a model of the BT tank, I just knew I had to get one sooner or later! It has always been one of my favourite tank designs.

The designation BT stands for bystro-khodnii tank, literally fast-moving tank, and the BT series of tanks, BT-2, BT-3, BT-5, BT-7, and BT-8 had impressive speed . The BT-7 could travel at a maximum speed of 45 mph on its wheels or 32 mph when tracked. It was armed with a 45 mm 20K Model gun 7.62 mm DT machine gun.

All of these models featured the ingenious ‘Christie suspension’ of American automotive engineer J. Walter Christie, the ability to move from tracks to wheels and back again to tracks, and sloped armour designed to minimise the impact of anti-tank projectiles. More importantly, the series was progressively up-gunned. This celebrated series of tanks would culminate, after considerable modifications, in the legendary T-34.

The tank was suited to the Soviet ‘Deep Battle’ doctrine of fast, offensive warfare into the enemy rear areas although it later became apparent that heavier tanks would be needed to break through powerful enemy defences.

Box Art. As always, Tamiya feature a beautiful picture which adds to the allure and desirability of their kits. I just wish other kit makers would do the same!
The metallic tow chain comes with the kit and adds a touch of realism
The tracks could be removed for high-speed road travel although in reality the option was rarely used given the realities of campaigning in the field and the poor state of the road network in Russia even where it existed. The engine cover is photo-etch. I can’t help drooling every time I look at my BT-7, a practice not to be recommended at this time!
Berlin is the other way! Sorry part of my thumb wanted to get into the action!
In winter camouflage

БТ-7 быстроходный танк. Его военным дебютом стали боевые действия против японских войск у озера Хасан летом 1938 г. Однако наилучшим образом БТ-7 показали себя годом позже в Монголии в боях на Халхин-Голе, где в степях в полной мере проявились высокая скорость и маневренность этого танка.

Успешно действовали БТ-7 во время похода Красной Армии в Польшу в сентябре 1939 года, когда стремительное продвижение мобильных танковых групп позволило парализовать возможные активные действия польских войск. На начальном этапе Великой Отечественной войны по своим боевым качествам БТ-7 не уступали большинству немецких танков и применялся до первой половины 1942 года.

Заключительным эпизодом в боевой биографии БТ-7 стала советско-японская война в августе-сентябре 1945 года.

На тот момент эти уже устаревшие танки входили в состав вторых батальонов танковых полков и шли в прорыв за более мощными Т-34 и ИС-2.

‘BT-7 – fast tank. It’s military debut was during the battles against the Japanese forces at lake Khasan in the summer of 1938. However the BT-7 displayed its best form a year later in Mongolia in the battles of Khalkhin Gol (Nomonhan incident) where the high speed and manoeuvrability of this tank were displayed fully on the steppes. The BT-7 took part successfully in the campaign of the Red Army in Poland in September 1939, when the rapid advance of armoured groups enabled the possible actions of Polish forces to be paralysed. At the start of the Great Patriotic war the military qualities of the BT-7 did not yield to the majority of the German tanks and they were employed until the first half of 1942. The conclusive episode in the military biography of the BT-7 was the Soviet-Japanese war in August-September 1945. At that point the already obsolete tanks entered the secondary battalions of the tank regiments and followed in the breakthroughs made by the more powerful T-34 and Joseph Stalin-2 tanks.’

Source: Internet. 7 Legendary Russian Tanks.

A superb profile of this aesthetically pleasing tank

The following video is an excellent demonstration of the BT-7’s astonishing mobility. The Christie suspension of springs and large road wheels with the considerable vertical wheel displacement allowed the BT-7 to cross rough terrain at high speed, though this resulted in an unstable gun platform which inhibited firing on the move.

The ‘flying’ BT-7 in action. Classic stirring Soviet footage. Let’s hope the tank crew at the end were wearing crash helmets!

Bristol Blenheim Mk.IF Airfix 1/48 scale.

