by: Matt Szefer [ ]
As a result of Germany’s Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union, the Soviets lost large numbers of their tank forces. In an attempt to fill the large gaps left by these losses, Great Britain, along with the United States, started a Lend-Lease relationship with the Soviet Union. Along with the Churchill III, Tetrarch, Valentine and Universal Carrier, the famous ‘Queen of the Desert’ Matilda II soon found itself in the USSR, provided by Britain.
Between 1941 and 1943, some 1084 Matilda’s were shipped to the Soviet Union. Only 918 were received by the Red Army, however, as the others likely never made it to the end of the Arctic Convoys as a result of German Attacks. The Soviets received one-third of the entire 2987 vehicle production run of the Matilda.
It is puzzling why no one model kits producer hasn't covered the soviet Matilda so far. It's very interesting vehicle. Of course the British variant is available on the market since 2009 when Tamiya released great kit of this tank in desert configuration. For the Lend Lease version with some Soviet modifications we need to wait 9 years, so long in my opinion. But finally we got it: Tamiya Matilda Mk. III/IV "Red Army", let's look closer on it.
The kit comes is medium size card box with open top lid. The box art is not the best that I have ever seen, only the tank with crew on the white background, but at least the producer has placed more information about all kit features and advantages. On the side of the box we are presented with the vehicle in two paint schemes.
The box is sturdy and will protect the contents, so all parts arrived undamaged and in great shape. Inside the box there are:
-8 olive green plastic sprues
-8 poly caps
-background information sheet
For additional protection all sprues are separately packaged in plastic bags, apart from duplicate sprues which are packed together.
This kit is based on the 2009 release of the British Matilda kit, most of parts comes straight from this kit but not all of them. The new release has a few new parts suitable only for soviet Matilda’s. The differences were in the tracks, side skirts with open holes and the mud chute hatches, the track skids and new solid front locker hatches. Tamiya also included the new commander and driver figures. All the new parts are placed on one sprue, the rest of them come from previous British Matilda releases.
An examination of the mouldings leaves me with a positive opinion about the contents. For a good reason Tamiya is known as one of the best producer so the quality of all parts is very good. Details are sharp and crisp and what's more I didn't find any sink marks or other quality issues. I also need to say that the cast texture on the turret and transmission cover is very well done. It's enough to say that this is typical new Tamiya kit, not too many parts, good details and brilliant engineering.
The instruction sheet is the next good point of the kit, they are well drawn, clear and easy to follow. It contains 18 build steps and two painting options: British green as the first and winter whitewash camouflage as the second proposition.
The decal sheet is medium sized and as I wrote before, provides markings for two vehicles and some soviet slogans. The decals are thin, clear and crisply printed. It’s hard to write something more about them, before use but I do not expect difficulties during work with them because I've never had any problems with Tamiya decals.
Running Gear and Suspension
According to the instruction I started the build with the lower hull assembly. The hull tub comes from six parts, they fit together perfectly so I could quickly go forward and start the bogies and wheel assembly. This step requires a little bit more attention and time because you need to build twenty little road wheels and three types of bogies, what's more each one wheel comes from two halves but the final look of the suspension is worth the effort. They are well detailed and it’s a pity that that after the side skirts assembly they are almost invisible. My next step was focused on the tracks skids which were one of a few improvements introduced in the soviet Matilda’s. The tracks skids and openings on side skirts prevented from the accumulation of mud in the suspension so it was especially important in soviet muddy terrain. When they were finished I added the drive sprockets and idler wheels which are mounted on the poly caps, so it's easy to remove them for the painting. The lower hull and suspension assembly process was finished.
In this kit Tamiya provides a brand new great single link workable plastic tracks. Each link comes from two parts and they snap together without the glue. According to the instruction I used 69 links for one track. I must say that after assembly the tracks really works and they do not break up at every touch! One of the best workable tracks that I ever used. Of course the clean up and assembly process take a little bit more time but the effect is superb. One note: you need to take care as to the track direction to avoid mounting in the wrong direction.
