by: Ken Holland [ ]
"Little Willie" was developed from the "Number One Lincoln Machine" which was designed during 1915 by Messrs Tritton and Wilson of William Foster & Company, Lincoln at the behest of the Admiralty's Landship Committee. It comprised a steel riveted body with a drum shaped turret, ran on American supplied "Bullock Creeping Grip" tracks and suspension, and was powered by a Daimler 105hp petrol engine. Tested for the first time on 9 September 1915 the agricultural tracks, unfortunately, were not robust enough and ended up being completely redesigned by Tritton in a matter of a few days. The new tracks were fitted to the Lincoln Machine, now renamed Little Willie, and were demonstrated to work on 22 September. Little Willie itself was also reworked to remove the turret. The original specification for the Lincoln Machine called for it to be steered by a set of wheels at the back but this was found to create more drag when turning sharply. The wheels were retained for Little Willie although the entire steering assembly was made able to be raised and lowered by means of a hydraulic system at the back to allow for easier steering by tracks alone.
Apparently christened with a derogatory nickname for the German Crown Prince Wilhelm, Little Willie was only ever actually used to test the new tracks. But because of its layout, armour construction, track system and steering it has become to be seen by many as the forerunner of all the tanks in use around the world. It is therefore an important subject for any armour modeller, not just the allied fraternity. It's final demonstration was at Hatfield Park on 8 February 1916 in front of the King. Following this great success the report sent to Winston Churchill described these Landships for the first time as TANKS - and the rest is history. Unfortunately, Little Willie itself was already history as the company were heavily engaged on Wilson's improved design, "Mother". Accurate Armour's release of this polyurethane resin kit was timed to coincide with the 95th anniversary of that final demonstration.
This kit depicts Little Willie as she looks at the Bovington Tank Museum today. Without the original tracks, tail and turret, the damage she has sustained over the years has been repaired by Accurate Armour "to be kind to her image" (their words). The master model was designed by Tim Babb, who is responsible for mastering many fine Accurate Armour kits, and prepared for production by Rob Tearle. Acknowledgement is also given to the Tank Museum for access to the original vehicle.
The kit comes packed in a sturdy cardboard box with a lift-off lid. On top is a picture of the completed kit and product description. Inside, the kit is well protected with foam and the resin itself is packaged in plastic zip-lock bags. There's also a small PE fret, clear resin headlamps and an 8-page A5-size colour booklet of instructions and photos of the build.
There are 56 different parts listed but as some are multiples such as road wheels, the overall count is 100 pieces, plus a couple of dozen spare rivets and bolts for detailing purposes. The parts are up to the usual high standard of other Accurate Armour kits, cast in a light grey resin with no visible air bubbles. A couple of pieces have come away from their pour blocks in transit but there's no apparent damage apart from one track length which will be an easy CA fix. The main hull is cast as one large piece, complete with details behind the sponsons that will be hard to see once assembled. All pieces have very little flash present and will just need a minor cleanup with a needle file and some emery paper. You will also need a sharp razor saw to carefully remove the resin pour blocks.
The front page contains a further 2 colour pictures of the completed kit and company contact information. Page 2 has Accurate Armour's usual General Instructions, covering resin safety, essential tools and general procedures and hints for working with resin kits.
The assembly instructions themselves start with page 3 which covers assembling of the drive sprockets and chains in the sponsons. Page 4 continues with the track build and fitting the completed track units to the hull, together with close up detail of the exhaust and remnants of the steering wheels raising system. Page 5 shows these attached to the hull rear and adds some more construction notes. As the kit is slightly tail heavy, they recommend adding some weight to the inside of the kit nose to counterbalance it and ensure it sits flat. Pages 6 and 7 show more hull detail and also have the painting guidelines. The back page contains the parts list and a history of the machine.
The vehicle was painted at WM Fosters in a standard mid grey finish and Accurate Armour recommend painting Little Willie in Humbrol 106 Ocean Grey with perhaps a little light brown added. They also give a suitable mix for Vallejo acrylics but nothing for Tamiya or other makes. A very useful inclusion is a guide on how best to paint the brass plaque pinned to the front.
There are no decals included, so if you wanted to depict her accurately as today's version you would need to find suitable lettering to add "Little Willie" and "- 1915 -" to the sides. You'd also need to bear in mind that Accurate Armour have repaired the damage, so good pictures of the original would be highly recommended.
This a well cast kit up to the usual standard I have come to expect from Accurate Armour. The parts have very little flash to clean up and it should build up to a fine model of what many have come to see as the forerunner of the tank as we know it. While the instructions are very good, I feel a few shots of the original machine would have been useful as not everyone has access to the Tank Museum. I know they donít usually do this but I do feel it would have been useful with this one-off kit of a museum example.
Lastly, Accurate Armour have added a plea for anyone with good original information to get in touch with them as they would like to make an original No-1 Lincoln Machine with Bullock tracks, turret and tail wheels.