Bristol Blenheim Mk.1F in Desert scheme. It was nicknamed the ‘flying greenhouse’ and the reason is pretty apparent from the photo!

I have always considered the early type Blenheim a rather ugly looking aircraft and much prefer the longer nose Mk IV version but when I saw a review of this all-new kit by Airfix I was sold! The moulding quality appeared to be a lot better than some of their recent releases with very good surface details particularly on the wings which have very fine panel lines and rivets both raised and recessed. I have shown a number of photos of different stages of the build process to convey something of the above average complexity of this kit.

It was the first modern bomber to be delivered to the RAF and one of the first aircraft to use all-metal, stressed-skin construction, powered gun turret, retractable landing gear, flaps and variable pitch propellers.

Despite these advantages, the Blenheim stood little chance against the German Messerschmitt Bf109 during daylight operations and was soon relegated to a night fighting role.

The Blenheim was one of the stop-gap bombers that the RAF had to use until the new generation of ‘heavies’ came into service such as the Avro Lancaster.

Here is what Len Deighton has to say about the Bristol Blenheim IF in his book, ‘Battle of Britain’:

‘This unfortunate aircraft was an attempt to operate a long-range heavy fighter variant of the Blenheim light bomber. Equipped with four Brownings in a ventral pack under the fuselage, one gun in a rear turret and one in the port wing, it was hopelessly slow and clumsy in action against German fighters. Even when transferred to a night fighter role, it proved too slow to catch most German bombers to which it was vectored. The seven Blenheim squadrons in Fighter Command on 1 July 1940 could play little part in the Battle. Their fate showed the futility f the Air Ministry doctrine that it was better to put anything into the air than nothing.’

Box art
Two markings are offered for this kit, the conventional dark Dark Earth, Dark Green, Black or overall Black night fighter version. I decided to opt for the more attractive Mediterranean camouflage scheme of Dark Earth/Middlestone over Azure Blue.
Optional decal sheet used for my preferred Desert/Mediterranean scheme.
Instructions showing complicated undercarriage assembly almost a model in itself!
Preshading the panel lines and canopy masking. It was a tricky (and scary!) operation to join the two large canopy halves together down the centre line. I posed the top hatch open.
The intricate undercarriage assembly with integrated oil tank which extends into the engine nacelle. I thought these would prove too fragile but they are remarkably sturdy. The wheel wells are also highly detailed.
Cockpit. Behind the pilot’s seat is a dinghy.
The kit comes with a lone seated pilot figure. Unfortunately the rest of the crew seem to have gone AWOL.
This Blenheim was part of 45 Squadron based at Helwan, Egypt, 29, July 1940. Sorry about the plastic palm tree I must find something more realistic!
The beautiful RAF azure blue. Maybe should have been a tad lighter! The bomb bay is closed. There is an option for a four gun ventral pack under the fuselage but I believe this particular version didn’t carry one which is a shame. Note flattened tyres to convey weight.
Close up port wing showing highlighted panel lines.
Rivet detail. Cowl flaps are open.

Valentine Mk.II/IV by Tamiya 1/35 scale

Out on desert patrol North Africa 1943
Box art

Another superlative kit by Tamiya. This one has just the right balance of complexity and detail that I prefer. I have always liked the look of the Valentine and the other attraction is that due to its diminutive size it doesn’t take up much room on my shelves!

Valentines were produced by Vickers and ready to be deployed from June 1940. After the debacle at Dunkirk in which the British Army abandoned so much of its equipment, production of the Valentine was ramped up and even outsourced to Canada.

Valentine tanks were designed for close infantry support but a shortage of cruiser tanks forced them to be used for training the new armoured formations.

But with British troops in North Africa in dire need of armoured support, Valentines were sent for use in the cruiser tank role.

Early British tanks used in WW2 were inferior, especially in gun power and armour, to their German counterparts. As soon as the British began to use American Shermans in quantity, the balance in desert warfare shifted dramatically to their advantage.