Upper Hull and Rear Plate
The upper hull build starts from the inner side where I glued the movable driver hatch lid and drilled a few pilot holes for spare tracks. Of course the real fun starts on the outside where there is a lot of work to do. I assembled the spare tracks and side markers on the front fenders without any problems so a fast move to the rear section. First, I glued the big radiator cover and smaller vent covers behind the turret. They have a pretty well done cast texture so after painting should look very realistic. You need to pay extra attention in this step because the parts are extremely similar and it is easy to make a mistake. In the meantime I glued in place the tools, only four pieces so it wasn't a big effort. The clasps are molded on the tools, but they look good and don't need any additional work, only the shovel mount is a little bit too thick so I used my file to make it thinner. Next I added the rest of the details like towing hooks on the rear of the vehicle, front lights, some handles on engine plate and the lights on right rear fender. And it was a first time (and the last) when the kit part needed some additional work because the plate with the light has a big visible injector pin mark. Until then I only cleaned the part and glued in place, any additional work wasn't required. A little bit of putty solved the problem. To improve this part I added two electrical wires for the lights. The upper hull was ready to connect with the hull tub and suspension and in this time again it shows how well engineered Tamiya kits are, everything fits prefectly, any holes, gaps etc. A pure joy of modelling.
My next step in this build was the exhaust assembly. It comes from two halves, but the connection place is invisible when it is mounted on place. In Matilda exhaust pipes runs around the engine plate and they were wrapped around with asbestos tape, this detail is also perfectly recreated in this kit. The tape texture looks great.
The last part that I need to finish on the hull was the characteristic massive side skirts. They are made as good as the rest of the parts with crisply molded rivets and hinges. They fit perfectly to the hull, but I will not glue them permanently until I have painted the suspension and installed the tracks. It was the last step of the hull construction.
The turret assembly begins from the commander cupola. It's a multi part detail, but the main ring comes from two pieces so it needs some sanding to remove visible connection point. The two-piece hatch can be built as open or closed. I left it open because I used the figures from the kit and it's nicely detailed on both sides so there is no reason to leave it closed. Next, following the instruction, I built the gun with gun mantlet. Again, to make the main gun movable I used two poly caps included in the kit. The 2-pounder gun barrel is slide molded as one piece so it doesn’t need any special attention. When the main armament was ready to assemble I started work with two turret halves. First I drilled a few pilot holes inside and attach the seats for the commander and loader, when it was done I assembled together both halves and the gun mantlet, again all parts fit together like a dream. Next I glued the commander cupola in place and added all other details. Of course I wouldn't be myself if I didn't change something. For a more realistic look I added the wires for the smoke grenade launchers also I decided to improve the spotlight lens on the turret top because the kit part is made as a solid part, so I decided to make it myself from a piece of clear plastic and add it after painting.
As I wrote before Tamiya provides two figures in this kit: a driver and a commander. They are well made and improve the final look of the vehicle. The faces of the soldiers are very good and crisply molded, the same as clothes. The next example of good engineering are the headphones, they come from three parts each and after assembly the connection points are invisible. Very smart solutions make the assembly process fast and easy. Putting the figures into hatches and adding the mirror was the last touches during the build process. My Red Army Matilda was ready to paint.
Overall, this is a really good kit, allowing you to build an interesting model with a high degree of detail straight from the box. This is an example of a typical Tamiya kit, very good quality, beautifully molded parts, great fitting and engineering. In my opinion only one thing could make this kit better- the clear parts for periscopes and spotlight lens. This small improvement will make this kit perfect. Despite this, I highly recommend this kit for all levels of experience. Rather low part count and great fitting allow the beginner to take the first steps in AFV modelling. This also could be a great model for a fast relaxing build for someone with advanced skills. The kit contents are really enjoyable and let you build a great model without any difficulties so it's definitely worth the recommendation.
Please more, Tamiya!