Given the fact that the first tanks were used by the British in World War I and that Britain played a leading role in tank development in the 1930s, it is hard to understand why British tank design was so bad. Perhaps the reason lies in the fact that the priority in engineering and productive resources went to warship and aircraft design.

The Valentine is armed with a puny 2-pounder (40 mm) gun, the standard British anti-tank gun, comparable to the 50 mm gun fitted to most German tanks. It was designed to fight in western Europe with an effective range of up to 800 yards and not to fight in the flat, cover-less desert, where targets could be identified at 2,000 yards.

It could also only fire armour piercing shells, rather than the heavy explosive ones needed to take out anti-tank guns.

Valentines had a crew of three and also mounted a 7.92 mm machine gun.

Showing engine louvers or slats at rear
Note open driver’s hatch and rear facing mirror
Passing a ‘brewed-up’ Italian Carro Armato M13/40

L.R.D.G. Command Car 30 cwt Truck. Tamiya 1/35 scale

We’re stuck!
Box Art. This edition comes with figures by Master Box of Ukraine

The Long Range Desert Group (L.R.D.G.) operated behind enemy lines during the North African campaign in WW2. It used a Chevrolet 15 cwt truck on a Canadian-built Chevrolet chassis. It was fitted with desert tyres and a big open body to hold all the gear and supplies for the long range sorties into the desert. With the extra load, they had extra leaves fitted into the springs, wireless and a condenser fitted onto the running board to conserve cooling water. Doors and door pillars were removed, extra spare wheels fitted, and mounts added for machine guns and anti-tank rifles. The load carried might be up to two tons, consisting of food, fuel, ammunition, water and explosives for demolition work. Sand-mats of canvas and steel sand channels were carried to assist through the many shifting sands and dunes.

For navigation, a sun compass was attached to the dashboard and sextants were also used to fix positions, much like the way mariners navigate at sea.

The LRDG was made up of volunteers and their main task was to observe and plot enemy movements behind the lines and report back by radio. Beards and other non-military practices and apparel were common given that this was not a regular Regimental unit.

The LRDG took delivery of new vehicles in May 1942, namely 30 cwt types with general military service steel bodies. These were more rugged than the original type of vehicle and more capacious.

This was a highly detailed kit and with the extra figures it came as a ready made diorama. I added a few touches myself, a wire lead for the radio (open at side), and even a ‘plank’ made from an ice lolly stick!
We’re lost!
I added a couple of extra sandbags made from modelling putty to sit behind the front fender. The metallic chain was also an extra I included. I rarely scratch build extras or add accessories unless I really think it enhances the model and it’s not too difficult!
A lot of spadework went into this model!
Note the rifle on passenger side and Bren gun on the bonnet
It is possible to lower the tail-gate
Bags of room for all the various supplies, including Jerry cans and spare tyre
A classic British film ‘Sea of Sand’ (1958), starring John Gregson was based on the exploits of the LRDG. Not sentimental although there are heroics as you would expect, definitely one of the better films from that era. It shows the LRDG Chevrolet in action and besides was made during my birth year! Highly recommended.

Grumman TBF-1C Avenger Accurate Miniatures 1/48

Avenger in Atlantic colour scheme This kit has so many details it’s hard to know where to start!
The aircraft is covered in engraved panel lines, recessed rivets, inspection hatches, movable gun turret, moulded in brake lines, separate ignition harness, the list would fill this whole page!

This was one of my earliest creations and if memory serves me correctly, it was manufactured by Accurate Miniatures, an American company that sadly is no longer in production. At the time, Accurate miniatures kits were considered the acme of the modelling world and were top notch quality. It was a difficult build and the ‘green house’ canopy was a challenge to say the least to mask and paint, in particular the rear ball turret. Luckily, the ‘greenhouse’ part lacked curved lines!

I remember feeling very proud of myself that I was able to achieve for the first time a realistic ‘feathered’ edge between the grey and white colours, no mean feat with a single-action airbrush and Humbrol paints! I like to think I have come a long way since then with my modelling skills, and I have long since upgraded to a double-action airbrush. But after all these years, my Avenger still sits proudly on my shelf ready for another sortie into the grey mists of the north Atlantic.

Note the open crew access hatch, a nice touch. To the right of the tail wheel is the ventral rear firing machine gun. At the rear is the arrestor hook.

If you have seen this aircraft at museums or air shows, you realise it is BIG! It was the heaviest single-engined aircraft of WW2. Avengers were torpedo bombers manufactured by the Grumman company (TBM versions by General Motors) although this particular specimen is carrying four 500-pound bombs.

There were three crew members, pilot, turret gunner and bombardier/radioman/ventral gunner. It had a 7.62mm machine gun in the nose, a 50 cal machine gun in the rear-facing electrically-powered turret and a manually fired 7.62 mm machine gun mounted ventrally under the tail to defend against enemy fighters attacking from below or to the rear (see image above).

The Avenger entered service in 1942 and first saw action at the Battle of Midway in June where only six were present as part of VT-8 (Torpedo Squadron 8) . Of these, five were shot down. Despite this inauspicious start Avengers went on to play a vital role against surface forces in the Pacific war and in the North Atlantic campaign where many flew from escort carriers on anti-submarine patrols. The Atlantic scheme featured here is particularly attractive in my opinion. It was a TBF-1C that former US President was flying when he was shot down in in September, 1944.

The squat lines are captured perfectly in this kit
The cockpit glazing is crystal clear
The cavernous bomb bay with four 500-pound bombs. It could also carry one Bliss-Leavitt Mark 13 torpedo or a single 2,000-pound bomb. Overall, the Avenger was a very rugged, stable weapons platform and pilots say it flew ‘like a truck’ , for good or ill. Note U/C bays are painted white not interior green.
This kit set a new bench mark in modelling, at least it did for me!

1 32 Spitfire Mk IXc by Tamiya

Spitfire Mk IXc in Desert Air Force camouflage. This one was a member of 145 Squadron flown by Squadron Leader S. Skalski (5 kills).
The gorgeous box art

This was my first ever Tamiya 1 32 model and it was a sheer joy to build! The kit exudes sheer luxury and the level of detail is extraordinary. Everything fits perfectly and you end up with a wonderful display model straight out of the box (OOB). I chose the tropical scheme rather than the dark grey/green shown on the box top as it’s one of my favourites.

The Merlin 61 engine was fitted to the existing Spitfire Mk.V variant to match the performance of the newly encountered German Fw190s. It retained the same sleek lines of earlier Marks but the body of the aircraft was elongated by 9 inches to accommodate the new engine which incorporated a two-stage supercharger. The Mk IX also added 70 mph to the Spitfire’s top speed and 10,000 ft to its fighting altitude.

A four-bladed propeller was added to handle the astonishing 20% increase in power.

The Spitfire Mk IX became the most numerous and arguably the greatest variant of this legendary aircraft with more than 7,000 delivered to the RAF, Soviet and other Allied air forces.

Note Polish flag (reversed) and five white swastikas ahead of windscreen.
Tamiya supply a glossy brochure with the kit which has detailed photos of the real aircraft.
Excellent reference. Highly recommended when making this kit. Shows other Marks of Spitfire as well.
Photo from above book of an actual Spitfire at Temora Aviation Museum. This is a Mk.VIII although it would have been the same as the Mk. IXc. The well of the floor-less cockpit was a tangle of wires and devices to operate the machine.
The book gives a detailed guide to the various assembly stages
This photo from the book gives an idea of the fantastic engine detail. I left off a panel in my model to expose some of it.
Some of the alternative marking options for the Mk. IXc although not all are included in the kit. These would have to be sourced after-market.

Petlyakov Pe-2 Soviet Dive bomber Пикирующий бомбардировщик Пе-2

This 1/48 scale model is by Russian kit manufacturer Zvezda. I was very impressed with the quality. I have set the scene by adding a Soviet Gaz jeep and two figures.

The Petlyakov Pe-2 or ‘Peshka’ (Pawn) as it was nicknamed, was a two-engined dive bomber developed by V.M. Petlyakov and his team, one of the major Soviet planes of World War II. It began mass production in summer of 1940. The bomb bay could accommodate four 100-kg bombs, and its external store 250-kg bombs. Its defensive armament comprised five machine guns.
The word on the fuselage, ‘Zabijaka’, means something like ‘destroyer’ or ‘beater’
V.M. Petlyakov
This one didn’t quite make it! Destroyed in Germany right at the end of the war.

Hummel German late production 15cm self-propelled gun

Box art

In January 1942, Hitler ordered the development of a multi-purpose infantry support weapon that could also operate against tanks. The Hummel (bumblebee) emerged as an interim solution for this project. It is a hybrid design based on a Pz.Kpfw.III/IV chassis fitted with the huge 15cm sFH18/1 howitzer. It comprised three sections, from front to rear, driving compartment, engine room and finally open fighting compartment at rear.

It was intended as a long-range fire support weapon and given this role, there is scant information about their performance.

However, the Hummels continued to be used throughout the war on both western and eastern fronts which testifies to their value to German combat units.

Replacement metal barrel for the kit plastic one. It enhances the final result no end. There is no seam to worry about and it even has rifling detail. Amazing!
Note the aiming stakes at rear of vehicle. Time consuming to mask and paint but add a touch of colour and realism.
The breech was amazingly detailed and even has tiny metal screws to raise and lower the gun. Note range finding chart on left of mechanism. Also the red fire extinguisher.
Note the MG34 on the side of fighting compartment

Tiger 1 Late version Tamiya 1 35

This kit by Tamiya I wanted to incorporate into a diorama. These days, I like my models to depict some sort of story as it makes the hobby more interesting. It comes with 4 Waffen-SS tank crew figures and so that was a good basis. One of them is holding a cup which I made from tiny plastic tubing! The commander is a Panzer Ace.

Box art

It is supposed to be somewhere in Normandy behind the front in 1944. The crew are having a breather before resuming the battle to repel the Allied invasion, while some French villagers look on. At the time of the invasion there were just 3 Tigers stationed in Normandy!

The Tiger is such a symbol of German military prowess that there is really no need for me to discuss it here suffice to say it suffered from several serious deficiencies:

  • Too heavy for its engine and transmission, it was lumbering and relatively slow.
  • Suffered frequent mechanical breakdowns.
  • Poor fuel economy and limited range.
  • The running gear was overly complicated, making maintenance in the field  virtually impossible.
  •  Turret traverse was too slow, even when the hydraulic system was in use.
  • The lack of stabilisation equipment meant its main armament of 8.8cm Kwk36 rifled cannon could not fire very accurately except when stationary.

That said, its protection was unrivalled, and its legendary main armament was without doubt the most lethal at the time.

I used a special tool from Tamiya for applying the ‘Zimmerit’ anti-magnetic mine paste to the hull and turret of the tank which is made from Tamiya putty. The model was first airbrushed hull red brown which was the factory undercoat colour. Then it was airbrushed in the standard dark yellow /red brown/ green camouflage pattern. I was quite pleased with the Zimmerit finish as it was my first attempt.

The Tiger is essentially a square box in shape and has no sloping amour, apart from the short glacis plate at front. This was a serious deficiency in the design but made up for by the massive thickness of the vertical plating.
Track construction
Zimmerit applicator. There are several sizes in the pack.
The tree is home made from wire and foam
The Citroen Traction, also a Tamiya kit
Figures by Masterbox
Reference used
Great study of a devastated late Tiger in Normandy from above book.